“THE MAN WITH TWO AND A HALF FACES” and More Strange, Disturbing True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS ARCHIVE EPISODE ORIGINALLY AIRED DECEMBER 31, 2019: A woman in Scotland has never heard silence. Not because of the noise around her – but because of the noise in her! (Never a Moment of Silence) *** We’ve all had a song stuck in our heads – but one woman has had the same song playing on a loop in her brain for the past four years, non-stop. (The Ear Worm) *** From too much noise – to none at all. We’ll meet Ezekiel Eads, a man who had no ears and learned to hear the outside world through his mouth! (The Man With No Ears) *** Syphilis is a nasty disease, especially when it eats your nose. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life, as many noseless have learned from personal experience. (The No Noses Club) *** Is it possible that it’s better to have no nose at all than to have an extremely long one? We’ll look at a real-life Pinocchio named Thomas Wedders with a giant proboscis! (A Short Story About a Long Nose) *** Imagine living through life with two and a half faces. No, not like a politician – that’s simply two-faced. I mean living with two noses and three eyes. You’re either an extraterrestrial, or you are William Durks. (Two-And-A-Half Faces) *** What exactly is so alluring about those who cherish virginity? Is it about virtue or is it about something else? (Virginity Tests and Cures)
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in the show notes immediately.)
“Never a Moment of Silence” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting: https://tinyurl.com/y4khaqea
“The Ear Worm” by Facts Verse: http://www.factsverse.com
“The Man With No Ears” by Marc Hartzman for Weird Historian: https://tinyurl.com/ssoc693
“The No Noses Club” by Marc Hartzman for Weird Historian: https://tinyurl.com/u24bd5d
“A Short Story About a Long Nose” by Marc Hartzman for Weird Historian: https://tinyurl.com/wkqnc3q
“Two and a Half Faces” by Marc Hartzman for Weird Historian: https://tinyurl.com/sflhcqn, https://tinyurl.com/umb3fo5
“Virginity Tests and Cures” by B.B. Wagner for Ancient Origins: https://tinyurl.com/y6rwcy6h
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music, varying by episode, provided by Alibi Music, EpidemicSound and/or AudioBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and/or Nicolas Gasparini/Myuu (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission.
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Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
If you’re new here, welcome to the podcast – and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes! If you’re already a Weirdo, please share the podcast with others – doing so helps make it possible for me to keep doing the podcast!
Coming up in this episode…
A woman in Scotland has never heard silence. Not because of the noise around her – but because of the noise in her! (Never a Moment of Silence)
We’ve all had a song stuck in our heads – but one woman has had the same song playing on a loop in her brain for the past four years, non-stop. (The Ear Worm)
From too much noise – to none at all. We’ll meet Ezekiel Eads, a man who had no ears and learned to hear the outside world through his mouth! (The Man With No Ears)
Syphilis is a nasty disease, especially when it eats your nose. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life, as many noseless have learned from personal experience. (The No Noses Club)
Is it possible that it’s better to have no nose at all than to have an extremely long one? We’ll look at a real-life Pinocchio named Thomas Wedders with a giant proboscis! (A Short Story About a Long Nose)
Imagine living through life with two and a half faces. No, not like a politician – that’s simply two-faced. I mean living with two noses and three eyes. You’re either an extraterrestrial, or you are William Durks. (Two-And-A-Half Faces)
What exactly is so alluring about those who cherish virginity? Is it about virtue or is it about something else? (Virginity Tests and Cures)
While listening, be sure to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can sign up for the “Weird DarkNEWS” email newsletter to win monthly prizes, get Weird Darkness merchandise in the store where 100% of the profits are donated to organizations that help those who struggle with depression, you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page to find help if you are struggling with depression or dark thoughts yourself, you can find paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, watch old horror movies and horror hosts for free 24-hours a day, and find my email address and social media links on the “contact” page. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
NEVER A MOMENT OF SILENCE
Imagine never knowing the sound of silence. That’s what 32-year-old Gemma Cairns goes through every day, as she has an extremely rare medical condition that forces her to hear her own blood course through her veins every waking second.
