Category Archives: Freaks

Morbid Fact Du Jour For September 30, 2016

Today’s Deformed Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The Egyptian government had long hesitated to let geneticists have at their most precious mummies. Boring into tissues or bones inevitably destroys small bits of them, and paleogenetics was pretty iffy at first. Only in 2007 did Egypt relent, allowing scientists to withdraw DNA from five generations of mummies, including  pharoahs Tut and his daddy Akhenaten. When combined with meticulous CT scans of the corpses, this genetic work helped resolve some enigmas about the era’s art and politics.

First, the study turned up no major defects in Akhenaten or his family, which hints that the Egyptian royals looked like normal people. That means the portraits of Akhenaten – in which he looks other-worldly – were probably propaganda. Akhenaten apparently decided that his status as the sun god’s immortal son lifted him so far above the normal human rabble that he had to inhabit a new type of body in public portraiture.

Pharoahs – they’re just like us!  (Akhenhaten and his wife Nefertiti)

All that said, the mummies did show subtler deformities, like clubbed feet and cleft palates. And each succeeding generation had more to endure. Tut, of the fourth generation, inherited both clubfoot and a cleft palate. He also broke his femur when young, like Toulouse-Lautrec, and bones in his foot died because of poor congenital blood supply. Scientists realized why Tut suffered so when they examined his genes. Certain DNA “stutters” (repetitive stretches of bases) get passed intact from parent to child, so they offer a way to trace lineages. Unfortunately for Tut, both his parents had the same stutters – because his mom and dad had the same parents. Nefertiti may have been Akhenaten’s most celebrated wife, but for the crucial business of producing an heir, Akhenaten turned to a sister.

This incest likely compromised Tut’s immune system and did the dynasty in. While working on Tut’s mummy, scientists found scads of malarial DNA deep inside his bones. Malaria wasn’t uncommon then, similar tests reveal that both of Tut’s grandparents had it, at least twice, and they both lived until their fifties. However, Tut’s malarial infection, the scientists argued, “added one strain too many to a body that” — because of incestuous genes — “could no longer carry the load.” He succumbed at age nineteen. Indeed, some strange brown splotches on the walls inside Tut’s tomb provide clues about just how sudden his decline was. DNA and chemical analysis has revealed these splotches as biological in origin: Tut’s death came so quickly that the decorative paint on the tomb’s inner walls hadn’t dried, and it attracted mold after his retinue sealed him up. Worst of all, Tut compounded his genetic defects for the next generation by taking a half sister as his own wife. Their only know children died at five months and seven months and ended up as sorry swaddled mummies in Tut’s’ tomb, macabre additions to his gold mask and walking sticks.

King Tut: Fantasy and Reality.

One of Tut’s deformed children.

After the bandages were removed.

Culled from: The Violinist’s Thumb


Sideshow Freak Du Jour!


When Jane Devere’s beard was measured in 1884 at fourteen inches it set a record that still stands. She was born in Brooksville, Kentucky, in 1842. When a beard sprouted on little Jane’s face, the Dime Museums beckoned and she set off on an exhibition career. She went out on the road in 1884 with Sells Brothers Circus and again in 1891. She joined the Sells’ Australian tour the following year. After the turn of the century she toured with Campbell Brothers’ Circus (1906) and the Yankee Robinson Show in 1908. In Chas. Eisenmann’s photograph she stands beside her husband Bill.

Circa 1878

Circa 1878


Morbid Fact Du Jour for July 8, 2016

Today’s Homemade Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Authorities say an eastern Iowa woman was killed when a homemade cannon exploded at a backyard gathering. 55-year-old Lori L. Heims of Edgewood was flown to an Iowa City hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Heims was injured at the gathering with friends in Greeley around 11:40 p.m. Saturday, July 2, 2016. Investigators say the cannon was loaded and fired, and when it went off, the rear portion of the barrel blew out and sent fragments toward Heims. One of the fragments struck Heims in the head. Heims was taken to a hospital in Manchester before being flown to Iowa City, but doctors were unable to save her.

Who has blue eyes, glasses, and dies from a cannon in 2016?
This lady!

Culled From: The Associated Press
Submitted by: Aimee

Always better to go out with a bang then a whimper, right? – Aimee


“Freak” Du Jour!

