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The Morbidly Fascinating Page

In this month's Morbidly Fascinating Page:

Circus Sideshow Performers of the late 19th and early 20th Century

IN THE ARCHIVES:

Early Ghost Photography
Accidental Victim Photos
Head Dents
Ghosts of Alcatraz
Fox Mulder
X-Rays
Werewolf Syndrome
Jack the Ripper's Victims

Below are some of the circus "Freaks" that were photographed circa late 1800s to early 1900s

Jo Jo

Jo Jo the Dog-Faced Boy (Fedor Adrianovich Jeftichew): 1868 - January 31, 1904. Werewolf Syndrome (Hypertrichosis, see more HERE).

myrtle corbin

Myrtle Corbin: May 12, 1868 - May 6, 1928. Dypygus (Two separate pelvises side by side from the waist down, as a result of her body axis splitting as it developed. Each of her smaller inner legs was paired with one of her outer legs. After retirement, Ms. Corbin married and went on to have children).

mignon

Ruth Mignon: 1910 - approx. 1960. Phocomelia (the stunting of limbs and the fusion of digits).

midgets

Midgets, including General Tom Thumb on the left: January 4, 1838 – July 15, 1883. ("Midget" refers to a person who is very short, usually under 58 inches, but normally proportioned. The term midget is now rarely used and is considered offensive. "Dwarf" refers to a person with one of several varieties of a specific genetic condition called dwarfism. A dwarf has disproportion of body parts.)

annieannie

Annie Jones, the Bearded Lady: July 14, 1865 – October 22, 1902. Hypertrichosis (Werewolf Syndrome).

male

Unknown person: Circa 1900, said to be 20 years old at the time of this photo. Possible Multiple Enchondroma (A type of benign bone tumor that originates from cartilage).

prince1

prince 2

Prince Randian: October 12, 1871 – December 19, 1934. Tetra-Amelia Syndrome (An extremely rare autosomal recessive congenital disorder characterized by the absence of all four limbs. The disorder is caused by mutations in the WNT3 gene).

fanny

Fanny Mills: August 30, 1860 - 1899. Milroy's Disease (Some believe she had Elephantitus, which is caused by a parasitic worm. Milroy's Disease is more likely, caused by congenital abnormalities in the lypmpatic system. Disruption of the normal drainage of lymph leads to fluid accumulation and hypertrophy of soft tissues).

Schlitzie

Schlitzie (Simon Metz): September 10, 1901 - September 24, 1971. Made famous by the 1932 Todd Browning film "Freaks." Microcephaly (A neurodevelopmental disorder that left him wth an unusually small brain and skull, intellectual disability, small stature [approx. four feet tall], and myopia. In modern times, cases of Microcephaly have been caused by the Zika virus).

3 2 1

Franciesco Lentini: Possibly July 1884 - September 22, 1966. Parasitic Twin (The twin was attached to Lentini's body at the base of his spine and consisted of a pelvis bone, with a rudimentary set of male genitalia and a full-sized leg extending from the right side of Lentini's hip, with a small foot protruding from its knee).

1 2

Isaac W. Sprague: May 21, 1841 - January 5, 1887. Duchenne-Aran Muscular Atrophy (Also known as Extreme Progressive Muscular Atrophy, is a rare subtype of motor neuron disease [MND] that affects only the lower motor neurons, unlike Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis [ALS, aka Lou Gehrig's Disease] which affects both upper and lower motor neurons.)

chang

Chang and Eng Bunker: May 11, 1811 – January 17, 1874. Conjoined Twins (also known as Siamese Twins since they were born in then-Siam, which is today's Thailand. They are the originators of the term "Siamese Twins," which has been used to describe other conjoined twins since).

ella

ella

Ella Harper, the Camel Girl: January 1870 – December 19, 1921. Congenital Genru Recurvatum (A very rare orthopedic condition that caused her knees to bend backwards. Her preference to walk on all fours resulted in her nickname "Camel Girl").

freaks

Who took professional photos of circus Sideshow Performers? Learn about Chas Eisenmann and see his photos HERE

Find out details of the 36 most popular curiousities HERE

To see the Werewolf Syndrome, go HERE

The circus sideshows of the late 1800s and early 1900s

Sideshow Performers (Freak Shows, named because they were, at that time, considered to be "freaks of nature") were popular in the United States from around 1840 to the 1970's, and were often associated with circuses and carnivals. They were called "Freaks" because at the time, they were considered to be "freaks of nature."

Some shows also exhibited deformed animals (such as two-headed cows, one-eyed pigs, and four-horned goats) and famous hoaxes, or simply "nature gone wrong" exhibits (such as deformed babies).

Changes in popular culture and entertainment led to the decline of the Freak Show as a form entertainment. As previously mysterious anomalies were scientifically explained as genetic mutations or diseases, Freaks became the objects of sympathy rather than fear or disdain.

Today, many retired circus human oddties live in Gibsonton Florida HERE

Why did Sideshow Performers agree to display themselves?

"Freak Shows" were, at their core, a way to make money. As people paid for the privilege to enter the freak show, they were lining the pockets of the show's promoters and, to a lesser extent, the participants themselves. In fact, Freak Shows offered performers a way to earn a living that otherwise wasn't available to them.

At the height of their popularity in the mid-19th century and early 20th century, freak show performers were superstars. They'd reached celebrity status and were compensated accordingly, often earning thousands of dollars each week. This was during a time in history before equal opportunity, and before employment was offered to people considered "different."

Many circus performers could not find work elsewhere, and these were the days before any social security or other financial safety nets, so in many cases, they either had to join the circus or starve on the streets.

Freak Shows started declining in the 1930s as people began seeing them as exploitative and lacking in dignity for the performers. Doctors also began to diagnose and treat some of the diseases that had caused the deformities. The final nail in the coffin was the rise of television.

See more HERE

Other types of Circus Performers (Self-made, not born)

Blockheads

A human blockhead is a performer who hammers a nail or other implement (such as an awl or screwdriver) into his or her nasal cavity via the nostril. The stunt is often shocking to audiences, who believe that the nail is being hammered into the skull itself. In reality, the stunt plays on the anatomical misconception that the nasal cavity goes upward, rather than straight back. The performer merely learns the terrain of the nasal cavity and lessens his or her sensitivity (and urge to sneeze) until the implement can be slid straight back through the nasal cavity until it hits the back of the throat. 

Geeks

A typical geek show in the mid nineteenth century would have a person on stage biting the head off of an animal and drinking its blood. Chickens were the main animals used.

Tattooed

Through the 1800s no circus was complete without its stunning full-body tattooed men and women.