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‘Nepalese Nose-Leech’ hits the Beeb

Health: via Forteana, BBC: Invasion of the Bodysnatchers. It seems the Beeb is producing a new TV series about parasites, and the PR blitz starts here (and also in The Sun).

Interestingly, halfway through the BBC article, there’s this:

Soon after travel writer, Broughton Coburn, returned from Nepal he began to experience regular, inexplicable nosebleeds. They continued for three weeks until an embarrassing encounter in a teashop made him realise that something was seriously wrong.

As he was being served, the waiter took one look at him and fled in horror. Broughton chased him down the street urging him to tell him what was wrong. But the boy would only point, wordlessly, at his nose.

Broughton returned home and sat in trepidation in front of a mirror. His patience was rewarded when a brown worm-like creature emerged from his right nostril and looked around.

‘I swear it had two beady eyes on it. And it came out two or three inches, looked around and then retracted. I thought it was a dream, a vision of some sort.’

In shock, Broughton rushed off to his doctor who tried to remove the mysterious creature. But it wasn’t going to give up its home easily.

‘He had this thing pulled out eight or ten inches and I’m looking at it cross-eyed down the end of my nose, and he’s looking at it, he has a look of absolute horror on his face. And the thing came off. And there was this leech.’

This is the same story (modulo minor differences) as this oft-posted story, ‘A True Story from the Himalayas’, which is captioned

This is a supposedly true story I received from an associate. I have no additional evidence as to its veracity but it makes a good tale. — Editor’.

No better way to announce an urban legend!

So is the Beeb printing a UL? Or did an author called Broughton Coburn really pick up a nose-leech in Nepal shortly after arriving with the Peace Corps, and before becoming a successful travel writer? It could be, I suppose…

Update: it’s looking more and more likely, given:

This Hong Kong Medical Journal report on the removal of a large leech from a woman’s nose:

The woman said that one month before her symptoms developed, she swam and washed her face in a stream while hiking. Doctors checked other members of her hiking group and found another leech in the nose of a man who washed his face in the stream, the journal said.

And this NY Times interview with a leech researcher, who notes:

“There are all sorts of things out there like Dinobdella ferox, which means the terrifying and ferocious leech,” Dr. Siddall said. “It lives in eastern Bengal, and it will literally crawl up your nose and lodge in the back of your throat.”

Back to the Broughton Coburn account. An Amazon reviewer comment notes that this story appeared in Travelers’ Tales Nepal, a book by Rajenda S. Khadka. In addition, Broughton Coburn has a website nowadays, so someone could always ask! Finally, this copy of the full account has some more research.

While on the subject of Nepal, here’s an incredible cautionary tale — don’t do the non-tourist treks in Nepal without a guide, if you value your life:

A wall of furiously churning brown water was racing toward us. Behind it the lodge by the river where we had lunch an hour earlier was disintegrating. The water level had increased another ten feet and was annihilating everything in its path.

yikes. Lots more great travel stories, including almost swimming in shit, diarrhoea in a west African minefield, and strangling muggers in Peru on that site, BTW. And he can write!

Ireland: Knick Knack Paddy Hack — ‘Paul Clerkin and Mick Cunningham explain how their crazy-ass website suckered the (Irish) media.’

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