Mad stones, healing stones or neither?

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By Ben Carlson

The e-mail included information about "Mad Stones," so I naturally thought someone wanted to let me know that Mick Jagger and his aging bandmates were in some sort of a snit.

Thankfully, the message was remarkably more interesting than that.

Mad stones, it turns out, have ties back to the days of Cleopatra as a means of curing bites from poisonous spiders and snakes. In America, they have a rich Southern history as a remedy for people bitten by rabid dogs.

Of course that all ended in the late 1800s when Louis Pasteur got funky with his chemistry set and developed his germ theory of diseases and invented a rabies vaccine.

That's probably a good thing because after surfing the web it appears mad stones were fairly unreliable in treating rabies.

Consider the following passage I found on The New York Times website, dated Aug. 28, 1871:

"A Kentucky boy, who was badly bitten by a dog, applied three mad stones, drank unmeasured quantities of whisky and just before he died of hydrophobia, called in a physician in the vain hope that he might then save him."

Another passage on the site, dated Aug. 15, 1877, is credited to the Louisville Courier-Journal and recounts a successful treatment.

Seems a fellow named Harry Phillips brought the stone to the newspaper and told a tale of it being used by an aunt of his who was bitten by a rabid dog.

"The stone was first dipped in milk and then applied to the wound. It stuck to the part like a leech until all the virus was absorbed and then dropped. It was then placed in a vessel containing hot water, and quickly the dark greenish substance arose from it and spread over the surface, this being the test that the wound was filled with the virus of the mad dog. The lady recovered from the wound without a symptom of hydrophobia."

Not to be left out of the mad stone action, the June 21, 1894, edition of The Anderson News discusses mad stones, as found on a genealogy website by Lawrenceburg's Sharon Pike:

"Attorney John T. Bradshaw has in his possession a large mad stone to which is attached a bit of interesting history. Some 20 years ago the stone was picked up on the banks of the Ohio River near Clifty Falls, Indiana. It was preserved merely as a curiosity and by some means fell into the hands of Mr. B. F. Calloway, of Madison, Ind., father of Mr. Bradshaw.

"The true nature of the stone was not known for some years, and was first made known by Gen. Green Clay Smith. He was a guest at Mr. Calloway's home and in looking over a cabinet of curiosities recognized this to one of value, and made the fact known to the owner.

"It was tested the first opportunity and proved to be an excellent article, and has since been used in many instances with perfect success. It is of an unusually large size, and has many depressions, so that it can be made to fit perfectly, any part of the body. For a while it will be left at Ballard's Drug Store."

Despite their success or lack thereof, my fancy was properly tickled by this. I would love to have a mad stone, and I figured the only way to get one would be to scour creek beds from here to Tennessee.

If only it were that easy.

According to information I dug up on geocities.com that was included in a story reportedly told by a Mr. Eugene Doyle, mad stones aren't really stones at all. Instead, they are thought to come from the stomach of deer.

A mad stone, it said, is a "stone-like piece of calcium and minerals that allegedly formed around some foreign substance (Mick Jagger, maybe?) the deer had swallowed."

To make matters worse, it was guessed that only one deer in several thousand actually has one of these stones.

Drats! I've gutted and have seen gutted a fair number of deer over the years and have yet to see or hear anyone tell of finding such an item, but that doesn't mean someone (what say you, outdoors columnist Jeff Lilly?) hasn't.

Or, chances are, one or more of you might actually possess a mad stone that was handed down from your kin.

If so, please let me know via phone at 839-6906 or at the e-mail address below.

Oh, I almost forgot. Sharon also shared the following information about the mystery noise I've prattled on about over the past two columns:

"The loud noise that the lady hears at night is from that place on Industry Road with all the wrecked cars. I think it's supposed to be an auto auction. They crush some of the cars at night. We used to live on South Main and we could hear it clearly. We also hear the train cars at night but this is a different noise."