Claim: A girl goes insane after a medical student slips a cadaver's arm into her bed as a practical joke.
This story took place in a hospital which was quite near Bowell, and concerned a nurse, called Jane in the story. For some reason Jane was unable to get along with the other nurses in the hospital, and was constantly quarrelling with people. They purposely did things to annoy her because they felt she deserved it. One night after Jane had been particularly trying, they decided to do something particularly unpleasant. One of the nurses on surgery duty agreed to bring an arm which had been amputated that day to Jane's room and slip it in her bed after she was asleep. They knew this would frighten her, but they thought perhaps it might force her to be more agreeable in the future.
The arm was carefully and quietly put in the bed and Jane did not wake up. The next morning she did not appear, and no sound came from her room. The nurses, thinking she might be sick, went to investigate. They opened the door slowly and saw Jane sitting on the bed. Her hair, which had been black, was now completely white, and she was gnawing on the arm, making low gurgling noises all the while.
A group of medical students were bored and so they tried to think of ways of livening things up. Eventually one had the idea of "borrowing" a human foot from the dissecting laboratory and putting it in his girlfriend's bed as a joke. She was also a medical student staying at the same hall of residence. The students "obtained" a human foot, went up to the girl's room and put it in her bed. They thought it would be fun to hear her reactions so they hid round the corner and waited for her to come home.
The student who had the key realised that he had left it in the door. However, before he could remove it the girl arrived back and, not thinking, unlocked the door with the key that was in the lock, took it in with her and locked the door on the other side.
A few moments later they heard her screaming and crying out. They ran to the door and tried to open it but it was locked. They shouted to her that it was alright but she continued screaming hysterically. At this point they decided to break down the door. However, it took them a while and they were relieved when the screaming subsided.
Finally, when they broke in and turned on the lights, they were horrified at what they found. The girl was sitting in the corner of the room with a glazed expression on her face eating the human foot. The practical joke had backfired and they had driven her mad.
[Collected on the Internet, 1999]
A medical student had secretly kept a arm of a corpse. He had taken it and put it secretly in his girlfriend's room. He and his roommate waited anxiously in another girl's room for the scream of horror from the soon returning girl.
A half hour passed and nothing happened. So the two roomies went into the girlfriends room . . .
There they found her on top of the cupboard actually eating the arm!
- Although the victim is usually female, how she comes to be in the story varies. Usually she's a nurse (in which case the tale is set in a nurses' residence), a medical student or resident, or the girlfriend of a medical student.
- In an overwhelming number of tellings, the victim is portrayed as somehow deserving of the ill-treatment directed her way. She'll be described as an arrogant snob, a loner, a grind, a braggart, or a snoop.
- The arm (sometimes foot) is most often left in the girl's bed, although some versions have it left swinging from the light cord or placed in a dresser drawer.
- Invariably the practical joke goes horribly wrong, and the victim is discovered chewing on the arm. Some versions have the shock of the experience turning her hair white.
The "cadaver arm" stands apart from all other body-parts-used-in-a-prank stories because of the victim's reaction (madness) and the
There are numerous "cadaver parts and medical students" legends in existence, with the typical plot of them being a corpse or its parts are shanghaied by a medical student (possibly with the help of his buddies) and used to scare the bejeezus out of people. Undoubtedly, some of these stories are true and the events as described did indeed happen at least a couple of times. However, it should be pointed out that most of these stories have long since passed into the realm of lore, with each new class of medical students being told this prank or that was played out right in this very medical school just last term. Some of the more common of these tales are:
- A group of medical students makes off with a corpse's hand, carries it to a bus stop, boards a bus, and extends the hand with the fare in it to the driver.
- A cadaver arm with a quarter in its upturned palm is extended to the toll taker at a booth a carload of medical students is stopped at. The unsuspecting toll taker is left holding the arm as well as the coin.
- A medical student drops a stolen hand into an unsuspecting woman's shopping bag.
- A student stands at a urinal seemingly taking a whiz. When another man comes to stand beside him, the student rips off 'his' penis and flings it into the bowl, announcing, "It never did work anyway" before marching off.
- Medical students shake hands through a train window, leaving one holding the arm of the other, to the horror of the porters and everyone else on the platform.
- A severed head wired for sound makes personal comments whenever someone walks into the dissection lab.
- A cadaver is rigged with electrodes which cause it to jump and start whenever the light switch is flicked on, as the janitor discovers that night.
There's also an element of "whistling through the graveyard" in that fellow medical students are expected to laugh at these stories as a way of showing they are not now afraid of going hands on with mortality even if they're still quaking in their boots inwardly at the thought of touching the dead. The ability to find humor in the macabre is a way of (superficially at least) proving oneself tough enough to last in the medical profession. Failure to laugh at these stories is to risk being seen as a wimp by the rest of the group. Note that the same story told to outsiders is expected to prompt reactions of shock and disgust, further defining the difference between being a member of "us" and being one of "them."
Barbara "feint of heart" Mikkelson
Sightings: This legend appears in the 1972 M.E. Keer novel Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!
Last updated: 23 July 2014
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Also told in:
Holt, David and Bill Mooney. Spiders in the Hairdo. Little Rock: August House, 1999. ISBN 0-87483-525-9 (pp. 44-45). Schwartz, Alvin. More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. New York: HarperCollins, 1984. ISBN 0-397-32081-7 (pp. 56-57). The Big Book of Urban Legends. New York: Paradox Press, 1994. ISBN 1-56389-165-4 (p. 210).