The struggle for an appropriate title

You’ll understand in a second.

So, there is a documented case of a woman named Mary Toft who, in 1726, claimed to have given birth to rabbits. Now, there are a lot of weird stories from a few centuries ago, mostly of the “so we are told” variety, and even today there are a number of medical marvels that we know of through supermarket media that somehow never have a thesis written about them. This story wouldn’t be half as interesting if it was strictly post-event recollections, perhaps with a forlorn rabbit offered as evidence, but that’s not what we’re dealing with here. Oh no.

See, Mary was pregnant, but miscarried after sighting a rabbit – because, you know, rabbits. Little shits, all cute and harmless and stuff. But soon afterward, she claims to have then started delivering various animal parts, and notified (what passed for) doctors in the area. One, by the name of John Howard, over a period of several days helped her deliver a fine selection of incomplete pets, up to and including nine baby rabbits.

This was a hoax, I’m sorry to say. But let’s examine the over-and-above efforts expended in pursuit of this one. Doctors, even then, didn’t stand on the other side of a screen and shout instructions during childbirth, so it is a reasonably safe bet that Dr. Howard there was not being fooled by any simple sleight of… uhhhh… hand. I do believe the good doctor was assisting this poor woman in the production of dismembered critters through the usual and accustomed route.

As one source saucily put it, “Let’s pause to let that sink in.” However, I don’t think ‘sinking in’ is adequate or even possible in such circumstances; I suspect some pushing was in order. And I would like to be perfectly clear in this regard: if you are required to prime your boomhauer with bunnies in order to perpetuate your hoax, you are almost certainly carrying things a wee bit (a ha ha) too far.

And it has to be said: If you are already accustomed to inserting hossenfeffer in your hootch and see nothing wrong with this, there are probably some repressed childhood memories that bear examination. Let me guide you, in the event that no one else has up to this point, but this is not a spectator sport.

Mrs. Toft did eventually reveal her machinations – by that I mean the hoax – when she was threatened with vivisection, because, hey, a treatise on the necessary plumbing would be good for years on the lecture circuit. This, however, was further than Mary was willing to take the joke, a significant datum that many parents might find useful in childrearing. And so, thus ended Mary Toft’s career of launching lagomorphs from her labradoodle. At least, for an audience…

I am not making this up.

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