Human craziness takes the oddest forms. Years ago I was approached by a female second-year medical student with the question ‘whether I as a urologist could get hold of a human testicle for her?’ She was so beau­tiful I was too flabbergasted to give the only correct response, namely: ‘Are you out of your mind?’ With a sophisticated grin she told me that her father saved testicles. . . Still under her spell, I replied that every­thing that urologists and other surgical specialists saw fit to remove from a human being was always sent to the pathologist, who had the last word, especially important if we were dealing with an unpleasant disease. Anyway, the pathologist always decides, though in very many cases when it is too late for the patient! Years later I came across the same beautiful student as a doctor – you guessed: as a trainee urologist! One day I decided to use her as an intermediary to see her father, the testicle collector, and his collection. I didn’t dare go without her accom­panying me, as I kept getting flashes of The Silence of the Lambs.

The man I met had a grey beard fringing his face and spoke with a slight Amsterdam accent. He lived opposite a cemetery, and told me that it was full, but that a new one had been built just outside the village. He had once studied mathematics and had gained his doctor­ate in medicine with a thesis on cranial measurements in growing children. He told his story.

It had all begun with two tiger testicles from a well-known wild animal refuge. One spring day in a cafe the decision had been taken: he was going to start a testicle collection, with tiger balls as the founda­tion. The two tiger testicles had been removed by a famous vet, and were now on display in a village to the north of Groningen, together with the testicles of, for example, bulls, monkeys, stallions, hippo­potami, sea lions, polar bears, cocks, camels, walruses, panthers, guinea pigs, llamas, tomcats, rats, water voles, and others too numerous to mention.

Only after long and persistent questioning did it emerge that there was a kind of testicle mafia behind his operations: doctors attached to well-known zoos, local pig castrators, vets from surrounding villages, a farmer from the village itself, a chicken keeper who still knew how to make capons, a globetrotter who went off to Egypt to castrate camels, and his enchanting daughter.

In the presence of his future son-in-law the testicle collector, who in my eyes was becoming increasingly reminiscent of Anthony Hopkins, informed me that he wasn’t ruling out the possibility that at least one testicle of his future son-in-law would find its way into the collection. After a glass of wine I hastily beat a retreat.

Once she started training as a urologist the testicle collector’s daughter also turned out to be slightly mentally disturbed: together with a young, friendly, red-haired fellow trainee she had the nerve to clean a dog’s penis she had been given by a friendly vet – that is to remove all the flesh with a spanking new operating set in a sterile operating theatre, leaving nothing but the penis bone, which was what she was after. The whole mess cost a fortune, since the instruments could never now be used for operations on human beings. To my great surprise she was allowed to continue training as a urologist. Probably her fairly gullible red-haired colleague had taken all the blame on herself.