Very Strange Hybrids

A compendium of incredible (or credible?) crosses

Quoted news reports

EUGENE M. MCCARTHY, PHD GENETICS

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strange hybrids Artist: J.J. Grandville (from Les Métamorphoses du Jour).
     
I am obliged to report that which is reported, but not to believe it.
—Herodotus, The History, VII, 152
Mermaid

My research involves collecting reports about hybrids, especially hybrids involving mammals or birds, and making them available as part of a compendium of information that I have long been gathering on the topic of hybridization. Over the years, I have found some very strange hybrids seriously reported in the news.

This page collects some of the most way-out reports I’ve run across. It quotes from old newspapers certain bizarre reports about alleged very, very strange hybrids. Though the tone of these reports is that of nonfiction, the mere fact of their publication should not in any way be taken as a guarantee that the creatures they describe ever actually existed. These tales appear here merely as a matter of record, for the sake of completeness. For, as John Amos Comenius once said, “A diligent scholar is like a bee who takes honey from many different flowers and stores it in his hive.” I’m gathering the literature on hybridization, and the accounts quoted below are part of the literature. Personally, in the case of such bizarre hybrids, I begin to believe in their existence only when I see that there are multiple cases of the same type of hybrid attested by independent witnesses.

In the opening paragraph of his Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans, the historian Plutarch (46-120 A.D.) explains to his friend, the Roman politician Quintus Sosius Senecio, that his task in attempting to give an account of long-dead or even mythical individuals, was much like that of the mapmakers of his day: “As geographers, Sosius, edge their maps with regions unknown,” he writes, “and add marginal notes to inform us that naught lies beyond but

sandy expanses haunted by savage beasts, impenetrable bogs, Scythian ice, and frozen seas, so, in this work, in which I compare the lives of the greatest men, after passing beyond the earliest times that reason can reach and real history embrace, I might choose to say of those farther off, “There lies the domain of prodigy and fiction, the land of poets and the authors of fable. Belief and certainty extend not so far.” Yet, having published my accounts of King Numa and Lycurgus the lawgiver, I thought I might reasonably venture back as far as Romulus, my history having brought me so near his day.

And Plutarch, who clearly does consider Romulus mythical, goes on to give a detailed account of his life.

During the course of my research into hybrids, I, too, encounter elements of both history and myth, for the student of hybridization today is placed in much the same position as Plutarch and his geographers. Reports of hybrids range from the well-documented and mundane, to the poorly documented but plausible, to the hearsay and improbable, to the seemingly impossible and mythical. However, at exactly what point along this spectrum it might be that reality and feasibility pass over into imagination and impossibility is unclear. We are faced with Plutarch’s boundary problem. No one knows just how different two animals can be if they are to produce hybrid offspring together. And reports of hybrids sometimes do pass well “beyond the earliest times that reason can reach and real history embrace.” But even untrustworthy accounts of extreme antiquity can be of interest. After all, some crosses are very hard to obtain, and the only report of a very rare type of hybrid might well date back hundreds of years, and we might have to wait centuries more to see one again. To hear of such organisms, we would of course have to look back into the early literature, in the same way that astronomers do to learn of a supernova or some comet observed in times gone by. Such reports can be bizarre, but for some crosses it may well be that there really is no other source of information.

But now, to the reports.

An Owl-human Hybrid?

owl-human hybrid

The following appeared on the front page, column 4, of the Feb. 17, 1885, issue of the Americus Daily Recorder, a newspaper published in Americus, Georgia (source):

    A rather singular monstrosity is reported as having recently been born in this county. A negro woman, the wife of a worthy colored farmer, gave birth to a child that was shaped more like a large owl than a human being. The shoulders were broad and high, while the large round eyes were set nearly on top of the head and were surrounded with wool just as an owl’s eyes are with feathers. It did not live long, but when its eyes were opened they seemed to follow any object around the room just as an owl will watch a hunter walking around a tree. The monstrosity did not cry like a human being, but uttered a kind of “Who who who who who ah!” Like the dismal hoot of the swamp owl. Had it lived it would have made quite an addition to some circus menagerie or zoological garden.

A related cross >>

An Eagle-human Hybrid?

The following links are to two long reports about a supposed eagle-human hybrid either killed or captured (the reports are inconsistent on this point, and with regard to many others) by a Boer farmer “in Mapoch’s country, a territory beyond the Transvaal.”

    Report 1 >>

    Report 2 (see pp. 170-174) >>

Anuran-human Hybrids?

The next few reports deal with creatures that are half human and half anuran.