Charles Tripp

Charles Tripp was a Canadian. He was born armless on July 7, 1855 in Woodstock, Ontario. As a boy he learned to write, shave and comb his hair – all with his feet. He mastered woodworking tools and became an accomplished cabinetmaker and carver. When he was seventeen he prevailed upon his parents to take him to New York to meet P. T. Barnum. When the showman saw what Tripp could do with his feet he hired him on the spot for his circus on Forty-Second Street. Tripp’s subsequent career remained closely tied to Barnum enterprises. He toured the world three times with Barnum & Bailey, Ringling Brothers and various other circuses. In late middle age Tripp married and thereafter restricted his touring to North American carnivals so that his wife could accompany him. She sold the tickets. When he was fifty-four Tripp caught pneumonia in Salisbury, North Carolina, and died on January 26, 1939.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann

Morbid Fact Du Jour for November 19, 2015

Today’s Electrified Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

On the evening of October 29, 2012, as Superstorm Sandy devastated the mid-Atlantic coast with high winds, torrential rain and massive storm surges, 23-year-old Lauren Abraham stepped outside of her home on Staten Island to take some pictures of the storm damage. She didn’t see the downed power lines and stepped directly onto them. The lines were live, and Abraham burst into flames. Emergency crews arrived within minutes, but couldn’t get close enough to help her. She burned for at least half a hour before she died, and Con Edison wasn’t able to turn off the power for two hours. Neighbors said later that they would never forget the smell.

Culled from: Superstorm: Nine Days Inside Hurricane Sandy by Kathryn Miles
Submited by: Aimee

I also read online that her mother came home to find her charred body in the yard.  Can you imagine?


Sideshow “Freaks” Du Jour!

The Wild Men of Borneo were captured after a deadly struggle by a ship’s crew in search of water. They were of a distinct human race, spoke no intelligible tongue and uttered a strange mixture of gibberish and gutteral howls. So wild and ferocious were they that they could easily subdue tigers.

– Barnum Courier of 1882
The Wild Men of Borneo (“Waino” and “Plutano”) were two mentally defective midgets from Connecticut. The brothers Hiram (born in Long Island, 1825) and Barney Davis (born in England, 1827) weighed only 45 pounds each, yet both had considerable strength. They used their muscles onstage to lift dumbbells, weights and members of the audience. They also wrestled each other to the boards with appropriate rant and slaver. Although in the 1870s and 1880s they posed for photographer Chas. Eisenmann several times, one wonders why they bothered, for the pictures are all interchangeable: the brothers always flank their guardian, Hannaford Warner, strike the same poses, and never switch sides. Only Warner added a note of variety by moving his hand from his watch chain to his pocket. In the middle ’90s the trio returned to 229 Bowery to have Eisenmann’s successor, Frank Wendt, take the same picture again.
In the accompanying Eisenmann portrait the two midgets are about sixty years old. They performed for at least another decade, Hiram living until 1905 and Barney until 1912. They are buried in Mount Vernon, Ohio, under a tombstone inscribed “Little Men”.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 21, 2015

Today’s Good-Looking Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Ruth Ellis (9 October 1926 – 13 July 1955) was the last woman to be executed in the United Kingdom, after being convicted of the murder of her lover, David Blakely.

From a humble background, Ellis was drawn into the world of London nightclub hostessing, which led to a chaotic life of brief relationships, some of them with upper-class nightclubbers and celebrities. Two of these were Blakely, a racing driver already engaged to another woman, and Desmond Cussen, a retail company director.

On Easter Sunday 1955, Ellis shot Blakely dead outside the Magdala public house in Hampstead, and immediately gave herself up to the police. At her trial, she took full responsibility for the murder and her courtesy and composure, both in court and in the cells, was noted in the press. She was hanged at Holloway Prison.

The following is the excellent first chapter of the long article about Ellis at Crime Library (the entirety of which I highly recommend reading):

“To the living we owe our respect, to the dead we owe nothing but the truth.” – Voltaire.

Like all statistics, they serve a purpose of sorts. Like most statistics, they only hint at a deeper, unseen truth, hidden from view behind the dry, formal and dialectic structure of numbers.

  • She was 28 years old. Her height was five feet two inches and she weighed 103 pounds. She was well nourished and her body showed evidence of proper care and attention.
  • She was also very dead with a fracture-dislocation of the spine and a two-inch gap and transverse separation of the spinal cord. Just to make sure, there was also a fracture of both wings of the hyoid and the right wing of the thyroid cartilage. The larynx was also fractured.

