10 Bizarre Circus Performers from the PastBy Jack for Creepy
Circus performers have always been weird and wonderful, but many of their unusual talents are downright horrifying. Some of course, ended up in the circus in the Victorian era due to unusual birth defects, something that we don’t tend to see so much of with modern medicine. At the time these people were seen as so strange that they needed to be showcased and they embraced that. From Lobster Boy to bearded ladies, we’ve got them all.
The Three Legged Man
Source: The Human Marvels
Born in Rosolini, Sicily in 1889, Francesco A. Lentini was famous for having three legs, four
feet and amazingly, two sets of genitals. Lentini was born with a parasitic twin, which in
modern medicine is often removed at birth. In the case of Lentini, he lived his whole life with
his parasitic twin attached to his body until he died at age 77. Unfortunately, none of
Francesco’s three legs were the same length and he was known to joke that despite having
three legs, he didn’t have a pair.
Ella Harper was born in 1870 with a rare condition that caused her knees to bend
backwards. She found it easiest to walk on her hands and feet, giving her the camel like
appearance she was famed for. She continued to live a long life after leaving the circus and
eventually died of colon cancer in Tennessee,USA.
Chang and Eng Bunker
Source: New York Post
Born in 1811 near Bangkok, Chang and Eng Bunker were the first well known Siamese
twins. Between them, Chang and Eng fathered 21 children. The brothers were fused at the
sternum and although their livers were joined, they were functional individually. They lived
shockingly normal lives, they were married and settled on a small plantation. In 1874, Chang
died in his sleep. When Eng awoke to find his brother dead, he was devastated and although
an emergency separation of the twins was being organised, Eng died three hours later.
The Human Pincushion
Arnold Gerrit Henskes, better known as Mirin Dajo had a remarkable ability. He was
able to push extremely sharp things through his body, this included but was not
limited to, swords, pencils, and screwdrivers. Although he died at 35, he bewildered
the medical community at the time, piercing himself and even swallowing glass or
razor blades apparently without injury.
He died in 1948 from aortic rupture after having a needle surgically removed.
Source: Historic Mysteries
Grady Stiles, better known as ‘Lobster Boy’ was a performer who suffered from a
condition called ectrodactyly which is a genetic condition that causes the digits on
the hands and feet to spread and fuse together. Stiles’ father and several of his
children also had the condition. Stiles unfortunately went from circus sideshow to
murderer in 1988. Stiles was an aggressive and violent man, particularly to his
family. He shot and killed his daughter’s fiancé and was sentenced to fifteen years
probation. Stiles himself was later murdered by a man who is thought to have been
hired by his wife. He died in 1992 at age 55.
The Bearded Lady
Source: Hint Fashion Magazine
Although there have been many bearded ladies that have become circus performers,
Annie Jones Elliot is one of the most famous. Annie was born in Virginia in 1865 and
had already grown a full mustache by the age of 5. The cause of her excessive hair
growth is unknown, although it is likely that it was caused by Hirsutism. She sadly
died at the age of 33 from tuberculosis.
General Tom Thumb
Charles Sherwood Stratton was born in connecticut in 1838. By six months old he
had almost completely stopped growing and continued to grow extremely slowly until
he reached adulthood. As an adult, he measured 99cm and became a huge
attraction in the circus. He died of a stroke at age 45, leaving behind his wife,
The Four Legged Woman
Source: The Human Marvels
Myrtle Corbin was born a dipygus in 1868, this refers to a severe birth defect that
results in two pelvises, two pairs of legs and in Corbin’s case, two sets of sexual
organs both internally and externally. Corbin could reportedly move both of her pairs
of legs. Corbin made enough money to retire at age 18 and went on to have five
From medical reports, we can determine that Corbin had three children from her right
vagina and two from her left.
Chang The Chinese Giant
Source: Wikimedia Commons
In the 1840s, the average height of a Chinese man was around 5’4”, making Zhan
Shichai stand out even more. ‘Chang’ as he was known is thought to have been over
8ft tall, although there is no reliable record stating his exact height. He travelled
Europe and Australia before finally settling in Bournemouth, England where he died
in 1893 at age 50. His coffin was 8ft 6in in length.
The Muse Brothers
Source: Black America Web
The story of the Muse brothers is told in a book called ‘Truevine’, written by Beth
Macy. The brothers were kidnapped in the 1920s and forced to perform. The two
brothers, who were African American, had albinism, a condition in which the body
lacks pigment in the skin, hair and eyes. It also causes a range of vision issues, a lot
of people with albinism are partially or completely blind. Both brothers eventually
moved back to Virginia where George died in 1971. Willie continued to live in the
house and play his mandolin until he died in 2001 at an incredible 108 years old.