The following news story, which seems to have passed over the threshold into the realm of myth, appeared on page 9, columns 1 and 2, of the April 2, 1887, issue of the newspaper Znaimer Wochenblatt, which was published in Znojmo (Znaim), a town in what is now the Czech Republic:

toad-man

A Horrific Monster. From Stockerau: Last Saturday in Niederfellabrunn, a 32 year-old unmarried maidservant Franziska H. gave birth a hideous monster alive. The child was like a human being with respect to its torso, that is, its shoulders, chest and upper abdomen. But the head and the lower belly were those of a large—toad. In addition the hands on its little arms exactly resembled the feet of the animal just named. The mother, who already had one normally developed child, attributed the present monstrosity to an accident that had happened to her the previous summer while she was out picking flowers. She had received a huge shock, she said, when a toad suddenly sprang out at her. The mother was so horrified by this monstrous creature that she trampled it to death at once after birth. The authorities were notified of the case by Dr. Jakob, who stated that the child’s face was not that of a human being, so no charges were brought. [Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

The town of Stockerau and the village of Niederfellabrunn lie just north of Vienna across the Danube.

The following is the most detailed report about a supposed amphibian-human hybrid that extensive search has yet revealed. It, too, though presented as non-fiction, has a certain mythic quality. It appeared on the front page, columns 5 and 6, of the June 5, 1886, issue of the St. Paul Daily Globe, a newspaper published in St. Paul, Minnesota (source). This same story appeared in many other newspapers around the U.S. that year.

Killed His Child

Because it Was a Monstrosity, and
Couldn’t Walk


Special to the Globe.
Macon. Ga., June 4.—A strange case came to light in East Macon. Henrietta Cook, a negro woman, well known on the east side of the river, appeared before Justice Subers for the purpose of swearing out a warrant against her son-in-law, one Joe Kitchens, who had threatened her life. Joe married Henrietta’s daughter in 1880. In that year he found a negro named Gus Johnson talking to his wife, and without much ado he shot Gus in the head, killing him rather instantly. Joe was sent to the penitentiary for ten years, but was pardoned out after serving five years in the Dale coal mines. Shortly after his retirement to the penitentiary a child was born to him, who proved both a monstrosity and a prodigy, being half human and half frog, withal, exceedingly bright in mind. The child was so horribly misshapen that the mother did not like to keep it, and it was taken by its grandmother, who became very much attached to it. The child grew to be nearly 6 years old, but never walked. His hands and feet were turned outward,
SIMILARLY TO THOSE OF A FROG,
frog-human hybrid
and his method of locomotion was by hopping. His jumps were prodigious, jumping from two to six feet. There were no ribs on the left side and he slept with the left foot around his neck, Behind the ears and under his chin was a thin membrane which filled with air while he talked. While he could speak distinctly, during his sleep he uttered a sound similar to that of the croaking of a frog. He was such a curiosity that he was kept confined in the house to prevent curious people from seeing him, though he was well-known to the people who live in the locality. Last October Joe returned and saw his child for the first time. He took the child away from the grandmother and carried him to his house in the country, almost a mile from town. According to Henrietta’s statement Joe ill-treated the child, and on last Sunday was so angered with him because he could not walk that he gave him a tremendous kick in the stomach, sending him across the room. On Monday evening the child died. Joe then made his wife measure the child and go after a coffin. This she did, carrying the coffin on her head. Yesterday the coroner was notified of the facts, and had the corpse disinterred, and last night the jury returned the verdict of willful murder.

Another frog-human hopped onto page 2, column 7, of the July 8, 1879, issue of The Spirit of Democracy, a newspaper published in Woodsfield, Ohio (source):

Birth of a Human Frog

     Bellefontaine, July 2.— The wife of a resident of this city was delivered this morning of a human frog. The parents reside in the western part of this city.—The child’s head apparently grows right from the shoulders—no neck. The face is right on top of the head, with mouth and eyes precisely like a frog. The arms and legs are also an exact counterpart of that animal’s, being bent in the position assumed when swimming, the hands and feet terminating in long claws. The umbilicus is situated on the back, and a well defined heart and liver attached to the back of its neck. A rudimentary arm also sprouts from each side of its head. The human monstrosity was born dead, although living to within a few minutes of its delivery.
Bellefontaine, where this birth supposedly occurred, is a town in Logan County, Ohio.

The following appeared on page 4, column 2, of the May 17, 1902, issue of The Lancaster Ledger, a newspaper published in Lancaster, South Carolina (source):

A Monstrosity

    A colored woman living not far from Waxhaw [North Carolina] has given birth to what the doctors pronounce a “monstrosity.” It has the body and limbs of a fairly well developed infant, but its head is very much like that of a huge frog. The head is almost flat at the back, the eyes being large and in the top of the head. Its face has somewhat of an owlish appearance, but is perhaps more like that of a frog. Drs. H. C. Houston and J. V. Hunter made an autopsy and found that it had no brain whatever, its spinal column extending clear up the back of the head. It had no neck at all. Photographs of both the front and side views were made and will be preserved.—Rock Hill Herald.

