A Child Born With 2 Heads, One Atop the Other, Had a Condition Caused by an Extremely Rare Type of Parasitic Twinning

Yana Bostongirl

Indian villagePhoto byriki lifestyleonUnsplash

When the two-headed baby was born in a village in India in 1783, the sight of it frightened the midwife so much that she immediately tried to kill the baby. However, the baby was rescued from the fire into which it was thrown with minor burn injuries.

When his parents realized the money-making potential of putting their child on display, they decided to leave their village and head for the city of Calcutta.

Contrary to what people may think, the child's head did not grow side by side from a single neck but one atop another giving it a distinctly freakish appearance as this excerpt explains: "It sat inverted on top of the main head, and ended in a neck-like stump. The second head had a few irregularities— the ears were malformed, the tongue was small, and the lower jaw was rather small, but otherwise both heads were of the same size, and were covered by black hair at their junction."

The child who came to be referred to as the two-headed boy of Bengal had an extremely rare type of parasitic twinning known as craniopagus parasiticus that is found in only 2 to 3 among 5 million births: "The embryo initially develops as twins, but it fails to completely separate and one of the twins remain underdeveloped and attached to the developed one."

In Calcutta, the boy was exhibited for money, and in between shows he had to spend many hours hidden under a cloth away from prying eyes. He became so popular that he was invited to the homes of the rich who wanted a closer look at him. It was during one of these private exhibitions that an observer by the name of Colonel Pierce would mention this encounter to the President of the Royal Society and through him to a surgeon named Everard Home.

After the child's death from a snake bite that occurred while he was left unattended, its skull was brought to England and handed over to Everard Home. It was put on display at the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons of London.

What baffles doctors is that the child managed to survive as long as it did since parasitic conjoined twins are often stillborn or rarely survive after birth.

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