11 Circus Freaks Who Top The Weirdness Bar
Circus freaks were once the darker and seedier side of the Circus Shows. When we hear about Circus we think of clowns, skillful events, stunts, laughter, etc. But, during the 19th century, In America and Great Britain, these freak shows gained popularity. Circus freaks were the one who suffered from various disorders, deformities, and unique medical conditions. Unfortunately, these unique people were used as a source of entertainment, interest, and curiosity. Within no time, these freak shows became one the biggest and popular events at various entertainment places. They would easily attract the crowd by promising them to show a bizarre creature, a giant, half woman and etc. Listening to all these promises, people would just rush into their shows to witness these freaks. These freaks would sometimes simply sit at one position as if in an exhibition or sometimes perform. Soon, some became the world renowned entertainers.
They took this as an opportunity and converted their weaknesses into strengths. This was clearly reflected by their intriguing acts. But, still making an abnormal person as a source of entertainment is really very cruel. As time passed, In the 20th century, people started realizing this ignorant behavior towards abnormal people and soon their attitude towards them changed. People become more sympathetic. The modern variations of these freak shows still exists. Now, let’s look at the list of some top 12 circus freaks that will surely shock you.
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1. The Wonderful Invalid
It’s not necessary that all these unique freaks are born naturally with disabilities. The abnormalities can also be caused due to accidents. Same is the case of Leonard Trask. He was born on 30th June 1805 in Hartford. Once he was riding a horse and suddenly he was thrown by the horse. This incident caused him a serious neck injury. He was in his twenties at that time. The injury was so severe that he had to crawl to get back to his home. Despite this injury, he continued to work on his farm. After a certain period of time his spine began to bow and ultimately this made him stop his work in the farm.
In 1840, he fell again and in 1853, he met with an accident and broke his ribs. In 1858, Trask was again involved in an accident, which further increased his miseries. His chin was pressed into his chest. None of the doctor at that time was able to cure him. Hence, it became a permanent condition. His wife took care of him. His medical condition was an attraction for the general public. People were curious to see him. Soon, he became famous and was addressed as “The Wonderful Invalid”. He became a part of circus freaks show.
2. The Lobster Boy
Lobster Boy was one of the most famous freaks from the circus freaks. His name was Grady Stiles Jr. He suffered from a medical condition known as ectrodactyly, which eventually means “monstrous fingers”. This condition was a genetic disorder. Stiles family have been affected by this for over a century. His son and his son’s son is similarly affected by this disorder. This disorder created an immense curiosity among people. They wanted to witness such an astonishing medical condition. No-body used to believe this until they saw it by themselves. Soon, Grady became famous and everyone started calling him “The Lobster Boy”.
3. Pip and Flip Snow
The actual name of Pip and Flip Snow was Jenny Lee Snow and Elvira Snow. According to IMDB, Elvira was born on March 2, 1901, but Jenny’s birth date is not mentioned anywhere. It was rumored that Jenny was 12 years younger than Elvira. Both the sisters were born with a disorder known as microcephaly. It is a neuro-development disorder in which the skull and the brain remain small. In this condition, the brain fails to grow while the face continued to grow at a normal rate. Ultimately, it makes a person with a small head. In this medical condition, as the person grows older, the deformity affects the individual even more seriously. Overall he/she remains underweight or stunted.
The Snow sisters played an emotionally lifting role in the 1932 film Freaks. They were also part of very well known staples of the World Circus Sideshow at Coney. In the beginning, the financial condition of their parents was very critical. Due to this, the parents gave the sisters to various shows to support their critical condition. Soon, they became favorites of everyone. Their childlike innocence during the acts won the heart of people. They were really joyful, adorable and sweet in nature. At that time, they were earning $75 per week. This was a huge amount at that period of time. By this, one can easily imagine the amount of fame and love they received from the people.
4. The Redheaded Beard Lady
Her name was Grace Hester Gilbert. She was born on 2nd February 1876 on a small farm in Ohio. She had four sisters and she was the youngest. Only she was born covered by a layer of hair. She used to work on the farm and after circuses, she helped them in assembling tents. Over there, her true sex was always questioned. At the age of 18, she was exhibited in a circus and was called as a bearded lady. In 1901, She signed her first contract with Ringling Bros. Circus. Her beard was 18 inches in length. She surpassed her rivals and set a new record. “Redheaded” prefix was added to her name because she used to bleach her beard. She was exhibited with many famous circuses at that time and also toured France and England.