The following appeared on page 5, column 2, of the January 4, 1903, issue of The Daily Ardmoreite, a newspaper published in Ardmore, Oklahoma (source):

WAS A PERFECT MONSTROSITY

Had a Head Like a Frog—Lived Only
a Few Minutes

    The Ardmoreite heard a few days ago that a lady in this city had recently given birth to what physicians call a regular monstrosity. The doctor attending the lady was seen yesterday by an Ardmoreite reporter and told him that it was a fact, and showed us a picture in one of his books which, he said, was a facsimile of the child.
    From the neck down was a perfect form, he said, while the head resembled the head of a toad. The eyes stuck out and the head had all the other formations to make it resemble a toad.

The following appeared on page 2, column 6, of the Feb. 5, 1880, issue of the Home Journal, a newspaper published in Perry, Georgia (source):

A Boy Who Resembles a Frog

[Troy (Tenn.) News.]

    Five miles southwest of Kenton, Tenn., on the Mobile and Ohio railroad is the greatest monstrosity of the age—a human being who resembles a frog. He is the son of R. Newell, is twenty-six inches high, weighs forty-eight pounds, and was born in Obion County, Tennessee, March 12, 1875. His body and arms are regularly formed and well developed, his fingers are short, and the manner in which they are set on his hands give them the appearance of a frog’s feet; his legs are small and are set at right angles with the regular line of walk; his feet are small and badly formed; his face is eight or nine inches long and makes an angle of sixty-two degrees with the base of skull (facial) angle; his head is almost conical; his eyes are small and without expression; his upper jaw projects far over the lower one; his lower jaw is small and has a superabundance of flesh attached, which renders him very froggy. He can't talk. If you throw a nickel on the floor he will light on it like a chicken on a June-bug. He can't walk, but what is wanting in walking is made up in jumping. I saw him jump eight feet after a dime; if a tub of water is placed near him, he will jump into it like a duck. In rainy weather he goes to the door and leaps out, and remains outdoors until the rain is over. Obion County has given birth to the following: The female dwarfs, the mud-negro, the sleeping beauty, and the frog-child. She is justly entitled to the appellation, “Mother of Monstrosities.”

And then we have another report about a frog-baby that appeared on page 4, column 1, of the September 21, 1882, issue of the Weekly Expositor, a newspaper published in Brockway Centre, Michigan (source):

    A few weeks ago, Mary Schaek, a young unmarried woman, residing with her father and brothers about three miles northeast of Minden, gave birth to a lifeless monstrosity, having the limbs and body of a human being, with a perfectly formed bullfrog’s head and neck. Doctor Johnson, the attending physician, attempted to obtain it as a specimen for the medical museum at Ann Arbor, but the mother’s permission could not be obtained. The doctor says it was the most hideous object he ever beheld, and as a freak of nature, is a curiosity of no common order.
Minden, now Minden City, is a village in Sanilac County, Michigan.

And a much briefer notice about an anuran-human hybrid exists as well. It appeared on page 3, column 4, of the November 12, 1885, issue of the Western sentinel, a newspaper published in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (source).

     In a side show at the Goldsboro fair grounds was a real monstrosity in the way of little Matthew, a colored boy 16 years of age, half frog and half human. He was born in Kershaw county, South Carolina.

In his introduction to Grimm’s Household Tales (1884, p. lxxii). Andrew Lang states that a belief exists among the Tsimshian, an indigenous people of the Pacific Northwest Coast, that they are descended from a frog. In the same place, he also mentions that tales of human beings marrying frogs are told in Germany, Scotland and Russia.

Elephant-human Hybrids?

elephant-human hybrid Parvati and Ganesh visit Shiva as he meditates in the forest. Ganesh is the Hindu god with the head of an elephant and body of a man.
elephant-human hybrid An elephant-human hybrid (Zakariya al-Qazwini, Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing, 13th century).

elephant-human hybrid An elephant-human hybrid (Liceti, 1665, p. 191).

Here in my home state of Georgia, an elephant-human hybrid was reported. The same story appeared in many papers across the country, but the story quoted here appeared on page 8, column 3, of the December 26, 1889, issue of the Wyoming County Times, a newspaper published in Warsaw, New York (source).

A Georgia Monstrosity

    Atlanta, Ga. Dec. 19—About seven miles from Quitman [Georgia, a small town near the Florida border] there lives a young, healthy married negro woman who recently gave birth to a child which represents a remarkable appearance. Instead of a nose of the regulation pattern it has a well developed proboscis of an elephant. On either side of this pendant snout there project two teeth of abnormal dimensions that look like the tusks of an elephant. The eyes are small and far apart and altogether the facial appearance is that of an elephant that the mother saw several months ago at a circus. Dr. Stewart of this county was the woman’s physician when the monstrosity was born. It is still living. This story originally appeared in the Columbia, South Carolina, Daily Record

Another case of alleged elephant-human hybrid appeared on the front page, column 3, of the April 19, 1899, issue of The Lexington Dispatch, a newspaper published in Lexington, South Carolina (source).

