Born in 1772, Tarrare was a French Army Revolutionary soldier and showman, but we best know him for his monstrous appetite and strange eating habits. Even at a young age, Tarrare was always hungry, distracted, and emaciated. Sadly, because of his insatiable appetite, Tarrare’s parents could not provide for him. He was sent away at just 17 years old.
The Bizzare Life of Tarrare
Despite weighing an average 100 pounds at a young age, Tarrare’s body soon gave in to his colossal food intake. By his early twenties, his mouth circumference was beyond any known human’s mouth. He could hold more than a dozen soft-boiled eggs at once. He had a deformed jaw, drooping cheeks, and a distended stomach that he could tie in knots around his waist. When full, his stomach would inflate to an abnormal capacity.
After his parents sent him away, Tarrare traveled throughout France with thieves and prostitutes, making his living through pickpocketing and entertaining crowds. Tarrare’s act included swallowing stones, corks, whole live animals, and basketfuls of apples at the marvel and disgust of onlookers. He constantly dripped with sweat and had a nauseating sewer-like stench that kept people as far as 20 feet away.
Soon after, Tarrare joined the French army doing odd jobs around the army base in exchange for food.
More Food is Not Enough
Food would often be insufficient, forcing Tarrare to rummage through garbage for any discarded food scraps. While in the military base, Tarrare caught the respected Military surgeon, Dr. Pierre-François Percy’s, attention after being admitted to the military hospital due to exhaustion. Dr. Percy was fascinated by Tarrare’s appetite and decided to study him to try and understand the source and cure his hunger.
Under Dr. Percy’s care, Tarrare would take four times the food other soldiers were having, and it still would not be enough. He would steal other patients’ food, eat from garbage cans and sewers and even swallow the hospital’s medical supplies. The doctor’s psychological test on Tarrare indicated that he was indifferent to people’s feelings but was of sound mind.
Desperate to find a cure, Dr. Percy would feed Tarrare a mixture of tobacco pills, Laudanum opiates, wine vinegar, and soft-boiled eggs, but Tarrare would still drink other patient’s blood and walk the streets at night fighting stray dogs for leftovers. Eventually, he was sent away from the hospital after being suspected of having swallowed a toddler.
In 1798, four years after Tarrare left the hospital, Dr. Percy heard that Tarrare had been admitted to a hospital in Versailles, where he later died of Tuberculosis. The horrendous and nauseating stench that Tarrare emitted while alive dulled in comparison to his dead body. Dr. Percy’s reports describe the odor as so bad that the doctors examining the body and carrying out the autopsy struggled to breathe.
The doctor’s autopsy reports indicate that Tarrare had a dreadfully wide esophagus, an excessively large liver, and gallbladder and that his stomach lining was filled with ulcers. The reports also suggest that his stomach was massive and filled his entire stomach cavity.
Even though the doctors could not complete the autopsy due to the body’s pungent odor, they all came to the same conclusion. That Tarrare did not make up his unusual appetite. His shocking eating habits all started from his body’s genuine but constant need to eat.
Living to Eat or Eating to Live?
This man’s entire life was dictated by his body’s biological need to eat, cursing him to a life of hunger and an embarrassing title of the man who ate anything.