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The Grossest Thing Ever: The Rat King

Ratking

What’s grosser than a dead rat? How about 32 dead rats who were trapped by their own entangled tails and the dried filth they live in? I mean, yuck. This particular preserved specimen, of what are called “Rat Kings”, is on display in a museum in Alterburg Germany, and it dates back to 1828. Sadly, it’s not the only example of this now-rare find.

Once more common when the Black Rat controlled the alleys and sewers of Europe, the dominance of the Brown Rat has reduced the amount of finds. I’m not sure if it’s because of shorter tails, less filth, or smarter rats, but all three reasons make me recoil inside in a way best described as “infinite horror”.

Fiction writers have long been fascinated by these disgusting and bizarre rat combinations and have incorporated them into their works. The rat kings have popped up all over the place including being in Terry Prachett books, Alan Moore comics, the last book in The Spiderwick Chronicles, Lars Von Trier’s movie Epidemic, and even in a novelization spin-off of the popular British show “Luther”.

Unsurprisingly, finds of Rat Kings were historically viewed as a bad omen, and I’d imagine even now one would have to at the very least conclude that their bad luck involves a crucial vermin infestation. Very few have actually been found; the number is estimated at being between 35-50 total, but if you’re visiting German museums in Hamburg, Gottingen, Stuttgart or Hamelin, or if you find yourself being touristy in Tartu Estonia, you can catch a glimpse of one of these rare finds. Lucky you.

 

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