Many of us love to eat; some need to eat more than usual due to accelerated metabolism, a distended stomach, or simply having a delicious high-calorie meal in the refrigerator. A French street actor and soldier named Tarrare reluctantly managed to become a hostage to his stomach: this man could eat all day and remain hungry. However, this great mistake of nature did not make him a lucky one or a celebrity; oh no: Tarrare went down in history as an eternally hungry eater of garbage, corpses, and… children.
Tarrare was born into a poor peasant family in France in 1772. At first, he grew up as a normal child, but at the age of 12, evolution decided to play a cruel joke with him and turned him into a food-obsessed, all-devouring glutton.
At 17, he weighed only 45 kilograms, even though he could eat a quarter of a cow’s carcass in one go. He had an ugly, distended mouth with a row of large blackened teeth: Tarrare could hold a dozen eggs behind his cheeks. As eyewitnesses of that time described him, he looked quite creepy and, at the same time, smelled unbearably. The doctor who studied Tarrare’s anomaly indicated in his notes that it was impossible to approach the stench actor even 20 steps from the stench.
The phenomenal gluttony was reflected in the internal organs of Tarrare: he had a huge stomach, as a result of which, after eating, the actor’s belly swelled to inhuman dimensions, and the rest of the time it hung in ugly folds on the sides of an unnaturally thin body.
As a result, for all of the above shortcomings, but mostly, of course, for irresistible gluttony, Tarrare’s poor parents were forced to drive the child out of the house, dooming him to a senseless wandering across the expanses of France.
However, it was not meaningless: Tarrare put together a gang of thieves and beggars after a while. The troupe began “touring” French cities, robbing people and giving street performances, where Tarrare gladly ate baskets of apples, eggs, and even wine corks brought to him for the amusement of the audience.
Tarrare could pounce on stray cats or dogs and eat them almost alive and also loved to “bite” with non-venomous snakes. It must be admitted that the sight was rather disgusting, but for the French of the late 18th century, probably the very thing. Once, during one of these performances, a street actor had a serious intestinal obstruction; fortunately, some caring onlookers were able to bring Tarrare to the hospital.
Having reached Paris in 1792, Tarrare decided to take the right path and volunteered for the army: just then, there was a war of the First Coalition, in which France fought almost half of Europe, but oh well, that’s not the point. As a result, the glutton, of course, lacked even a quadruple ration, so he kept running through the trash heaps, eating garbage and leftovers, gutting small animals: in general, he turned around as best he could.
All this led to the exhaustion of Tarrar from hunger, and he was sent to a military hospital. Local doctors were so impressed by the soldier’s appetite that they began to put funny and not very experiments on him. For example, they allowed him to eat lunch for 15 people or offered him to swallow a live eel. And Tarrar did all this without even dying from stab wounds to the stomach caused by the skeleton of an eel.
Soon, the talented French surgeons Courville and Pierre-Francois Percy became interested in him, who decided to study the Tarrare phenomenon for scientific purposes. At first, they decided that he had some psychopathic disorder or dementia, that the guy did not understand what he was doing.
However, tests have shown that the glutton is quite sane and that his unnatural appetite is caused by physiological needs. Then the doctors concluded that Tarrare passes food through himself, practically not assimilating useful microelements, including those satisfying the feeling of hunger: the bones and hair of the animals he had gnawed came out in the almost perfect condition. Therefore, the military decided to use such an amazing anomaly for espionage purposes.
Tarrare, the spy
They asked the soldier to gobble up a box with secret documents and deliver them to the rear of the Prussians so that later they would naturally remove it from the body and hand it over to a captured French officer. The plan was good, but the execution suffered: as you might guess, Tarrare, who was always scurrying through the garbage as a spy and not even knowing German, soon aroused a lot of suspicions. Therefore, it was impossible to implement the idea, and after the demonstrative beating, the would-be spy was sent back to France.
Tarrar pleaded with a renowned physician to heal his hunger. The doctor took Tarrara and sincerely hoped to find a cure.
Tarrar went back to Dr. Percy, who had the opportunity to deal with the phenomenal gluttony once and for all. The doctor experimented, conducted tests, fed the poor fellow with vinegar, tobacco and even gave him opium to cure his abnormal appetite, but it was all in vain.
At the same time, Tarrare fought with stray dogs for scraps near the nearest butcher’s shop, ate garbage, several times gnawed corpses in the morgue, and drank blood from people who were bled. As a result, a 14-month-old baby disappeared in the clinic, and, of course, all suspicions fell on him, the glutton. The hospital staff did not tolerate this, and Tarrare was sent back to wander the streets of France.
The medical reason for Tarrare’s cursed appetite
Ironically, in 1798 he returned to the clinic with an advanced stage of tuberculosis, Dr. Percy began to treat him, but Tarrare died suddenly. Doctors were going to carry out a full autopsy a few days after death, but by that time, Tarrare’s body was mystically almost decomposed and exuded an unbearable stench.
Nevertheless, doctors noted an enlarged liver, a gallbladder, and a stomach that was distended to incredible size, on which traces of ulcers were visible.
According to doctors’ observations, objects up to 30 centimeters long were placed in his stretched jaws. The poor fellow’s esophagus was also much wider than that of an ordinary person. Unfortunately, doctors failed to study this phenomenon due to the accelerated decomposition process properly.
Modern medical experts suggest that Tarrare may have suffered from an extreme form of hyperthyroidism. According to the UK’s National Health Service :
“An overactive thyroid gland, also known as hyperthyroidism or thyrotoxicosis, is where the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone.”
Some of the effects of an overactive thyroid gland include severe weight loss, abnormally high appetite, excessive sweating, and fine hair.
Tarrare lived a miserable life, cursed by gluttony. While most people eat to live, health conditions made him live to eat.