In the past, "sideshow freaks" were popular entertainment in circuses, carnivals, and fairs. For years, deformations, genetic mutations, and rare diseases were the main attractions at the famous "sideshow freak circuses."
A sideshow freak circus is an exhibition of biological anomalies where physically unusual humans were exhibited. The performances were expected to be shocking to viewers of the time.
Many of those who appeared in those shows were simple frauds or individuals with common distinctions in our environment today. They were women with many tattoos, people pierced all over their bodies, people with extravagant hobbies... Yet, others were really unique and would have surprised the current public as well.
These are the ten most outstanding "sideshow freaks":
1. Grady Stiles, The Lobster Boy
Grady was part of the sixth generation of the Stiles family to be born with ectrodactyly. That is an inherited condition in which the hands and feet assume a shape reminiscent of lobster claws. His father was also part of the sideshow freaks circus, so he started acting at a very young age under the pseudonym "lobster boy."
As an adult, Stiles became an alcoholic. And the night of his eldest daughter's wedding in 1978, Grady shot and killed her future husband. He subsequently confessed and was convicted of third-degree murder.
In 1992, his wife and son from a previous marriage hired another sideshow freak artist to kill him. He was shot three times in the back of the head while watching television in his trailer, which was his end.
2. Charles Sherwood Stratton, General Tom Thumb
Charles Sherwood Stratton was born in 1938, and he stopped growing when he was just six months old. In 1947 he began to grow again, but slowly.
As a sideshow freak, he began touring with PT Barnum's circus company at the age of 5. With them, he achieved fame and fortune that allowed him to become Barnum's partner.
Tom Thumb died of a stroke in 1883 at the age of 45. Six months earlier, he had escaped a catastrophic fire that killed 71 people. At the time of his death, he was only 102 centimeters tall.
3. Lady Myrtle Corbin, The Girl With 4 Legs
Myrtle Corbin, known as the girl with four legs from Texas, USA, had dipygus. This means that she was born with a severe congenital deformity and had two pelvises and two smaller legs in the middle. Because of her condition, she was unable to move.
When she was just a month old, her father began showing her off to curious neighbors for a dime. Eventually, she caught the eye of one of America's most famous circus performers, PT Barnum. She began performing as a sideshow freak in her circus at 13. In addition, she participated in other famous circuses such as Ringling Bros and Coney Island.
At 18, she had enough money to retire. She married and had five children.
4. Wang, The Human Unicorn
The so-called human unicorn never actually participated in a sideshow freak circus. In 1930, he was discovered by a banker in Manchuria, China, who took a photo of the 12-inch horn growing from the back of its head.
The photo was sent to Robert Ripley of Believe It Or Not, and he offered to pay Wang to have it displayed in his room of curiosities. However, nothing more was known about this man.
5. Lionel, The Man With The Face Of A Lion
Cristian Ramos was born in Poland in 1891, covered in long, thick hair, thanks to a rare condition called hypertrichosis.
His mother believed that his appearance was because, during her pregnancy, she saw her father being mutilated by a lion. He was considered an aberration by his family, who handed him over to a man named Sedlmayer when he was only 4.
From that moment, he began to be exhibited throughout Europe as a sideshow freak.
Lionel went to the US in 1901 and began performing with major circuses. He retired in 1920 and went to Germany, where he died of a heart attack in 1932.
6. Isaac Sprague, The Living Skeleton
Isaac W. Sprague was born in 1841. His childhood was completely normal until he inexplicably started losing weight at age 12.
He joined a circus in 1865 under the name "the living skeleton." He also worked with PT Barnum and died of asphyxiation in 1887, weighing only 40 pounds.
7. Ella Harper, The Camel Girl
Ella Harper was born in 1873 with a congenital condition called genu recurvatum, which caused her knees to be completely backward. Faced with this deformity, she preferred to walk with her hands and legs on the ground, so she received the nickname "the camel girl."
She performed as part of a sideshow freak fair in 1886, but there is no information about what she did afterward.
8. Chang And Eng
Chang and Eng Bunker were conjoined twins born in 1811. A small piece of cartilage held them together through the sternum, and they had two livers fused into one. Their condition and Siam, the location of their birth, gave rise to the term "Siamese."
In 1829, they began to travel the world as sideshow freaks with a man named Robert Hunter. Later, they ended that relationship and continued with the business independently.
At some point, they settled on a plantation in North Carolina, USA, where they married sisters Adelaide and Sarah Anne Yates. Between the two of them, they had 21 children.
In 1874, Eng woke up to find that Chang had died. A doctor was called in for emergency surgery, but it was too late. Eng died just 3 hours later.
Chang and Eng's liver is still preserved and on display in a museum in Philadelphia.
9. Schlitzie, The Pinhead
Schlitzie is believed to have been born in New York, USA, in 1901, with a condition called microencephaly. It caused him to have a much smaller than average skull and, therefore, the brain. This caused severe mental retardation.
Schlitzie appeared in many sideshow freak shows, beginning his film career with The Sideshow in 1928 and Freaks in 1932. He died in 1971 at the age of 70.
10. Prince Randian, The Human Caterpillar
Prince Randian was born without limbs. Randian showed in his performances how he shaved with a razor fixed to a wooden pole, how he wrote or painted, how he rolled and lit cigarettes with the only help of his mouth and the muscles of his face.
He was pretty efficient at moving quickly from one place to another, moving his hips and shoulders in a snakelike motion.