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he amount that some people can consume without hurting them is sometimes staggering, but there is no other person in history like Tarrare, the man who could eat anything. When he was 17, Tarrare weighed 50 kilograms and could eat a quarter of a cow a day. The amount would have been equivalent to that of his body.

During that time, his family realized that they could no longer afford to feed him. Banished from home, Tarrare traveled with a gang of thieves and prostitutes begging for food. Finally, he met a Frenchman who decided to use Tarrare’s appetite to get the crowds’ attention.

From Rocks to Glass and even Metal

He could start by eating things like stones or glass stoppers, then he would start eating a whole basket of apples, and in the end, he would eat live animals altogether without chewing them first. In 1788, he suffered from intestinal obstruction as a result of this regime.

He was taken to the hospital and given a huge amount of laxatives. He recovered quickly and offered to eat his doctor’s pocket watch and chain to prove his abilities. Tarrare had a normal appearance except for his unusually largemouth, and his teeth were extremely sharp. It is said that the skin of his stomach was so long that he could wrap it around him when he was not eating.

A representation of Tarrare with the Frenchman at a sideshow eating live animals (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

When the wars of the French Revolution began, Tarrare joined the French army, where he was soon hospitalized because he could not function with the food ration provided to the soldiers. He was assigned a quadruple food ration at Soulz Hospital. Not finding them appetizing, he began to eat the medical instruments. Fascinated by what they saw, the military doctors decided to perform some experiments.

A use for this special talent

During the experiments, he consumed food allocated for 15 workers, his ration including 15 liters of milk. He also ate a puppy, a live cat, and snakes to amaze the doctors. The man stayed in the hospital for a few weeks, after which he returned to the army. Here the military found a way to use his talent. He was carrying secret documents in his stomach. To prepare for this task, Tarrare initially swallowed a wooden box of documents inside.

After defecating the documents intact, he was granted the position of a spy. His first mission was to carry a message to a colonel who was being held captive in a Prussian prison. His mind, however, was not as strong as his stomach, nor was he told how important the message he was carrying was.

The colonel was to send information on the movements of Prussian troops. Tarrare was eventually captured and searched. Initially, he did not disclose his mission, but after a few hours with Prussian agents, he confessed. The officers waited for the man to clear the message, but when they read it, they thought Tarrare was trying to fool them.

After this incident, he gave up the spy position, and the doctors tried to treat his condition. Nothing worked, and Tarrare was often caught stealing dead animals to eat or trying to drink the blood of other patients. He was released from the hospital several times after being caught at the morgue while trying to eat corpses. However, when a child disappeared, Tarrare being the main suspect, he was expelled from the hospital.

In 1798, he presented to a hospital in Versailles in poor condition. Doctors diagnosed him with tuberculosis. He died a month later.

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