care for a chocolate, dearest?

From the 15th century onwards, syphilis spread throughout Europe and beyond. Most of the supposed cures were almost as bad as the disease itself

image found here

It wasn’t until 1943 that penicillin became the standard, successful treatment. Until then, suggested remedies were creative if not bizarre. Unsuspecting wives were fed mercury-laced chocolates by their infected husbands, says Hayden.

Transylvania truffles found here

“Men were told to be sure after engaging in risky sex to wrap the endangered organ in a piece of cloth soaked in wine, shavings of guaiac (the wood of the guaiac tree was thought to penetrate areas of body mercury couldn’t reach), flakes of copper, precipitated mercury, gentian root, red coral, ash of ivory and burnt horn of deer.

Penis Gourd found here

“If a chancre (ulcer) did appear, the ulcerated part was to be covered with a spider’s web and a band of violet fabric.”

Beethoven’s hearing loss is believed to be due to syphilis. One doctor suggested to him that he grate fresh horseradish on a cotton cloth and insert it in his ears. Another recommended tincture of green nut-rinds in lukewarm water be dropped into the ear canal while yet another advised Beethoven to try direct applications of electric current.

Galvanic Life Renewer found here

Franz Schubert is also thought to have died from syphilis. In 1826, his friend Bauernfeld wrote “He is out of sorts and in need of young peacocks like those that cured Cellini”. In 1832 he consulted Professor Karl Kuhl who prescribed an “animal bath”

“Thierbäder” meant contact with animal warmth and substance. A Berlin dictionary of medical practice describes one simple method in use in 1830 as putting the affected part into the thoracic or abdominal cavity of a freshly-slaughtered animal and keeping it there as long as the natural warmth lasted. Schumann speculated (no doubt half humorously) that something of the nature of cattle might pass into his own. He added that he found the treatment invigorating.

The list of famous people who died from this insidious disease is a lengthy and depressing one. It includes Al Capone (perhaps we’re not so sad about his loss), whose photoshopped image appears below. Click the link to see some funny Charlie Chaplin photoshopping over at

Published in: on March 30, 2010 at 7:36 am  Comments (42)  
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42 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. I believe most of these treatments are still endorsed by homeopaths.

    • oh homeopathy….. 😦

  2. Oh the olden days, it’s so hard to find a decent penis gourd anymore…you know the ones with the fine raffia ribbon work around the base.

    • I believe you can buy them on special at Wal-Mart, look for the remainder bins near the checkout

      • She’s right, FJ.

        (I use mine as a walking stick…)

  3. I was riveted (perhaps for too long?) at the image of the African penis gourd. How the hell does that thing work?
    And then I went to the link. Penis snatching??
    Your blog posts are a never-ending source of wonder and education. 😉

  4. three cheers for penicillin! and a half cheer for penis gourds… WTF?

  5. When I want proof that a dude in a giant slinky and Pinocchio boner gourd doesn’t necessarily look undignified, I come here.

    Broh Malepride

    • You’re at the right place Broh

  6. You’d want to be wearing a gourd if you were thinking of dipping your baton in the freshly slaughtered cavity of a cow.

  7. A long-distance truck-driver friend of mine, in fear of catching unpleasant diseases whilst on lengthy away-trips, foreswore women and took to mating with his truck’s exhaust pipe.

    Alas, he soon developed an illness and was diagnosed as HGV Positive.

  8. 100 years from now they will laugh at us for our barbaric surgeries.

  9. Affer isn’t related to Archie by any chance I suppose ……. *groan*

  10. In 5 years time you might just see someone dressed like that African Penis Gourd dude walking the runways in Paris! I wouldn’t be surprised!

  11. And all this time I thought the best cure for anything was to run naked through town with a badger on my head.

    Maybe I should study more science:

    • Those are really interesting links Mike. Cyrus Teed was quite a character.

  12. Add Randolph Churchill, Sir Winston’s father, to the roll call of syphilis victims.

  13. Not to put too fine a point on it, but that is one sharp penis!!

    Ok, I got all my puns for the day taken care of. Fascinating post today!

  14. I’m still trying to find shoes that match my own penis guord, and do you think I can fecking find any?

  15. I want to marry this post. so disturbing, yet for some reason I can’t stop reading it…

    It’s like “The Iron chef” of STD cures…

  16. That’s all just crazy. So is penicillin. Everybody knows that after you engage in risky behavior you just wrap the endangered organ in alcohol soaked rags and ignite for 5 solid seconds. Works like a charm.

    • Er, I thought you did that before engaging?

      • I thought you had to buy a diamond ring….

      • Ha! You’re one up on me, NM. I thought you just had to buy dinner…

    • I’d buy you both a diamond ring, dinner and set fire to someone else’s penis for you guys!

  17. That’s gotta be the biggest woodpecker I’ve ever seen.

  18. Sometimes I get morning gourd in the late afternoon.

  19. Nice skulls.

  20. I winced a lot at this post. It did stir up memories of reading Oliver Sacks on the beneficial effects of syphallis – do you already know his writing?

    • Yes I’ve read several of his books, good writer Lulu

      • ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat’ is one of my very most favourite books. It made me think about things I had never thought to think about before.

  21. Those madcap classical musicians…I knew they were up to no good. Har!

  22. At least cuddling the carcass of a bovine won’t give you autism.

    Anthrax maybe.

  23. Ahh syphillis . .

  24. Sounds a lot like modern american medicine for the uninsured… and off topic have you heard the Dum Dum Girls or Best Coast? a bit 60’s girl groups crossed with post punk for lack of a better description… or the Vivian Girls? i think you might like.

    • I’ve heard Best Coast but not the other two bands you mentioned. will check them out on youtube

  25. It does seem like syphilis and spiders go together, naturally.

  26. I’ll be sure to wrap my organ in wine the next time I’m with a lady that may be on the “risky” side.

  27. Very bizarre indeed. I actually thought the mercury in the chocolates were to kill the wives, so they’d never suspect!

  28. That ain’t no African penis guard…. uh….uh…. we are much girthier as a rule, that be BORE-neo. Very suitable for drilling I’m sure, but………

  29. WOHHH!! just standing back at image 3 .. he could take someone’s eye out with that!!!!

  30. here is the best arguement *against* survival by the fittest.
    those desireable enough to actually
    have sex
    get syphilis and die.

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