A mainstream method of rescucitating the “apparently dead”, especially drowning victims, in the 18th century was to literally blow smoke up their ass. Whereas today we use defibrilators and blowing non-poisonous gases like air into people’s lungs, doctors in the 18th and 19th century had different ideas about how to help the dead be less dead.

The procedure was originally carried out using a tobacco smoke enema device which consisted of a pig’s bladder, a tobacco pipe, and a nozzle.  Those who did not have access to this medical device would resort to using a basic smoking pipe loaded with tobacco, meaning that their noses would be extremely close to a dead rectum. That must have been fun!


Drawing of an early tobacco smoke enema device, 1773. Author: Alexander Johnson

Tobacco smoke enemas were mostly used to resuscitate drowning victims, which led to tobacco smoke resuscitation devices being located at various points along rivers and coasts.  Tobacco smoke was forced into the rectum of the victim through a tube which was connected to a fumigator and a set of bellows. It would be forced into the patient’s rectum when the bellows were compressed. The reasoning behind this was that the smoke was supposed to warm the victim and dry out the person’s insides, removing excessive moisture. This totally makes sense. Just imagine how many more lives Mitch Buchannon could have saved if he had this ingenious device.

Source: naturespoisons.com

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