The Real Freaks Featured in the American Horror Story: Freak Show Opening Credits

Since the debut of American Horror Story: Freak Show on October 6th, I’ve been inundated with emails about the opening credits. The opening AHS: Freak Show sequence features a number of freaks and human oddities that aren’t actually featured in the AMC program – these real freaks deserve a bit of recognitions and people have demanded to know more.

Step right up folks, because here are the five real freaks featured in the American Horror Story: Freak Show opening credits:

1. The Dancing Freak

American Horror Story Opening freak

This little fellow is an example of a cephalopagus conjoined twin. One of the rarest forms of conjoined twins, it is also perhaps the most visibly stunning. This condition is characterized by a frontal union of the bodies and a shared head, often with two faces appearing on opposite sides of that head. While there are recorded examples of this sort of defect occurring in human births, there exists no medical record of any cephalopagus cases surviving past infancy.

2. The Hopping Man

Freaks of American Horror Story Freak Show Credits

This demonic looking mutation is obviously based on real-life circus freak Nicodemus the Indescribable. Nicodemus was born in 1863 as John Doogs and with truncated limbs. He was known for being remarkable strong, and for being a talented acrobat. It was reported in 1894 that he drowned in Ohio River, but a later report in 1908 places him in Chicago. His inevitable fate is unknown.

American Horror Story Half Freak Hop

A more modern contemporary human oddity would be “The Quarter Man” Dick Hilbrurn. His story can be found here…

3. The Wheelchair Monster

American Horror Story Opening Freak Show

This bizarre oddity from the American Horror Story: Freak Show intro is based on “The Ohio Bigfoot Lady” Fanny Mills. Fanny was born in England in 1860 but moved to Sandusky, Ohio as a child, before her disfigurement began. Afflicted with Lymphedema – a gross swelling, fluid build-up and discoloration of soft tissue – that was localized only to the lower extremities, Fanny’s feet grew to require custom-made size 30 shoes.

American Horror Story Freak Show Open

4. The Lobster Boy

Freaks of American Horror Story Freak Show

One of the most famous freaks of the modern era, Grady Stiles Jr. was known professionally as “The Lobster Boy”. The condition he was saddled with is clinically known as ectrodactyly – which translates to “monstrous fingers” – and it’s a genetic trait the Stiles family members have been afflicted with for over a century, and through several generations. Grady’s son, Grady Stiles III, is similarly affected.

The American Horror Story: Freak Show character Jimmy Darling is portrayed as having a form of ectrodactyly, however his appearance is more closely modeled on Fred Wilson, a professional freak show attraction who was born in Somerville, Massachusetts in 1866.


5. The Naked Freak

American Horror Story Freak Show Deformed Clown

This shocking oddity is based on the appearance of Blanche Dumas. Dumas was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1860, to a French father and a biracial mother. In addition to a third leg she also possessed had double genitalia. In Paris, she became a well know courtesan.

Horror Story Freak

Most famously, at the time Dumas was prostituting, there was also the three-legged man named dos Santos touring. Santos also possessed two sets of genitalia and Dumas publically stated that she would like to have sex with him. Whether that happened or not is debatable, but the possibility certainly exists.


After LifeAfter Life: True Tales of the Restless Dead unearths and presents fantastic postmortem adventures undertaken by various cadavers, and also chronicles numerous misfortunes that have befallen the dead.

Did you know that eating powdered human remains was once considered medicinal?

Did you know that Einstein’s brain took a cross country road trip in the trunk of a Buick?

Did you know there have been human remains on the moon since 1999?

Death means the end of life, but it is not the end of adventure. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Death opens up a whole new world of crazy escapades and extreme exploits – all encountered without the worry of death or injury.

From the beginnings of the “death trade” – digging into the profits made from mummy commerce, and the use of body parts for medicine (which continues to this day) – to accounts of posthumous executions, as well as sordid stories of crazed collectors, and even cases of celebrity cadavers stolen and held for ransom, After Life: True Tales of the Restless Dead uncovers all of these true tales, and more.


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.

1 Comment

  • Reply October 25, 2014


    Cool compilation, good ser. It’s nice to have the background stories to an opening scene well-thought out by Murphy and Falchuck.

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