An “Elephant Baby”

A Monstrosity Born to Colored
Parents in the City

Columbia Daily Record
    A monstrosity is reported to have been born to colored parents who live on Laurel Street recently and is creating much talk among the colored people, who are all in excitement over what they call the “elephant baby.” They say the child has no legs and its nose extends from its face like a snout, while its ears are abnormally large, giving it, as reported, the appearance of an elephant. Several physicians have heard of the strange creature, but this afternoon the parents could not be located on Laurel Streee or in the vicinity mentioned in the stories.
    If the report is true the physicians will ave a most extraordinary freak of nature to study.
    Colored people say the parents will not let anyone see the strange creature and that the parents expect to make a big pile of money by selling the curiosity to a circus.

Fish-human Hybrids?

fish humans Artist: J.J. Grandville (from Les Métamorphoses du Jour).


These mermaids particularly desire a human soul—something denied them by the churchmen.

The following news story, which smacks heavily of myth, appeared on page 23, columns 1 and 2, of the May 27, 1909, issue of the Viennese newspaper Deutsches Volksblatt:

Half Human Half Fish

A horrible monstrosity

mermaids

From Toplița in Hungary: While out on a walk in the Romanian village of Palota near Toplița, two women found on the street a bundled infant, which was shrieking at the top of its lungs. They picked it up and carried it to the notary, by whom it was unwrapped in the presence of the local doctor Michael Frisch. Those present were seized with a terrible horror, for a hideous freak, a middle thing between human and fish, came to light. Its upper body was that of a human infant, but from the waist down the body was completely that of a fish and, instead of feet, it had the complete tail of a fish, which the foundling wagged merrily to and fro. This hideous monstrosity was swaddled in linen and had around its neck a small purse containing five Austrian hundred crown bills and a piece of paper with the words in Romanian: “Tomme vereste!” (God keep thee!). Marie Roznan, a Romanian peasant, took the creature, which, incidentally, wept like an ordinary human infant, to nurse it. But it bit her breast with such force that it could not, with any amount of tugging, be removed. After much delay, she went to Dr. Frisch, but the resulting wound had already become gangrenous, and she had to undergo a serious operation. The monster had to be sent to the hospital in Budapest.

[Translated by E. M. McCarthy. Original German.]

Dagon Dagon

A fishy story indeed! A case of sirenomelia?

Another tale of a piscine human appeared on the front page, column 6, of the April 5, 1894, issue of The Austin Weekly Statesman, a newspaper published in Austin, Texas (source):

A Human Monstrosity

Special to The Statesman.
    Brenham, Tex., April 3.—A negro woman near Burton has given birth to a monstrosity. The trunk and head are fishlike even to the gills, and there are fins instead of arms, but the legs are natural and well formed. The negroes are much excited and claim that the woman was conjured. The monster was stillborn.

A second story about the same birth provides some additional details. It appeared on page 2, column 5, of the April 4, 1894, issue of the Fort Worth Gazette, a newspaper published in Fort Worth, Texas (source):

A CHILD MONSTROSITY

A Negro Woman Gives Birth to a Strange Child

Special Dispatch.
    Brenham, Tex., April 3.—Dr. Lass, attending physician, reports the birth of a strange monstrosity, a negro woman near Burton being the mother. The upper part of the body, including the head, was the perfect reproduction of a red-snapper fish, while the lower limbs were perfect and natural.

The dates of these last two reports are uncomfortably close to April 1.

Red Snapper Red Snapper, Cyprinus acratus

The account below swam onto the pages of many British Empire publications, but the transcript quoted here was netted from page 17, column 4, of the July 9, 1935, issue of the The West Australian, a newspaper published in Perth, Western Australia (source).

A “MERMAID” IN LONDON

Scientists Baffled

    LONDON.—A strange mummified body, half human, half fish, has turned up in London to baffle scientists and doctors. What, is it? Is it human, or animal? Does it prove that mermaids actually existed? No one here can answer these riddles. Perhaps some South Sea sailor or traveller can suggest a solution to the mystery. The mummy has the skull and upper vertebrae of a human being; human arms and hands; the lower structure and tail of a fish, and traces of scales instead of skin.
    The existence of the “mermaid” was revealed for the first time this week when it passed into the hands of a London dealer for sale. “The Eighth Wonder of the World. Mermaid Found in Sierra Leone. Offers Wanted.” That was how it was advertised for sale in the shop window of Mr. W. Katz. Immediately it excited widespread interest. Already scores of people have made offers for it. Famous doctors and biologists have come to examine it— and gone away, baffled. After the closest examination, they can only report that the physical structure of the mermaid is that of the normal human being, but instead of legs it has the tail of a fish.
    “The inscription below the mermaid’s case shows that it was first the property of Dr. Graham, colonial surgeon at Sierra Leone,” Mr. Katz explained. “Later the mermaid was bought by a private collector, who brought it over to Britain. When he died his estate was dispersed and the mummy passed to a friend. Both that person and the next owner died shortly after the mermaid passed into their possession. It is at present owned by a London woman, for whom I am acting.”

