Monday, December 13, 2010

Medical Mondays: The Mad Hatter Misconception

Hello all. Last week's post on the Alice in Wonderland Syndrome received many comments that will likely spawn future Medical Mondays posts, including this one.

Nick mentioned how the Mad Hatter is named so because the hat-making industry in the 1800's often used mercury (Hg) to cure the animal pelts used.

The usual symptoms of mercury vapor toxicity include:
  • parasthesias (numbness, tingling, and burning pain in the limbs)
  • slurred speech
  • hearing and vision problems
  • hallucinations
  • anxiety or depression
  • tremors and incoordination
The Mad Hatter of Lewis Carroll's story was more likely based on an eccentric furniture dealer named Theophilus Carter, who was known to hang out in his doorway wearing a top hat.

Many locals in Oxford called him "The Mad Hatter" and he was well known for his invention of an alarm clock bed that dumped you onto the floor when it went off.

That sounds mad to me. I'll stick to my regular alarm clock, thank you very much!

Please keep in mind this post is for writing purposes only and is not to be construed as medical advice (see sidebar disclaimer).

If you've got a fictional medical question, let me know! Post below or email me at
All I ask is that you become a follower and post a link on your blog when I post your answer.
Also, don't forget to check out Mental Health Mondays at Laura's Blog!

60 comments:

Vicki Rocho said...

I know people who could use a bed like that! hahaha.

Once again, I had no idea about mercury. I mean, I knew it was *bad* for ya, but I didn't know how it was used (besides thermometers) or what it could do to you.

Making me smarter one post at a time. Thanks!

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I knew mercury was bad for you, which is why you want to avoid breaking thermometers. ;)

I didn't realize it was used to cure animal pelts. It's amazing just how dangerous some jobs were back then that you thought couldn't have been too bad (compared to others).

B.E. Sanderson said...

A bed like that would certainly get you up, but I'm guessing a person would always fall out on the wrong side. Lord knows I'd be grumpy all day if my bed dumped me on the floor.

Magan said...

I sent this post to my mother because one night at dinner she decided to regale us with the story of the Mad Hatter and how to kill someone with Mercury poisoning. Needless to say my husband hasn't looked at her the same way again....

Kerri C at CK Farm said...

I just watched Alice in Wonderland last night! Work that really does make you crazy, lol.

Melissa Gill said...

I need an alarm clock like that, but I don't think my cats would like it too much.

I also heard that the Mad Hatter's hair was red because of chemical poisoning.

Bee said...

The Mad Hatter makes the crazy, cool :D

Liza said...

This was all news to me. Thanks!

Saumya said...

Oooh, so interesting! Who would have thought that the Mad Hatter name came from this? How crazy would that kind of bed be?!

Tracy said...

My gosh, I could so use a bed like that!!

It's crazy to hear about the things that people once did that were medically unsound. Makes me wonder what people will be thinking about us in 100 years.

Munk Davis said...

Lydia Kang... Debunking literary myths one classic at a time.

Carol Kilgore said...

I know someone who could benefit from an "alarm bed" like The Mad Hatter's! Great post.

Paul S said...

I could definitely use one of those alarm clock beds when I'm getting up for work at 4.30 a.m. !!
Thanks for another informative Medical Monday,Lydia.

Patti Lacy said...

This is so fun!!! I love your mix of great prose and medical knowledge!

The two don't often meet! :)

Patti

Jonene Ficklin said...

Theophilus Carter. Hm. It would be hard NOT to be eccentric with a name like that. And I don't want an alarm clock bed, but I could sure use one for my teenager. Thanks for the great blog!

Kelly said...

I knew about the mercury thing but not about a real crazy hat guy! :)

Bossy Betty said...

We used to pray that my mom would break a thermometer so we could play with the mercury. This explains a lot....

Meredith said...

Mercury poisoning is so scary! And I agree: I would NOT want an alarm clock bed!

notesfromnadir said...

What a horrible alarm clock!

Also, I had no idea that mercury was used in the hat making industry.

Lisa Gail Green said...

Very interesting. You make it tempting to use some of these afflictions in my manuscripts just because. :D I thought of you while writing the other day because one of my characters was nearly strangled. Then I thought, hmm, maybe I should email Lydia and ask about the symptoms.. Must be nice to know your thought of when people are strangled. LOL

Matthew Rush said...

How strange!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Alarm clocks are a totally maddening invention! All those interrupted dreams and frantic wakeups.
I remember someone letting me hold mercury in my hand when I was little. Eeeks. No wonder I'm strange. :)

Charli Mac said...

I so need that alarm clock bed. But then, after a while, I'd have a pillow and blanket waiting for me on the floor!

Raquel Byrnes said...

This is such a fun series of posts! I love it. Wonder what's coming up next...the Queen of Hearts and her Megalomania?

Holly Ruggiero said...

I remember reading that the hatter was mad due to toxin in the hat making process. Thanks for sharing.

Amanda Borenstadt said...

Super cool post! I didn't know the origin of the Mad Hatter. Theophilius Carter sounds like quite a character himself. :)

Heather said...

