There’s nothing more horrifying than the thought of something growing on your body. But it’s something that happens a lot more often than we’d like to think.
Some cases, though, are exceptional. While warts, tumors, and worse will grow on millions of people’s bodies every year, a rare few have seen things that go way beyond your standard medical crisis. They’ve had growths take over their bodies—and sometimes even their brains.
10 The Tumor That Turned A Teacher Into A Pedophile
The entire personality of an unidentified schoolteacher in Virginia changed when a tumor started growing in his brain.
It began as nothing more than a few headaches characterized by a recurring dull pain. But before long, the growth in his head turned him into a sexual predator.
Sex started contaminating his brain every second of the day. He built up a massive stash of pornographic magazines, and it only got worse from there. He soon started spending long nights looking at child porn on the Internet or openly describing fantasies about raping the women in his life.
The doctors didn’t find the tumor growing in his brain until he’d already hurt the people he loved. He had been arrested for sexually molesting his own stepdaughter.
When the doctors removed the tumor, they just thought they were treating him for brain cancer. Once it was out of his body, though, all his deviant behavior stopped. While he’d openly and uncontrollably sexually harassed every nurse he’d seen before the surgery, he went completely back to normal after the tumor was gone.
A year later, the teacher found himself searching the Internet for child pornography once more. Sure enough, the tumor had started to grow back. When the doctors operated again, his urges went away.
9 The Brain Tumor That Told A Woman Where To Find It
In 1984, a woman known only as A.B. was sitting alone at home when she heard a voice in her head that said:
Please don’t be afraid. I know it must be shocking for you to hear me speaking to you like this, but this is the easiest way I could think of. My friend and I used to work at the Children’s Hospital, Great Ormond Street, and we would like to help you.
A.B. was sure she was losing her mind. She visited her doctor, who diagnosed her with functional hallucinatory psychosis and put her antipsychotic medication. But the voice kept talking in her head.
Now, though, it was getting eerily specific. It told her that she had a tumor growing in her brain stem and that the doctors wouldn’t find it unless they scanned her brain. Then the voice directed her to the diagnostic imaging wing of the nearby hospital.
The doctors were reluctant to do it. From early tests, they’d found nothing wrong. But when the woman started pleading, they gave her a brain scan. Just as the voices (more than one now) had promised, they found a meningioma in her brain stem, right where it was supposed to be.
It sounds like a ghost story, but it really happened. The doctor who treated her believes that the tumor created a sensation in her brain that she could just slightly feel and that her subconscious mind created the delusion to communicate it.
When the surgery was over, A.B. says that she heard the voices one last time.
“We are pleased to have helped you,” she heard them say. “Goodbye.”
8 The Man With Hair Growing Out Of His Eyeball
A 19-year-old man in Iran begged his doctor to get rid of the mass that had been growing on his (the patient’s) eyeball. It had been there since birth. But in the last year, it had become bigger and bigger—and, creepiest of all, it was growing hair.
A small line of a few scattered eyelashes were growing right out of the man’s eyeball, and a whole host of problems came with it. He couldn’t see past the growth or the hair, and every time he blinked, he felt the tiny hairs tickling his inner eyelid.
Worse than all of that, there was just an unnerving feeling that would never escape him—that sense that something was growing out of his eye.
It’s was an eerie and unusual case, but this man was by no means the only person to have it happen. His was only an unusually bad case of what’s called a “limbal dermoid” (tumors that carry tissues from another part of the body). Like him, other people have had hair grow out of their eyeballs from the same condition. Still more have had limbal dermoids grow hard cartilage and sweat glands.
7 The Tumor That Grew Teeth
Archaeologists digging at a Roman necropolis in Spain learned the horrible story of how one unfortunate woman met her end 1,600 years ago.
Inside her pelvis, an ovarian tumor had been developing. By the time she died, it had grown four jagged, deformed teeth. While they can’t say for sure how she died, it’s believed that she would have been able to feel the teeth pressing up against her insides toward the end. The tumor may have even killed her by pushing her internal organs out of place.
It’s a horrifying way to go, but she’s not the only person to have a tumor with teeth grow inside her body. This type of tumor, called a “teratoma,” accounts for 20 percent of all ovarian tumors. The woman in Spain is the oldest one we’ve ever found. But even if she was the first to have it happen, she was by no means the last.
The biggest teratoma on record was removed from the pelvis on a 74-year-old woman just a few years ago. The monstrous tumor had grown 46 centimeters (18 in) long and was littered with hard, misshapen teeth.
6 The Tumor That Caused DMT-Like Hallucinations
While studying in art school, Shawn Thornton started having strange hallucinations. His whole body would be overwhelmed with energy, and he’d work himself into a frenzy. When it was over, he would collapse onto his bed and start seeing strange and beautiful colors and shapes whirling in front of his eyes.
He’d experimented with casual drug use before, but this was something different. Thornton was totally sober when he had his hallucinations, and they were far more powerful than anything he’d previously experienced.
Though he’d never tried DMT, Thornton’s hallucinations were believed to be similar to what a person experiences on the drug. To Thornton, they felt deep and visionary, like he was opening his third eye and having a spiritual episode that let him see beyond the world.
In time, the doctors found that he had cancer of the pineal gland and that his hallucinations were being caused by a tumor growing at the center of his brain. But by then, he’d already painted a road map into his mind. Thornton had made painting after painting showing the technicolor dreamscape dancing inside his mind.