A similar news report >>

mermaidA hoax specimen donated to the British Museum in 1942.

So the reports in this section clearly demonstrate that a belief in the existence of fish-human hybrids has been widespread. And yet, one can only say that the evidence for such a cross is fishy indeed. For one thing, it is known that fakers have repeatedly assembled mermaids by attaching the upper portion of a human being (or non-human primate) to the caudal portion of a fish. Indeed, the last quoted report may refer to just such a hoax specimen “composed of the upper part of a monkey's body and a fish tail, with various additions” donated to the British Museum in 1942 by the Princess Arthur of Connaught, Duchess of Fife (see image). More information about this fake is available on the British Museum website.

A long article about two supposed mer-people >>.”

Snake-human Hybrids?

snake woman
The one seem’d Woman to the waist, and fair,
But ended foul in many a scaly fold
Voluminous and vast, a Serpent arm’d
With mortal sting.
—Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II

A report of what, if real, would be a pair of extremely odd hybrids, recalls Milton’s Hell and tales of the Egyptian gods. It appeared on the front page, column 1, of the August 30, 1864, issue of the Cleveland Morning Leader, a newspaper published in Cleveland, Ohio (source):

HORRIBLE MONSTROSITY

A woman delivers twins with the heads of serpents

[From the Dubuque Herald]

Wonders never cease! and the greatest ever heard of in these modern times has just come to our knowledge from entirely reliable authority. It fully disproves the wisdom of Solomon when he proclaimed that “there is nothing new under the sun.” The facts related to us are:

two snake-human hybridsHoysala sculpture of two nagas (snake-human hybrids) at Halebidu, India. Halebidu was capital of the Hoysala Empire in the 12th century.

About two weeks ago the wife of a market gardener, residing at Eagle Point, in this city, gave birth to twins which, instead of being provided with the head and features of the “human form divine” had each the head and neck of a snake! Besides the head and shoulders the children were of natural and comely form—from the shoulders up they presented the horrible shape and characteristics of the serpent! Immediately after the birth a consultation of physicians was held, at which it was very properly decided to bleed the monsters to death, which was, accordingly done. What disposition was made of the bodies we have not yet learned.

The cause assigned for the lusus naturae is that several months ago, shortly after the woman became enciente, her husband playfully threw a snake’s head into her face, which so frightened her that the foetus assumed the horrible shape into which they were brought into the world.

strange hybrids The sky goddess Nut and the snake-headed god Geb
Image: E. A. Wallis Budge, The Gods of the Egyptians.

In another account we find a troubled physician tussling with a vicious serpentine delivery. This appeared on page 3, column 2, of the June 19, 1868, issue of The Pulaski Citizen, a newspaper published in Pulaski, Tennessee (source):

    We have been informed that a child was born in this county a few days ago which was more snake than human. The lower portion of the body was snake and the upper part human. It came into the world hissing and striking about promiscuously after the manner of a snake. The humane physician who delivered it put an end to its existence immediately and without allowing the mother to see it.

A separate account of an alleged snake child appeared on the front page, columns 3 and 4, of the July 11, 1871, issue of the Public Ledger, a newspaper published in St. John’s, Newfoundland (source):

