Ludibria Naturae from the 19th Century Scottish Press.

[Newspaper Research Contents]

   Lusus Naturæ [Freak of Nature]. – Two cases of monstrous births among the lower animals have just been communicated to us, on the very best authority. The first of these is a kitten with two mouths, two noses, two rows of teeth, one eye in the centre of its forehead, and something like eyes at the sides, all completely and prominently formed, although the head, brain, and viscera were all single. The last fact was distinctly ascertained by a medical gentleman of this town, who had the curiosity to dissect the animal, and who afterwards left it with Mr Roberts, carver and gilder, at whose shop it may still be seen. The kitten, which was drowned at the end of 12 or 14 days, was very strong and healthy, and might have arrived at the age of cathood but for the superstitious notions of the owner. Some of the neighbours who had an opportunity of seeing this singular animal, begged that its life might be spared; but Janet answered, “Na, na, there’s never muckle luck whaur monsters is; and forbye that, I hae mair respeck for what’s gude than keep sic an unsonsie beast about the house.” Perhaps the honest woman had another and a better motive, and thought two mouths and a double row of grinders no great advantage in these grinding times. – The other case referred to, is that of a fine healthy lamb, of the black-faced breed, dropped on the farm of Upper Dalveen, a few days ago, with only one eye, and one horn placed right in the centre of the forehead. When the herd boy discovered this strange creature, he went and informed his master that one of his ewes had lambed a unicorn! but the latter thinking its appearance among his ample flocks somewhat ominous, exclaimed, “Houn’ the dog on’t, Jock; and after it’s weel worried, howk a hole and clap it under the yird.” The boy did as he was bid, having first shown the sheep unicorn to one of the drivers of the Commercial Coach. In monsters, a deficiency is far more rare than a redundancy of members; and perhaps it is not too late to recover the carcase of this singular creature. 

– Scotsman, Saturday, 18th May, 1822. 

   WONDERFUL POTATOE. – Nature has played many strange freaks in the animal and vegetable world, especially since the Dumfries Courier was established, but we question if either that journal, or any other out of America, had ever to record a more wonderful instance of lusus naturæ than the one now before us – in the shape of a potatoe man! This mimic vegetable production is of last year’s growth, and was gathered from a field near Morningside. The owner has had it hung up by the neck as a kitchen curiosity ever since, but the little fellow does not seem to have suffered much from his long suspension, as several sprouts have grown from his arms and legs which rather grace than mar his fair proportions. The head of the potatoe man is about the size of a hen’s egg; he has full round shoulders; his arms are about three inches long, spread out a little, and rather thick and misshapen at the elbows; he measures about eight inches round the waist, under the armpits, and has a paunch like an alderman; originally his legs were mere stumps, but a tuber about an inch long, has since grown out of each limb, which adds much to their gracefulness. Viewed almost from any point, the outlines of this wonderful potatoe form the resemblance of an old man, rather decrepit and bent with years. He is, of course, neither very personable nor fascinating, but the likeness to the human figure is so striking, that the risible faculties are at once set in violent motion by a sight of this caricature on humanity. The potatoe now lies in this office, but must be returned to the owner in a few days. – Scotsman

– Inverness Courier, Wednesday, 22nd October, 1834. 

   LUSUS NATURÆ. – A chicken may be seen at the shop of Mr Macgregor, 17 Reform Street, with four legs and feet, and a tail about two inches long. It was hatched in the parish of Meigle; and might have lived, had not the owner, anxious to know if the egg was rotten, the others having been all chipped, broken the shell. 

– Northern Warder and General Advertiser for the Counties of Fife, Perth and Forfar, Tuesday, 8th March, 1842. 

   LUSUS NATURÆ. – On Friday week a hen canary, the property of Mrs Wilson, spirit merchant, Prince’s Street, Dundee, hatched three birds, one of which is since dead, and one of the other two has neither wings nor legs; but in place of the wings there are two very small round bulbs, while the other one has both legs and wings strongly developed. The lusus is very lively, and always ready to gobble heartily at feeding time, and altogether is a great curiosity. 

