Freak Show

Freak Shows

 

Unusual human beings have been exhibited in public since antiquity.  The first traveling "freak show" appeared in 1738 in Europe.  Curiosity seems to be the motivating factor of the audiences. 

For over 100 years, carnival and circus freak shows were immensely popular in America.  At one time, there were 105 exhibitions of human freaks traveling about the United States, as well as many featured in amusement parks. 

P.T. Barnum was the most famous and successful impresario of freak shows in American history.  His human freaks generally included giants, midgets, bearded ladies, fat ladies, tattooed men, and thin men, along with the usual sword swallowers and fire eaters. 

Those with progressive ideas began raising objections to exhibitions of human freaks in the 1930s, deeming them shameful "pornography of the disabled."  By 1970, enough laws had been passed to kill traveling freak shows. 

I have for your pleasure an assemblage—a Baker's Dozen as it were—of the stars of the human freak shows of old.   But first . . .

Bartholomew Fair

 

All moveables of wonder, from all parts,
Are here--Albinos, painted Indians, Dwarfs,
The Horse of knowledge, and the learned Pig,
The Stone-eater, the man that swallows fire,
Giants, Ventriloquists, the Invisible Girl, 
The Bust that speaks and moves its goggling eyes,
The Wax-work, Clock-work, all the marvelous craft
Of modern Merlins, Wild Beasts, Puppet-shows,
All out-o'-the-way, far-fetched, perverted things,
All freaks of nature, all Promethean thoughts
Of man, his dullness, madness, and their feats
All jumbled up together, to compose
A Parliament of Monsters. Tents and Booths
Meanwhile, as if the whole were one vast mill,
Are vomiting, receiving on all sides, 
Men, Women, three-years' Children, Babes in arms.

William Wordsworth

SCHLITZIE
SCHLITZIE

SCHLITZIE

 

Schlitzie Surtees (1890-1971) was born Schlitzie Metz in The Bronx, New York.  Sometimes billed  "The Pinhead," he suffered from microcephaly—an unusually small brain.  Schlitzie had the mind of a three-year-old.  His parents sold or gave him to a freak show. 

Schlitzie was adopted by a chimpanzee trainer named George Surtees, who by all accounts took great care of him for decades.  Schlitzie would become a big star for the Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1920s and 1930s.  He achieved more fame in one of the four films in which he appeared, Freaks (1932). 

Schlitzie was 4' tall and dressed in a moo-moo because he wore diapers, which gave the impression he was female.  Schlitzie was well loved by his fellow performers for his child-like innocence, exuberance, and unconditionally loving and affectionate nature.  He loved the spotlight; he lived to sing, dance, and perform for people. 

George Surtees died in 1965.  His daughter committed Schlitzie to a mental hospital. It so happened that a sword swallower named Bill Bunks, who knew him, worked at this hospital during the off-season.  Finding Schlitzie utterly despondent, Bunks arranged his release and return to the freak show.  This made Schlitzie very happy.  He lived to the ripe old age of 81, before he succumbed to pneumonia.

LAZARUS COLLOREDO & JOANNES BAPTISTE
LAZARUS COLLOREDO & JOANNES BAPTISTE

Lazarus Colloredo

 

Lazarus Colloredo (1617-1646) is perhaps the earliest example of a man who became widely famous as a human freak.  Born in Genoa, Italy, Lazarus toured Europe for a decade.  He made his living by exhibiting himself to a public that was drawn to see the unusual.

Lazarus Colloredo was a handsome, courteous man.  He got married and fathered several children, all of whom were normal.  Lazarus also had a parasitic twin named Joannes Baptista, who dangled from his midsection. 

Joannes Baptista had only an upper body and a left leg that protruded out of Lazarus.  Joannes never spoke; he never opened his mouth or eyes.  Lazarus kept him covered up with a cloak when not performing. 

CHANG & ENG
CHANG & ENG

Chang & Eng

 

Chang & Eng (1811-1874) were born conjoined identical twins in Siam (Thailand).  Thus we get the portmanteau "Siamese Twins."  If born today, Chang & Eng would easily have been separated.

