Tarrare: Gluttony Incarnate


These notes are not grammatically correct. They are notes. But I thought I might start posting the notes simultaneously as the audio podcasts are released. This way I can use visual elements and include links to my sources. This also gives me a chance to show what kind of research goes in to each episode. Enjoy!

  • Tarrare
  • How’s it hangin’ Who’d a Thunkers?!?! Welcome back to the variety Show-&-Tell that is my podcast.
  • I took last week off from everything: work, this podcast, and the greater Pittsburgh area. It was sorely needed. But now I’m back and I’m delighted to get back to this wonderful podcast that I enjoy so much.
  • This week’s episode is about another weird topic from history.
  • —-
  • In 1772 a baby boy was born to a poor farming family in the country of France.
  • FUN FACT: I actually have a French Minor from college that I don’t put to use,, nearly as much as I should.
  • Anyway, this Baby boy’s name was Tarrare and he was a Bon-a-fide freak of nature.
  • He ate A LOT – like a disgusting amount
  • By his teenage years he could eat a quarter of an entire cow… but instead of being a big obese dude as one might expect, Tarrare only weighed 100 lbs. when he was 17 years old.
  • His mouth was absurdly large. He looked like a Canadian character from South Park.
The Canadians of South Park.
  • It was said Tarrare could fit a dozen eggs in his cheeks all at once. Plus his teeth were gnarly with cracks and stains all over them…. gross
  • His stomach was very elastic. You may have heard of a muffin top, well, Tarrare had the THEE muffin top.
  • If he was full, his stomach was a giant ball jutting out of his tiny 100lbs. body, and if he was hungry, his stomach reverted to a big flabby mass of drooping skin around his mid-section. People said he could wrap his excess stomach flesh around his waist like a belt.
  • Mark Oliver from writes: “When he ate, he would blow up like a balloon, especially in his stomach region. But shortly after, he would step into the bathroom and release nearly everything, leaving behind a mess that the surgeons described as “fetid beyond all conception.” – FETID mean smelling extremely unpleasant.
  • And even though most peasants in 18th century France smelled rather ripe… Tarrare apparently smelled god-awful in amongst these already smelly people.
  • -lol—-This guy is sounding like one heck of catch ladies… lemme tell ya!—
  • Tarrare’s flabby belly and cheek skin made him resemble cartoon, but what really sold the look was the visible stench wafting off of his person at all times. Because he subjected his body to so much food all the time, it gave off a great amount of heat. Tarrare was hot to the touch. This made him sweat profusely. This constant sweat made Tarrare smell like an open sewage system and this made him unbearable to be around.
  • This guy was such a burden on his family that they kicked him out. They couldn’t afford to feed their little demonic glutton troll of a son.
  • So after scavenging through piles of trash for awhile, Tarrare realized he could make a profit off of his disgusting appetite. He became a street performer.
  • Tarrare joined a roaming band of performers… they were actually prostitutes and thieves that would put on a show (or perform sexual acts) on people throughout France… then steal from their audience/ sexual partners when their attentions were elsewhere.
  • Our boy Tarrare was one of the main attractions.
  • People gave him baskets and buckets full of apples, eggs, and even wine corks… Tarrare just shoveled it all in to his degusting gullet.
  • Tarrare became famous in Paris for his art of …. packing his obscenely large mouth full of any trash a passerby might be willing to give him to eat. Then he’d gladly swallow all of that unwanted rotten food and garbage, collected their money, and continue to ask people on the street for anything that remotely resembled sustenance so he could eat that too.
  • Tarrare’s street performing reminds me of another performer that I consider nothing short of a hero.. He’s a professional wrestler you may have heard of. Here… listen for yourself:
  • ======TRASH MAN AUDIO======
  • I’M THE TRASHMAN – YouTube If you are reading this, feel free to VIEW for yourself.
  • ===========================
  • Tarrare’s street ART (if you can call it that) worked well until one time Tarrare got an intestinal blockage. He was taken to the hospital where he was given a powerful laxative… this treatment ended in what I can only imagine as an explosive poo.
  • In 1792, Tarrare joined the FRENCH REVOLUTIONARY ARMY.
  • There he was given FOUR TIMES the rations of a regular soldier… but still was seen rummaging through the garbage. People saw him shoving fists full of trash in his mouth from gutters.
  • Tarrare had joined the Army (probably with the promise of free food), but the Army didn’t want him. Like parents, Tarrare’s fellow soldiers couldn’t take his horrible stench and didn’t appreciate how much food he sucked up.
  • Due to his metabolism, if he wasn’t eating or sleeping, Tarrare was tired all the time. This wasn’t just an end of the day kind of tired that you and I experience. He was feeling the full extent of the medical anomaly that was his digestive system hit his energy levels.
  • Tarrare must have passed out a few too many times, because the French army sent him far behind the lines where Physicians Baron Percy and Dr. Courville could examine the other-worldly like specimen that was Tarrare.
  • The doctors subjected him to a series of tests:
  • 1 – They fed him an absurd amount of food which consisted of curdled milk and hard pudding left over from a dozen German laborers. = Tarrare scarfed down the food like it was no problem.
  • 2 – They gave him a live eel to see what he would do. Apparently he really enjoyed the flesh of serpents. Tarrare crushed the eel’s head with his troll teeth and then swallowed the eel whole…
This is an eel skeleton. THIS is what Tarrare had in his stomach and it didn’t bother him one bit…
  • 3 – Tarrare was observed capturing a live house cat and biting in to its stomach to disembowel it. From there, he drank all of the cat’s blood and continued to swallow the cat’s carcass whole. A few minutes later, Tarrare spit up the bones, skin, and fur of the cat just like an owl regurgitating a pellet left from its prey.
  • While all these tests on Tarrare were being done in the name of medical research, he was still technically a soldier in the French Revolutionary Army. No one in the Military was able to find a suitable job for Tarrare, until one French General by the name Alexandre de Beauharnais—- (Bow-ARE-nay) —-had the idea to use him for espionage.
  • The idea was to have Tarrare swallow a wooden box that contained a message inside, written on paper.
  • Tarrare was brought before a number of French Generals, just after finishing another experiment where he consumed 30 pounds of pork liver and lungs. General Beauharnais asked Tarrare to swallow the wooden box. In return, Tarrare was promised a wheelbarrel full of bull organs.
