During the last week of August 1888, the people of London were enjoying what might be described as the calm before the storm.
The murder of Martha Tabram, which had taken place earlier that month, had certainly caused consternation in the district but, as yet, the general panic that would engulf the streets of East London in the wake of the murder of Mary Nichols on August 31st 1888, was something for the future.
The Illustrated Police News, and other news papers, had reported on Martha Tabram’s murder in their editions during the middle of the month, but, by the last week of August 1888, they were reporting on other matters.
One report from The Illustrated Police News on the 25th August 1888 that caught my eye was the dramatic headline:-
EXTRAORDINARY CASE OF FROG SWALLOWING
Evidently the journal felt this story was of sufficient importance that they chose to make it the subject of a front page illustration and their artist, evidently, went to a great deal of trouble to provide readers with an image that did full justice to the event.
A FEROCIOUS APPETITE FOR CROAKERS
The subsequent article, which appeared on page 2 of the newspaper, went on to give a vivid depiction of the auspicious event:-
“A case of frog-swallowing extraordinary, which in reported from Basle, shows that France is by no means the chief country on the Continent wherein batrachians are regarded as orthodox articles of food.
In that town is a man who was called by his friends and neighbours “the Champion frog-swallower by reason of his voracious and insatiable appetite for “croakers.”
SWALLOW THREE DOZEN LIVING FROGS
He lately wagered five francs and a quart bottle of brandy that he would swallow three dozen living frogs at a sitting.
The bet was accepted, and the champion won, but no sooner had he pocketed his five francs and dispatched his alcohol, than he was seized with atrocious internal pains.
The thirty-six batrachians in the “swallowers” stomach made a greater row than did the shot in the body of Mark Twain’s celebrated “Jumping Frog.”
HIS SWALLOWING CAPACITY TESTED
An eye-witness and chronicler of the scene says that the croakers must have been dancing a saraband, for the man rushed to the shop of a chemist bent in two with pain.
His capacity for swallowing was again put to the test in the pharmaceutical establishment, whither he ran for an alleviation of his pangs.
He swallowed various chemical treatments and, after a while, the frogs returned to the light of day.
FIFTEEN STILL ALIVE
The wonder is that any of the batrachians were alive, but we are assured that only fifteen of them were hors de combat, the remainder being alive and kicking.
After this experiment the “Champion” can hardly relish frogs any more, no matter in what shape or form they may be served up.”
GOOD ON THE FROGS
You can almost sense the sheer delight with which the reporters on The Illustrated Police News sat down to pen the article about the frog swallower – and, it must be said, you can’t help but think “good on the frogs” for taking their revenge on him in such an effective and direct manner!