Toads in Rocks and Other Bizarre Entombed Animals

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In 1828 there was a live toad found within the stonework of Flambard’s Bridge, in England, and another was found that same year when lumber workers sawed down a tree at Blyth and found a living toad peering out from within, probably just as surprised as the workers. This was around the time when this phenomenon was gaining a lot of news coverage and generating all manner of wild theories, such as that they were planted there by the Devil or were the result of the spontaneous formation of life. At the time is was a mysterious, magical wonder of the world, and these accounts always drew a lot of attention and debate, yet for the most part none of it was taken very seriously by the scientific community.

In 1825 one of the first and only attempts to actually scientifically determine the nature of these oddities was carried out by a Professor William Buckland, who sealed 24 toads within a block of limestone and another of sandstone, after which he buried these blocks for a full year. When the blocks were opened it was found that the toads that had been encased in the porous sandstone block had died, whereas some of those in the limestone were amazingly not only still alive, but some had actually gained weight. Unfortunately, it was found that the seals on the block had been broken, corrupting the results. Buckland redid the experiment, this time making sure the seals remained intact, and this time not a single toad survived the process. Despite these damning results, the phenomenon showed no signs of stopping, and indeed in some cases got even more outlandish, such as was with an 1856 case reported in the Illustrated London News, which relayed the bizarre tale of railway tunnel workers who claimed to have been drilling through limestone when they came across an actual living dinosaur that had apparently been dislodged from within a split boulder. The article would say:

Workmen were digging a railway tunnel through a layer of Jurassic limestone when they were startled to find a large creature stumbling out of a recently split boulder, flapping what looked like wings, and croaking. It died immediately. The creature was identified as a pterodactyl by a local paleontology student who recognized the characteristic features of the extinct reptile. The stone in which it was found was consistent with the time period in which pterodactyls lived and formed an exact mold of the creature’s body.

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