Mary Toft's Unusual Births
So I read a news story this week about an Iranian woman allegedly giving birth to a frog-baby. Articles even quoted a faithful doctor swearing he could see no foul play or deception involved. Just like Mary Toft's doctors did.
Mary Toft was a servant from Godalming, England who in 1726 claimed to have given birth to at least 16 rabbits.
Toft was 25 years old and married at the time. In August, she miscarried with a normal four-month-old fetus, but still seemed pregnant. In September, she allegedly gave birth to pig's guts and in October, she went into apparent labor again. The local doctor, John Howard, was summoned.
Howard reported that Mary Toft had given birth to a dead, skinned rabbit and that he himself delivered several stillborn rabbits, or rather, parts of rabits, in the next few days. He invited some of England's greatest doctors and scientists to help investigate the Mary Toft's amazing delivery. Nathaniel St. Andre, the surgeon-anatomist to King George I, and Richard Manningham, the most famous obstetrician in London both came. In their presence, Toft gave birth to several more dead rabbit babies. Nathaniel St. Andre went on to publish a pamphlet verifying the rabbit story and it became a sensation.
When news of her "unnatural deliveries" reached the court of crazy King George I, she was called to appear in court. Sir Richard Manningham eventually exposed the rabbit baby births to be a hoax, committed by Mary Toft for fame and fortume. Her hoax the doctors their reputation.
Here is an excerpt from her confession:
That upon her miscarrying, she was seiz’d with violent Floodings; and the Womb being then as she thought open as if she had been just delivered of a full-grown Child, she did verily believe one of her wicked Accomplices did then convey into her Womb Part of the Monster (as she call’d it) being the Claws and Body of a Cat, and the Head of a Rabbet; which put her to much Pain. After that Time she believed nothing was ever put into her Womb, but into the Passage only, by the Advice of a Woman Accomplice whom she would not name, who told her she had now no Occasion to work for her Living as formerly, for she would put her into a Way of getting a very good Livelihood..."