Auntie Doris’s Mysteries of the Unexplained #6: Mary Toft: the Rabbit Woman


It happened in 1726, in Goldaming, Surrey. If you ask me, them Southerners have always been funny customers, but Mary Toft was the queerest of the lot. She only went and gave birth to a rabbit. Well, to be more precise, a cats body with an eel’s spine stuffed into it, and a rabbits head, and half its ruddy innards hanging out. Of course, the poor little thing was stillborn.
She claimed that whilst she was pregnant she had been startled by a rabbit in the fields near her house, and believed that it had somehow had an effect on the unborn child in her belly.
Well actually, if the truth be known, her and her husband had stitched the ruddy thing together and shoved it up her chuff, in order to draw attention to themselves, in the hope of her becoming famous and making a fortune out of it. Mary certainly became famous, but she never made a fortune. And unfortunately, on the road to fame, she felt it necessary to shove another sixteen rabbits, mixed with other creatures inside herself, and squeeze them out in the presence of all sorts of famous physicians and experts. Some of whom were sent to examine her by King George the first himself.
She got into all the newspapers and had all pamphlets and things written about her. If she had been alive today, there’s no doubt she would have ended up on the television with Jeremy Kyle shouting at her, before she went into the celebrity big brother house. The things people do in the misguided attempt to get famous! I have even heard of a bloke who tries to draw attention to himself by parading around in dead women’s tights. Does it make them happy? That’s what I want to know.
Any road, poor old Mary ended up with that toxic shock syndrome. You can’t go shoving dead rabbits up your front bottom willy nilly and expect that there won’t be any consequences to your health. Our Madge told me that she had got drunk one Christmas and attempted to pleasure herself with a turkey drumstick, but at least she had run it under the tap first. And she never claimed to have given birth to a load of little turkeys. Even though she could probably have got herself a nice little job on Bernard Matthews’ Norfolk Farms if she had.
They found Mary out by locking her up in a cell where she had no access to rabbits. She bribed a guard to sneak her a rabbit in. The Lord alone knows what she bribed him with. Surely he didn’t fancy rummaging around in her warren with his truncheon? Mind you, all men are filthy so and sos when it boils down to it, so he probably did.
Funnily enough, in Victorian days, Mary Jane Merrick was startled by an elephant on a visit to the Circus, and later gave birth to Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man.
These days, nobody really believes that being startled by something during pregnancy has any effect on the character or appearance of the unborn child. But then again, in the summer of 1966 a pregnant woman by the name of Mary Fleur was startled when she slipped after treading on a horrible oily turd. She went on to deliver a son, David Cameron, who grew up to be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. But not for very long.

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