Blow Your Mind: In the Lair of the Rat King

A favorite tangled rat tale of mine...
A favorite tangled rat tale of mine...
Leonard Shoup Books

The furniture is chewed and the cupboard raided of every last crumb. Feces litters the house and very walls seem alive with the clawed scurry of diseased rodents. You've evacuated the the children, grandmama and the family dog.

Even now they seek refuge at the church, as you drive your axe into the floor and pull back splintered boards. As you cast your flickering lantern light down on the horror that squirms beneath your home: a dozen worm-like tails knotted in blood and excrement, gleaming mad eyes and the hideous shriek of the Rattenkönig.

In medieval Germany it was a dire omen of plague-ridden doom. Today, it remains more of a grotesque cultural reference and cryptozoological oddity. Yes, in this episode of Stuff to Blow Your Mind, Julie and I enter the lair of the rat king, that fabled, vile mass of tail-tangled rodents. Is there any truth to the legends? Prepare to be shocked by the reality of microbial rat kings and museum horrors.

STBYM: In the Lair of the Rat King [audio]

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Image source: Leonard Shoup Books

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About the Author: Robert Lamb spent his childhood reading books and staring into the woods — first in Newfoundland, Canada and then in rural Tennessee. There was also a long stretch in which he was terrified of alien abduction. He earned a degree in creative writing. He taught high school and then attended journalism school. He wrote for the smallest of small-town newspapers before finally becoming a full-time science writer and podcaster. He’s currently a senior writer at HowStuffWorks and has co-hosted the science podcast Stuff to Blow Your Mind since its inception in 2010. In his spare time, he enjoys traveling with his wife Bonnie, discussing dinosaurs with his son Bastian and crafting the occasional work of fiction.