– Stirling Observer, Thursday, 26th June, 1845. 

   A Lusus Naturæ. – A Highland cow, the property of an innkeeper in the parish of Assynt, died on the 27th ult., in the act of calving a monster calf, which had two complete bodies, well formed and sized, two heads, eight feet, &c. The bodies were joined together at the breast. It was killed in being taken from the cow. 

– Inverness Courier, Wednesday, 18th February, 1846. 

THIS DAY, TO-MORROW, AND MONDAY. 

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THE GREATEST ENGLISH LADY; OR, A LUSUS NATURÆ. 

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   THIS Exhibition will be for Three Days only – Monday positively being the LAST DAY – at the BUCK’S HEAD, Hamilton Street, Greenock. 

   MRS ELIZABETH ARMITAGE, of the extraordinary Weight of 31 Stone 11 lbs., or 445 lbs.; Height 5 Feet 8 Inches. 

Upper part of Arm Twenty-two Inches. 
Bust Seventy-two Inches. 
Ancle Eleven and a Quarter Inches. 
Round the Wrist Seven Inches. 
Waist Forty-seven Inches. 
Calf Twenty-two and a half Inches. 
Length of Foot Eight and a half Inches. 

Age next November, 29 Years. 

   The presence of the Faculty is particularly invited, as well as the scientific and curious. Several Medical Gentleman have been afforded the opportunity of an interview with Mrs ARMITAGE, and have pronounced her to be the  

WONDER OF THE AGE. 

   It is universally admitted that she possesses all the cardinal beauties of her sex, – viz., a remarkably handsome and expressive countenance, of the usual size, dimensions and contour, proportionate hand and wrist, and remarkably small foot, combined with no ungainly appearance of figure or gait, but blended with that superior and by no means inelegant tout ensemble denominated portly. 

   Will Exhibit from Twelve to Four o’Clock Afternoon – in the Evening from Seven to Ten. 

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Admission, Ladies and Gentlemen, 1s.; Working-people and Children, 6d each. 

– Greenock Advertiser, Friday, 30th October, 1846. 

   LUSUS NATURÆ. – There is at present in the village of Laurencekirk, a female child of about ten months old, whose size is so enormous that it is altogether unprecedented in the remembrance of the oldest. It is just now as robust and corpulent as an ordinary child is after it has attained an age of perhaps four or five years. Its external appearance is both striking and fascinating. 

– Dundee, Perth, and Cupar Advertiser, Tuesday, 18th July, 1848. 

LUSUS NATURÆ. 

   We have to record a lusus naturæ of which, in modern times, the Scicilian Twins, RItta-Christina, and the Siamese brothers were the most memorable instances. At Erneghem, a village three leagues from the town of Bruges, forming nearly the central point between Bruges, Thourout, and Ostend, were born on the 28th ultimo, two children of the female sex compactly united to each other. The two bodies join at the sides; the ligature union beginning a little below the right breast of the one and the left breast of the other, and continuing as far as the naval, so that the children do not look each other in the face, but are turned the one towards the other in an oblique position. Their heads, arms, thighs, and legs are perfectly free, and they have the free use of all their limbs, and their position is such as to permit their mother to nurse both at the same time without difficulty. The curate of the village baptised them the day of their birth, in the names of Marie and Sophie. The parents are poor servants, working and residing in a small farm held by an old bachelor. The husband’s name is Tanghe; his wife, aged about 38 years, has four children. This birth has made some considerable noise in the neighbourhood, and the curious already begin to besiege the farm-house where it took place. – Brussels Herald

– Stirling Observer, Thursday, 5th July, 1849. 

   A LUSUS NATURÆ. – Among the curiosities (natural of course) exhibited at the Wester Ross Farmer Society, last week, was a goat with four horns, belonging to Mr Cameron, superintendent of police, which, but for the known fact that sheep and goats will not cross, might be taken for a hybrid of the two. 

