Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine


The general shape of the bone closely resembles that of a normal one--a marked contrast to its wasted condition and tapering extremity in paralytic calcaneus. Extension and flexion at the ankle are only limited by the shortness of the ligaments; there is no opposition from the conformation of the bones. The astragalus is almost of normal shape; the trochlea is slightly prolonged anteriorly, especially on the inner side, from contact with the tibial articular surface. The cartilage on the exposed posterior portion of the trochlea seems healthy. The head of the astragalus is very prominent on the outer side, the scaphoid being depressed downward and inward away from it. The anterior articular surface is prolonged in the direction of the displaced scaphoid. The scaphoid, in addition to its displacement, is much compressed on the planter surface, being little more than one-half the width of the dorsal surface. The cuboid is displaced obliquely downward and forward, so that the upper part of the posterior articular surface is not in contact with the calcis.

A professional leg-breaker is described in the Weekly Medical Review of St. Louis, April, 1890. This person's name was E. L.

Landers, and he was accredited with earning his living by breaking or pretending to break his leg in order to collect damages for the supposed injury. Moreover, this individual had but one leg, and was compelled to use crutches. At the time of report he had succeeded in obtaining damages in Wichita, Kansas, for a supposed fracture. The Review quotes a newspaper account of this operation as follows.--"According to the Wichita Dispatch he represented himself as a telegraph operator who was to have charge of the postal telegraph office in that city as soon as the line reached there. He remained about town for a month until he found an inviting piece of defective sidewalk, suitable for his purpose, when he stuck his crutch through the hole and fell screaming to the ground, declaring that he had broken his leg. He was carried to a hospital, and after a week's time, during which he negotiated a compromise with the city authorities and collected $1000 damages, a confederate, claiming to be his nephew, appeared and took the wounded man away on a stretcher, saying that he was going to St.

Louis. Before the train was fairly out of Wichita, Landers was laughing and boasting over his successful scheme to beat the town. The Wichita story is in exact accord with the artistic methods of a one-legged sharper who about 1878 stuck his crutch through a coal-hole here, and, falling heels over head, claimed to have sustained injuries for which he succeeded in collecting something like $1500 from the city. He is described as a fine-looking fellow, well dressed, and wearing a silk hat. He lost one leg in a railroad accident, and having collected a good round sum in damages for it, adopted the profession of leg-breaking in order to earn a livelihood. He probably argued that as he had made more money in that line than in any other he was especially fitted by natural talents to achieve distinction in this direction. But as it would be rather awkward to lose his remaining leg altogether he modified the idea and contents himself with collecting the smaller amounts which ordinary fractures of the hip-joint entitle such an expert 'fine worker'

to receive.

"He first appeared here in 1874 and succeeded, it is alleged, in beating the Life Association of America. After remaining for some time in the hospital he was removed on a stretcher to an Illinois village, from which point the negotiations for damages were conducted by correspondence, until finally a point of agreement was reached and an agent of the company was sent to pay him the money. This being accomplished the agent returned to the depot to take the train back to St. Louis when he was surprised to see the supposed sufferer stumping around on his crutches on the depot platform, laughing and jesting over the ease with which he had beaten the corporation.

"He afterward fell off a Wabash train at Edwardsville and claimed to have sustained serious injuries, but in this case the company's attorneys beat him and proved him to be an impostor. In 1879 he stumbled into the telegraph office at the Union Depot here, when Henry C. Mahoney, the superintendent, catching sight of him, put him out, with the curt remark that he didn't want him to stick that crutch into a cuspidor and fall down, as it was too expensive a performance for the company to stand. He beat the Missouri Pacific and several other railroads and municipalities at different times, it is claimed, and manages to get enough at each successful venture to carry him along for a year or eighteen months, by which time the memory of his trick fades out of the public mind, when he again bobs up serenely."Anomalous Suicides.--The literature on suicide affords many instances of self-mutilations and ingenious modes of producing death. In the Dublin Medical Press for 1854 there is an extraordinary case of suicide, in which the patient thrust a red-hot poker into his abdomen and subsequently pulled it out, detaching portions of the omentum and 32 inches of the colon.

Another suicide in Great Britain swallowed a red-hot poker. In commenting on suicides, in 1835, Arntzenius speaks of an ambitious Frenchman who was desirous of leaving the world in a distinguished manner, and who attached himself to a rocket of enormous size which he had built for the purpose, and setting fire to it, ended his life. On September 28, 1895, according to the Gaulois and the New York Herald (Paris edition) of that date, there was admitted to the Hopital St. Louis a clerk, aged twenty-five, whom family troubles had rendered desperate and who had determined to seek death as a relief from his misery.