A SNAKE CHILD

MORE SERPENT THAN HUMAN
WONDERFUL FREAK OF NATURE

(From the Boston Herald, Jan. 4.)
snake-headed godThe snake-headed god Nehebkau

During a recent visit to Cape Cod, the writer was made acquainted with a remarkable freak of nature, one illustrating the results of certain influences exerted before birth, in the person of a male child, known as the “snake child.” This is the son of Mr.___, of Harwick, a little more than three months old, and regarded as “more snake than human.” During the term of pregnancy, which was attended with various peculiar sensations, the mother was in an unusual frame of mind, and gratified a kind of monomania for killing snakes, never allowing an opportunity for an encounter with them to pass unimproved. On one occasion she fought two and a half hours with three adders in an arbor, at last conquering and killing them. On another occasion she came suddenly upon a large black snake, the ‘size of her wrist,’ which raised his head very high and ‘showed fight.’ True to her strange impulse, she commenced the attack and was the conqueror, instead of screaming, like most females, and leaving the spot in haste, though his snakeship presented a formidable, if not a frightful, appearance. This monstrosity, which weighed 13 lbs. at birth has the more general appearance of a human being in the outlines of the body, than in the head and limbs, though the shoulder blade is wanting, or very unlike the natural one. The head is very large having, at birth, the appearance, with the general expression of the face, especially the upper part, of a child at the age of two years. It rises high, the line of the front and back being nearly parallel, though inclining upward and forward with an arched appearance. The forehead is high, and projects considerably over the eyes. The ears, which are large, are located very far forward, and about one inch lower than usual, or about on a direct line with the chin. The eyes are large, snakish, elongated, protruding, and much in motion. The lower jaw has an unusual appearance, appearing as if double, while the roof of the mouth is narrow and deep. The mouth is open, save when nursing the bottle. The tongue as thick as some two or three ordinary ones, and is very smooth. The lips remain in one position, about a half inch in a straight line, above and below, with a gradual curve toward the angles. The nose is rounded at the the tip, much depressed at the base, and the nostrils much distended, the whole looking snakish. Instead of the usual soft place in the top of the skull, there are two, one in the forehead, and the other far back, the skull between these more nearly resembling the back of a turtle than a child’s head. There are two bony projections in the forehead, over the eyes, like prospective horns, while between these and the eyes are deep cavities. The face, which is long and large, with the exception of the mouth and chin.—is proportionately small—has a mature expression, rather snakish, the chin being usually pointed. The feet and hands are the most remarkable, evidently presenting the deformity in its worst aspects. Both are unusually arched, and in other respects peculiar. The large toe is short, like a thumb, inclining downward and toward the hollow of the foot, with the small one also. The remaining ones, which are destitute of the usual joints, are enclosed in a kind of sheath, a thick skin and some flesh, all terminating at the ends in one broad and large n ail, inclining downward like a half tube. This nail, and indeed those of both the hands and feet, have a decidedly snakish look. The hands are still more peculiar, rather more arched than the feet. The bones of the hand are more distant, relatively, than those of the feet, with a deep cavity between, rather irregular. One of the toe bones is disconnected with those of the foot, passing instead, downward toward the hollow of the foot, there floating with no attachment. Others seem to be deficient in the usual connection in this respect. The palm is very deep, corresponding with the unusual arch both of the hand and finger sheath. The thumb and the small finger incline toward the palm, and are rather short, resembling the general construction of the corresponding members of the foot, though the small finger is more connected with the others by an arrangement resembling that of the web foot. The remaining three are almost in a form of a triangle, joining at the ends in one general broad and large nail. Extending down the sides of the fingers, almost enclosing them. I could detect no joints in these fingers, only the one joining them to the hand. The little fellow seemed unwilling to have his hand held long enough to have them carefully examined, making one feel that he was handling a snake. The general appearance of the hand, the form of enclosed fingers, the form of the nails, etc., are wonderfully suggestive of the snake. Indeed, one can scarcely look at this unique creature, observe the almost constant motion of the hands, feet, tongue, the turning of the head from side to side, and see the snakish aspect, without feeling a kind of shuddering, a wish to withdraw from his presence, so snakish is he in his appearance and movements.

J. H. Hanford, M. D., Reading Mass.

Another case of reported snake-baby appeared on page 2, column 3, of the May 8, 1867, issue of the Public Ledger, a newspaper published in Memphis, Tennessee (source):

WONDERFUL BABY

A Being Half Human, Half Rattlesnake

[From the Nashville Banner.]
We learned yesterday from a gentleman of undoubted veracity, and who is acquainted with the facts we are about to relate, of one of the most wonderful freaks of nature on record, which occurred in West Tennessee.
     The incident happened in one of the most respectable families in that section, and its features are so revolting that very few would readily believe that such a thing could possibly occur. Strange as it may seem, however, we are assured of its authenticity, and lay it before the public as it came to us.
Snake-human hybrid Patañjali as an incarnation of Adi Sesha
     A lady living near Trenton was, a few nights since, delivered of a child, the head of which, and the body from the abdomen up, were those of a living rattlesnake, while the lower limbs were those of a human being. The strange object has all the characteristics and appearances of a snake, is still alive, and will probably live and grow to its natural size. The lady is rapidly recovering her health.
     This startling lusus naturae is accounted for by the fact that the mother sometime previous to her confinement, narrowly escaped the fangs of a huge rattlesnake, and was so terrified by the occurrence that she became subject to fits.
     We are not permitted to mention any names in connection with this remarkable occurrence, the delicacy of the subject warranting us in omitting them.

Another snake-human hybrid appears in a brief notice on front page, column 7, of the July 19, 1893, issue of the Alpena Argus, a newspaper published in Alpena, Michigan (source). This report ran in many other U.S. papers that same summer.

    A Marion County, Iowa, physician has a human monstrosity, a male child weighing nine and one-half pounds, which has a perfect snake’s head. It is preserved in alcohol and seldom exhibited.

