Eye eye

Regarding the column about whether eyeballs can be knocked out of the head, I just thought I’d share this (probably apocryphal) story.

It’s France, 1794, and things are not going quite as planned for Robespierre and his chums. They’re barricaded inside the town hall, while a howling mob is outside, trying to storm the place. Eventually the mob break in, and Hanriot, the commander of the National Guard, tries to escape by jumping through a closed window.

Unfortunately for him, this is the real world, not Hollywood, and he suffers terrible injuries including two broken legs from the fall, as well as on eye which is hanging down onto his cheek, suspended by a badly damaged optic nerve.

Next morning, Hanriot is loaded onto the tumbril to be taken to the guillotine with everyone else, still with his eye hanging out. And, according to one source, someoe rushed forward out of the crowds that were lining the route, snatched away Hanriot’s eye, and ran away with it as a souvenir.

The alleged incident is reported by Christopher Hibbert, who isn’t always the most reliable of sources, and most reputable historians ignore it. Then again, would you rather have a reputable source, or one who makes history fun?


Like Cecil, I don’t know about a football player getting an eye dislodged during a game but it has happened in baseball. Minor league pitcher Bobby Slaybaugh was throwing batting practice to a player named Jim Dickey, who hit a line drive back through the box. Slaybaugh tried to block the drive with his glove but the ball deflected into his face, cracking his left cheekbone and forced the eye partially out of the socket.

Slaybaugh eventually lost the eye but recovered enough to return to the mound later the same year and continued to pitch for two more seasons.

Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was in a plane crash in 1941. His left eye was blown out of it’s socket.

Took a while, but he recovered the sight in that eye.


I vividly recall reading Sammy Davis Jr.'s autobiography (I think it was called “Yes I Can”, but I read it 30 years ago) in which he described the accident where he lost his eye. He recalled a police officer coming up to him and telling him “We’d better get you to the hospital”, and Mr. Davis waved him off. Then he felt something brushing his cheek, reached up and felt his eye hanging by the optic nerve. He said he tried to stuff it back in. Of course, the eye was lost in this case.

I have a hard time believing the optic nerve has enough slack to let a disengaged eye dangle.
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