February 19, 1903, in the brittle and decaying pages of an obscure Lawrenceburg newspaper called simply It:
On last Thursday, the little eight-year-old son of Mrs Ide Long of Van Buren, was brought to this place to have the mad stone applied to a wound on his hand made by a rabid dog some days past. When the stone was applied, it adhered one hour and forty minutes.
Mad stone? Adhered? Huh?
I'd never heard of such a thing, but as it turns out the Mad Stone was a peculiar quasi-medical superstition of the day. According to an essay by Dennis Muncrief:
The Mad Stone is a stony concretion (as a hair ball) taken from the stomach of a deer. They have been described as round or oval in shape with a porous surface texture measuring about 3 to 4 inches in size and very light weight. They have a brownish-green color with a highly polished surface. The purpose of the Mad Stone was to cure rabies, hence the name.
The Mad Stone is an object that has several grades of curative power. All stones are not created equal. A stone from a brown deer will work in a bind if another cannot be found. A better grade of Mad Stone comes from a white or spotted deer. This stone works a lot better than a stone from a brown deer. The very best Mad Stone comes from an albino or "witch deer" that is pure white with pink eyes. It not only cures the rabies, it also cures rattlesnake and spider bites.
Now, there is a very strict set of rules associated with the use and care of a Mad Stone. First, it can never be bought or sold. It must never be changed in shape. The patient must go to the person with the Mad Stone. The Mad Stone must never be brought to the patient. There can never be a charge for the use of the Mad Stone. The stone was usually passed down from father to son. Anyone who owns a Mad Stone can use the stone as long as they follow a strict set of procedures.
The use of the Mad Stone is quite strict. The procedure for curing the infected patient is as follows. When the person with the bite arrives at the place where the Mad Stone is kept, the stone is boiled in sweet milk. The sweet milk neutralizes the poison from the bite. The stone must be boiled in the milk until the milk turns green. That is how you can tell when all the rabies is out of the stone.
After boiling the stone in milk, it is applied directly to the wound. The wound must be bleeding. If it is no longer bleeding it must be scraped until it is bleeding. The Mad Stone will stick to the wound if there is rabies infection in the wound. It does not need to be tied. When the stone falls off the wound, it is boiled again in milk to remove the poison from the stone. The stone is re-applied to the wound. If it sticks, there is still rabies in the wound. When the stone fails to stick to the wound, the rabies poison is all gone and the patient will not get rabies.
Thankfully these aren't standard issue in Kentucky doctor's offices anymore. (They're not, right?)
And just a day after discussing the "Devil Deer", now we get references to "Witch Deer"? The plot thickens, like an Appalachian forest.