The next report is copied from page 2, column 3, of the May 2, 1885, issue of The Comet, a newspaper published in Johnson City, Tennessee (source). The original source of the story was the Knoxville, Tennessee Journal.

A Monstrosity

    Sallie Carter, a colored woman residing in Shieldstown, an eastern suburb of this city [Knoxville] gave birth Sunday to a still-born babe. It weighed ten pounds, and the limbs and body, up to the neck, were perfect in shape and form. But resting upon the neck was a small head out of all proportion with the body, and shaped very much like a snake’s head, with the eyes set high on top, and all presenting a most remarkable appearance.
    The freak of nature is accounted for by the friends of the woman in the statement that she attended the last circus and became frightened at a large snake. The corpse was buried yesterday and the mother is reported as getting along very well.—Knoxville Journal,
Geographic Information from Wikipedia:

“During the 1850s, a developer named John Shields established Shieldstown between First Creek and modern Bertrand Street, near what is now the Old City, which by 1880 had a population of 700.”

“The Old City is a neighborhood in Knoxville, Tennessee, United States, located at the northeast corner of the city’s downtown area. Originally part of a raucous and vice-ridden section of town known as “The Bowery,” the Old City has since been revitalized through extensive redevelopment efforts carried out during the 1980s through the present.”

Another such report appeared on page 4, column 1, of the August 25, 1900, issue of The Democratic Advocate, a newspaper published in Westminster, Maryland (source).

Child Like a Snake

    One of the most remarkable freaks of nature has just been removed from the Children’s Home in Washington, Pa., to the Polk Asylum. It is known as the snake child, and is 4 years of age. The name of the child is Hazel Black, born of negro parentage. She is unable to walk or talk, utters sounds like a snake and takes in food like a the reptile. She is without vertebrae and lies continually in an apparently semi-conscious condition. The mother of the child died a few weeks ago.

The next report appeared on page 2 of the October 20, 1887, issue of the Rock Island Daily Argus, a newspaper published in Rock Island, Illinois (source).

Delivered of Two Monstrosities

    Lathrop, Mo., Oct. 20.—About a month ago Mrs. Andrew Lettes, the wife of a farmer living about fourteen miles from here, was out in the garden with her son. Two snakes were noticed fighting, and she told her son to kill them. Taking the hoe he mashed both of their heads, Mrs. Lettes intently watching him all the time. Tuesday week twins were born to her. The heads of both were flat and resembled a snake, while their tongues are licking out continually. No attempt has been made to clothe the monstrosities, and they have been kept in separate boxes. The moment they are put together they commence to fight and lick out their tongues in the most disgusting manner. They are at this time alive and well, but the family have attempted to keep the facts in the case from the newspapers.
Lathrop is a town in northwestern Missouri.

The following news story, about the death of a woman with snakelike traits, is taken from the front page, column 4, of the February 20, 1890, issue of the Dodge City Times, a newspaper published in Dodge City, Kansas (source).

    Indianapolis, Feb. 18.—Viola Blackmore, aged 20, a remarkable colored girl, died here last night. Her entire life was spent on her left side in bed with her hands constantly clutched over her head. She was three feet tall, with many of the developments of an old woman, but her limbs were those of a very small child. She undulated in her motions and made peculiar noises like the hiss of a snake, and then mumbled and muttered in an incoherent manner. She had been the study and wonder of professional men for years. Just before her birth a huge blacksnake ran across the road along which the mother walked.
An excerpt from Herodotus (The Histories, 4.8-9): Hercules came from thence into the region now called Scythia, and, being overtaken by storm and frost, drew his lion’s skin about him, and fell fast asleep. While he slept, his mares, which he had loosed from his chariot to graze, by some wonderful chance disappeared. On waking, he went in quest of them, and, after wandering over the whole country, came at last to the district called “the Woodland,” where he found in a cave a strange being, between a maiden and a serpent, whose form from the waist upwards was like that of a woman, while all below was like a snake.

A Centipede-human Hybrid?

Movement of the Giant Desert Centipede (Scolopendra heros), which is native to all of Texas, including Eagle Pass. S. heros is the largest North American centipede. With an average length of 6.5 inches (170 mm), it reaches up to 8 in (200 mm) in the wild (and can grow even larger in captivity). Excerpt from a YouTube Video

The following strange account appeared on the front page, column 1, of the April 26, 1884, issue of the The Pioche Weekly Record, a newspaper published in Pioche, Nevada (source).

A TEXAS MONSTER

Birth of a Freak Half Human and Half Centipede
at Eagle Pass.

