Madpierre. Merriam Webster defines madstone as “a stony concretion, such as a ball of hair taken from the stomach of a deer that was once used in folklore and by some physicians to counter the poisonous effect of a deer bite. ‘animal affected by rabies’. People who believed in the healing powers of crazy stones believed that the most powerful stones came from the stomachs of deer, especially white deer.
There were specific rules or superstitions to follow when using a crazy stone. First, the madstones were never bought or sold; the aggrieved party had to go to the person with the crazy stone and there was never a charge for the service. Before using the crazy stone, it had to be boiled in sweet milk and then applied to the wound. The stone would adhere to the wound and begin to suck in the poison. After the stone had fallen off, it was boiled again in sweetened milk until the milk turned green, then reapplied to the wound. This process was repeated until the stone no longer adhered to the wound. When the stone no longer adhered to the wound, it was believed that all the poison had been removed.
Major Thomas M. Murphree, a former tax assessor and one of the most prominent citizens and Confederate veterans in this section had a crazy stone. According to a notice in the Troy Messenger of March 10, 1892, “Mr. Thomas M. Murphree now possesses a crazy stone given to him by a man in southern Alabama. It is a consolation for people who have confidence in them.
In the Troy Messenger of May 10, 1899, “WT Fields, of Sprague Junction, brought his little son to this town last Sunday evening to be attended to by Thos. Mr. Murphree with his mad stone. This little boy was bitten in two or three places in the forearm by a rabid dog last Saturday. Mr Murphree took charge of the little fellow and began to do a wound application which lasted three days and three nights, when Mr Murphree said the job was done.
In the Troy Messenger of May 21, 1902, “Milton Whaley, one of Pike’s most prominent planters, was bitten by a snake on Wednesday. The place began to swell, so Mr. Whaley, although still a sturdy man, took a quantity of ‘snakebite’ to make up for the poison, then hurried to secure the services of Mr. Thomas Murphree. The wound required two applications of the madman’s stone before all the virus was extracted. Mr Murphree says that the virus extracted from the bite of a snake is different from that extracted from the bite of a dog or any other animal.
Madstone… myth or medicine? You are the judge.
All of these articles can be found in previous editions of The Troy Messenger. Stay tuned for more. Dianne Smith is president of the Pike County Historical, Genealogical and Preservation Society.