The Human Caterpillar
No, not a Human Centipede; this was a real person, although no less startling while dressed in that sleeveless sock outfit. Just a head and a torso, this P.T. Barnum attraction was capable enough as a quadriplegic that he could light a cigarette with just his mouth – not to mention the fact that he had a wife and kids (none of which shared his affliction). He shows up in the movie Freaks, and performs the aforementioned cigarette “trick” – although its hardly a trick when you have no other limbs to rely on.
Julia PastranaThis indigenous Mexican woman’s memory is literally preserved, as she – following her death in 1860 – was stuffed and put on display the very way she had been while alive. Also born with hypertrichosis, her features were more characteristic of a gorilla than a dog; her nose and ears were especially large, her face was covered with hair, and she had a double pair of teeth which pronounced her mouth as such. She had a husband named Theodor Lent – who had originally purchased her and taught her to be a performer – and eventually a child of the same affliction, who died after three days. She died five days after that (complications from birth), and her exploitative husband had both her and the baby mummified and placed in a glass cabinet. Lent went on to marry another woman with a similar condition, and was later admitted to a mental hospital.
Lucia ZarateBorn as more of a “finger puppet,” at a weight of 8 ounces and a height of 7 inches, Zarate weighed less than a cat as an adult. She is the smallest recorded human being on Earth, a fact that had no trouble drawing a big crowd at the circus. When she came to America – she was born in Mexico in 1864 – at the age of 12, she was the highest paid dwarf at the time (at $20/hour). Sadly, she died at the age of 26 when her train got stopped in the Rocky Mountains during a snowstorm.
The Hilton Sisters
Violet and Daisy Hilton
Not Paris and Nicky – although they are a different sort of freak – these sisters were twins. Conjoined, to be exact. They shared a common blood and nervous system, which means they truly felt all the same pain. They were sold as slaves by their impecunious mother to a midwife, who greedily took advantage of their misfortune; while they sang, danced, played instruments in circus sideshows, their veritable slave-owner kept all their earnings and forbade them from socializing. Eventually a lawyer helped them escape their proverbial shackles and even reacquire the money they were swindled out of. They went on to do movies (including 1932’s Freaks) and earned as much as $5000 at the height of their showbiz careers.