She developed feelings for a 53-year-old man. His name was Giles Calvin and he was a recent widow. He too admired Grace and married her in 1901, in Indiana. She got a fortunate life as compared to how she was living during her farm days. In 1916, she again exhibited in Coney Island. In 1924, she fell ill. Her husband was not present at that time due to work. She received no help from her neighbors. She had a throat pain which got very serious. Within a less time span, The Redheaded Beard Lady died.
5. The Ugliest Woman
Every circus freaks were associated with a nickname. But “The Ugliest Woman” was a really very insulting nickname. Her name was Mary Ann. She had a normal life and was also happily married. Her life was going very well until her face started growing abnormally in her mid 30’s. It was an abnormal face development. She started falling very ill and suffered from severe headaches. She also lost her eyesight at such a young age. It was figured out that she was suffering from acromegaly- an adult onset disorder. This disorder caused her pituitary gland to produce excess growth hormones. Due to this, her face became enlarged and distorted.
In 1914 her husband died. She had four children. Soon, her financial condition became very critical. She got to know about an “ugliest woman” competition in some freak show. In desperation, she entered this competition and won a cash prize. She had to accept this freak lifestyle of the sideshows. She also worked in some famous circuses like Ringling Brother’s Circus. From 1920 she received a lot of fame and ultimately she died in 1933.
6. The Living Skeleton Dude
One of the classic attraction for the people of that time was The Living Skeleton. His name was Issac W. Sprague. Unlike other circus freaks, he was born as a healthy child on May 21, 1841, in Massachusetts. According to his colleges of that time, he was a normal and active child. But, suddenly after 12, he began to lose weight very rapidly. His concerned parents restricted him from physical activities, but even this did not work. He kept losing weight very quickly. His petrified parents took him to the best doctors of that time. Unfortunately, even doctors could not find any solution. Despite having a healthy appetite, he was losing weight. He worked as a grocer, but due to his depleting energy, he even stopped working. His financial condition went very critical. It was this time when he thought to enter into the world of sideshows.
In 1865, he got a job offer by a promoter in a carnival. It took no time for him to realize that he could earn very easily with the help of his looks. He began to perform as a “Living Skeleton”. Within a span of one year, he started earning $80 per week. He was hired by many popular Circuses like Barnum Circus. Around in 1868, he retired from sideshow and married Miss Tamar Moore. They together had 3 healthy sons.
7. The Polar Bear Princess
The Polar Princess was born in Germany on June 6, 1927. Her name was Ursula Blutchen. The financial condition of her family was not very good. In her mid 20’s, she was hired as a cleaning woman for the German Circus Busch. Around in 1952, she began to fall for an assistant elephant trainer in the Circus. It is due to this her interest she was inclined towards animal training. Her name was derived from Latin word ‘Ursus’- which means bear. It was very obvious that bears would attract her more than any other animals in the circus. She was only five foot one inch in height. She would stand beside a massive polar bear. Bears are carnivorous in nature and it was too dangerous for her. But, her fearless performances made her a star throughout the world.
Who among the circus freaks would dare to stand in front of a bear? She is regarded as the best animal trainer to have ever lived. She performed with the big leagues of that time. In 2010, she passed away. Her legendary acts would always be remembered.
8. The Fearless Frog Boy
The Frog boy, Samuel Parks was born on October 20, 1874, in Boston. He was born with a disorder known as osteogenesis imperfecta. This disorder results in brittle bones due to which he has to go through regular painful fractures. At the age of 16, he himself stated that till now 58 times his bones have broken. These multiple fractures restrained his body from growth and as a resulted in a contorted and dwarfed body. His twisted legs made him appear as a Frog. He belonged to a poor family and his father was already struggling a lot due to Samuel’s medical condition. Samuel did not want to be a burden upon his family and very quickly he learned to be independent.
