A diligent scholar is like a bee who takes honey from many different flowers and stores it in his hive.
—John Amos Comenius
A supposed human-groundhog hybrid was reported in American newspapers in 1884. The following is a transcript of one report about this strange creature as it appeared on page 2, column 4 of the December 6, 1884 issue of the Memphis Daily Appeal, a newspaper published in Memphis, Tennessee (source):
Chattanooga, December 5.—"It is half ground-hog and half human." This remarkable utterance reached the ears of the Appeal correspondent to-day as he entered an up-stairs room of the Francisco House [a Chattanooga hotel]. In the room were gathered a mild-mannered, thoughtful-looking lady, and near her stood two gentlemen, who were introduced as Judge Brandon of the Probate Court of De Kalb county, Ala., and Capt. Frazier, of the same county, and a few feet from her was the wonderful monstrosity to which allusion was made. The child is in all respects the
the reporter ever witnessed, a most marvelous lusus naturae, a personification of the close affinity that can exist between brute and human.
The story of its birth is simple, and the cause of the freak is clear. Nine years ago, when enciente, Mrs. Lacey was shocked and terrified by seeing a ground-hog killed in her presence, and witnessed its death struggles. The scene deeply affected her, and when her child was born it possessed the chief characteristics of the animal she saw killed. It will be ten years old on the 22d of February. Its height is about three and one-half feet [117 cm]; its weight about sixty pounds. It is hearty, vigorous and sound in all respects. It is a male.
of the remarkable creation is almost impossible, the features of beast and human being so closely allied. The observer is first struck by the appearance of the head. It is elongated terminating about the forehead in a point shaped much like a horn. The back of the head is perfectly straight, from the neck curving gradually to the point. The fore head is concave and is fully six inches in height. The head is of extraordinary size, measuring fully twenty inches [51 cm] from ear to ear. The eyes are very large, the sockets are set very deep in the skull, but the eyes are full and protrude an unusual distance. The eyebrows slant and the sockets are triangular in shape. The mouth is also oddly shaped, being small and circular. The teeth are clustered and irregularly set, forming tow or three rows. The roof of the mouth is concave. The body is perfectly white, and has normal shape, but is without shoulder blades. There are no joints in the hands or feet, nor any fingers or toes, but nails grow where the fingers would protrude.
The boy is very active and playful. While the reporter was present it was continually running about the room, throwing a small stick into the air. Its tongue is almost constantly out, and it utters a hiss and guttural noise peculiar to the ground-hog. The boy cannot talk, and has no perceptive faculties. It never suckled, but was nourished by milk, administered in cups. Up to the age of three years it would walk on all fours like a hog, but now stands upright. It makes no effort to speak, and seems totally devoid of any human faculties. When it is frightened it does not cry out, but hides and crouches in any dark place.
The boy will eat anything given him, but does not chew his food; his mother said it would choke to death at every meal did she not soften its food and give it in limited quantities; it usually takes milk. He sleeps naturally, but will never sleep during the day. He is very docile, and never becomes at all violent or vicious; he is obedient, like any animal that has been trained, and seems to have a deep affection for his mother.
The mother is about fifty years of age. She is a very quiet, matronly lady. None of her other children are deformed. She lives on Sand Mountain, near Ten Brook, Ala. The child will be placed on exhibition in this city as soon as arrangement are perfected.
Seven years later the following report about the same individual appeared on page 2, column 4 of the March 4, 1891 issue of the Staunton Spectator, a newspaper published in Staunton, Virginia (source). It also appeared in many other newspapers around the country.
A Chattanooga letter to the Philadelphia Times says:
One of the queerest and most wonderful freaks in the world was seen in Chattanooga yesterday by the Times correspondent.
Only five like it have ever been born according to the best medical authorities and this is the only one that has ever lived. The freak is known as Jack Lacey, "the ground hog child." At first sight of the half human being a person is struck with the peculiar animal motion which the child keeps up as it stands on its feet; also with the two bow shaped hickory twigs about four inches long, which it plays with and balances on its peculiar stub-like hands. The twigs have been worn slick by its constant handling, and he is never without them when awake.
The wonderful monstrosity was born in the wilds of Sand mountain, DeKalb county, Alabama, on Washington's birthday in the year 1875. Consequently on the 22nd of this month the freak will be sixteen years old. The boy stands three feet seven inches and exactly twelve inches of his height are taken up by his abnormally shaped head. He has no cheek bones, but he possesses one more bone in every limb than a human being. The pupils of his eyes are twice the size of those of ordinary persons and a prominent Chattanooga physician who examined him says it receives five times as much light in his eyes as a human being. At night it can see just as well as any wild animal. His feet and hands are solid bone with no joints. The fingers and toes are knitted together and run out to points, and are covered with one broad nail.
The birth of the freak is accounted for as follows: Its mother, seven months before its birth was soundly sleeping one night when some mischievous and thoughtless boys threw into the bed a ground hog they had captured. It bit the woman and frightened her terribly, and left its impression upon her unborn babe.
Mrs. Cynthia Lacy, the mother of the freak, says that the monstrosity was her eleventh child and that she was forty-two years old at its birth. Her other ten children were well-formed and grew up strong and healthy. She is a native of Jackson county, Ala.
One of the greatest peculiarities of the freak is its method of feeding. His mother, whom he never allows to get farther than two feet from him, chews up all his food and puts it in his mouth. Jack removes this food with his right stub hand and plasters it on his left hand. He then uses his hands in again putting the food in his mouth, as a plasterer uses his trowel and board in doing a delicate piece of work. The curious animal being will not wear shoes, and has never chewed or spoken a word in his life. The only sounds it ever emits are those of a ground hog.
By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).
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