Worm to blame
Lynch’s amazing appetite, it would eventually be discovered, was the product of an equally impressive tapeworm.
Tapeworms live in the digestive tract, and in the early 20th century were a fairly common affliction because refrigeration was not widespread. A segment of a worm buried in some putrid fish or meat is all it took to introduce the parasite into the human body, where it would grow to some pretty amazing lengths.
In the case of Jumbo Lynch, the worm that was removed from him at Marine Hospital in Chicago has been described as being anywhere from 4 to 30 feet in length. The previously mentioned Gordon Hagadone told Boyer that he saw the creature in a jar of alcohol and “as I remember it, it was darned near 30 feet.”
With the parasite removed, much of Jumbo’s appetite, weight and vigor disappeared. Eventually, so did Jumbo. He just seemed to vanish from the familiar haunts like the hobo village at Kelsey’s Run. It was the end of an era.
No one knows where Jumbo Lynch died or was buried, but most likely it is in some potter’s field, for he evidently had no home but the lakes, no family but other sailors, and no love other than food.