Chang & Eng were discovered by a British merchant and exhibited as human freaks on a world tour.  They settled in the United States and worked fifteen years for P.T. Barnum as sideshow freaks, which made them fairly wealthy.  They adapted the last name of Bunker for unknown reasons.

Chang & Eng bought a 1000 acre plantation in North Carolina, and purchased a few slaves to work it.  The plantation was near Mt. Airy, the inspiration for the fictional city of Mayberry on The Andy Griffith Show

Chang & Eng married American sisters and fathered 21 children between them.  Their respective children were genetically double-first-cousins and half-siblings. 

Chang was the dominant brother and a heavy drinker.  Eng was known as a quiet intellectual who loved to play poker.  Chang died of pneumonia at age 63.  Eng lived three hours longer. 

GENERAL TOM THUMB
GENERAL TOM THUMB

General Tom Thumb

 

General Tom Thumb (1838-1883) was the stage name given by P.T. Barnum to a dwarf born Charles Stratton in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Barnum discovered Charles Stratton and "leased" him from his carpenter father at age 4. 

General Tom Thumb was trained in courtly manners by P.T. Barnum.  Tom became one of the most famous persons in the world.  He entertained millions over the years through dancing, acting, impersonations, and comedy.  A highlight was when he performed for Queen Victoria. 

General Tom Thumb married a fellow dwarf in 1863.  The newlyweds had dinner in the White House with President Abraham Lincoln.  When Tom died suddenly of a stroke in 1883, his funeral was attended by 10,000 people. 

Charles Stratton was a big baby at birth, weighing 9 pounds 8 ounces.  When he was six months old, he suddenly stopped growing at 25" (18 lbs.).  He did have a later growth spurt that put his adult height at 3'4".  As General Tom Thumb, he became a rich man with a snazzy wardrobe, his own yacht, and a fancy home in Manhattan.  

MYRTLE CORBIN
MYRTLE CORBIN

Myrtle Corbin

 

Myrtle Corbin (1868-1928) was born in Tennessee.  She suffered from an extremely rare condition called dipygus.  Myrtle had a conjoined twin in her lower half only.  Her spinal column divided in two just below her third lumbar vertebrae.  

Myrtle Corbin was born with four legs, two complete pelves—and two vaginas fully functional for coitus; much to the delight of her future husband.  She married a doctor when she was 19 years old.  Myrtle gave birth to five children: three from one womb and two from the other. 

Myrtle Corbin made a good living, happily working first as a touring carnival freak; then in circus freak shows for P.T. Barnum, and Ringling Brothers; and finally at Coney Island. 

PRINCE RANDIAN
PRINCE RANDIAN

Prince Randian

 

Prince Randian (1871-1934) was born in British Guyana to slave parents from India.  P.T. Barnum hired him for circus freak shows in United States in the 1890s.  Prince Randian also worked under various names in carnival freak shows during his 45 year career, including "The Living Torso," and "The Caterpillar Man." His longest stint would be with the sideshow freaks at Coney Island.

Prince Randian moved like a snake.  He became famous for rolling his own cigarettes with his mouth, which was featured in the 1932 film Freaks. Prince Randian could write and paint as well. 

Prince Randian was known as a clever, quick-witted man who spoke four languages.  He got married, had four normal children, and settled in New Jersey, where he died of a heart attack at age 62.  Prince Randian was a practicing Hindu. 

MADEMOISELLE GABRIELLE
MADEMOISELLE GABRIELLE

Mademoiselle Gabrielle

 

Mademoiselle Gabrielle Fuller was born in Basle, Switzerland in 1884.  She had a completely normal—in fact beautiful—body down to her hips; her body there came to a smooth end. 

Mademoiselle Gabrielle joined the Paris Exposition in 1900 as a sideshow freak.  This was followed by a career that included tours with Ringling Brothers circus freaks, and a stand with the Coney Island freak show.  

Mademoiselle Gabrielle was married twice.  It is unclear how long she lived.  Of her disability she said: "Women really do not need legs. I have never had them and have never missed them.  I enjoy life and do everything I want without them." 