“I’ve never heard complete silence,” she said. “I’ve always had noises. I’ve always heard my eyes moving and my heartbeat in my head.”
After years of being prescribed medications for nasal issues and blocked ears, she gave up. Only after moving to Glasgow in 2016 did her luck change. After seeing a specialist, she was diagnosed with bilateral superior semicircular canal dehiscence.
Cairns is missing part of the temporal bone in both ear canals, which affects both her hearing and balance. She underwent surgery on one ear last September and is awaiting surgery on the other this October. If successful, it’ll be the first time in her life that she’ll experience complete silence.
The lifelong condition plaguing Cairns’ every movement has been difficult to describe to the people in her life, as it’s extremely rare and could sound utterly fabricated to some.
“I’ve always heard my blood rushing, like a swooshing sound,” said Cairns, but it’s the constant eye movements that have caused her the most trouble.
“When you do say to someone, ‘I can hear my eyeballs moving,’ people ask me what it sounds like and I try to think of so many things that I can describe it with but just can’t tell you a sound that sounds even remotely similar to it.”
“It’s not squeaky, but it’s similar. It’s deep in the back of my head. You get tinnitus with it as well, so there are always noises going on.”
Cairns has done a remarkable job not letting this overwhelming condition dictate how she lives her life. As a working mother, she gets through the day like everyone else — even if dizziness and constant noise permeate it.
“I still go to work and things like that, but it affects things like playing with my son….If there are more than a couple of noises going on at once it can overstimulate me. My ears just can’t take it.”
“Sometimes I just want to sit and be quiet and not hear anything,” said Cairns. “I feel bad saying it because it’s not like I’m dying, but it does take its toll — especially when I can’t hear as well as everybody else. With some frequencies, I just can’t hear at all. I really struggle with deep voices.”
So what does a typical day for Cairns look like? Besides her inability to function normally in loud environments or dizziness affecting her quality time with her family, the condition has robbed her of regular exercise.
“I quite like running but again it’s because when your heart starts to pump faster, it’s like pulsating tinnitus and I hear it and feel it,” she said. “It gets me really dizzy and sometimes I just think it’s not worth it. Especially at work and things if I move my head too quickly to one side it will knock me off balance and vice versa….Even moving my eyes too quickly will knock me off balance.”
Luckily, though, her condition hasn’t affected her sleep.
Cairns’ first surgery corrected the problem her right ear. Braving the risk of losing her hearing in her left ear, she’s ready to double down and get the second operation in October. “You can’t operate on both at the same time,” she said, “because it knocks you completely off balance for a while.”
Cairns has a come a long way from feeling constantly “drunk” and desperately seeking help from doctors who thought she was crazy. Her upcoming surgery should put an end to her lifelong struggle with this condition. She hopes her story will spur others to keep their heads up.
“It’s a rare condition, but I think it’s more undiagnosed that anything else,” she said. “I think people have it but they don’t know they can get help.”
THE EAR WORM
Most people can say that at one point or another, they had a song stuck in their heads. For most, it stops on its own. Some people need to do more to get the song out of their heads. You can listen to the song until the craving to hum it dies down. You can also drown out the song with another. A woman in England had a song stuck in her head one day, and it never left. She tried all of the tricks to get it out, but she couldn’t. Finally, she turned to doctors to figure out how to get the song out of her head after four long years.
Susan Root is from Coggeshall, Essex, and worked as a custodian at the Honywood Community Science School. Because of this, she was used to auditory overload. She often heard doors slamming, bells ringing, and kids talking in the hallways. She was used to these things. In 2013. She began to experience something she couldn’t explain.