She had died of injuries to the central nervous system, consequent to judicial hanging. She was a healthy subject at the time of her death. So said Doctor Keith Simpson, pathologist of 146 Harley Street and Guys Hospital. He was a reader in forensic medicine at London University, so he would know all about the statistics of death, especially as he had carried out the post-mortem examination on her, just one hour after she had been executed.

He knew nothing of the menage a trios that had brought her to the pathologist table. He could not know that her death would result in two people killing themselves and one dying of a broken heart. Or of the lawyer, so despairing of his faith in the law and the way it treated her that he would give up his career. Or the man who travelled half way around the world to escape from the certainty that he was partly to blame for her being here on this cold, metal table.

The small, slight cadaver stretched out before him was all that remained of a true tragedy of British justice. She was a statistic, one that would haunt the conscience of the British judiciary system for the next forty-five years.

Ruth Ellis was the fifteenth, and the last woman hanged in England in the twentieth century. She was also the unluckiest. She did not kill for gain and, had the judge allowed her defense to be put to her jury, they may well have found her guilty only of manslaughter. She, however, never thought so. She never doubted in her own mind that she deserved to die for killing the man she loved.

Her death would be the final exclamation mark in a sad and tortured tale.

Culled from: Wikipedia and Crime Library

Of course, the excellent film Dance with a Stranger is about the life of Ellis, and it’s rumored that the  Morrissey song “The Boy Racer” (“We’re gonna kill this pretty thing”) is about Blakely.

Here’s a photo of the doomed couple themselves.  I dunno – I don’t think Blakely was all that good-looking! I think he’d be flattered that Rupert Everett played him in the movie!


Sideshow “Freak” Du Jour!

The Ohio Big Foot Girl (1880s)

Fanny Mills came from Sandusky, Ohio, where her father was a farmer. Active on the circuit in the ’80s, she was advertised as having the largest feet on earth. Her “size thirty shoes” were almost twenty inches in length and required three goatskins to manufacture. The promotional material accompanying her appearances used a rather cruel come-on directed at single young men of little means. The copy claimed that her father, desperate to marry off his blonde, fat-footed daughter would hand over $5,000 cash and a “well stocked farm” to any respectable man who’d take her away.

In spite of her big feet Fanny was actually quite small and weighed only 115 pounds. She had Milroy Disease, a hereditary lymphedema and enlargement of her legs and feet resulting from the non-development of the lymph vessels of the lower extremities. Poor lymphatic drainage of body fluids led to swelling as the fluids pooled in her limbs. Although Fanny would most probably have had other associated abnormalities such as spinal cysts, asthma and double eyelashes, she was otherwise physically and mentally normal. Eisenmann made a considerable number of plates at this session, including an unbearably pathetic nude portrait that destroyed the calm dignity she maintained through the rest of the sitting.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann


Morbid Sightseeing: Lucerne, Switzerland

A chapel with a mural that has real skulls laid into the plaster?  What a fantastic idea!  And as you can see, the execution is very nice as well!


(Thanks to Howard for the link.)

Morbid Fact Du Jour for August 10, 2014

Today’s Legless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Eli Bowen and family.

Eli Bowen and family.

Eli Bowen was born in Richland County, Ohio, in 1844, the only abnormal child in a family of ten.  His condition, known as phocomelia (seal limbs) was probably a spontaneous, intrauterine growth abnormality occurring in the first six weeks of gestation.  Though different in size his feet were otherwise normal.  They were attached directly to his pelvis without the normal interposed tibia, fibula and femur, the bones which make up the leg.  Bowen was obliged to learn to walk with his arms using wooden blocks in each hand to elevate his hips.  Consequently, his arms developed enormous strength which he later used onstage to tumble and do ascents and swings on a tall pole.  His show career began in the late 1850s when at thirteen he went on tour with Major Brown’s Colosseum, a small-town wagon show.  As an adult he played the Pullman Brothers, Forepaugh and Campbell Circuses along with the Greatest Show on Earth which took him to England in the late ’60s and again in 1897.  He married a sixteen-year-old girl in 1870 and the two raised a family in Ogden, California.   On May 24, 1924, Eli Bowen died at the Dreamland circus in Coney Island from pleurisy,  which was caused by pneumonia. He was laid to rest in Lowell, Indiana.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann

Morbid Fact Du Jour for January 11, 2014

Today’s Hyperactive Yet Truly Morbid Fact!Rose Leslie

Shortly after Charles Eisenmann photographed circus sideshow fat lady Rose Leslie in the attached photo  (in 1881) she married John McLaughlin, a performer with the John B. Doris Circus.  The couple toured together until the late winter of 1886 when Rose caught a severe chill at a fat women’s convention.  After being laid up for several months in Lowell, Massachusetts, she died in June 1886 of pneumonia and heart complications.  At the time of her death the five-foot three-inch Mrs. McLaughlin weighed 615 pounds.  She was twenty-five.

