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Observations placeholder

Hack Tuke, Daniel – Sickness - Birth deformities and stillbirths induced by powerful emotions – Fear, repulsion and shock



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

As described in Illustrations Of The Influence Of The Mind Upon The Body In Health And Disease, Designed To Elucidate The Action Of The Imagination - Daniel Hack Tuke, M.D., M.R.C.P.,


A few cases recorded by medical observers may here be briefly alluded to, for the purpose of illustrating the point at issue. They are fair examples of a class of facts frequently reported in the medical journals.

1. A woman, aged 24, of good constitution, and the mother of two healthy children, went to a fair and entered a show-place where was exhibited a collection of living and stuffed animals, and monsters preserved in spirits, among which was a hydrocephalic cat. From the moment she saw this she wished to leave the place, crying out, "How horrible! it is just like a child!" Her companions laughed at her fright and insisted upon her remaining. Eight months afterwards she had a child, stillborn and hydrocephalic. Given on the authority of Dr. Bayard, who published this in the " Annales Medico-psychologiques " (1851, p. 478).

2. Madame C — , during the second month of her pregnancy, saw a cart pass containing three men condemned to death. One of them, faint, had his head inclined to the right; his appearance indicating the most complete mental prostration. This lady gave birth to a child, having the head turned to the right shoulder — a morbid contraction which was permanent. Given on the authority of Dr. Bayard, who published this in the " Annales Medico-psychologiques " (1851, p. 478).

3. In the "Lancet" of November 7th, 1868, Mr. Child records a case illustrating, he considers, the influence of " maternal impression." The child was born on August 26th, 1868, and was naturally formed, as regards the body, except the nails on the thumbs, which were like those of a rabbit.
"The parietal, frontal, and part of the occipital bones were wanting ; and at the space corresponding to, but larger than the anterior fontanelle, was the brain, entirely denuded of skin or membrane, not even being covered with arachnoid. There was a little hair over the eyes, none elsewhere. The eyes, palate, and tongue were similar to those of a rabbit."
Mr. Child then found that during the second month of pregnancy the mother went to a penny show, in which she saw a trained horse pull the trigger of a pistol, pretending to shoot a rabbit. A dummy was then thrown out; the back of its head was bleeding, having to all appearance been shot off. This corresponded, as the mother-in-law declares, to the mark on the child's head. My patient seems never to have forgotten the circumstance during the remainder of her pregnancy, and was considerably frightened at the time.

4. This case, which we owe to Malbranche, and which will be found in Goldsmith's "History of the Earth and Animated Nature," is one not unfrequently referred to. It is that of a woman in Paris who witnessed a criminal broken upon the wheel when she was two months advanced in pregnancy. We are told that she was of "a tender habit of body, and though led by curiosity to this horrid spectacle, very easily moved to pity and compassion. She felt, therefore, all those strong emotions which so terrible a sight must naturally inspire ; shuddered at every blow the criminal received, and almost swooned at his cries." On her return, and for some days, she was in a downcast state, and "her imagination still wrought upon by the spectacle she had lately seen. After some time, however, she seemed perfectly recovered from her fright, and had almost forgotten her former uneasiness. When the time of her delivery approached, she seemed no ways mindful of her former terrors, nor were her pains in labour more than usual in such circumstances. But what was the amazement of her friends and assistants when the child came into the world ! It was found that every limb in its body was broken like those of the malefactor, and just in the same place. This poor infant, that had suffered the pains of life even before its coming into the world, did not die, but lived in a hospital, in Paris, for twenty years after, a wretched instance of the supposed powers of the mother, in altering and distorting the infant in the womb" (The Works of John Hunter. Edited by Mr. Palmer. 1838. 4 vols., p. 244).

5. In the "Lancet" of August 17th, 1867, Mr. T. Smith, Assistant-Surgeon to St. Bartholomew's Hospital, in a paper on " Mother's Marks," observes that " one cannot doubt that these marks occasionally appear on children in connection with mental impressions received by the mother during pregnancy." He then adds : " I will show you a striking case that came under Mr. Paget's observation. This child was admitted into St. Bartholomew's Hospital in 1865. She was at that time twelve years old. The left upper extremity and the greater part of the corresponding side of the trunk and neck were deeply stained with dark brown pigment, from which grew an abundant crop of brown, harsh, lank hair, varying in length from one to two inches. The skin was rough and harsh ; the arm was long, thin and withered ; the scapula was unnaturally prominent. In fact, the upper limb, shoulder and back, bore a very strong resemblance to the corresponding part of a monkey. The mother stated that when three months pregnant with the child, she was much terrified by a monkey attached to a street-organ, which jumped on her back as she was passing by."

Mr. Smith concludes his report by the remark, " I need scarcely say that such a case does not stand alone. There are many well-authenticated cases where marks and even bodily deformities in the foetus, can be fairly attributed to strong and persistent mental impressions in the mother."

The source of the experience

Hack Tuke, Daniel

Concepts, symbols and science items




Science Items

Types of hurt and organs

Activities and commonsteps