In 2013, she thought that the school started to play the ’50s hit faintly, How Much Is That Doggie In The Window over the loudspeaker. For the 63-year-old Susan, it was a pleasant blast of nostalgia. She loved the Patti Page song when she was growing up. She listened to the song with her mother, and the song reminded her of her home. When she mentioned the music to her coworkers, she was shocked to hear that there was no music coming from the loudspeakers. She was told that there was no sound at all coming from the PA system. This led Susan to one conclusion; the sound must have been in her head.
When Susan got in her car, she turned down the radio all the way, but still heard the song playing. It started to scare her. Usually, when people have a song stuck in their head, it is their voice that they hear singing it. For Susan, it was Patti Page’s voice. She went home to tell her husband about the songs in her head. When she tried to speak to him, she became frustrated because they could barely hear what her husband was saying. The song in her head was so loud that it drowned out his voice.
Throughout her life, Susan always had trouble with her ears. She suffered from chronic ear infections, a perforated eardrum, and had balance issues. She had to have surgery twice for ear issues and assumed that the singing in her head was just another ear issue she had to deal with.
Years passed, and Susan still heard the song. Day after day, night after night, Susan heard the song. Over the years, she did find some relief. Eventually, the song was replaced by other songs that brought Susan back to her childhood. A few of the songs that she heard included Good Save the Queen, Happy Birthday, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, and Auld Lang Syne. Susan tried everything to make the music stop. She would play white noise in the background when she tried to sleep, such as waves crashing, wind whistling, and whales calling. None of this helped, and Susan would lie awake a night, praying that it would stop. She says that it was driving her crazy.
Finally, Susan couldn’t take it anymore, and she went to the doctor. She was diagnosed with tinnitus. This condition occurs when you hear a sound that seems to be generated externally, but only you can hear it. It often is a ringing in the ears, but Susan’s case was more extreme. They also said that it could be musical hallucinations, which as short fragments of simple melodies, often mistaken for real music. According to experts, only one percent of tinnitus cases cause musical hallucinations. The doctors believed that her symptoms were a symptom of hearing loss, which was why she couldn’t understand her husband.
To help treat her condition, Susan’s doctors have her a hearing aid. Unfortunately, it didn’t work, and Susan accepted the fact that she would have this condition forever. She lived with the condition for four years. Her friends would laugh when she told them about her condition, but they didn’t understand that for Susan, it was hell.
Finally, she had hope that she could quiet the song. She also heard about Gemma Cairns and the surgery she underwent. Gemma’s case gave Susan hope that she could be treated too.
Since Susan’s condition didn’t begin at birth, it was unlikely that she was born without the bone. However, Gemma’s case gave the doctors answers to some questions, and they began checking her inner ear for the solution. And hopefully they’ll find a solution for Susan as well.
THE MAN WITHOUT EARS
From Charles Tripp the Armless Wonder and Eli Bowen the Legless Acrobat to Violetta the Trunk Woman and Prince Randian the Living Torso, sideshows have provided wealth, fame and friendships for people born without arms, legs, or no limbs whatsoever. But the Man Without Ears was one act that never took the stage.
Ezekiel Eads of Athens, New York, was born in the early 19th century with no ears. Not even an opening where the ears should’ve been. An 1892 article described the unusual character:
*****”His deformity, sad as it was, may be said to have been partly alleviated by the curious construction of the inner portion of his head, which enabled him to hear common conversation through his mouth. When addressed he would instantly open his mouth and readily give answers to interrogations put to him in an ordinary tone of voice. But Ezekiel’s lack of ears was not his only distinction. He had a heavy crop of black hair spotted with white, the spots themselves being in the exact shape of human ears, feet, hands, etc. When he was quite a small baby it was noticed that his black hair was interspersed with oddly-shaped spots of white, which, however, did not take on their distinctive shapes until after he had passed his fifteenth year. When Mr. Eads died he left one son, aged forty-five, whose hair was as black as coal, not a single gray hair being discernable, and another son, thirteen years of age, whose hair was as gray as that of a man of seventy.”*****
Eads passed away in 1884 at the age of 65. Little else is known about him. Although he never joined sideshow or exhibited himself in a dime museum, his story did catch the attention of Robert Ripley. The Believe It Or Not! cartoonist featured him in one of his books, giving the earless man a sliver of immortality.
