1865: Toad found in Coal at St. Helens... or Was It?

On June 27, 1865, at the monthly meeting of the Manchester Geological Society in England, Mr. Joseph Dickinson noted that two articles in the Manchester newspapers had recently alluded to the idea of toads being found entombed yet living; the first was of a mouthless toad found in stone in Hartlepool [see link below], and the second was that of a live toad found embedded in coal at St. Helens in Merseyside. Dickinson knew the owners of the mine where the St. Helens toad was found, and wrote to them for more information... they responded by sending him the very coal miner who discovered the toad, holding the very piece of coal with a hole on one side and the toad still alive within.

        Dickinson took the man to meet Mr. Plant at the Peel Park Museum, and they interviewed the coal miner for all the details about the discovery. When Mr. Plant personally examined the coal, he quickly stated his opinion that the man had made the hole himself; the miner stated that such a hole could not be made, but Mr. Plant rejoined that he knew an ivory carver who could make a better one. Mr. Plant then inserted his finger in the hole despite the miner warning him that the toad's bite was poisonous... and, having satisfied himself that he could feel chisel marks inside, Mr. Plant proposed to break the coal open. Perhaps not surprisingly, the miner objected to the suggestion and also refused to take the coal to be examined by Dr. Alcock of the Natural History Museum.

       So the final conclusion of the Manchester Geological Society was that the St. Helens toad in coal was a fraud, and Mr. Plant identified both the St. Helens toad and the Hartlepool toad as being common British toads... but he had only examined photographs of the Hartlepool toad, and the photos are no longer available that I know of.

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