Text from: http://thehumanmarvels.com/?p=28

In 1790 the astute surgeon Everard Home wrote of ‘a species of lusus naturae so unaccountable, that, I believe, no similar instance is to be found upon record’. He was writing of the Boy of Bengal after observing drawings and collecting and reviewing the accounts of several of his peers. While the boy was remarkable for both his medical condition and perseverance, Home was actually incorrect in his initial assumptions.

The Two-Headed Boy of Bengal was born in the village of Mundul Gait in Bengal in May of 1783 into a poor farming family. His remarkable life was very nearly extinguished immediately after his delivery as a terrified midwife tried to destroy the infant by throwing him into a fire. Miraculously, while he was rather badly burned about the eye, ear and upper head, he managed to survive. His parents began to exhibit him in Calcutta, where he attracted a great deal of attention and earned the family a fair amount of money. While the large crowds gathered to see the Two-Headed Boy his parents took to covering the lad with a sheet and often kept him hidden – sometimes for hours at a time and often in darkness. As his fame spread across India, so did the caliber of his observers. Several noblemen, civil servants and city officials arranged to showcase the boy in their own homes for both private gatherings and grand galas – treating their guests to up close examinations. One of these observers was a Colonel Pierce who described the encounter to the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks and it was Sir Banks who later forwarded the account to the surgeon Everard Home.

The term ‘Two-Headed’ may be a bit misleading as rather that two heads side by side, the Boy actually had head atop the other. When compared to the average child, both heads were of an appropriate size and development. The second head sat atop the main head inverted and simply ended in a neck-like stump. The second head seemed to, at times, function independently from the main head. When the boy cried or smiled the features of the second head did not always match. Yet, when the main head was fed, the second head would produce saliva. Furthermore, if the second head was presented with a breast to suckle – it would attemp to do so. While the main head was well formed the secondary head did posses some irregularities. The eyes and ears were underdeveloped. The tongue was small and the jaw malformed but both were capable of motion. When the Boy slept, the secondary head would often be observed alert and awake – eyes darting about.

Despite the attention the Boy of Bengal received, none of it was medical in nature. There were no intensive first hand medical examinations of the Boy on record and the vast majority of the press attention given to the Boy focused no on his condition, but rather his ‘freakish’ appearance. The Boy, who seemed to suffer no serious ill effects in relation to his condition, died at the age of four from a cobra bite. It was only then, after much unseemly business, that medicine was able to examine the case.

The Boy was buried near the Boopnorain River, outside the city of Tumloch but the grave was soon robbed by Mr. Dent, a salt agent for the East India Company. He dissected the putrefied body himself and gave the skull to a Captain Buchanan of the East Indian Company. Buchanan brought the skull to England, where it ended up in the hands of his close friend- Everard Home.

When Mr. Dent had dissected the heads he discovered that the brains were separate and distinct. Each brain was also enveloped in its proper coverings and it appeared as though both brains received the nutrition required to sustain life and thought. The skull of the Boy of Bengal can still be seen at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of London.

The classification of this condition is today known as Craniopagus parasiticus and technically falls under the category of parasitic twins however many of the early naturalists have attempted to classify the Bengal case as a case of conjoined twins due to the signs of independent life given by the secondary head.


There have been two recent cases of Craniopagus parasiticus. The most recent was in Febuary 2005, the case of a little girl named Manar Maged and her parasitic twin as documented on the show Body Shock. The non-parasitic twin survived surgery and lived for almost a year before succumbing to a brain infection. While watching this documentary for the first time, the question on my mind was whether or not the parasitic twin was aware of its surroundings? I say "it" only because it had no lower body parts - only a small chest cavity (no lungs or heart, meaning it could not utter a sound) and a partial spine.

In the documentary the doctors described the parasitic twin as exhibiting "reflexive behaviors" like suckling and crying (silently), but I couldn't help but wonder if it was actually concious. It did open its eyes and look around. The nurses described it as having an individual personality but I suppose they could have been imagining it. If the second head was a person, what philosopical or ethical implications does this have? What if it was possible to keep both twins alive?

Obviously if the second head is causing problems for the twin, as was the case with Manar Maged, it's better to remove the extra head so that the fully formed child can live... so far, all attempted surgeries have resulted in complications that led to the death of the other infant. Since this condition is so rare, with only 80 known cases, only 10 of which were documented, only 3 of which survived past birth, I find Craniopagus parasiticus more interesting for the philosopical questions it poses than the question of how doctors should react when faced with this type of birth, since most of the time the child won't survive long enough for any action to be taken.

PS - Fallen world my ass.

Tags: birth defects, conjoined twins, parasitic twin

Views: 192

Replies to This Discussion

Freaky-deaky. Don't have time to read all this just now, but I will try to get to it soon. BTW, thanks for joining ODDITORIUM.
To be honest I wasn't sure what this group was about at first. Then I saw the sky buriel discussion, started looking at the forum and thought, Hey, this group looks like fun! =)
I hope it is fun.
Wow, that is just incredible that the other head would look around and make suckling motions. It does make you wonder how aware it was? Ughh, gives me chills a little.
Those poor boys... Oh my.
By "Is it a person?", I assumed you were referring to the second head... and yes I believe he was.

This is what partial birth abortion is for. At least, for me it would be! Poor kids...
What's amazing is that these boys survived for so long. If that cobra hadn't bitten the boy (the one with legs) who knows how long they might have lived?

I wonder if the human brain could adjust to living without a physical body. Certainly there are people who are paralyzed below the neck but they can still see their body and use their vocal cords.
Certainly there are people who are paralyzed below the neck but they can still see their body and use their vocal cords.

Yes, but those are adults usually whose brain has developed with their senses and perceptions. The head on this boy is a totally different situation. An interesting video to watch regarding brain development and stimuli is Secrets of the Wild Child.
It seems he had a fully functioning brain, so I think he could probably adjust, with some sort of mechanism for communication such as blinking the alphabet, like people with locked-in syndrome do. Too bad no one even tried.
This is kinda blowing my mind.

I'm thinking about the second head. I wonder if his brain was fully functioning? He couldn't really eat, as he had no digestive system (just got nourishment from the other), couldn't talk b/c he had no vocal chords, and couldn't otherwise communicate by writing. It must have been a pretty terrible life.

Maybe he could have learned to write with his tongue or communicate in morse code? Still, he also went through life upside down...although I guess that was normal for him.

I wonder what does the "host" twin think of the parasitic twin. Do they feel protective, being that the person is attached to them and also their (mutated) identical twin?
I doubt the brain was that developed. Without stimuli the brain, like all body parts, wanes away. I doubt it was very aware.
He didn't have to look both ways when crossing the street. A nice fitting hat and no one would know.

Seriously, the policy in the birthing room of hospitals in America up until the 50's was to kill these children at birth. The Catholic Church stepped in and started supplying unpaid "nurses" that interfered with doctors attempts to kill off the mal-formed, diseased, Downs and babies incapable of a normal life. Preemies that couldn't survive unaided were allowed to die.

Evolution by intelligence is in process and it isn't good news...there is a site here about this evolutionary tampering.

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