THE NO NOSE CLUB
We now move down the human body ever so slightly to the nose.
You have have seen The Knick (on Cinemax), which takes place in the year 1900. It features a woman with a prosthetic nose who undergoes a surgical procedure in attempt to rebuild the proboscis with flesh from the arm. Or perhaps you’ve read or heard of Lindsey Fitzharris’s The Butchering Art, which briefly discusses a No Noses Club in London. So let’s take a closer look into all this noselessness.
According to The Secret History of London Clubs from 1709, a “merry Gentleman” who called himself Mr. Crumpton, assembled a group of “flat-faced” people in a club that met once a month.
This benefactor of the no-nose community began the club after observing an “abundance of both Sexes had sacrificed to the God Priapus, & had unluckily fallen into the Fashion of Flat-Faces.“
But rather than see them spread all over town, why not help them congregate in one glorious nose-free location? Surely they’d appreciate each other’s company, and what an amusing scene it would be.
The Gentleman “pleased himself with an opinion, it must prove a comical sight for so many maim’d Leachers, smiffling old Stallions, young unfortunate Whoremasters poor scarify’d Bawds; & salivated Whetstones, to shew their scandalous Vizards in one Nose-less Society; To accomplish which, he made it his business for some time, to strole about the Town, on purpose to pick acquaintance with all such stigmatiz’d Strumpets & Fornicators as he thought might be proper members of the Smiffling Community pretending some thing or other that carry’d a face of Interest to all that he talk’d with, appointing every one apart to meet him at the Dog Tavern in Drury Lane, upon a Certain Day, a little before Dinner-Time, that they might Eat a bit together, & he would then acquaint them with the Secret.”
As they arrived and the crowd grew, they stared at each other in wonder and confusion, “as if every Sinner beheld their own Iniquities in the Faces of their Companions.”
At dinner, the chefs preparing the feast got their creative juices flowing. Keeping with the theme of the evening, they cut the snouts off the pigs being served.
***”The Gentleman, being offended to see the Pigs Heads so strangely mangl’d, sent for the Cook upstairs to know the Reason of it, who answer’d ‘He had cut off their Snouts to put the Pigs in the Fashion ; for he thought it not fit for two such squeamish Creatures, to run their unmannerly OF THE NO NOSE CLUB. 25 Noses into such good Company that had but one amongst them.’”*****
Following dinner, the merriment continued with drinks and for once in their lives, it was “as if their Sins were their Pride & their Sufferings their glory.”
Sadly, such festivities came to an end after a year’s time when Mr. Crumpton passed away.
His noseless friends gave the following elegy at his funeral:
“Mourn for the loss of such a generous friend,
Whose lofty Nose no humble snout disdain’d;
But tho’ of Roman height, could stoop so low
As to soothe those who ne’er a Nose could show.
Ah! sure no noseless club could ever find
One single Nose so bountiful and kind.
But now, alas! he’s sunk into the deep,
Where neither kings or slaves a Nose shall keep.
But where proud Beauties, strutting Beaux, and all,
Must soon into the noseless fashion fall,
Thither your friend in complaisance is gone,
To have Nose, like yours, reduced to none.”
A SHORT STORY ABOUT A LONG NOSE
Geppetto’s wooden puppet, Pinocchio, was cursed with a nose that grew every time he told a lie. Had he been a real boy, his nose would’ve known only one rival from the pages of history: that of Thomas Wedders.
Wedders, who lived in the early 18th century, had a schnoz that reportedly measured 7 ½ inches long. Or if you prefer the metric system, 19 centimeters. Such a nose would be considered an extreme case of hypertrophy.
According to George Gould and Walter Pyle’s 1896 book, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, Wedders exhibited his extraordinary nose throughout Yorkshire.
