1865, April 7: Barking Toad found in Coal in Hartlepool

On the morning of April 7, 1865, workmen digging a tunnel through magnesium limestone for the Hartlepool Water Works in Hartlepool, England, were breaking up a large stone that had been wedged off the wall when they opened a cavity that contained a toad. The toad immediately started to move and, after some effort, started to breath and make a loud 'barking' noise, which it continued to make whenever it was touched. The cavity it was freed from was no larger than the toad, and appeared to present a cast of its body.

        The toad's skin initially matched the pale color of the limestone, but soon became an olive-green hue. Examination showed the toad's mouth was sealed; the barking noise was made by its nostrils. It also had the claws of its forefeet turned inwards, and had hind claws that were much longer than the then-common British toads. The stone it was freed from was found twenty-five feet below the surface, and at least eight feet from any spring-water vein. The toad continued to live for some time, and was examined by a number of people. One of them, Rev. Robert Taylor, incumbent of St. Hilda's Church in Hartlepool and an 'eminent local geologist', gave his opinion that the toad must be around 6000 years old.

        About two months later, a statement was made by members of the Manchester Geological Society after a Mr. Aitken produced photographs which he claimed were of the Hartlepool toad. Upon examination, Mr. Plant of the Peel Park Museum declared the toad in the photographs was just a British toad, commonly found under hedges all through the country. The pictures they examined were not published, however... was it actually of the Hartlepool toad, with its sealed mouth, and unusually long hind claws? They also failed to explain how a common toad came to be embedded in limestone; instead, it carries the implied statement that the event was a hoax.

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