Joseph Carey Merrick was born in Leicester, England in 1862. He began growing disfiguring tumors before the age of two and his condition rapidly worsened, rendering one of his arms completely useless. Nevertheless, he was described as a wonderfully imaginative and intelligent boy. When Joseph was 11, his mother, Mary Jane, who was also physically handicapped, died, and Joseph's father remarried. Joseph's stepmother was not nearly as compassionate as his mother, and she even gave Joseph's father an ultimatum: "Joseph, or me." The young Joseph was cast out of the home and went to live at the Leicester Union Workhouse, and sold shoe polish on the street. However, he was constantly taunted by crowds of cruel children and soon moved on to another line of work.
Joseph's attempt to find traditional work were unsuccessful. Sick with bronchitis, and requiring surgery due to the intrusion of tumors into his throat, Joseph would very likely have died on the streets of Leicester, if it weren't for a compassionate showman named Tom Norman. Norman was the UK's answer to P.T. Barnum, and in fact received his nickname, "The Silver King", from the legendary American impresario because of the flashy silver jewelry he wore. Finding himself out of options and desperate for medical care, Merrick pitched himself to Sam Torr, another showman, who in turn introduced him to Norman. Norman paid for the operations Merrick required and helped Merrick become a successful museum freak. Under Norman's tutelage, Merrick accumulated 200 pounds, a large sum of money at the time. However, while touring Belgium, Merrick became separated from his guardian. Naive and sickly, he was a perfect target for robbers, and an unscrupulous Austrian (some say Italian) showman tricked him out of his small fortune.
Returning home from Belgium, Merrick was discovered in the Liverpool train station by Dr. Frederick Treves, who had previously seen Merrick on display in a medical school. Merrick was suffering from bronchitis and malnutrition, and Treves brought him back to the Whitechapel Hospital. The hospital became Merrick's permanent home; in his room he wrote poetry and prose and built models from card stock, his most famous being of the St. Philip's cathedral in Birmingham, which Merrick had never seen but constructed from studying architectural drawings. While living in the hospital, however, Merrick became a freak of a different sort. Treves exhibited him before classes of medical students, where he stood naked before leering crowds and was subjected to humiliating examinations. It became fashionable among members of London's upper class to visit the Elephant Man and mask their disgust as the conversed with the intelligent and well-spoken man. His visitors brought him all sorts of gifts, including a beautiful shaving set, which of course Merrick could not use because of the condition of his skin. He even struck up a pen-pal relationship with a famous actress of the day, who promised she would come see him, although she never did.
As Merrick became more comfortable with other people, he was taken on outings and even went to the theater. He shook hands with people and spoke to strangers, even women, with ease. Unfortunately, his newfound sense of self-respect came too late, and he died in his sleep in April 11, 1890. Rumors spread that the Elephant Man had been murdered, but Dr. Treves dispelled these, revealing the true cause of Merrick's death to be asphyxiation. He had attempted to sleep lying down, like a "normal person", and the weight of the tumors on his head and neck had crushed his trachea.
2. Juan Baptista dos Santos - The Man With Two Penises
Jean (or Juan) Baptista dos Santos is said to have been a Gipsey, born in Faro, Portugal around 1843, to normal parents with two other normal children. His career as an exhibitionist seems to have been confined strictly to medical circles; in 1865 turned down a sum of 200,000 francs to appear for two years with a French circus. He possessed two functioning penes and three scrota, the outer two of which each contained a single testis. Dos Santos claimed that the central scrotum had also contained a pair of fully-formed testes, but that these had retreated into his abdomen when he was ten years old.
3. Myrtle Corbin - The Four Legged Lady
Josephine Myrtle Corbin was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee in 1868. She was born a dipygus, meaning that she had two separate pelvises side by side from the waist down. The extra legs were part of a twin that did not split correctly, like Frank Lentini with his third leg. Each of her smaller inner legs was paired with one of her outer legs. She was said to be able to move her inner legs, but they were too weak for walking. She had four daughters and a son.
4. Mademoiselle Gabrielle - The Half Lady
Born in Basle, Switzerland, in 1884, Gabrielle Fuller first joined the circus at the Paris Exposition in 1900. She travelled with the Ringling Brothers Circus and appeared at Coney Islands Dreamland sideshow. She was married at least twice, once to a man named John de Fuller. She had a perfectly formed upper body which ended smoothly just below the waist.
5. Mary Ann Bevan - The Ugliest Woman
Mary Ann Webster was born in London, England in 1874, one of eight children. As a young woman she worked as a nurse and in 1903 married a greengrocer named Thomas Bevan. Shortly after getting married, Mary Ann began exhibiting symptoms of acromegaly, a form progressive giantism that causes abnormal growth and distortion of the facial features, as well as headaches, failing eyesight and joint and muscle pain. The Bevans had four children before Thomas death in 1914.
6. Martin Laurello - The Human Owl
The man who we have come to know as Martin Laurello was born Martin Emmerling in Nuremburg, Germany around 1886. He began to perform his act in Europe when in his 20s and brought it over to America in 1921. He appeared several times at Coney Island and worked also for Ringling Bros. Barnum & Baileys sideshow. He also worked for Dick Bests Royal American Shows and as late as 1945 was appearing with Ripleys shows along with Popeye Perry and Junior Stiles, 7-year old Lobster Boy.
7. Mme. Clofullia - The Bearded Lady of Geneva
Madame Clofullia was born Josephine Boisdechene in Switzerland. She was born hairy and reputedly had a two-inch beard at the age of eight. At the age of fourteen she began to tour Europe, first accompanied by her father and an agent and then with her father alone. In Paris she met painter Fortune Clofullia and eventually married him. She also gained extra fame when she fashioned her beard in the imitation of that of Napoleon III. In return, the ruler gave her a large diamond.
8. Wang - The Human Unicorn
In 1930, a Chinese farmer from Manchukuo was discovered by an expat Russian banker. The Russian was able to take a picture of the man and he sent the snapshot off to Robert Ripley of Believe It Or Not! fame. Known only as Wang, or sometimes referred to as Weng, the farmer was normal in every respect except fot the fact that he possessed a fourteen-inch spire-like horn growing from the back of his head. Ripley offered a huge cash reward to anyone who could produce Wang for an appearance in his Odditorium. However Wang disappeared from the public eye in the early 1930s and was never heard from again.
9. Lionel - The Lion Faced Boy
Stephan Bibrowsky was born in Poland in 1890 to normal parents. He suffered from hypertrichosis, a rare genetic disease that covers the entire bodies of the subjects with a thick coat of fur. Only about 50 cases of the disorder have been documented since the Middle Ages. In the case of Lionel, six-inch-long hair covered his body. He was discovered by a German man named Meyer when he was four years old and became famous throughout Europe where he gained the nickname of Lionel the Lion-Faced Man. Far from being exhibited as a beast, he wore often the best clothes to show that under his hairs he was a literate and enjoyable person that spoke five languages.
10. Ella Harper - The Camel Girl
This is the text from Ella Harpers pitch card. A pitch card was an advertising flyer for attractions at a sideshow.
I am called the camel girl because my knees turn backward. I can walk best on my hands and feet as you see me in the picture. I have traveled considerbly in the show business for the past four years and now, this is 1886 and I intend to quit the show business and go to school and fit myself for another occupation.
I have actually seen a living case of this in Verona, Italy. A woman was kneeling on the road begging but her legs were bent in front of her at the knee rather than behind.
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