Now that's an alarm clock! I would have to say his nickname was well earned. Great story!

Old Kitty said...

What a name!! Theophilus Carter!! Luckily his invention didn't catch on (or did it!!??) Take care
x

Laura Pauling said...

I love hearing the history behind fictional characters! So interesting.

Colene Murphy said...

Bahahaha! What a terrible way to wake up!!
I thought it was the other thing that the character was named for. I never knew that story! But I like it. It's less tragic.

ciaraknight said...

I learn something new each time I read your posts. Love them. As for he bed, well, not happening in my house. :)

Krispy said...

Oh, I did not know that, and LOL at the bed. It would certainly make sure you woke up. No snoozing!

I've heard there's like alarm clocks that run away from you when they go off, forcing you to get up to turn them off.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Now I know why I don't like hats!

The Red Angel said...

Hmm, this was pretty interesting. I didn't know all this background about the Mad Hatter, thanks for sharing! :)

~TRA

http://xtheredangelx.blogspot.com

Jai Joshi said...

Does anyone know where I can find an alarm clock bed, these days? It sounds like a great idea to me. Some days its the only way to get me out of bed.

As usual, love your medical mondays! You have an award at my blog.

Jai

lbdiamond said...

Yeah, so I'm thinking I just might need that alarm clock that tosses me out of bed. I use the snooze button waaaay too much, LOL!

The Golden Eagle said...

I knew mercury was a poison, but now I know what it does!

You know, there are some days in which I would really appreciate an alarm clock bed. They sound useful.

Christopher said...

Some mornings I think I need a bed like that just to get myself out of it. Stupid mornings.

The Blogger Formerly Known As said...

I live very near to Oxford, and I can confirm that the vast majority of the locals are still quite, quite mad (even the hatless ones).
The enigmatic, masked blogger

Talli Roland said...

Interesting! I've recently seen the Alice in Wonderland version with Johnny Depp... so this explains his behaviour!

Jen Chandler said...

I can't remember where I first learned this but I passed it on to my mother after seeing Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. Her response was, "That explains a lot."

Cheers!
Jen

Melissa said...

HAHA. Seriously? WHere do you find your information for these posts? This is absolutely fascinating!

LTM said...

omg! That is such interesting info! So mad hatters disease... hmmm.. I do not like that alarm clock bed.

I don't even like my alarm clock phone, but what's one to do? ;p <3

Taryn Tyler said...

Haha. I wish my neighbors were that interesting. :D

Walt M said...

My younger son went to a school costume party as The Mad Hatter one year (Johnny Depp version). It was hilarious.

M Pax said...

Mad Hatters are better in fiction than reality. :D

I saw somewhere where they made these gilded clocks using mercury. Because they used more of the chemical, they died fairly quickly instead of being more slowly poisoned like hatters.

What a world!

Slamdunk said...

Thanks for the continuing education that I receive here.

Always interesting....

Karen Lange said...

Learning something from you all the time. Thanks, Lydia! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

I could use a bed like that, Lydia. Sometimes it takes me ages to prise myself out of bed. Thanks for this great post. :)

Angela Felsted said...

Now the idea of a "mad hatter" makes sense. Did you know that Charles Ives grew up in Danbery Connecticut around the same time that it started growing from the hatting industry?

After he went to Yale he hated going back to his home town because the hatting industry had changed it. Not only had it lost that small town feel, but with all the mercury in the water many of his friends were adversely affected.

Susan Fields said...

Actually, that bed's not such a bad idea! Especially on a cold winter's morning. Brrr...

wheresmypencil said...

How funny that the hats were cured with Mercury. Even is Carrol wasn't playing on that, it still puts the hatter in a whole new light. ;p

Nick said...

Yay! Love Hg. In the good old days, doctors would get patients to drink mercury (I think it got 'things' moving that were blocked). Can't imagine what that must have felt like - liquid Hg running down the throat. A real danger with Hg is when it's converted to organic Hg compounds (highly toxic) or soluble ionic Hg ions in the body. Always interesting Lydia!

Nas Dean said...

Great post, Lydia. Now I know why the saying is "Mad hatter!"

JJ said...

Lydia: I am your newest follower. Great blog!

T C Mckee said...

I don't have a medical question but I sure liked this post. How interesting. I wonder if I could purchase a bed like that for my kids. I once gave my daughter an alarm clock that jumped off the nightstand and rolled around the room until you got up and caught it to turn it off. It was hilarious.

Olga said...

Really, though, the nature vs. nurture issue of eccentricity is very interesting. Does it appear in certain circumstances, or is it part of a particular individual?

Patricia Stoltey said...

I'm not fond of the idea of a bed throwing me out onto the floor in the morning. A gently beeping alarm clock is ever so much nicer.

alexia said...

LOL about that bed! Crazy! (That's the point I guess)

Faith said...

Hah! I love this entry, Lydia... thanks for the smiles :)

 
ALL CONTENT © 2012 THE WORD IS MY OYSTER / BLOG DESIGN © 2012 SMITTEN BLOG DESIGNS