  • Two days after the experiment began, Tarrare “passed” the wooden box with the message intact. He was given his reward of a small wagon load of bull organs, which he scarfed down promptly, then his “talent” was put to use.
  • The French sent Tarrare in to Prussia after making him swallow classified information. Now he was an official spy delivering an important message to an imprisoned French Colonel behind enemy lines. Except Tarrare made for a poor spy. He couldn’t speak the enemy’s language of German, and he stuck out like a sore thumb… because you know… all the trash gargling, ungodly stench, and absurdly large troll mouth.
  • The Prussians captured Tarrare, stripped him down, searched, whipped, and tortured him for a full day before he finally broke. Knowing the message was in his stomach, the Prussian chained Tarrare to a disgusting military latrine for hours until the message box was “passed.”
  • Finally Tarrare laid his golden egg of a message. A Prussian general read it and found that this mission was just another test. The message just requested Tarrare’s contact to relay whether he had delivered the message successfully. In a fit of rage, the Prussian general ordered Tarrare be hanged.
  • Standing at the gallows, noose around his neck, Tarrare started to shamelessly sob. By this time, the Prussian general’s rage had subsided and the sight of his prisoner weeping gave him a change of heart.
  • The Prussian general ordered for Tarrare’s life to be spared, and after more torture, he was set free.
  • Upon his return to France, Tarrare begged Doctor Percy to cure his Polyphagia, so that he could go about life as a normal man.
  • Dr. Percy tried everything he could think of: Tobacco, vinegar, and even opium pills, but nothing was working.
  • Tarrare’s demonic appetite lead him to hangout behind the local butcher where he was seen fighting off stray dogs and wolves for scraps of discarded meat.
  • Back in the late 18th century medicine was still under the impression that bleeding someone would cure certain ailments. This was called bloodletting and it didn’t work. In fact this only made patients more ill. Turns out our blood is pretty important for human life!
  • This bloodletting was being performed at the hospital where Tarrare was being treated. In his downtime, Tarrare was known to seek out the patients undergoing bloodletting so he could…. drink their blood to satiate his hunger. He was even caught in the hospital’s morgue devouring body parts of the deceased.
  • This behavior was tolerated by the hospital staff for unknown reasons. Perhaps Tarrare was such a rare medical specimen that they were willing to let demonic human body feasting slide…
  • But it seems the hospital staff had their final straw when a 14 month old infant went missing from the hospital. There was no proof that Tarrare ate the boy, but rumors were circulating and Dr. Percy thought it best to kick him out all the same.
  • Fours years passed with Tarrare fending for himself in France. There is no record of this time in his life, but with his appetite, I doubt Tarrare had much time to do anything but eat, sleep, and defecate.
  • Once those 4 years ended, Tarrare appeared at a hospital in Versailles with a severe case of tuberculosis.
  • Dr. Baron Percy caught wind that the rarest patient he had ever treated was dying so he fled to Versailles to see him one last time alive. Percy was with Tarrare when he died in 1798 at the age of 26.
  • He wrote that even though Tarrare wreaked to high heaven while alive to the point where the fumes were visible… nothing prepared him for the stench that came shortly after Tarrare’s death.
  • It is quite common for a person’s body to evacuate stool, urine, and saliva shortly after death. This can be alarming when a normal human being dies, but when Tarrare died it was basically hell on earth for everyone’s olfactory senses within a 1 mile radius.
  • Dr. Baron Percy began an autopsy on Tarrare, but had to stop halfway through. He and the other doctors couldn’t stand the stench.
  • What they found during his autopsy, before giving up, was horrifying.
  • Tarrare’s jaw huge and although all of his teeth remained, “the color of their enamel streaked like marble,” and “the molars were much worn away.”
  • With Tarrare’s head tilted back, “the mouth and esophagus formed a rectilinear canal, into which a cylinder of a foot in circumference could be introduced without touching the palate.” Meaning Tarrare’s mouth, throat were gaped to over a foot in circumference all the way down to his stomach… Sounds like he really did look look like a Canadian character on South Park.
  • His abdomin was severely deformed. Tarrare’s digestive system dominated the vast majority of abdominal cavity.
  • The London Medical and Physical Journal – states: “The entrails were putrefied, confounded together, and immersed in pus; the liver was excessively large, void of consistence, and in a putrescent state; the gall-bladder was of considerable magnitude; the stomach, in a lax state, and having ulcerated patches dispersed about it, covered almost the whole of the abdominal region.”
  • Although Tarrare’s actions were at time immoral, and almost always disgusting. The autopsy helped show that he wasn’t just an evil person obsessed with consuming… he was plagued by a freak medical condition.
  • I started looking in to Tarrare’s life with hopes of coming away with a disgustingly comical story to tell on my podcast and blog, but I soon found myself pitying this man.
  • He was born this way, and his family abandoned him for it. He had this hellish appetite and need to consume virtually all that was around him.
  • In summarizing Dr. Percy’s observations, the London Medical and Physical Journal writes: “The young Tarrare was almost devoid of force and ideas. When he had eaten to a moderate extent, and his hunger only appeased, he was quick and active, he was heavy and sleepy only when he had eaten to excess.”
  • As if to say, for most of his life, he was either tortured by awful hunger pains, and when he had eaten his body used so much energy for digestion that his mind went blank, incapable of any real thought. There were only glimpses of who he really was in those rare occasions when Tarrare’s “hunger [was] only appeased.”
  • His story is a tragic one. The only people who cared about Tarrare were only invested in him as a specimen to be observed. No one cared what kind of person he was or what personality he processed.
  • and yeah… I’m just going to leave it on that depressing note.
  • I’ve covered the main points on this podcast, but if you’d like to learn more about Tarrare, I have included an accompanying blog post where you’ll find a script of this episode plus images and links to my sources.
  • I did a similar blog post for episode 10 “The Sacred Band of Thebes.” I think I will publish my notes more often. Link to my blog will be in the description.
  • Until next week Who’d a Thunkers!