THE MULE FACED WOMAN
THE MULE FACED WOMAN

The Mule Faced Woman

Grace McDaniels (1888-1958) was born in Iowa afflicted by the very rare degenerative disease called Sturge-Weber Syndrome. She won an "ugly woman" contest in 1935, and soon thereafter joined a traveling troupe of carnival sideshow freaks. Grace enjoyed the attention and made a good living from exhibiting herself as a human freak, including a run at Riverview Park in Chicago.

Grace McDaniels was a kind, friendly, lovable person. She is unusual among sideshow freaks in that she strongly and publicly objected to being called a "freak" (and to the moniker "The Ugliest Woman in the World"). She preferred to be called "The Mule-Faced Woman." And so she was.

Grace McDaniels died of cancer in 1958. Her son (and manager) passed away later that same year.

LIONEL THE LION FACED BOY
LIONEL THE LION FACED BOY

Lionel the Lion Faced Boy

 

Stephan Bibrowski (1890-1932) was from Poland.  In 1901, after he was abandoned by his mother, he was hired to join the circus freak show of Barnum & Bailey.  Bibrowski was billed as Lionel the Lion-Faced Boy.  He was afflicted by hypertrichosis—one of only 50 documented cases in 500 years.  His five siblings were normal.

Lionel the Lion-Faced Boy had 8" of long hair on his face.  The rest of his body, except the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet, was covered with 4" long hair.  He had only two teeth.

After six years with the circus freak show, Lionel the Lion-Faced Boy moved to Germany, where he proved enormously popular working as an added attraction for a wax museum.  1913 found him back in the United States, where he worked for fifteen years in the freak sideshow for Coney Island Dreamland. 

In 1928, Stephan Bibrowski retired to Germany, where he died of a heart attack four years later.  Lionel the Lion-Faced Boy was noted as an educated, impeccably dressed, perfect gentleman.  He spoke five languages, was a skilled gymnast, and he was recognized as a fine landscape watercolorist. 

DAISY AND VIOLET HILTON
DAISY AND VIOLET HILTON

Daisy and Violet Hilton

 

Daisy and Violet Hilton (1908-1969) were conjoined twins born in Brighton, England, to an unwed mother.  As children they were adopted and exhibited at carnival freak shows by their landlady.  The landlady died, and her daughter took over. 

Daisy and Violet Hilton moved to the United States, where they became famous as a Vaudeville and freak show act.  They hobnobbed with the jet set, becoming close friends with Harry Houdini and Bob Hope.  In 1932, Daisy and Violet appeared in the controversial film Freaks, and in 1951 in the even more controversial, semi-autobiographical movie Chained for Life.  

Violet had a string of well known boyfriends; both ladies were married for a spell.  After freak shows fell out of favor, they ended up bagging groceries in Charlotte, North Carolina.  There they died of the Hong Kong Flu—Violet outliving Daisy by nearly a week.  I wonder what that was like.

JOHNNY ECK
JOHNNY ECK

Johnny Eck

 

Johnny Eck (1911-1991) was born in Baltimore, Maryland with nothing below his torso, a condition called sacral agenesis.  His twin brother Robert was normal.   

Johnny Eck would become internationally known as the "Half-Boy" and later the "Half-Man." He went to work for Ringling Brothers first, then Barnum & Bailey, and later Ripley's Believe It or Not.  Johnny Eck, 18" tall, had a starring role in Freaks, and appeared in three Tarzan movies. 

Johnny Eck was a bright boy who excelled in school and aspired to become a preacher.  At age 13, he joined a carnival freak show and loved it.  Johnny Eck walked on his hands.  He also performed acrobatics, juggling, and illusions, and trained animals.  Away from work, Johnny Eck was an admired painter, conductor, and race car driver.

In retirement in 1987, Johnny Eck was violently robbed in his home.  This caused him to lose faith in mankind.  The last four years of his life, the formerly ebullient, gregarious man secluded himself and lived in utter isolation.  He died of a broken heart. 

BETTY LOU WILLIAMS
BETTY LOU WILLIAMS

Betty Lou Williams

 

Betty Lou Williams (1932-1955) was the youngest of 12 children born to sharecroppers in Albany, Georgia.  (My maternal great-grandparents were sharecroppers.) 

