The Strange Case of Mary Toft

The year is 1726. The place is Godalming, a market town in Surrey, England, just a short trip from London. A young pregnant woman named Mary Toft suffers an unfortunate miscarriage, but instead of expelling a human fetus,  she delivers a dead rabbit. An esteemed local doctor named John Howard is called in and he confirms the outlandish occurrence, especially after Mary, on subsequent visits, produces eight more stillborn rabbits, three cat legs, and the backbone of an eel.

Soon, all of England is ablaze with the strange story, and Henry Davenant, a doctor in the court of King George I, comes to investigate, and returns a believer. Emissaries of the King arrive, including his private doctor Nathaniel St. Andre, and Toft delivers more rabbit and cat parts on cue. Even more eminent physicians are brought in to investigate, most of them certain of the case’s authenticity, and it is only when Toft is forced into confinement, kept under constant supervision, and threatened with painful surgery, that she confesses to repeatedly stuffing dead animal parts into her uterus, but not before ruining the reputations of several prominent men.