ROBERT MELVIN – The Man with Two Faces

ROBERT MELVIN - The Man with Two Faces

The moniker ‘The Man with Two Faces’ has been given to many Marvels during the history of sideshow.While few actually had two faces, Robert Melvin came pretty close. Born in Missouri on May 9, 1920 as one of six children, it quickly became evident that Robert was different. He was examined quite extensively by doctors during his childhood and yet his condition remained undiagnosed for many years.I wasn’t until later in life that Robert was finally diagnosed with neurofibromatosis; a disorder that causes the spontaneous growth of fibrous tumors.

Neurofibromatosis, or NF as it is commonly referred to, is quite varied in its visible symptoms. Some patients are greatly deformed, some grown small nodules or ‘knots’ on their bodies, and some have little more than a few small brown birthmarks. There has been great speculation that Joseph Merrick, The Elephant Man, had NF.One look at the facial deformities Robert possessed and their similarity to those of The Elephant Man gives some merit to those assumptions – although, it is still mere speculation.For a time, Robert was even known as ‘The Modern Elephant Man’. Many people were so shocked at Robert’s appearance that many believed he was a fake – even a few noted doctors and sideshow historians.

The tumors that afflicted Robert completely distorted the features on the right side of his face. While Robert was not allowed to attend school as a child due to his appearance, he did receive a full education and – through the power of his unbelievably outgoing personality – he became rather well known, respected and loved by his small town neighbors. He never considered his appearance a handicap. In fact, once he entered the world of Sideshow in 1949 at Coney Island, his appearance became a great advantage.

Robert made a comfortable living with the sideshow both as an attraction and serving as the show accountant.During the off season, Robert kept busy doing the books for a hardware store.He also enjoyed a minor film career, appearing as a sanitarium inmate in Sisters (1973) – along with fellow Marvel Bill Durks – as a surreal demon in The Sentinel (1977) and also in the documentaries Being Different (1981) and I Am Not a Freak (1987).

In 1952, Robert returned to his hometown and married his longtime girlfriend Virginia – a girl he had know since his mid teenaged years – and despite rumors that ‘it would never last’ the pair were married for more than forty years. The two had a daughter, who later gave Robert a grandson and granddaughter.

Robert was known by friends and family – including the extended family he met in the sideshow – as a friendly, gentle, charming and intelligent man. When he passed away on November 19 in 1995, his funeral was well attended by those who loved and respected ‘The Man with Two Faces’ for the Marvelous man that he was.

image: Taken from the book In Search of the Monkey Girl, published 1982.

10 Comments

  • Reply January 13, 2009

    scott

    looks like something off family guy lololololololooooooool

    • Reply April 23, 2013

      mamie

      i remember bob when i was a child. my parents and him and his wife were friends, they were nice people. i remember getting up the courage to ask my dad why his face was that way. my dad just answered that they were tumors.

  • Reply January 16, 2009

    farah :)

    very interesting.i loove knowing about all human marvels.i bet there’s more in the world,we just dont know it yet.so exciting!keep researching more.

  • Reply March 14, 2010

    Amie

    Scott, it’s not really a laughing matter. I’m sure you wouldn’t like it if someone laughed at you, maybe think before you speak/type.

  • Reply August 18, 2010

    Jaime

    Robert and Virginia were wonderful people, toward the end of his life he and his wife lived in the apartment across the hall from mine. I worked with Virginia at the Lancaster Cafe as a waitress. Bob came in every day for coffee and he was loved by everyone in that little town. No children were ever scared of him there, he was just a permanent fixture in town and they had seen him since they were babies. These were truly salt of the earth, one in a million people. I feel myself blessed to have known them.

  • Reply November 3, 2010

    judy

    it dosn,t look like he has two faces to me, it just looks like he has a big head

  • […] However again I would go off on a side tangent on my research and need to come back to the original forum thread. The names of a Robert Melvin would be mentioned who is well known for his puffy face who was called The Man With Two Faces. He suffering from Neurofibromatosis. (source) […]

  • Reply July 15, 2014

    Mia

    I really love reading the comments here when people who knew these unique individuals comment with their experiences and memories, it really brings them to life.

  • Reply July 16, 2014

    Billie Jo

    I grew up in Missouri, knew him as a child and dated his grandson in my twenties. He was a sweet, kind and tender man. When I first saw him as a child I was scared and he picked me up and quickly put me at ease. Everyone loved him! He had class and a a healthy sense of self-respect. Being a freak was a job; it was never who he was!

  • Reply November 26, 2014

    Shasta

    I love reading the personal stories of those who have known these great people. It’s really endearing. He sounds like a wonderful person.

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