Ambroise Pare was arguably the most famous barber-surgeon of the 16th century. Pare served as a medical advisor to several French kings and once saved the life of a military officer who had been run through 12 times with a sword. In Pare’s Oeuvres, a collection of surgical memoirs written near the end of his life, he recalled a strange case from the early 16th century.
According to Pare, a woman near Blois had delivered a baby with the “face of a frog”. In 1517, the family was visited by a military surgeon, who examined the child and asked how it came to be deformed. According to the child’s father:
“His wife had a fever… in order to cure it, one of her neighbours advised her to take a live frog in her hand and hold it until it died. That night she went to bed with her husband, still holding the frog in her hand… They copulated and she conceived, and through the influence of her imagination [she now] has this monster that you have seen.”
Pare’s writings contain another incident involving frogs. In 1551 Pare was consulted by a mentally disturbed man who was convinced his insides were inhabited by frogs, which were “leaping about” in his stomach and intestines. Pare issued the patient with a strong laxative, resulting in “urgent emissions” from his bowels – and then secretly slipped some small live frogs “into his close stool”. The patient, apparently satisfied that the frogs were discharged, left feeling much better.