Below are the official medical records used to create this podcast/blog.

In 1896 Doctors George M Gould and Walter Pyle wrote;

Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine

In it, they wrote of Baron Percy, a man whom met Tarrare, and his impression of the greatest known Glutton the World has ever seen.

“He ate a quarter of beef in twenty-four hours. He was fond of the most revolting things. He particularly relished the flesh of serpents and would quickly devour the largest. In the presence of Lorenze he seized a live cat with his teeth, eventrated it (disembowled), sucked its blood, and ate it, leaving the bare skeleton only. In about thirty minutes he rejected the hairs in the manner of birds of prey and carnivorous animals. He also ate dogs in the same manner. On one occasion it was said that he swallowed a living eel without chewing it; but he had first bitten off its head. He ate almost instantly a dinner that had been prepared for 15 vigorous workmen and drank the accompanying water and took their aggregate allowance of salt at the same time. After this meal his abdomen was so swollen that it resembled a balloon. General-in-chief had seen him devour thirty pounds of raw liver and lungs. Nothing seemed to diminish his appetite. He waited around butcher-shops to eat what was discarded for the dogs. He drank the bleedings of the hospital and ate the dead from the dead-houses. He was suspected of eating a child of fourteen months, but no proof could be produced of this. He was of middle height and was always heated and sweating. He died of a purulent diarrhea, all his intestines and peritoneum being in a suppurating condition.”

This is part of a book from the University of Michigan published in 1820. It is titled The Journal of Foreign Medical Science and Literature, Volume 10. There are just 3 pages on Tarrare (136 to 139).

– Percy also was quoted saying

“The dogs and cats fled in terror at his aspect, as if they had anticipated the kind of fate he was preparing for them.”

“Let a person imagine, all that domestic and wild animals, the most filthy and ravenous, are capable of devouring, and they may form some idea of the appetite, as well as the wants of Tarrare.”

The London Medical and Physical Journal, Volume 42 goes in to Polyphagism, or polyphagia, and how Tarrare was the most severe case in recorded history.

Polyphagia, also known as hyperphagia, is the medical term for excessive or extreme hunger. It’s different than having an increased appetite after exercise or other physical activity. While your hunger level will return to normal after eating in those cases, polyphagia won’t go away if you eat more food.

This last source isn’t an official one, but I still enjoyed watching it. *Language Warning* Tarrare, the Hungriest Man in History – YouTube

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