Eaten Alive By Ants
Ant vs Man - Ignore Them At Your Peril
People have been eaten alive by ants. Stories on this topic in old Australian newspapers make for gruesome reading. They make you feel grateful for the advances in communications, medicine, repellents and first aid. However, these advances may have done little to help the victims mentioned in this story.
Victims – People Who Have Been Eaten Alive By Ants
Poor old Michael Harold, an 82-year-old man lived alone in a hut on the Thurgoona property of Mr and Mrs Day. After noticing he wasn’t moving about their property, the Day’s decided to investigate. They found Mr Harold lying unconscious in his hut smothered in ants that were eating their way into his body. The ants had entered his ears, nostrils and mouth and were eating away portions of his body according to the Mudgee Guardian. Mr Harold never regained consciousness and died in Albury Hospital in January of 1903.
A similar incident reported in the same news item occurred in Bordertown (SA) where an old resident, Luke Farrow, was found unconscious in his wheat paddock being eaten by ants.
In January 1926 an elderly man, James Doumont was found in scrub at Gymea Bay, near Cronulla, Sydney. Most of the flesh on his face had been eaten away by soldier ants. (The South Eastern Times, 15 January 1926)
Daniel Henry Barclay aged 65 was found bogged to his neck in a muddy quagmire by his son-in-law in thick scrub off Nottinghill Road, Lidcombe. The poor man had wandered from his home in a delirious state and fell over a 12 ft creek embankment into mud that was like quicksand. His screams for help went unheard and he spent a torturous night with a “horde of mosquitoes on every part of his face” unable to brush them off with his hands which were trapped in the mud. When daylight came “an army of ants” marched in and added to his torture.
“In thousands they climbed about his head, biting him till his features were almost unrecognisable. Barclay was beyond struggling.”
When searchers found him: “The old man gazed at them with eyes in which terror was written. He clutched at his son-in-law’s arm. ‘Thank God you came!’ he moaned. Barclay died an hour after he was rescued. A death described as “merciful”. (Evening News, 10 February 1930)
Much earlier in 1881 a young boy called Spann, from Ipswich was sent out to bring the cows in. When he hadn’t returned home that night a widespread search was organised. A faint scream was heard in a paddock near the house and the boy’s mother investigated. She found her son with a broken arm and injured spine. His face, arms and hands had been eaten raw by ants who were seen carrying small particles of his skin and flesh back to their nest. Thankfully the newspaper report said the boy was recovering from the ordeal. (The Newcastle Morning Herald & Miners Advocate, Friday 9 December 1881, p2)
Frederick was only a 15 year old boy when he had a heart seizure and died in a paddock near Bendigo. Hungry ants wasted no time eating into the teenager’s flesh. By the time he was found Frederick’s face, arms and neck were badly disfigured.
Baby Robert Sams
This sad case involves baby Robert Maxwell Sams, aged six months, whose body was found decomposed and mutilated by ants in bush near Thornton, NSW on 1 March 1929. The coroner found that his mother Florence Sams wilfully left and abandoned her baby on 26 February 1929 and that she “feloniously and maliciously” murdered him. Florence was committed for trial.
Florence was a single mother who hid her baby from her parents. She paid a woman 10 shillings a week to look after him but couldn’t maintain the payments on her 15 shillings a week income as a domestic servant. She received no financial assistance from the baby boy’s father. When the woman carer returned the baby, Florence was forced to make some quick decisions about his future.
There was talk about putting him in a home but she ended up taking him to her Uncle’s in Hexton. She told police that her Uncle was not at home so she travelled to Thornton by train where a passenger asked what was wrong with her baby. His skin had turned a bluish colour. It was revealed that he had been sick with measles just before he was returned to Florence. In what seems like an act of desperation Florence, when she got off the train, wandered along a country road and sat in the bush for some hours with her baby.
Florence told the court: “I was in poverty and worried when I took the child to Thornton. I thought it was dying. I thought I would be discovered with a dead child. I did not wish to hurt it and had no recollection of what happened in the bush. It was like a dream. I did not want my child to die. I wanted it in a good home. I am sure it was dying.”
Unfortunately for Florence her baby was very much alive. When his body was found by a local farmer about a week later it was covered in and partly eaten by ants. Police said evidence indicated the baby was alive when Florence left him. A bootie was off his left foot and marks on the ground suggested the baby had been struggling.
During her court appearance Florence was supported by her mother who said her daughter had a kind disposition and was fond of children. Poor Florence, if only she had confided with her mother about her baby.
Florence was acquitted of murder. It took the jury an hour and a half to return a verdict of “not guilty”. The crowd in the court room clapped as the “not guilty” verdict was announced and someone shouted out “hear, hear”. A comprehensive account of the Thornton Tragedy can be read here.