– Elgin Courier, Friday, 26th August, 1853. 

   The Presse Grayloise relates the following story:- “A discovery of great scientific importance has just thrown down an enormous block of stone by means of gunpowder, and were in the act of breaking it in pieces, when from a cavity in it they suddenly saw emerge a living being of monstrous form! This animal, which belongs to the class of animals hitherto considered to be extinct, has a very long neck, and a mouth filled with sharp teeth. It stands on four long legs, which are united together by two membranes, doubtless intended to support the animal in the air, and are armed with four claws terminated by long and crooked talons. Its general form resembles that of a bat, differing only in its size, which is that of a large goose. Its membraneous wings, when spread out, measure from tip to tip 3 meters 22 centimetres (nearly ten feet seven inches). Its colour is a livid black; its skin is naked, thick, and oily; its intestines only contained a colourless liquid like clear water. On reaching the light, this monster gave some signs of life, by shaking its wings, but soon after expired, uttering a hoarse cry. This strange creature, to which may be given the name of living fossil, has been brought to Gray, where a naturalist, well versed in the study of paleontology, immediately recognised it as belonging to the genus Pterodactylus anas, many fossil remains of which have been found among the strata which geologists date it more than a million of years back. The cavity in which the animal was lodged forms an exact hollow mould of its body, which indicates that it was completely enveloped with the sedimentary deposit.” Of whatever genus the above animal may be, the whole story bears a strong indication of belonging to the genus Canard, as indeed is estimated by the Latin name assigned to the animal. 

– North British Daily Mail, Saturday, 9th February, 1856. 

   A living heteradelph, or double-bodied child, is now being exhibited at Dr Khan’s museum, Piccadilly, London. This lusus naturæ, in the shape of a fine boy with two bellies and four legs, was born on the 4th of June last, and apparently enjoys very good health. The parents have previously had eight children of the ordinary kind. 

– Dumfries and Galloway Standard, Wednesday, 29th July, 1857. 

   NATURE IN A MAD MOOD. – Mr Thos. Randall, of the Brickfield Cuxton, has sent us a most extraordinary description of a “great curiosity of a pig” – mega chrema suos, as Herodotus phrases it – which is to be seen and bought on application to our correspondent. “1st, it has an elephant’s trunk; 2ndly, a horse’s eye in the centre of the head; 3rdly, a regular rhinoceros’ lip. It has camel’s feet, and the body of a perfect (?) pig.” It has been seen by several medical men, who all agree in thinking it the most wonderful curiosity ever witnessed. Professor Owen has received information of the animal, or fiend, or whatever he, she, or it may be, and the station-master at Cuxton begs to tell the world of Rochester that the sight is within a “gun-shot of the station.” Why don’t the South-Eastern Company run special trains to the levee of this Proteus of pigs? Of course we all agree that it is a very extraordinary lusus naturæ, but the “enterprising proprietor” must not talk too much of his prodigious pig for fear wicked people say it is a prodigious bore. – Rochester and Chatham Journal

– Glasgow Sentinel, Saturday, 26th June, 1858. 

   FLORAL FREAK. – In the garden of W. G. Watt, Esq., at Skail, there is at present a very singular lusus naturæ. A very pretty rosebush, which has been in the garden for eight or nine years, always bore white roses till this season, when, without graft or change of any kind, it exhibits an usually prolific blow of this undisputed queen of flowers, two of which, the one snowy white, and the other a beautiful bright red – are growing on the same branch. – John O’ Groat Journal

– Inverness Courier, Thursday, 19th August, 1858. 

LUSUS NATURÆ. – Last night we (N.B. Mail) were shown a rare specimen of ornithology, namely, a chicken with two heads. The bird was symetrically and perfectly formed, both heads being placed on separate necks, uniting at the breast. Looking at the chicken in profile, it had the appearance of an ordinary bird, but on close scrutiny one leg was that of a dorking and the other that of a common fowl. This curious specimen was the produce of the egg of a dorking hen, and lived some time after it was hatched. 