At the age of two, Betty Lou Williams began to be exhibited by Ripley's Believe It or Not.  While still a teenager, she had become quite wealthy.  Betty Lou put all 11 of her siblings through college, and bought her parents a 260 acre farm, cash money. 

Betty Lou Williams was known as a fine, generous person. Perhaps too generous, as her fiancé ran off with most of her money and disappeared.  She died soon after, officially of asthma, but of a broken heart according to her friends. 

Betty Lou had lived her 23 years with a parasitic twin embedded in her torso. Its head was literally in her torso, with two legs and one arm protruding. 

LOBSTER BOY
LOBSTER BOY

Lobster Boy

Lobster Boy (Grady Stiles) is a strange case. Grady Stiles was 6th in a line stretching back to at least 1805 of men born with claws for fingers and toes—ectrodactyly. He was a murderer, and he was murdered.

The father of Lobster Boy starred in a carnival freak show, and incorporated his two children into the act as the Lobster Family. All of the Stiles family resided in Gibsonton, Florida, home to more former circus and carnival sideshow freaks than anyplace else in the world.

Grady Stiles (1937-1992) aka Lobster Boy was an abusive alcoholic with a hot temper. Unable to walk, he possessed incredible upper body strength. Of his four children, two also have claws. In 1978, on the eve of his daughter's wedding, Lobster Boy shot and killed her husband-to-be. He confessed but received no jail time as no facilities were deemed appropriate for a man with his disabilities. In 1992, the wife of Lobster Boy hired a hit man who shot and killed Grady Stiles. He got 27 years in prison—serving as catcher for the cell block.

PRINCE RANDIAN & JOHNNY ECK
PRINCE RANDIAN & JOHNNY ECK

Freak Shows

 

Progressive thinkers ended the human freak shows of yesteryear.  As usual, they favored politically correct conformity to their ideas by all citizens, as opposed to liberty and freedom for people to choose for themselves. 

The human freaks in these shows enjoyed being in show business—who doesn't?  Many of them grew wealthy and enjoyed a rich social life.  In reading about their lives, one is struck by how much they valued the "family" of performers they traveled with—and how much they  missed this atmosphere of loving friends when it was over.

Instead of the dignity of earning their own way in the world—which every person had to do before the welfare state; there were no layabouts in those days—all of them became wards of the progressive state.  They were reduced to lonely lives with no social life, no crowds cheering, living off of government checks in squalor.

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Comments 159 comments

shynsly profile image

shynsly 5 years ago from Sierra Vista, AZ

Wow, very interesting read. I've always kind of felt the same way... as unfortunate as their conditions are, it pretty well goes without saying these people are going to have to endure a life of finger pointing and being stared at either way, they might as well have the chance to make some (good) money off their crappy ordeal, if they so choose.


Kaie Arwen profile image

Kaie Arwen 5 years ago

Each of these individuals and in some cases more than one individual seems to be not only unique but quite special. I've often heard that these "freak shows" were embraced far more by those on display than those who flocked to gape at them. Seems sad that in what some cases was a way to "make their own way" in the world was taken away.

Thank you for the dose of humor, quite a few smiles, and an excellent read. I take full responsibility for the inappropriate giggles................ Methinks you've done it again! ;-) Kaie


Rhonda Waits profile image

Rhonda Waits 5 years ago from The Emerald Coast

This was a very interesting hub. I could not stop reading until it was over. Wow. Thanks for sharing.


WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I attended one state fair freak show with an older cousin who wanted to see the hermaphrodite lady. I had no idea what that was, and it was a real shock to a nine year old.

The problem with political correctness is who gets to decide, and the progressives have appointed themselves arbiters of all things acceptable and unacceptable. For instance,they want tobacco banned and marijuana legalized, based on nothing more than progressive bias.

There's nothing more dangerous to our liberties than political correctness.


Joshua Kell profile image

Joshua Kell 5 years ago from Arizona

Cool hub. Thanks.


H P Roychoudhury profile image

H P Roychoudhury 5 years ago from Guwahati, India

The history of unique "freak shows" is memorable and draws many hearts in it.


fi fi profile image

fi fi 5 years ago from Niagara, Canada

You have a great way of providing loads of detail in ways that are effortlessly read and absorbed...great hub :)


Vladimir Uhri profile image

Vladimir Uhri 5 years ago from HubPages, FB

very interesting presentation, James. Thanks.


FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

Captivating read, and memorable.


samiaali profile image

samiaali 5 years ago

WOW James! This is some hubpage. I read it in record time! I have just had a wonderful history lesson. All of the above people were amazing. I think it was very sad the way their lives ended. Thank you. I will vote this up! :)


graceomalley profile image

graceomalley 5 years ago

Very enjoyable read! I agree with all above that these unusual people should have the right to chose for themselves - and I have always heard that the shows themselves were like families. It seems a great example of "when life gives you lemons, make lemonade."


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

shynsly— Thank you for being my first visitor!! I surely agree with your comments, and I appreciate you makin them here. :D


Frieda Babbley profile image

Frieda Babbley 5 years ago from Saint Louis, MO

Fascinating! Some of these I new about about. Others I didn't even think were possible! Great read. Thanks.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Kaie Arwen— It is always a distinct pleasure to hear from you.

Many times do-gooders do not think about the unintended consequences of their actions, such as the luxury tax President Clinton put on yachts that ruined the shipbuilding industry in America and put all in that business out of work—just to "soak the rich."

What would you rather do, sit around, confined, living off of others—or travel the world making big money so you can live in comfort from your own endeavors? I'll take B. :-)

Thank you for visiting and for your gracious compliments. And you are most welcome. Now stop that gigglin'!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Rhonda Waits— You are welcome. Thank you for reading this piece and expressing your appreciation of it. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

WillStarr— I have never had the opportunity to attend a Freak Show. I would have in a heartbeat if given the chance. I have watched the movie "Freaks" and it is utterly fascinating. It ruined the career of the man who made it, Tod Browning, because of the backlash.

You wrote: "The problem with political correctness is who gets to decide, and the progressives have appointed themselves arbiters of all things acceptable and unacceptable. . . . There's nothing more dangerous to our liberties than political correctness."

Amen! Profound words indeed! Thank you.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Joshua Kell— You are welcome. Thank you!!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

H P Roychoudhury— Thank you for your thoughtful insights, my friend. I appreciate this visitation from you.

James


ar.colton profile image

ar.colton 5 years ago from Vancouver, B.C.

This was a great hub. Very interesting. The interest in it goes to show how many of us would still flock to freak shows. I heard not long ago about a travelling freak show that was run by the entertainers themselves. They were reclaiming the word and the means to use their gifts in the best way possible.


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines

This was an enjoyable and informative read. With the exception of "lobster man" These so called "freaks" have more humane qualities,showing evidence of moral and intellectual advancement than some of those who flock to see them.Another famous personality I believe was the "Elephant man".


always exploring profile image

always exploring 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

OMG This is amazing ! How terrible that they were no longer able to make a living doing what they loved to do. Thank you.

Cheers


justom profile image

justom 5 years ago from 41042

Excellent hub, interesting and your points are valid. Peace!! Tom


lisa.bom 5 years ago

What a great change from the same pace of things. I really enjoyed reading it.


WildIris 5 years ago

An excellent and captivating read. Your Hub proves that most of us, or at least me, find ourselves at once in awe and slightly repelled by the Freak Show.


CheyenneAutumn profile image

CheyenneAutumn 5 years ago

Very interesting hub. Many of the "freaks" you tell of were far more courageous and smarter and humane then those who simply tried to exploit them or shunned them. Thank you for posting this.


advisor4qb profile image

advisor4qb 5 years ago from On New Footing

Yet another interesting and well-researched hub, James. Voted up! You truly deserve that 100! Cheers!


sueroy333 profile image

sueroy333 5 years ago from Indiana

This was amazing. It's almost unbelievable to see what "normal" lives these people led. Most had husbands or wives and children.

It was also surprising to realize the the abhorrent "freak shows" actually gave these people the opportunity for money, family and love.

Thank you for reminding us that things aren't always as they seem!


Marcella Glenn 5 years ago from PA

James, interesting.


Tamarajo profile image

Tamarajo 5 years ago from Southern Minnesota

Some stories are incredibly sad because of the rejection they suffered. Even more sad that they lived in a time where the only purpose to be found was in exploiting their disability.

