Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Madstones as a Cure for Rabies

Sumner Press March 19, 1896     Mad Dog Scare

"Oliver Fiscus residing 4 miles southwest of town has had quite an experience this week. A dog of his about a week ago was at first thought affected with distemper and was very cross. Mr. F. caught it and tied it up, but in so doing the dog broke the skin on one of his hands. He thought nothing of it at the time but during the night in some way the dog got loose and it was found snapping and biting at other animals, and from all appearances had bit several. The dog was again caught and tied up, and though it drank milk and ate slightly, a great many were afraid it might be possible he was afflicted with hydrophobia. Mr. Fiscus accordingly went to Vincennes where Mrs. Margaret Miller had a madstone. This was applied to Mr. F.'s hand but would not stick. To make assurance doubly sure Mr. F. Brought Mrs. Miller over from Vincennes Monday and took her to his farm where the madstone was applied to some of the stock bitten, but in no case would the stone adhere to the wound, which it is always said to do when there is any poison in the wound.


The madstone was shown to quite a number of people. It is about two and a half inches square and nearly 1 inch thick, it is of a greenish color and to the naked eye looks porous, but upon closer inspection with a magnifying glass does not bear this out."

In trying to find out more about madstones, I found an article written by Keith Sutton  in the Whitetail Journal  on Nov 1, 2011.

"Prior to the late nineteenth century, a bite from a rabid animal struck terror in the heart of the victim. People infected with the rabies virus experience a variety of horrible symptoms, including hallucinations, terror fits, frothing at the mouth and an inability to drink. Victims also develop a fear of water, hence a common name for the disease, hydrophobia. Loss of muscle function eventually leads to complete paralysis.

Before Louis Pasteur developed a successful vaccination in 1885, a long, slow death from rabies was a forgone conclusion, unless, many people believed, a madstone could be obtained, preferably one removed from the stomach of a spotted or albino deer.

Madstones, also known as bezoar stones or enteroliths, resemble rocks but are actually concretions of mineral salts combined with hair and fibers. Most are smooth and rounded, ranging from marble-sized to as big as an orange. They occasionally are found in the stomachs of cattle, horses, goats, llamas, camels and even elephants. But those who believed in the curative powers of madstones thought the most powerful stones came from the stomachs of deer, especially white deer. No stone out of a cow could have the virtue of one out of a deer. The deer containing a madstone was not always white, but whiteness in a carrier gave the stone more drawing power.

Madstones form from calcium deposits, very similar to the way an oyster forms a pearl. Calcium clings to some foreign material such as hair, then more calcium is added in layers. Cut through a madstone’s middle, and you’ll find concentric rings like rings in a tree. Animals in eastern states are more likely to contain madstones, due to higher calcium content in the soil."

 If you are interested you can research madstones further, and if anyone would happen to have one, I would certainly be interested in seeing it. 

Don't Forget Field Trip scheduled for August Meeting:   Monday 26   5:00 pm (Indiana Time) Tour of Indiana Military Museum at Vincennes, IN 

Cost $5.00 Admission ticket ($4.00 Seniors 62 and older, and all Veterans) Everyone invited.  You may meet group there at 715 South 6th St, Vincennes, or if you would like to carpool, meet at the Museum on the Square at Lawrenceville at 3:30 pm Illinois time.   For information about the Military Museum see http://www.indianamilitarymuseum.org/