5 The Tumor That Kept Growing After Its Host Died
In 1951, a tobacco farmer in Virginia named Henrietta Lacks was diagnosed with cervical cancer. There was a tumor growing inside her body, but this was no ordinary growth. Lacks’s tumor was immortal.
Her doctors discovered that her tumor had immortal cells that would never die. It grew at an alarming, too. Her cancerous cells would double every 24 hours.
The doctors didn’t tell her. Instead, they ran secret experiments on her and the growth inside her body, using her as a human guinea pig while it ate her alive. Henrietta Lacks died before the year was over.
Her tumor, though, lived on, even after she had died—and it’s still growing today. It’s been the subject of countless experiments ever since, and the extracted “HeLa cells” have been responsible for some of the most incredible breakthroughs in medicine of the past 100 years.
Obviously, Henrietta never found out that her death had done the world some good. All she knew was that something was growing inside her at an alarming rate and that the doctors were telling her nothing as they swarmed around her, experimenting on her body.
4 The Bloody Horn That Grew On A Woman’s Head
An 87-year-old woman named Liang Xiuzhen complained about an itchy mole on the top of her head, but she had no idea how much worse things were going to get.
Thinking it was just a mole, her family started giving her medicines to stop the itch. But the mole kept growing until it was the size of a woman’s pinky finger. Unlike an ordinary mole, it was hard and sharp and hurt to touch.
When the initial growth snapped, a bigger one sprouted in its place, growing faster than ever. Within just six months, a massive, black, 13-centimeter-long (5 in) horn was growing from the top of her head.
It was a cutaneous horn—a skin tumor made of the same material as fingernails. Hers was incredibly sensitive. She couldn’t sleep because pressing the horn against her pillow felt like sharp fingernails jabbing into her skull. Creepiest of all, the horn occasionally dribbled out blood.
Her doctors wanted to remove it, but her family was worried that she wouldn’t survive the operation. The last anyone’s heard, Liang Xiuzhen was still suffering through it.
3 The Man With A 5-Kilogram (12 Lb) Growth On His Face
Jose Mestre has been called the man without a face.
At the young age of 14, his face started getting covered in an explosive growth of blood vessels that left purple bulges of skin. His doctors wanted to get rid of it early on when it was little more than a bulging lip. But Mestre, a Jehovah’s Witness, refused to get a blood transfusion, and so the growth was left unchecked.
It got worse and worse. His face became completely consumed by the purple growths. One covered up his right eye, while another burst through his left eyeball and completely destroyed it. The growth crawled into his mouth and started choking him, making it a struggle for him to even breathe and nearly impossible to eat.
At its worst, the growth weighed 5 kilograms (12 lb). As his surgeon described it, Mestre’s face was left as little more than “a mass of fiber and tumor and blood vessels that made him unrecognizable as a human being.”
He was finally saved when his sister managed to convince him to get the surgery. She told him, “You’re going to die anyway, so die trying.”
Mestre was flown out to Chicago where a surgeon had volunteered to treat him. After four operations, the growth was removed and his life was saved.
2 The Tumor That Turned A Man Into A Killer
While a student at the University of Texas, Charles Whitman started having terrible headaches and an unusually hard time controlling his temper. Until then, he’d been a fairly stable boy. But suddenly, he became so temperamental that he once pulled another student out of his chair in the middle of class and physically threw him out of the classroom.
On July 31, 1966, for reasons even Whitman couldn’t understand, he became overwhelmed with a desire to kill. He sat down and wrote a letter, outlining what he was going to do and how strangely out of control he felt about the decision.
“It was after much thought that I decided to kill my wife, Kathy, tonight,” he wrote. “I love her dearly, and she has been as fine a wife to me as any man could ever hope to have. I cannot rationally pinpoint any specific reason for doing this.”
When he was finished writing, he went across the street and strangled and stabbed his own mother. Then he went home and stabbed his wife to death. Finally, he climbed up the university tower and opened fire on anything that moved, killing 14 people.
In his final letter, Whitman left a note asking the doctors to do an autopsy on his brain. “I don’t really understand myself these days,” he wrote. “Lately (I can’t recall when it started), I have been a victim of many unusual and irrational thoughts.”
The doctors complied. When they opened up his skull, they found a large tumor pressing against his amygdala. Some believe it was the source of the anger, headaches, and killer thoughts that had plagued his mind.
1 The Woman Who Grew A Tumor With A Brain
In 2003, an ovarian tumor was found growing inside a 25-year-old Japanese woman. It was a teratoma—one of the tumors that grow teeth—but this one was unlike any other before.
The tumor in her body had taken the shape of a small child. It had limbs, ears, teeth, bones, blood vessels, and guts, all in the form of some black and misshapen human being. On its head, it had grown one, single, staring eye.
It even had a brain.
The brain was too underdeveloped to function. It was little more than a tiny lobe covered in a paper-thin skull, coated with a greasy matting of little hairs. Still, the tumor inside her had nearly every part it needed to become a living, thinking thing.
Hers was by far the most humanlike growth ever found on a human body. But she is not the only person to have a tumor with a brain. When a tiny brain grows in a tumor in your body, doctors say that it can affect the way you think.
Women like her tend to start having bouts of confusion and paranoid thoughts. Their immune systems, confused by the new presence, will start acting like their brains by mistake. Under the influence of a little foreign mind growing inside their bodies, their entire personalities can change.