Fascinating stories and histories.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

fi fi— That is high praise indeed! It strikes me at my core because you have recognized precisely what I go for. Thank you very much for that. :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Vladimir! Hello my friend! It is truly a pleasure to receive your comments. Thank you for coming, and you are welcome. :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

FitnezzJim— Thank you for saying so. I certainly appreciate it.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

samiaali— You are quite welcome. Thank you for the "voted up!" I sincerely appreciate your lovely comments. I agree with your thoughtful insights. :-)


GusTheRedneck profile image

GusTheRedneck 5 years ago from USA

Hi James - Unfortunately I reviewed your excellently written and illustrated article just before hitting the sack tonight. I hope I can fall asleep. In my 59 years of dealing with medical patients and all of their miseries, I never had to view humans with so many deformities as those described here. Granted, some of them had happiness, but to meet them would have made me sad beyond repair. Your treatment of them in your article was respectful, and they all would probably have appreciated your words. I will thank you for them.

Gus :-)))


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Interesting stuff as usual James, and fascinating how many of these individuals had so many gifts and talents to offer the world. It must be very odd though to marry a conjoined twin, and I can't even imagine the sheer horror and grief of your conjoined twin dying and knowing that you were soon going to die as well.


CMerritt profile image

CMerritt 5 years ago from Pendleton, Indiana

Wow, again, a very interesting read. In the movie "Barnum" with Burt Lancaster, he portrayed Barnum as a Charming guy, who treated his "freaks" very well. I like to think that is true. All of the individuals had extrordinary stories of their lives. The last picture put me over the edge though!!.. :)

Thanks James, I have never been let down by your hubs!


fred allen profile image

fred allen 5 years ago from Myrtle Beach SC

We are all housed in imperfection. What these people overcame to have some sense of dignity is inspirational. Their spirits overcame their flesh in most of the cases you cited. I am blessed to have been led to think about their stories.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

graceomalley— As a former musician who spent years on the road, I can attest that you become very close with your fellow travelers as move on from town to town, always strangers whereever you go. I am well pleased that enjoyed this piece. Thank you for visiting and commenting.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Frieda Babbley— Well, my word. It has been a long time. Thank you for coming by to visit my Hub. It is an honor to have you here. I appreciate your compliments. And you are welcome. :-)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

ar.colton— Yes, I believe the interest is still there. I have heard about some new freak shows, but some of the freaks made themselves into freaks through self-mutilation. That strikes me as kind of ugly.

Thank you for visiting and for your kind compliments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

SilentReed— I did consider Joseph Merrick, the "Elephant Man," for this Hub but decided he is the most publicized example ever and my addition of him here might be superfluous. I love the sad movie about him starring Eric Stoltz.

I am glad you enjoyed this article. I agree with your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

always exploring— You are quite welcome. Thank you for your comments. I appreciate this visitation from you. :)


stars439 profile image

stars439 5 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

Excellent hub. God Bless all the souls that have had physical differences and problems. I hope they are all in Heaven in peace and with joy. God Bless You


Coming of Age profile image

Coming of Age 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Hi James...."There but for the grace of God go I"

I believe given the opportunity of a so-called "normal" existence, or that of being a sideshow attraction based on their deformity, most (if not all) of the pictured individuals would have chosen a normal life.

We can tell ourselves that they had a choice, but in reality their circumstance forced most of them to the sideshow. That was their best opportunity for an economically viable alternative to being institutionalized, or condemned to a life of extreme poverty and prejudice.

You say {The human freaks in these shows enjoyed being in show business-who doesn't?} Being in show business for a particular talent is a lot different than being in show business as an oddity. Usually someone who becomes an actor, or a singer, or dancer for instance, does so as a chosen vocation rather than a "choice" being forced upon them for a malady that is beyond their control. I don't think enjoyment had a damn thing to do with it, but "acceptance" probably afforded them some measure of happiness.