– Dundee Advertiser, Wednesday, 3rd September, 1862. 

   AN EXTRAORDINARY EGG. – In reference to the eggs which have been lately chronicled in the newspapers as of more than ordinary, or rather extraordinary weight for such a diminutive creature as a hen, we have just now got a statement put into our hands concerning an egg laid by a duck in Inverkeithing, which, we are sure, will put a stopper on the mouths of all those who have uncommon hens, and who are ambitious of publishing to the world at large, the uncommon eggs that they sometimes bring forth. The egg in question was not much larger than usual, but it had in addition, a something which, in the opinion of our readers, will, we are sure, far outweigh any little trifling addition of pulp or yolk that any fowl, ordinary or extraordinary could ever be imagined to lay. It had threepence in coppers – two penny and two halfpenny pieces – in the inside of it, fairly enclosed within the shell, between the yolk and the white. It was a duck that laid it, as we have said. A hen from its nature and habits could not have managed to swallow and encase such hard materials as threepence worth of copper, and materials of so hostile a character to the soft pulpy matter of the ovum. But it is quite conceivable that a duck – which is of the scavenger tribe of acquatics – could swallow and incorporate so heavy a weight of mineral with the matter of the ovum. Such a wonder as this had been observed long long ago, and recorded something that was totally adverse to the common workings of nature. With regard to the truth of this particular case now stated by us, it is beyond all dispute. Some of the very best and best informed gentlemen in Dunfermline can vouch for the truth of it. 

– Dundee Courier, Friday, 17th June, 1864. 

   LUSUS NATURÆ. – Mr John Reid, mill-overseer, Dundee, has just presented to the Watt Institution in that town a strange specimen of the feline tribe – a kitten with two heads united, and appearing as if with one brain. It was born alive, but the mother having taken an aversion to her curious offspring disowned it, and it perished in consequence. 

– Caledonian Mercury, Friday, 31 March, 1865. 

   A PARALLEL TO THE SIAMESE TWINS. – A private letter from Tahaa, one of the Society Islands, relates a curious instance of lusus naturæ, and one which bears a strong resemblance to the once celebrated Siamese twins. In Tahaa there is a village called Borabora, where a woman has given birth to twin girls. These are united at the hip, but in all other respects they are physically separate. There is, however, such a communion of sympathy between this singular pair, that they both cry and sleep at the same time. 

– Dundee Courier, Saturday, 18th January, 1868. 

   THE showman fraternity and lovers of human curiosities should lament in sackcloth and ashes. Chang and Eng, the Siamese twins, who, by a singular “lusus naturæ,” have been condemned to pass their lives in each others society, are no more. The melancholy announcement is conveyed in a Reuter’s telegram from New York, which states that the brothers breathed their last at Queensboro’. The complaint from which they suffered is not stated, though in all probability we shall know it and every particular of their decease in due time. All the information that is vouchsafed to us at present is that one of the brothers died two hours before the other. It had often been proposed to divide the band of cartilage which united them, and this had been pronounced a safe operation by eminent surgeons. The operation, however, was never performed. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Wednesday, 21st January, 1874. 

AN EXTRAORDINARY FREAK OF NATURE. 

   There has just died at St. Louis an individual who furnished the most extraordinary case of “Lusus Naturæ” that has probably ever been known. Herman Bench was eight months old at his death, which was caused, the doctors say, through senile decay. Imagine (says a correspondent) the strange course of nature that in eight months converts the baby into the decrepit man of 80. This individual had a fully developed head, its face had the aspect of maturity, and on it age had placed the lines of care. During its brief existence it grew a beard and manifested other signs of maturity. Lastly, with respect to intelligence, its passed through all the mental stages peculiar to mankind, from prattling babyhood to youthful volubility, and from middle-aged meditativeness to senile garrulity. 

– Edinburgh Evening News, Saturday, 22nd August, 1896.

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