Darwin’s theory of evolution – and man’s implied ascendancy from an ape-like creatures – is controversial. When it was first introduced to the public, most people though the idea was preposterous. Until the apparent ‘missing link’ between man and ape appeared in a Philadelphia dime museum.
Krao was born is Siam, modern day Thailand, in 1876. From birth, the girl was completely covered with hair, including a mane-like track of hair flowing down her back from between her shoulder blades. She was discovered at the age of six by a promoter exuberantly named the Great Farini. Farini took the girl on a successful tour of Europe before starting a tour in the United State. While the dime museum was a starting point, it wasn’t long before Krao was a sought after marvel featured by the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus.
While often called ‘The Ape Woman’ Krao was principally advertised as ‘Darwin’s Missing Link’. To all those who saw her, she was proof of Darwin’s ideas. It was claimed, somewhat ridiculously, that Krao was of a race of tree dwelling, ape-like people but many bought the story – including noted naturalists and scientists. Numerous papers were written on Krao and her role as Darwinian proof. In the 1896 tome Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, the authors noted her many ape qualities including her ‘prehensile feet’. In reality Krao was a young woman of above average intelligence who was both well read and multilingual. She just happened to suffer from an advanced form of hypertrichosis.
Unlike Julia Pastrana, Krao was fortunate in that she was never exploited. She performed and displayed herself in her own terms for most of her adult life. She was free to do as she pleased and spent the last 20 years of her life in a private apartment, entertaining guests and neighbors with her cooking and charming personality.
Krao never married, although she had admirers, and she passed due to influenza on April 16th, 1926.