Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Real Sideshow Oddities!

Sideshow "freaks" had real lives and stories behind their oddities. There was a time when seeing something apart from the norm was odd, but today we see in general population from people who wish to set themselves apart - 

Let's have a look at some famous sideshow "freaks." 

Siamese Twins

Conjoined twins and parasitic twins were a unique mystery of nature that fascinated the public enough by its rarity that they had to wonder - how do you live with someone that close all the time? How do you marry? Have children?

Women with beards, people covered in hair with a condition called hypertrichosis were equated with "wrongness" and "animal" like qualities.

Julia Pastrano didn't have a lot of options in Mexico in the 1800s but to join a sideshow. Her condition, hypertrichosis was also combined with a classic "otamid" skull shape and a condition that gave her double rows of teeth. Her father's lineage was unknown as he was never named, but people paid their money to see this woman with a condition that she wore proudly.

Skeletal Oddities
Extra arms and legs, fingers and toes were all genetic aberrations that caused lots of questions among the paying public in the Victorian Era who already had a taste for the macabre and obsession with death. 

Someone so small they are doll-like or so tall they are giant-like are both situations that could cause nervous discomfort among the public. We are taught not to stare at such people, but paying at a sideshow for someone willing to let them see it up close, seemed acceptable when these sideshows began. 

General Tom Thumb was perhaps the most famous sideshow "freak" of all time. He was beloved by many and a real celebrity of his time. 

Medical Conditions

Medical anomalies were confusing to the general public in the Victoria Era. They didn't speak of them or even know their causes. Things that today we understand were horrifying oddities.

Elephant woman had lymphedema

Tree Man had an uncontrolled case of HPV warts

Freaks and Geeks

Any deviation from the "norm" in behavior and appearance were strong pulls for those going to sideshows in its heyday. Things we don't think are odd now, they thought were astonishing, like tattooed women and sword swallowers.

And, here's a creepy movie from the 1930s about "Freaks" that is a pretty twisted look at the sideshow culture in fiction.

Recommended book:  Secrets of the Sideshows by Joe Nickell
Recommended ebay seller of retired sideshow items:  Great American Circus Sideshows
Recommended candy mix:  Charms Carnival Candy Mix
Recommended movies:  The Funhouse, Big, Something Wicked This Way Comes, Carnival of Souls, Freaks, Killer Klowns From Outer Space, Carnival of Blood, Dark Ride, The Devil's Carnival

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