Allotriophagy is the vomiting or disgorgement of strange or foul objects, usually associated with someone possessed by or obsessed with the Devil or other Demons (see Possession). Such actions also once were seen as illusions or spells caused by witches or as attempts at suicide by the mentally deranged. most treatises on possession written during the renaissance and later included the vomiting of unusual objects as an indication that the Devil had entered a person’s body. The objects vomited by the victim could be anything from live animals, such as toads, snakes, worms or butterflies, to pieces of iron, nails, small files, pins, needles, feathers, stones, cloth, shards of glass, hair, seaweed or foam.
Simon Goulart, a 15th-century historian, tells of a young girl whose abdomen continually swelled as if she were pregnant. Upon receiving drugs, the girl began vomiting a huge mass of hair, food, wax, long iron nails and brass needles. In another account, Goulart says a man named William, succumbing to the fervent prayers of his master’s wife, Judith, began vomiting the entire front part of a pair of shepherd’s trousers, a serge jacket, stones, a woman’s peruke (hairpiece), spools of thread, needles and a peacock feather. William claimed that the Devil had placed the items in his throat.
Finally, Goulart relates the case of 30 children in Amsterdam in 1566 who became frenzied, vomiting pins, needles, thimbles, bits of cloth and pieces of broken jugs and glass. Efforts by doctors, exorcists and sorcerers had no effect, and the children suffered recurrent attacks.