The Boy With Two Heads

A curious case from medical history

Ben Kageyama
4 min readNov 6, 2020


Arthur William Devis’s Drawing of the Two-Headed Boy from Bengal (1787), Wikimedia Commons

InIn May of 1783, the “Two-Headed Boy of Bengal” was born into a family of peasants. The midwife assisting the boy’s mother was horrified with his appearance and immediately chucked the newborn into a fire. Fortunately, he suffered only a few burns and managed to survive.

His survival and the fact that only two out of 5,000,000 babies are born with this condition — with a majority dying immediately after birth — made him a medical marvel.


The boy’s parents exploited his condition. After his burns healed, he was immediately exhibited in Calcutta, earning his family a pretty penny.

If no one paid, the boy would be completely hidden in a piece of cloth for hours on end. He was more a prop than a son.

As news of the boy spread across India, wealthier patrons arranged for his viewing. He was taken to the private homes of nobles and civil servants who hosted viewing parties of his unique condition.

That’s when members of the British East India Company found out about him. They later stole the boy for the sake of science.


The boy’s skull (1783), Wikimedia Commons

While the boy did have two heads, they weren’t how one would commonly imagine a two-headed being. The boy’s second head grew out of his main head as if they were stacked on each other.

Both of the boy’s heads were about average in size for his age, with the second head slightly smaller resting on a neck-like stump. The second head also had a few irregularities compared to the first — with eyes and ears not fully formed, and its tongue and jaw disfigured.

While the second head was rarely conscious, it did act independently from the other at times.

When the child laughed or cried, the second head sometimes didn’t match the action. If the first head was asleep, the eyes on the second head darted around as if observing its surroundings. But the heads also acted in unison in some instances.



Ben Kageyama

Truth is stranger than fiction. I write about both. ||