Man urinates into a bottle containing potassium. It did not end well.

A banana that met a similar end. Image credit: Maddas/shutterstock.com

At some point, you've probably read a story about somebody getting their penis stuck in an unlikely object, or else an unlikely object becoming stuck up an anus. Usually, these stories are accompanied by an equally unlikely explanation as to how said object/body part accidentally became stuck in said object/body part.

For instance, the man who fell off a ladder and landed his anus somewhat unfortunately (and without clothing) onto a garden gnome or the man who fell asleep vacuuming and, wouldn't you know it, his penis "flopped into the vacuum hose".

Well, these stories didn't just begin in the age of the Internet. A case report we've stumbled across from 1849 tells the tale of a young man who got his penis stuck in a bottle in unlikely (though in this case, entirely plausible) circumstances.

"A few months ago I was called in great haste to a young gentleman, who was in a most ludicrous yet painful condition," the author of the case report published in the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal wrote.

"I found, on examination, a bottle, holding about a pint, with a short neck and small mouth, firmly attached to his body by the penis, which was drawn through the neck and projected into the bottle, being swollen and purple."

The young man's penis had fit through the neck of the bottle, though the opening was only around (brace yourself) 1.9 centimeters (0.75 inches) in diameter. Given how swollen the penis was inside the bottle, extraction was impossible.

It appears at some point during the examination, New York-based Dr A.B. Shipman asked the patient something along the lines of "so hey, what's up with you having your penis inserted into that bottle, huh?" to which the patient responded that there were more urgent issues to address.

"The patient was greatly frightened, and so urgent for its removal that he would give me no account of its getting into its present novel situation," the doctor wrote. "But implored me to liberate it instantly, as the pain was intense and the mental anguish and fright intolerable."

The doctor attempted to pull out the man's penis using his fingers – which we'd be shocked to learn if the man hadn't given this a crack beforehand – but with no luck. Next, he grabbed a knife and struck the bottle, shattering it and "liberating the penis in an instant".

As expected, the penis was "enormously swollen and black" from bruising, but there was another mystery right there on his foreskin, glans and shaft: all were blistered as though they'd been burned or scalded with boiling water.

"Now for the explanation," Shipman wrote. "A bottle in which some potassium had been kept in naphtha, and which had been used up in experiments, was standing in his room; and wishing to urinate without leaving his room, he pulled out the glass stopper and applied his penis to its mouth."

This, I'm sure you'll agree, was a bad move. From here, the man conducted an unexpected experiment into the effects of vacuums on the human penis.

"The first jet of urine was followed by an explosive sound and flash of fire, and quick as thought the penis was drawn into the bottle with a force and tenacity which held it as firmly as if in a vice."

The potassium burned instantly, creating a vacuum that sucked in the "soft yielding tissue of the penis" that blocked any air from getting in and relieving the pressure, allowing for its release. From here, it got worse.

"The small size of the mouth of the bottle compressed the veins, while the arteries continued to pour their blood into the glans, prepuce, etc. From this cause, and the rarefied air in the bottle, the parts swelled and puffed up to an enormous size."

The doctor, perhaps a little unconvinced by the man's tale, tried to replicate the results for himself, though he was sensible enough to not use his own penis for the experiment. Instead, he introduced urine to a small piece of potassium inside a bottle, while keeping his finger over the neck. As the patient had reported, his finger was indeed sucked inside and held there. 

As explanations go, this one might be the real deal.


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