Best known for their heartwarming roles in the 1932 film Freaks, where they starred in scenes alongside fellow famous pinhead Schlitzie, the Snow sisters were well-known staples of the World Circus Sideshow at Coney. Usually promoted professionally as Pip and Flip, Jenny Lee Snow and Elvira Snow were billed as Pip and Zip in…
The times and tribulations of The Elephant Man, Joseph Carey Merrick, have long been the subject of books, films and theatre. As a result, ‘The Elephant Man’ is without a doubt the most famous human prodigy of all time. His story garnered the sympathy of Victorian England and after the span of one hundred years,…
The true tale of Edward Mordake (Mordrake) has been lost to history. His unusual case occurred early in medical history and is referenced only in tales handed down. The tale of his life has become so muddled through the passage of time that no solid date of birth or death is evident to modern researchers.
At one point in history every circus, carnival, and vaudeville hall had a strongman on hand to astound spectators. The image of a mustachioed man clad in leopard print while hoisting a bending barbell high aloft is still synonymous with circuses. The spectacles these men provided ranged from the highly impressive the the borderline mundane but in a golden age populated with hundreds of contemporaries an individual simply had to go the extra mile to ensure fame and fortune.
John Holtum elected to stand apart by becoming a human target. Holtum caught cannon balls fired directly at his him from point-blank range.
There are a handful of human marvels who seem to transcend time, culture and societal norms. These truly unique few become forever recognizable and iconic to the general public. Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man will be forever famous due to his unforgettable visage. Likewise, Jo-Jo the Dog Faced Boy will forever be famous for his shaggy face and Zip the Pinhead will always remembered. However, one strange character who managed to obtain this ‘celebrity of strange’ wasn’t really that strange at all. Or, at least, not when compared to other more ‘impressive’ marvels.
Mr. Smith held his daughter to the red-hot stove until her arms were destroyed. Too badly damaged in the incident, both arms were eventually amputated three inches from the shoulder at Cook County Hospital.
True love knows no bounds.
Al had an overactive pituitary gland and he eventually stood over seven feet in height. To earn a career in sideshow, Al claimed a height of 8’4” and billed himself as ‘The Tallest Man in the World’. No one seemed to mind Al’s embellishment, due mostly to the fact that Al was an incredibly genuine and nice guy.
The Great Regurgitator, who was also billed as The Egyptian Enigma, was born Hadji Ali in Egypt in 1892. In the 1920’s Hadji Ali came to be something of an American vaudeville sensation for his unusual ability to swallow unique items, regurgitate them in an order specific to audience requests and for his ‘human water spout’ routine.
The gargantuan Chang Woo Gow was born in Fychow, China in 1845 and, before appearing in front the Prince and Princess of Wales by request in 1864, the nearly eight-foot giant was best known for delighting the emperor of China as part of his royal court.
The art of fire eating has evolved immensely to what we now view as ‘fire eating’. Today, most of us envision a performer extinguishing torches with the aid of their mouth. However, early fire eaters generally ate and drank burning objects like coals and pitch. The earliest record of fire eating dates back to 133 B.C.E. when a Syrian named Eunus lead a successful slave revolt while breathing out smoke, sparks and spikes of fire.
In 1981 the Guinness Book of World Records recognized MacAskill as the largest true giant to have ever lived, the strongest man who ever lived and the man with the largest chest measurements of any non-obese man.
I have just heard that modern human marvel Ben Underwood, featured here for his amazing echolocation talent, passed away on January 19, 2009 at age of 16. He was taken by the same cancer that claimed his sight and leaves behind a legacy of inspiration few will ever match.
I offer my sincerest condolences to his family and friends.
Ichthyosis finds its etymological origins in the Greek term for ‘fish’, however the majority of human exhibits afflicted with the skin condition often adopted an Alligator-themed epithet. Susi’s skin, however, was particularly coarse and cracked and the title of ‘elephant-skinned’ seemed more appropriate and illustrative.