The Strand Magazine, Vol. XI, also from 1896, expanded on Gould and Pyle’s account:
***** “Thus, if noses were ever uniformly exact in representing the importance of the individual, this worthy ought to have amassed all the money in Threadneedle Street and conquered all Europe, for this prodigious nose of his was a compound of the acquisitive with the martial. But either his chin was too weak or his brow too low, or Nature had so exhausted herself in the task of giving this prodigy a nose as to altogether forget to endow him with brains; or perhaps, the nose crowded out this latter commodity. At all events, we are told this Yorkshireman expired, nose and all, as he had lived, in a condition of mind best described as the most abject idiocy.” *****
Today Wedders’s beak is still stared at in the form of a waxwork at Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditoriums. There, you can decide to believe his nose was as big as advertised, or that the passing of time exaggerated its length, making this tale as fictional as Pinocchio.
Coming up… we’ve covered ears, no ears, noses and no noses. Now, imagine life with two noses… and three eyes. It’s the true story of William Durks. The man with two and a half faces.
Plus, we move further down the human body to below the waist and look at virgins. The history of testing for virginity – and curing it if it has been given away!
TWO AND A HALF FACES
William Durks was known as the Man with Two Noses and Three Eyes. He was born in 1913 in northern Alabama with a harelip and grew up on a farm without an education.
Adding to his misfortune, Durks suffered from frontonasal dyplasia, which worsened his cleft palate by creating a cleft through his entire face. This gave the impression of two noses and a third eye-socket.
In the book, American Sideshow, author Marc Hartzman writes of how showman Ward Hall described the poor man as looking like “he had been hit in the face with an axe.”
Durks left the farm by the age of 14 and began exhibiting his most unusual face in sideshows and later at Hubert’s Museum in New York City.
In Arthur Lewis’s book, Carnival, Durks said, “None of the kids or teachers could ever look at me, and my mom and pop didn’t have no money to give me for a private education. So what could I do?”
To add to his bizarre look, he painted a third eye in the gap between his real ones. By the 1960s he was earning as much as $100 a week.
Aside from finding a livelihood on stage, the two-nosed man also found love and married Mildred the Alligator-Skinned Woman.
In hearing of this story, you might also be reminded of the story of Edward Mordrake – the man with a face on the back of his head.
If you watched American Horror Story: Freak Show, you heard about Edward Mordrake and his demon face that sat on the back of his head. The show went on to describe how Mordrake joined a sideshow and eventually killed everyone in it before taking his own life—and then haunting sideshows every Halloween.
Mordrake was based off the story of Edward Mordake (no “r”), who dates back to the late 19th century.
George Gould and Walter Pyle wrote about Mordake in their 1896 book Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, saying…
*****The following well-known story of Edward Mordake, though taken from lay sources, is of sufficient notoriety and interest to be mentioned here:—
“One of the weirdest as well as most melancholy stories of human deformity is that of Edward Mordake, said to have been heir to one of the noblest peerages in England. He never claimed the title, however, and committed suicide in his twenty-third year.
He lived in complete seclusion, refusing the visits even of the members of his own family. He was a young man of fine attainments, a profound scholar, and a musician of rare ability. His figure was remarkable for its grace, and his face—that is to say, his natural face—was that of an Antinous.
But upon the back of his head was another face, that of a beautiful girl, ‘lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil.’ The female face was a mere mask, ‘occupying only a small portion of the posterior part of the skull, yet exhibiting every sign of intelligence, of a malignant sort, however.’ It would be seen to smile and sneer while Mordake was weeping. The eyes would follow the movements of the spectator, and the lips would ‘gibber without ceasing.’ No voice was audible, but Mordake avers that he was kept from his rest at night by the hateful whispers of his ‘devil twin,’ as he called it, ‘which never sleeps, but talks to me forever of such things as they only speak of in hell. No imagination can conceive the dreadful temptations it sets before me. For some unforgiven wickedness of my forefathers I am knit to this fiend—for a fiend it surely is. I beg and beseech you to crush it out of human semblance, even if I die for it.’
