Pip and Flip Snow – The Pinheads of Freaks

snow-pinheads

 

Best known for their heartwarming roles in the 1932 film Freaks, where they stared 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 Freaks. The new monikers were perhaps an attempt to establish a connection to another famous pinhead named Zip – a human oddity who was enormously popular in his day and had recently passed. The sisters were often billed as hailing ‘from the Yucatan’ but were actually from Hartwell, Georgia and their parents basically ‘loaned’ the siblings to various shows in order to support their family. While their birthdates are debatable, IMDB lists Elvira’s birthday as March 2, 1901. Jenny’s birthday is unlisted, but it’s believed that she is 12 years younger than her sister.

The Snow Sisters were born with microcephaly, a neuro-developmental disorder characterized by an abnormally small cranium and brain. Biologically, during formation the head fails to grow in time with the face – which continues to develop at a normal rate – which produces a person with a small head and a receding forehead. As the individual grows older, the deformity often becomes more pronounced and obvious despite the fact that the afflicted individual is often underweight and stunted overall.

Billed as “Pinheads”, Jenny and Elvira were also intellectually delayed, possessing toddler-like mentalities, but it was that childlike innocence that charmed crowds and audiences. Freaks essentially begins with Schlitzie, Pip and Zip dancing and frolicking joyfully in the woods – and later scenes show their adorable bashfulness and sweet nature.

At their peak, the Pinhead Snow Sisters were earning as much as $75 per week – a stunning amount when you consider that their peak coincided with the great depression era.

Unfortunately Jenny Lee Snow was unable to enjoy her fame as she passed away at in her early 20’s on August 27, 1934. Elvira, however, lived a long life and passed away as a senior citizen on November 1, 1976.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

2 Comments

  • Reply March 14, 2015

    Patrick

    I have just recently seen Freaks and Pip, Zip, and Schlitzie completely stole the show! I’ve been reading your blog for some time, so I’ve read that they were childlike, but after viewing the film, I understand their true demeanor. It’s a shame that side shows nowadays are usually sword swallowers and fire breathers…I would have absolutely loved to meet all of the famous so-called “pinheads”. They all seem so friendly, akin to a toddler! Keep up the amazing work on the site!

    • Reply June 9, 2016

      Mario Lara

      My son is a microcephalic, something that still remains very rare and not much known about in medicine. He’s 11 now, and I can confirm that yes, his mindset is toddler-like (Early toddler, still VERY basic words and almost no complete sentences as yet). However, much like virtually all the kids in his special needs class, he is just pure love and joy and just has so much of that love to give. There isn’t a single non-trusting hair on him and yes, while challenging at times to deal with (You can’t just trust everyone/everything), is a refreshing thing to see daily. I truly be grateful that he is in my life daily, for as long as I have him. :)

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