Jarring Bodies: Thoughts on the Display of Unusual Anatomies

This past April I woke up suddenly from a frightening yet laughable little dream in which I couldn’t breathe because Governor John Engler, dressed in a power suit, was sitting on my naked chest. My dreams have always been this transparent; they would bore a psychotherapist. I knew immediately when I awoke what this dream … Read more

The Wild Men of Borneo

Description: a pair of twin midgets who suffered from mental retardation. Discovered by Lyman Warner in 1852 and purchased from their mother at age 26, they performed in several sideshows though it was Barnum who taught them their base routine for a show. Their strength was incredible. They would perform acrobatics and dances. They would … Read more

The ancient Aztec children

Maximo and Bartola, the ancient Aztec children Barnum put his hand on the pinhead children in 1849 after they were purchased in Salvador by an adventurer. In a pamphlet “recording” their lives, the story goes that the two were found in an ancient Aztec temple at Iximaya, and were being worshiped as Gods by the … Read more

The “What Is It?”

Zip the "What Is It?" Born William Henry Johnson in a small town in New Jersey in the 1840’s, he was hired by Barnum into the American Museum in 1860. The introduction of Zip on stage came three months after the publishing of Darwin’s Origin of the Species. Barnum quickly displayed the pinhead as the … Read more


Simon Metz aka Schlitzie Schlitzie (alternatively spelled Schlitze or Shlitze; ( (1901 – (1971), possibly born Simon Metz and legally Schlitze Surtees, was an American sideshow performer. He suffered from microcephalus (his mental age was 3). His vast array of talents included singing, dancing and counting to ten. On the sideshow circuit, microcephalic people were … Read more

The Hilton Sisters

Violet and Daisy Hilton Medically speaking, Violet and Daisy Hilton were conjoined twins joined at the buttocks. The bones of their lower spine were joined and they shared a common blood and nervous system. They would share sensations but usually behave as separate individuals.  They were born to a barmaid, Kate Skinner, in the English … Read more

The Human Caterpillar

Prince Randian, the Human Caterpillar Prince Randian, from British Guiana, had no limbs at all. He was brought to the US by P.T. Barnum in 1889 and became famous throughout America, appearing in carnivals and museums for forty-five years. He was introduced as the ‘human caterpillar who crawls on his belly like a reptile’. In … Read more

Julia Pastrana

Julia Pastrana (1834–1860), was an indigenous woman from Mexico, who took part in 19th-century exhibition tours in Europe. She had hypertrichosis terminalis; her face and body were covered with thick black hair. Her ears and nose were unusually large and her teeth were irregular which makes her look like an ape. She married a man … Read more