He was pushing his limits to be an independent man. During this time, he chose to have a full fledged career in the human exhibition. After his first public appearance, he gained a commendable popularity. He became very famous and he starting earning very well. He appeared in the United States based carnivals and dime museums. In 1904, he found his love and got married. His wife died while giving birth to his second child. Both mother and infant child died. This broke him both from inside and outside. He was unable to take care of his first healthy child. In 1911, he married again and started living a normal life. His life was very painful, but still, he was very charming and lovable.
9. The Half Woman
It’s really very astonishing and sad to see a person with missing limbs. At that time, circus freaks with missing limbs were really very famous. The crowd without thinking anything used to rush into the shows to see such freaks. People of that era loved to see such persons. They were also very interested to see that how can they do some simple works which normal humans do it usually. People of that time assumed that such freaks are not capable of doing some work by themselves, like shaving, eating and moving. So, even some simple performances by them used to wow the audiences. This was a similar case with Mademoiselle Gabrielle. In 1884, She was born in Switzerland with no legs. At the age of 16, she started performing at the Paris Universal Exposition.
She was a perfect example of a half woman as her body was well proportioned. Very neatly her trunk finished at her waist. This was really very surprising. Soon, she became very famous and moved to America to work with big leagues like Ringling Brother’s Circus and Barnum & Bailey Circus. She wasn’t like a freak at all. Despite being a half woman, she was immensely beautiful. Her performances with a grace and style won the heart of audiences within no time. She went from heights to heights in the entertainment world. The income was really good. She lived a normal life and even married three times. Even at the age 40, the crowd used to rush in to see her performances. It is unknown that when she retired. She left the sideshow business world and returned to her home.
10. The Four Legged Girl
The world witnessed circus freaks from no limbs to multiple limbs. Miraculous events have always been happening around the world. But, this case was really strange and unimaginable. In 1868, a girl named Myrtle Corbin was born with two extra legs in Tennessee. Sounds really strange, isn’t it? It is actually a deformity which goes by the name dipygus. When one of the twins fails to develop in the womb, this deformity causes the other surviving twin to absorb the legs of the failed twin. In other words, the deformity had caused Corbin to absorb the legs of her twin in the womb. Which means, Corbin had two complete bodies from the waist. The two small pelvises had been merged together i.e the smaller pair of legs were inside the larger pair of legs.
Despite having stunted inside legs, she was able to walk properly with the help of her larger pair of legs. People were curious to see her case. Seeing this curiosity of people, she started performing in sideshows at the age of 13. Within no time, she was very popular. She also performed in big leagues like in Ringling Brother’s and Coney Island Circus. Unlike other circus freaks, she was never ignored even after a certain period of time in the entertainment world. At that time, she used to earn $450 per week. She was a gentle and generous woman. She moved forward to live a normal life and married a doctor at the age of 19. They had 5 healthy children.
11. The Mighty Cardiff Giant
George Auger was born on December 27, 1882, in Cardiff. His parents were of average height, but astonishingly he grew up to be a giant. Even at the age of 14, he was over 6 feet. At that time, people were anticipating his height to be beyond 8 feet, but his actual height measures around 7 and a half. As he was like a giant, he became a police officer in Cardiff. Despite having the giant like appearance, he was very charming, helpful and full of joy. He moved to London from Cardiff and due to his powerful appearance he was assigned to Queen Victoria’s personal police squad. Queen used to call him a ‘Captain’, although he was not a high-rank officer. His personality and physical appearance gained him this respect. After that, everyone called him ‘Captain’, even his superiors.
He was married and was living a normal and happy life. Once, he went to a Circus show with his wife. The Barnum and Bailey Circus noticed him and immediately offered him to work with them as “The Cardiff Giant”. None of the circus freaks of their circus were as taller than him. His office life did not fascinate him so he accepted this offer. He fancied traveling around the world and entertaining people. In 1903, he moved to America and made a public appearance as an entertainer in a Circus. He also loved acting and became an actor as well. In 1906, he wrote a play which was called “Jack The Giant Killer”. Everyone praised him for this. He was earning $50 per week and after becoming an actor he was paid $350 per week. He acted in a film called “Why Worry?”.