Eisenmann’s photographs of Rose suggest she probably had Cushing’s Disease – hyperactivity of the cortex of the adrenal glands.  The deposition of fat at the base of her neck (the so-called “buffalo hump”), moon face and extreme truncal obesity, all external clues to the presence of the disease, were established as diagnostics by Harvey Cushing some decades after her death.  The disorder is now treated through surgical removal of the glands.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann

Morbid Fact Du Jour For November 24, 2013

Today’s Conjoined Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

Millie and Christine photographed by Chas. Eisenmann.

Millie and Christine photographed by Chas. Eisenmann.

Millie and Christine were born into slavery in Columbus County, North Carolina, on July 11, 1851.  The seventeen-pound twins were joined at the base of the spine and had a common urogenital tract and interconnected nervous system below the juncture.  They were of normal intelligence and had completely independent consciousnesses.  Their owner, a man named McCoy, realized he had a valuable property and sold them as infants.  After changing hands several times the twins were purchased by the promoter J.P. Smith for $30,000.  Smith tempered the cruelty of the transfers by purchasing the rest of the family, but the reunion was short-lived: the infant twins were heisted by Smith’s road manager while on tour in New Orleans.  After two years of being freighted about the country they were fenced by their kidnapper to a Philadelphia promoter.  Smith had by now tracked them down, but before he could close in their new owner shipped the pair off to England.  Smith and the twins’ natural mother crossed the Atlantic in pursuit.  A British court case ensued and Millie and Christine were awarded to their mother.  However, she elected to remain in partnership with Smith, and they took advantage of their stay in England to arrange a tour.  An extended booking at London’s Egyptian Hall was followed by an audience with Queen Victoria.  The twins were now four years old.

Upon returning to America the girls were schooled by Smith’s wife for the stage and they re-emerged as “The Two Headed Nightingale.”  They had worked up a dance routine, sang in two-part harmony and chorded away on guitars for accompaniment.  In the middle ’70s Millie and Christine returned to England on tour and made additional appearances in Paris.  A third visit to England in 1885 won them a second audience with Victoria.  The twins were now making $600 weekly.  Millie had become a hardline Baptist fundamentalist and funneled a good part of her earnings into Baptist African missions.  Christine had become a good-time girl and spent her share on fun.

Shortly after the turn of the century Millie and Christine returned to their home country in North Carolina and bought a large house.  Following a decade of retirement Millie died on October 8, 1912 of tuberculosis.  Christine survived her sister by seventeen hours.  They had appeared across America in fairs, dime museums and circuses and played for both Barnum and Drew.  It was estimated that their career earnings were in excess of a quarter of a million dollars.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann

Millie and Christine poster from their Ringling Brothers circus days, as photographed by the Comtesse at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Millie and Christine poster  at the Circus World Museum in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

Okay, where to begin discussing the questions that this one inspires?  How can it work that one of them could be pious and the other a partier?  Wouldn’t the pious one have refused to go out?  And can you imagine realizing that your twin just died and you are gonna die soon yourself, as your twin decomposes into your blood stream?  And if they share the urogenital tract, do they both feel orgasms and arousal?   So much to think about!!

Morbid Fact Du Jour For October 31, 2012

Today’s Sleazy Yet Truly Morbid Fact!

The dime museum business began on New York’s Bowery Street. By 1845 the Apollo Museum was in business and with the arrival of the ’80s a mile of the Bowery had more museums than any other street in the world. There was Alexander’s Museum at 317 Bowery and Worth’s at number 99, where the owner’s amputated thumb, the casualty of a snake bite, floated in a jar in the lobby. At Bunnell’s Museum in the 100 block the standard exhibits were augmented by vaudeville and melodrama, a formula later widely adopted. The Grand Museum operated by Broken-Nose Burke at number 132 specialized in fake monstrosities and lithographs of social diseases. The New York Museum (210) featured, in person, the Ford brothers who had shot down Jesse James. At 241 Bowery the sleazy Sultan Divan ran a barmaid’s show every night that included spicy little dramas set in the Orient.

Culled from: Monsters: Human Freaks in America’s Gilded Age: The Photographs of Chas Eisenmann

If I could but go back in time…