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From the amazing conjoined twins Chang and Eng to the incredible three-eyed man these real life circus freaks will shock you.
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6.Chang and Eng Bunker
Should this take up two spots on the list or one? Chang and Eng Bunker were born conjoined in 1811 and they are the origin of the term “siamese twins.” They began touring the world as a curiosity act in 1829. Doing well for themselves they eventually settled down on a plantation in North Carolina and married sisters with which they had a total of 21 children. One morning in 1874 Eng woke up to find Cheng had died in his sleep. A doctor was summoned to try to perform an emergency separation to save Eng’s life, but it did not work and Eng also passed away.
5.Prince Randian- The Living Torso
The child of British Indian slaves, Prince Randian was born in 1871 without arms or legs. P.T. Barnum discovered him and brought him to the United Stated in 1889 when he began his career performing side shows. He had a remarkable ability to make things work despite his severe handicap. He was able to shave, write and as can be seen in the movie Freaks, roll a cigarette. Randian died of a heart attack shortly after his last performance on December 19,1934.
4.Minnie Woolsey- Koo Koo The Bird Girl
Minnie was born with what is believed to be a condition known as bird-headed dwarfism. She spent many years in a Georgia asylum before joining circus shows. Eventually she landed a role in the popular 1932 film Freaks, which propelled her to fame. Her act as Koo Koo The Bird Girl involved her dressed in a feathery costume dancing around animatedly and talking in thrilled gibberish to the audience. Little is known about the later part of Minnie’s life. Some accounts say that she performed into her 80’s and it is also said that she was hit by a car sometime in the 1960’s.
3.Bill Durks- The Man With Three Eyes
Bill Durks did not actually have three eyes. Ironically he only had one working eye, he was blind in his right eye and painted his third eye as a part of the show. He was born with a condition that is today known as frontonasal dysplasia. His face failed to come completely together and he had a deep cleft lip, open palate and a split nose. The early part of Bill’s life is fairly depressing, he was not able to go to school and his family was ashamed of him due to his shocking appearance. Luckily, while working in a circus show he ran into Melvin “The Anatomical Wonder” Burkhart, who would go on to become Bill’s close friend and who would look out for his best interests. Bill passed away on May 7, 1975.
2.Grady Stiles Jr.- The Lobster Boy
The Stiles family had been afflicted for generations with ectrodactyly or “Lobster Claw Syndrome.” Grady was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on July 18, 1937 and suffered from a severe form of the syndrome. He was recruited by his family to be a part of their act at an early age. He married twice and had four children, two of which were born with ectrodactyly. The clan would sometimes tour together as The Lobster Family. Grady was also a drunk who would abuse his family and one night in 1978 he murdered his oldest daughter's fiance, shooting him with a shotgun. Using his condition to his advantage, Grady was able to avoid imprisonment and actually remarried his first wife. Instantly regretting the decision, his first wife decided to hire an assassin, who murdered Grady on November 29, 1993.
1.Joseph Merrick- The Elephant Man
Like so many people with severe visual deformities, a lot of Joseph Merrick’s life is a sad story. Born in Leicester, England on August 5, 1862, Merrick was by all accounts a perfectly healthy toddler until the age of 5, when he began to develop patches of lumpy gray skin. By 17 he was unable to work due to his physical deformities and his father beat him for not making money. Forced out on his own, Merrick eventually decided to take advantage of his appearance and started working as an act in freak shows calling himself “The Elephant Man.” He found success in this arena for a while until his manager abandoned him and robbed him of his savings. By this point Merrick was physically in bad shape and had nowhere to go. He was helped by the London Hospital, which reached out for public funds on his behalf. Enough was donated so that Merrick was able to stay in the hospital and live in comfort until he passed away at the age of 27.