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The Two-Headed Boy of Bengal

 In May 1783, a strange child was born in a small village named Mundul Gout in Bengal, India. It had two heads.

The midwife who assisted in the birth was so terrified of her appearance that she tried to kill the demonic being by throwing her into the fire. Fortunately, the child was saved with some burns in one eye and ear. The parents, after recovering from the initial setback, began to see the newborn as an opportunity to earn money, and with this in mind, left their village for Calcutta where their deformed child could be displayed.


The two-headed child attracted a lot of attention and brought a substantial income to the family. Between shows, his parents hid the unfortunate child, usually under a sheet, sometimes for hours, to prevent the crowd from peeking through without paying. As his fame spread across India, many nobles, civil servants and city officials invited the child and his parents to their homes for private exhibitions, where their guests could get a closer look at the curious specimen. One of these observers was Colonel Pearce who described the encounter to Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society, and it was Sir Banks who later sent the account to the surgeon Everard Home.

"Two-headed" may lead some to assume that two heads grow together from the same neck. In this case, however, the boy's second head grew on top of the other. It sat upside down on top of the main head, and ended in a neck-like stump. The other head had some irregularities—the ears were deformed, the tongue was short, and the lower jaw was short, but otherwise the two heads were the same size, and were covered with dark hair at their junction.


The second head seemed to function independently of the main head. When the child cried or smiled, the features of the upper head were not always affected and did not match the child's emotion. When the baby sleeps, the other head may be awake and its eyes are moving as if looking around.

the second head reacts to an external stimulus; A pinch in the cheek produced a grin, and when she was given the breast, her lips tried to suck. It also produced lots of tears and saliva. However, corneal reflexes were missing and the eyes responded weakly to light.

Despite his peculiar appearance, the boy did not suffer any ill effects because of his position.

One day when the child was 4 years old, his mother left him alone to fetch water. When she returned, she found the girl dead from a cobra bite. Many anatomists offered to buy the corpse, but religious parents could not allow such desecration. The child was buried near the Bupnorain River outside the town of Tumloch, but his grave was robbed by Mr. Dent, a salt agent of the East India Company. He dismembered the rotten body and gave the skull to a Captain Buchanan of the East Indian Company. The captain later brought the skull to England and gave it to his friend Everard Home. The skull of the Bengal boy can still be seen in the Hunterian Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons in London.


When Mr. Dent dissected the ends, he found that the brains were separate and distinct. Each brain was firmly encased in its own dura mater and was supplied by large vessels that carried nutrition to the upper head. The boy's condition is known today as craniopagus parasiticus, an extremely rare type of parasitic twin that occurs in about 2 to 3 in 5 million births. The embryo initially develops as twins, but it fails to separate completely and one of the twins remains undeveloped and remains attached to the developed one.

Parasite-associated twins are very rare who are often born stillborn or unable to survive after birth. The only viable treatment is to surgically remove the parasitic twin. But this type of surgery is very risky. In 2004, Rebecca Martinez was born in the Dominican Republic with this rare condition. She had surgery at the age of eight weeks but died of blood loss. In 2005, Manar Maged was born with the same condition, and underwent successful 13-hour surgery in Egypt, but died several weeks later due to repeated infections. More recently, in 2021, a twin-headed baby was born at the Elias Hospital in Bucharest, Romania, but died a few hours after his birth.

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