(Eagle Pass Maverick)
    An attaché of the Maverick, while wandering around town the other evening in quest of something which might satiate the cravings of the reading world, overheard a conversation which opened up the avenue to a startling item and, with the object of getting at the details, he approached one of the party, who is a physician, and made inquiries as to the conversation overheard a few moments previous, but was met with a blunt but polite refusal to be let any farther into the secret; but after a dogged persistence on the part of the Maverick representative, the gentleman approached agreed to conduct him to the seclusion of the monstrosity, he first agreeing to give neither name nor locality. Accordingly, in company with the attending physician, he visited the house, where was found, to his utter astonishment, a human deformity, the like of which the mind is scarcely capable of conceiving. This curiosity is three days old, weighs two and a half pounds, has a well-developed head, but no sign of hair, and when viewing it in a dark room with a lighted lamp is seen to be perfectly transparent, an object on the opposite side of the head being easily distinguished, and what appeared to be the brain is constantly moving, not even ceasing when the child (if such it can be called) appears to be sleeping. The body as low down as the hips is well developed and symmetrically formed, but the legs, feet, arms and hands are the exact counterparts of the centipede, the fingers and toes resembling the claws of one of these reptiles [sic], and are of a fleshy substance, but have been growing harder ever since birth [as does the chitinous, translucent exoskeleton of an arthropod]. The toes and fingers are also transparent, being of a light reddish color [matching the color of S. heros] and are ever and anon on the move. Should this nondescript live it will prove to be the greatest curiosity ever known to anatomy.
    The mother, who is of more than ordinary intelligence, expresses great sorrow at this phenomenal deformity of her offspring, and appears to have all that maternal love and care that is bestowed upon those more fortunate, and desires that it live, but says that in the case it does not she would prefer that the world remain in ignorance of its maternity.
    Should this freak of nature show evidences of living, we will be permitted to write more fully of it at another time, but by request we will say no more for the present.

A Crayfish-human Hybrid?

The birth of a creature, human down to the waist and crayfish below, was reported on the front page, column 3, of the March 19, 1879, issue of The Cincinnati Daily Star, a newspaper published in Cincinnati, Ohio (source). The report reads as follows:

Birth of a Monstrosity

Special to the Star.
    Franklin, Ind., March 19.—Dr. Davis, of this city, states that he attended Mrs. Fichet, at Rolla, Shelby County, at her recent accouchement. After suffering untold agony she gave birth to an issue which is difficult to classify, being neither human nor of the lower order of animals. The upper part of the body looked natural, but [from] the stomach down resembled a craw-fish. The anomaly providentially lived but a short time, but during that period manifested all the peculiarities of its dual character. After its decease, at the urgent solicitation of Dr. Davis, the parents surrendered the body to him for scientific purposes, and he now has it at his office preserved in liquor.

Two days later the Star published a follow-up story with corroboration by another physician and additional details. This second report appeared on the front page, column 7, of the March 21, 1879, issue (source):

Note: The Dictionary of American Regional English (1985, vol. 1, p. 834) gives craw as a variant of crawfish.

Note: In describing the anatomy of the crawfish, The American Cyclopaedia (1881, vol. 5, p. 464) states that “The legs are five pairs, the first the largest, and ending in a two-bladed nipper or claw…; the second and third pairs are also didactylous, but smaller, and the fourth and fifth are single pointed. The fifth thoracic ring is simply articulated to the preceding ones. The abdomen is of about the same width for its whole length, presenting on each side a series of laminae prolonged so as to encase more or less the base of the false or swimming feet; the last segment is very wide, forming with the two laminae from the sixth ring on each side, a large caudal fin…”

That Rolla Monstrosity

Special to the Star.
    Franklin, Ind., March 21.—The statement of the birth of a monstrosity at Rolla, Shelby County, excites some skepticism, but it is fully authenticated by both Drs. Davis and Taggart, who have replied to several inquiries from physicians at a distance and thus describe it:
    “The head and upper extremities and thoracic region are those of a perfectly developed child. The lower extremities correspond to the third and fourth pairs of legs of the craw instead of the claws being singly pointed. Then comes what seems to be a continuation of the sternum and coccyx, a series of laminas—seven in all, the last segment being wide, forming with the two lamina from the sixth ring on each side, a large caudal fin. The covering of this part is of a cartilaginous nature. The covering of the rest of the child is skin.” It is now being prepared in spirits for exhibition.

A Spider-human Hybrid?

spider-human hybrid The Crying Spider (Artist: Odilon Redon, 1881)

The next report appeared on page 3, column 7, of the January 12, 1935, issue of the Voice, an Australian newspaper (source). The report reads as follows:

Spider With A Human Face

    A SPIDER with a human face has been discovered in Chumatien, Honan (China). Its body is small, but its head is abnormally large. The face of the spider is dead white, with black eyebrows and a black nose. White lips add to the horror of its appearance. Its feet are dark brown.
    A Chinese found the creature in his home and he has sent it to the People’s Educational Institution.
strange hybrids

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Bibliography >>

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By the same author: Handbook of Avian Hybrids of the World, Oxford University Press (2006).


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