Such were the words of the hapless Mordake to Manvers and Treadwell, his physicians. In spite of careful watching he managed to procure poison, whereof he died, leaving a letter requesting that the ‘demon face’ might be destroyed before his burial, ‘lest it continues its dreadful whisperings in my grave.’ At his own request he was interred in a waste place, without stone or legend to mark his grave.”*****
Of course, there’s no mention as to who their “lay sources” were. So was this account of Mordake from a medical book fact or fiction?
The Museum of Hoaxes site seems to have uncovered the answer. They found an article titled, “The Wonders of Modern Science: Some Half Human Monsters Once Thought to Be of the Devil’s Brood,” in an 1895 issue of the Boston Sunday Post with the exact story Gould and Pyle printed. It was written by a poet named Charles Lotin Hildreth—fiction, presented as nonfiction.
It may have fooled Gould and Pyle, but ultimately their coverage gave Mord(r)ake life that lasted longer than Hildreth ever could have imagined.
VIRGINITY TESTS AND CURES
Virginity has been the obsession of men for thousands of years. It has driven the best people, like the virgin warrior Joan of Arc, to fight for just cause. Virginity has also lured the worst people, such as the sadistic Countess Elizabeth Bathory , to cause the murder of virgin maidens in order to bathe in their blood, or so the history books tell us. But why? What exactly is so alluring about those who cherish virginity? Is it about virtue or is it about something else?
Though virginity no longer defines the commodious value of women, around the world, the controversial belief in virgin cure myths, involving sex with a virgin to be cleansed of sexually transmitted diseases, and virgin testing, the inspection for the existence of the hymen.
In Hanne Blank’s book Virgin: The Untouched History , virginity tests shared three consistent characteristics: they looked for measurements, they referenced cultural myth and the latest notions of science, and they made sure the woman being inspected had no say.
But how could all these things be for the oppression and the commoditization of women? In order to understand how virgin tests have come to be, one must first understand the origins of virginity and why obsession with it has remained prevalent in the modern world.
With the rise of agriculture some 5,000 to 10,000 years ago, depending on the region, it is believed the concept of giving importance to virginity arose due to a father’s need to commoditize his daughters for the continuation of an agricultural society.
This was known as the paternity/property hypothesis, which placed virgin women as material property. Their purpose was to become pregnant, raise children, and make sure the paternal family line continued. By creating the concept of virginity, a father could assure the family of the groom that there were no children from other males.
Some of the earliest accounts about virginity come from Egypt, Greece, Rome, and early Christianity. From these sources, it is clear to see the cultural development into what it is currently. Virginity did not carry universal definitions.
Often, the concept of virginity was synonymous with chastity; however, chastity and virginity could have meant two different things in pre-Christian societies. In some instances, celibacywas not essential for marriage.
According to Douglass and Teeter, Ancient Egypt, during the New Kingdom (1570 BC and 1544 BC), did not see virginity as essential in order to be married. It is assumed that sexual intercourse was socially acceptable during this time. However, once married, both couples were expected to be exclusively monogamous.
Famed Greek historian Herodotus (450 BC) mentioned the virgin testing with the Amazons of Scythia. According to historical accounts, whose accuracy have not been verified, Scythian Amazon girls were not considered women until they had killed a man in battle. Only then they could be regarded as pure and ready for marriage, and that if no man was killed, the girl would remain a virgin.
In this sense, virginity meant the purity of value as opposed to having an intact hymen. In fact, virginity in the ancient world might have referred to whether a woman was married or single.
In another example, Herodotus depicted another virginity test in the festival of Ibyia (modern Tunisia) involving several chariots driving young maidens divided into two groups armed with sticks and stones. These women would fight to the death.
Those who died were considered ‘non-virgins’ and those who survived would be ‘virgins’ and ready for marriage. However, other Greek accounts would give different perspectives to the definition of virginity.
