Today’s Legless Yet Truly Morbid Fact!
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.