Wacky Wiki: Tarrare

A friend found this bizarre Wikipedia entry:

Tarrare (c. 1772 – 1798) was a French showman and soldier, noted for his unusual eating habits. Able to eat vast amounts of meat, he was constantly hungry; his parents were unable to provide for him, and he was turned out of the family home as a teenager. He travelled France in the company of a band of thieves and prostitutes, before becoming the warm-up act to a travelling charlatan in which he would swallow corks, stones, live animals and whole apples. He then took this act to Paris where he worked as a street performer.

On the outbreak of the War of the First Coalition Tarrare joined the French Revolutionary Army. With military rations unable to satisfy his large appetite, he would eat any available food from gutters and refuse heaps but his condition still deteriorated through hunger. Suffering from exhaustion, he was hospitalised and became the subject of a series of medical experiments to test his eating capacity, in which, among other things, he ate a meal intended for 15 people in a single sitting, ate live cats, snakes, lizards and puppies, and swallowed an eel whole without chewing.

General Alexandre de Beauharnais decided to put Tarrare’s abilities to use, and he was employed as a courier by the French army, with the intention that he would swallow documents, pass through enemy lines, and recover them from his stool once safely at his destination. Unfortunately for Tarrare, he was unable to speak German, and on his first mission was captured by Prussian forces, severely beaten and underwent a mock execution before being returned to French lines.

Chastened by this experience, he agreed to submit to any procedure that would cure his appetite, and was treated with laudanum, tobacco pills, wine vinegar and soft-boiled eggs. The procedures failed, and doctors were unable to keep him on a controlled diet; he would sneak out of the hospital to scavenge for offal in gutters, rubbish heaps and outside butchers’ shops, and attempted to drink the blood of other patients in the hospital and to eat the corpses in the hospital morgue. After falling under suspicion of eating a toddler he was ejected from the hospital. He reappeared four years later in Versailles suffering from severe tuberculosis, and died shortly afterwards, following a lengthy bout of exudative diarrhoea.

More bizarre Tarrare facts at the Wiki link, if you’re, um, hungry for more.

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