According to Hanne Blank, it was common for a father to murder his daughter if she was caught losing her virginity before marriage. In ancient Greece, a daughter’s role was her worth in marriage.
Marriage was a legally binding contract between two families to gain power, land, reputation, and peace. The total value of a woman depended on her virginity.
In another example, the Cretan legal code from 450 BC, stated the value of virginity in women as a very crucial commodity for marriage. The Cretan penalties for rapes of virgins were far more severe than the rapes of non-virgins.
“The rapist of a female household serf would be fined at two staters if the serf in question had been a virgin, and only one obol, essentially a slap on the wrist if she had not.” (Blank, Hanne. 2007).
The Cretan laws about rape essentially forced the rapist to pay reparations to the husband, father, or slave owner, conveying the perspective that a woman was viewed as mere property.
Ancient physicians used instruments such as the speculum, a duck-billed widening contraption, in order to inspect a woman’s gynecological health. However, as Judeo-Christian beliefs became more prevalent, the fear of ruining the hymen by such an instrument became a significant worry.
Due to the fear of being seen as a sexual deviant, many gynecologists, devised alternative methods for examining the sexual organs by inserting their fingers into the rectum of a woman rather than the vagina in order to check the uterus and ovaries. This method was considered more clinical and safer in preserving the hymen.
The Spanish Roma Gypsy people believed in a virginity test called Gitanos. This was the belief that a grape-like gland existed in the vagina and that it contained a yellowish liquid called the Uva, or juice. When this gland was pressed, the fluid was expelled, resulting in the end of a woman’s virginity. This process was called the loss of Honra, the honor.
This test was performed only in the ceremonial defloration of a bride. Members of both sides of the family would come to watch the first act of copulation in order to see both blood and Honra stains on the sheets. This act was considered an occasion for witness, pride, and celebration.
Another aspect towards virginity slowly took shape among early Christianity. The Christian virgin martyr legends spoke of chaste women waging wars against demons in order to protect their pact with god.
However, a dangerous belief slowly developed from these legends that the strength of a Christian virgin woman could be strong enough to defeat sexually transmitted diseases. This belief, unfortunately, would cause some of the worst crimes of sexual abuse prominent to this day.
During the 1200s, the De Secretis Mulierum , ‘the woman’s secrets’ was a manual designed to identify a woman’s chastity through her demeanor. It was written for physicians to rely on physical signs that would not involve touching the vagina.
In the De Secretis Mulierum , it stated: “…Shame, modesty, fear, a faultless gait and speech, casting eyes down before men […] The urine of virgins is clear and lucid, sometimes white, sometimes sparkling […]” However, the notion of clear urine still seemed to be the main factor in both the Spanish Roma gypsies as well as many other European cultures of the middle ages.
By 1625, gynecologists became more prevalent and even earned the title of ‘men-mid-wives’. Though the examination of women genitalia was starting to become more frequent, it was still considered to be a disrespectable act.
In 1810 France, prostitution was legalized and regulated. The new laws required that each registering prostitute needed a speculum exam to check for venereal diseases.
Student doctors from all regions of Europe, as well as the United States, flooded Paris for the chance to study the medical definitions of what a prostitute’s vagina looked like via the speculum vaginal examination technique. In response to this, the need for virgin tests might have been due to the mandatory genital examinations performed by registering French prostitutes.
By the late 19th century, the speculum became known as a violating tool encouraging an unwanted intrusion into the vagina. Physicians feared that further use of the speculum would awaken a sexual appetite resulting in nymphomania or even hysteria. Because of this fear, alternative methods for medical virgin testing became necessary to maintain the honor of women, especially virgins.
One method mentioned by Mary Roach, the writer of Bonk, who wrote about gynecologist Robert Latou Dickenson’s discussion of alternative methods for checking a woman’s virginity in 1910. “The volume of the virgin vagina is ‘one finger’; the married woman rates at ‘two fingers’. Once the babies start coming out, its ‘three fingers’ and up…” (Roach, 2008). As noted, by the early 20th century, the controversial beliefs of the times lead most medical gynecological physicians to return to physical methods of touch only if necessary.
