The term ‘Siamese twin’ is synonymous with the medical condition of conjoined twins. The slang term is due to the mid 19th century popularity of Chang and Eng Bunker, joined twins who originally hailed from Siam. The brothers were so popular that their billing as Siamese twins came to represent their condition and not their nationality, even though the depth of their intermingled connectivity was not overly impressive compared to conjoined twins like the Tocci Brothers. The Bunker brothers were primarily joined at the chest by only a band of cartilage.
In 1888 in Orissa, India twin girls were born connected in a similar manner. While the birth of conjoined twins was often viewed as highly unusual, the superstitious residents of their village saw the girls as ‘symbols of divine wrath’ and lobbied for their expulsion. Their father, distraught by the appearance of his daughters, moved to physically separate the girls by his own hand but local officials rescued the infants and the monks of a local temple took over their care. The monks named the girls Radica and Doodica.In 1893 Radica and Doodica were sold to London showman Captain Colman. The sisters began a career exhibiting themselves across Europe often paired with another Colman prodigy, a dwarf billed as the smallest man in the world, Peter the Small. It has been said that Colman treated the girls as an adoptive father and not exclusively as an exploitive promoter. The girls seemed happy and they had each other, until Doodica developed tuberculosis in 1902.
In Paris Dr. Eugene-Louis Doyen separated the sisters in an effort to save Radica. Doyen was a pioneering medical filmmaker and filmed the twins’ surgery as La Separation de Doodica-Radica.
The operation was considered a success initially and Doodica passed shortly afterward from tuberculosis. However, the separation came too late as Radica contracted tuberculosis from her sister and passed on in 1903.
She spent the last year of her life in a Paris sanatorium, alone.
Sections of Doyen’s filmed separation surgery were last shown in the UK documentary series The Last Machine in 1995. Previously, the film was often shown in grindhouse styled sideshows spliced into exploitation ‘freak’ films.
image: Email submission, appears to be from Quasi-Modo