In the modern day, circuses are often a collection of acrobats, performers and special effects that make for a pretty amazing show. However, back in the day, the circus had a much different look and was a much different place. It largely consisted of freak-show performers that would draw crowds due to their unique bodies or talents. While these people were talented, they were usually mistreated and the circus was not a very good place for them to be.
Today, we will be looking at 12 of the strangest sideshow performers throughout history. Number 1 literally isn’t even human.
#12 Alice E. Doherty
Seeing a woman with a small amount of facial hair isn’t that big a deal, but you’ve never seen anything like this. Alice E. Doherty was born with an outstanding amount of facial hair which garnered her the nickname of the Minnesota Woolly Girl. She is the only recorded American to be born with hypertrichosis lanuginosa.
#11 Mirin Dajo
While most people don’t even do well with a single needle for a vaccine or other shot, this man wouldn’t even bat an eye at this. Mirin Dajo was known as the human pincushion and could stick pins and other sharp objects through large portions of his skin. The next entry inspired characters on FX’s “American Horror Story.”
#10 Pip and Flip
These two were billed as “pinheads,” starred in the 1932 film “Freaks” and inspired characters in the popular FX show, “American Horror Story.” These sisters were born with a disease called microcephaly, which results in the head and brain not fully growing, while the face still grows at a normal rate.
#9 Myrtle Corbin
These days, if a baby is born with an extra limb, it might end up being a pretty quick plastic surgery fix (assuming it’s not attached to anything super important). But back then, an extra arm or leg earned you a spot in freak shows. Corbin was born with four legs, and was actually able to move her two middle legs, but they were not strong enough to walk on.
#8 Robert Huddleston
While his name is Robert Huddleston, this man was best known as Pony Boy. He was given this name for the extremely strange way he was able to posture himself. He has a disorder that prevented him from standing erect, which meant he spent almost all his life on all fours. The next slide explains the origin of the term “Siamese Twins.”
#7 Chang and Eng Bunker
There is a good chance that you have heard the term “Siamese Twins,” which was actually created for Chang and Eng Bunker. These conjoined twins were Thai-American brothers and lived for over 60 years, which is fairly rare for conjoined twins of the time. As a result, they became very famous as very few people had seen anything like them back in the 1800s.
#6 Unzie the Albino
Unzie was born in New Zealand and was snatched up at a young age for being an Albino aboriginal. He would travel with the Barnum and Bailey circus and his dapper looks along with a massive and fine afro, were enough for people to stop and take a look, as very few people have ever looked like him.
#5 Isaac W. Sprague
The picture for this man may be quite shocking, as he was known as the human living skeleton. We all know skinny people, but few (if any) are even close to as thin as this man. While he began his life normally, he began to drastically lose weight at the age of 12, which continued for years. By the age of 44, he only weighed 43 pounds, and died two years later.
#4 Joseph Merrick
This man has a face unlike almost anyone else on the planet and as a result, became a famous sideshow performer. From a young age, his skin began to develop abnormally, and was very thick and lumpy. This included his face, body and limbs. The next entry once found herself in the Guinness Book of World Records.
#3 Lucia Zarate
Once upon a time, this woman was the smallest woman on the planet. She had reached her full growth and size by the age of one, and weighed only 4.7 pounds by the age of 17. She was also measured at 20 inches tall. This small stature got her in the record books and made her a popular circus performer.
#2 Eli Bowen
This man was a sideshow performer who had the name of the “Legless Wonder”. Due to a very rare birth defect, Bowen’s feet began to grow at his hips, and he never grew any legs. Eventually, his arms became so strong that he could walk on them, so that along with the shocking look of his body, made him famous.
#1 Mike the Headless Chicken
This is the only non-human on the list, but definitely deserves a spot. Mike was a chicken that had his head cut off, but then went on to live for an astonishing 18 months after the fact. He was fed through an eyedropper, and many thought this was a hoax, but it was later proven to be legitimate.
There you have it. 12 of the absolute strangest sideshow performers in history. These performers wowed, shocked and scared thousands of people throughout their careers. While they got some fame and notoriety of out the deal, there is no doubt that they were exploited by the circus for their diseases, disorders and other unique qualities. They also weren’t treated the best, which is why circuses now do not have freak shows anymore. Instead, they rely on the talent and skills of various other types of performers to put on a great show for millions of people all across the world.