The Exceedingly Strange History of the Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits

There’s strange, and then there’s exceedingly strange…

Yes, rabbits. The year was 1726, the woman was Mary Toft, the place was Godalming, England, and the claim was that she was giving birth to rabbits. But that wasn’t the strange part. No, the exceedingly strange part was that the physician in attendance, one John Howard, faced with the fact that his patient was producing bunny parts from her nether regions, came to the conclusion that Mary was actually giving birth to rabbits as apposed to, say, making the whole thing up.

I suppose one should take into account that the age was not a very advanced one, scientifically speaking. But still. Rabbits? Mr. Howard, who appears to have been not only credulous, but excitable, promptly wrote to the king. The king, George I, not one of England ‘s brighter lights, sent out his best surgeons who, naturally, fell for this wild tale, hook, line, and sinker. Let us pause for a moment and savor the thought of the best scientific minds of the time being conned by a twenty-five-year-old serving girl from the sticks who was probably not even educated.

Alas, Mary’s tale eventually unraveled when she was brought to London. There, she was cut off from her supply of rabbits and had to confess that she’d actually been planting the dead bunnies in a very unfortunate place and then pretending to go into labor. Apparently, she’d been motivated by the hope that the king would settle a pension on her. A hope that, considering the king’s actions, doesn’t seem quite so far-fetched as it should.

Mary spent several months in prison for fraud and then was released without trial, possibly because the doctors were too embarrassed to testify.

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