By the late 19th century, the cure for syphilis and other venereal diseases had one medical option: to inject the infected urethra with heated mercury to burn out the infection. Such treatments were extremely humiliating as well as painful for those who went through the procedure.
There was, however, the growing virgin cure myth, a belief that sexual intercourse with a virgin could cure all diseases. This myth became so prevalent that brothels in the 19th century would advertise having both young and disabled virgins available for paying customers.
Though it was previously mentioned that virgin cure myths might have originated from stories of virgin martyrs in early Christendom, other scholars believed it developed from the uneducated observation of the STD’s symptom stages. When the symptoms such as sores, blisters, or discharges, would eventually disappear after several acts of sexual intercourse with different women, the suspicion was that one of the women might have been a virgin. Therefore, to a non-educated person, sex with a virgin was the cure.
Virgin cures became so problematic that early 20th-century British lawyers and judges found it difficult when attempting to prosecute cases involving child sexual assault. A case study from Glasgow in 1913 in which Robert James C, a 37-year-old coal miner was being charged with the rape of his nine-year-old niece with the additional charge of transmitting gonorrhea to her. This case led the crown council into an investigation revealing that commoners throughout England, Scotland, and other regions of western Europe believed in the virgin cure myth.
According to scholar Roger Davidson, in the early 20th century, one in every five child rape cases in London had to do with the myth of the virgin cure. This was so rampant that many child rapists used the ‘virgin curing myth’ as a legitimate defense in court. This myth, unfortunately, continues to wreak havoc in some cultures still today.
Though people are more educated about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the virgin cure myth currently maintains influence in Africa, Egypt, and other former European colonial countries. As with the virgin cure myth, virginity tests are also still in practice in many other countries as well.
Many countries continue to implement virginity for social, political, and/or cultural reasons. In 2003 in Jamaica, the Jamaican parliament proposed to initiate virginity tests for all Jamaican girls in order to prevent unplanned pregnancies as opposed to sex education classes.
In regions of Afghanistan, tests are often done without the consent of the women. In other countries such as Egypt and Iran, there are still physicians who engage in the virginity test.
With the changing of the times, it is crucial to bring up the traumas brought forth by both the virginity test and the virgin cure myth. As with the controversial effects of colonialism, the spread of the virgin cure myth has caused much damage to places such as regions all over Africa.
The belief of virgin curing has caused AIDS to spread throughout the continent. Child virgin rape, as well as the violation of disabled girls, continues to grow.
The shift from child virgins to disabled virgin rape might have grown due to the lack of legal protection. Most rape cases involving disabled victims are usually dismissed due to their inability to report rape; and the fear of misunderstanding often leaves their testimony to be untrustworthy. Because of this, there are many sexual offenders that remain unpunished.
Throughout history, the urge for the protection of a woman’s virginity, though seemingly for the honor of females, has inevitably never been for the benefit of women. Historically, the security and examination of virginity were designed to commoditize women for trade, reproduction, and the curing of sexual diseases. If there is any emphasis to be made, it is that women indeed had no say.
In later years, the greatest tragedy to virginity is that medical physicians have claimed time and time again that virginity testing was morally and ethically wrong for the sole fact that there is no proven medical way to test for it. But even with this information, there are still many countries such as Africa, Europe, America, and Asia which still believe in the necessity for virgin tests as well as the healing powers of the virgin cure myth.
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
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All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise), and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“Never a Moment of Silence” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting
“The Ear Worm” from Facts Verse
“The Man With No Ears”, “The No Noses Club”, “A Short Story About a Long Nose”, and “Two and a Half Faces” were written by Marc Hartzman for Weird Historian
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production of Marlar House Productions. Copyright ©Weird Darkness 2020.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” – Psalm 90:12
And a final thought… “The past cannot be changed. The future is yet in your power.” – Mary Pickford
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.