You fail to mention that another of the reasons the so-called "freak" show has disappeared is medical advancements that had taken place by 1970. Most instances of conjoined twins are surgically separated these days, except in the most severe instances. We have been quite successful in separating these identical twins since the 1950's. Conjoined twins and midgets made up the vast majority of sideshows, so there is a natural progression that has also played a role in making the sideshow obsolete. Most Midgets and people with cases of Dwarfism are highly employable today because of the many more opportunities that exist for their making a living with their minds, so today many are in fields that were less obtainable in the past, and I for one am glad.

I certainly don't consider myself a progressive, or liberal in any way for that matter, but I can surely tell you that I would rather spend my entire life in poverty as a ditch digger, than be wealthy, but stared at and ostracised as a "freak".

I would also be remiss if I failed to point out that the "freak" show has not actually disappeared. Today we call it "Reality TV"! There you can find everything from the physically different "little people", and the extremely obese, to ex-convict murderer bounty hunters with bleach blonde "mohawk-mullet" hairdos, wanna-be singers and dancers, unfaithful cheaters, sexual preference oddities, junkies, and much much more.....It's a virtual cornucopia of freakiness, a living color & high definition "Freak-Show" for the 21st century!


allpurposeguru profile image

allpurposeguru 5 years ago from North Carolina

Fascinating as always. It's amazing how and where the law of unintended consequences turns us, isn't it. I can't imagine a world where people with deformities are taken around the country for other people to gawk at. But at the same time, the demise of such entertainment has left them isolated and unfulfilled. Did the ones you mention develop their talents and personalities precisely because they had an opportunity to perform in public? I wonder if there is a way to restore that sense of purpose and community in a less demeaning way--and if very many people are even wondering?


CASE1WORKER profile image

CASE1WORKER 5 years ago from UNITED KINGDOM

stunned by the information and the photos and slightly disturbed that people liked to look at these poor people. ( disturbed because I found myself becoming interested0


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

justom— Thank you, Tom! Peace to you brother. I appreciate you coming by.

James


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

lisa.bom— I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for taking the time to read my article.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

WildIris— I agree with you about the awe and the repelled sides of reactions to these unfortunate folks. Thank you for your kind compliments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CheyenneAutumn— Lovely name, by the way. I agree with your thoughtful assessment. Thank you for your insights. And you are most welcome.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

advisor4qb— It is good to see you again, my dear. Thanks for the vote up, the compliments, and affirmation. Cheers to you!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

sueroy333— You are welcome. I appreciate the visit and your comments. Most of these people did live the most normal lives they could in their circumstances. It makes me thankful for the many blessings I have received, not least of which, my good health.


ama83 profile image

ama83 5 years ago from San Jose, CA

I can say little else but, oh my goodness! I am grateful for the information, but I cannot help feeling shocked still. I hope that does not sound bad.

I think about how strong these individuals had to be to live their lives so happily. But, it seems that most of them were happy. I have to admire those who looked past their struggles and focused on the positive.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Marcella Glenn— Thank you!!! Thank you very much! :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Tamarajo— Your comments are spot on and yet somewhat sobering. I suppose we should all count our blessings. As much as I hear folks whining about little inconveniences, perhaps these people have something to teach us—by not being locked away from public view.


fastfreta profile image

fastfreta 5 years ago from Southern California

What an interesting read. I was amazed at how so many that you wrote about became wealthy. This, in a way, compensated for their sad lives. Of course now with modern medicine most of these kinds of abnormalities can be remedied, thank goodness. Very good hub James. You know I rated this one up.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

GusTheRedneck— You are welcome, Gus. I am sorry to have struck such a depressing chord in you. I am especially moved by the story Schlitzie. How could have this person had such a full life and such an impact on others except by the life he lived? I think there is a lot to ponder on many levels. That is why I wanted to visit this topic. Thank you for your poignant words.

James


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CMHypno— I cannot imagine that horror either, my friend. I agree with you that it is amazing the gifts and talents these folks developed. They are strong survivors that show the human will in action.

Thank you for coming by to visit. I appreciate your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CMerritt— I have not seen that movie. It sounds very interesting but I checked Netflix and they don't have it.

You are, surprisingly, the only person who commented on that last picture. That condition is commonly called "elephantitus" thought it is actually "elephantiasis."

Thank you for your kind comments. And you are surely welcome.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

fred allen— Yes we are all housed in imperfection. And yes, these folks can provide inspiration.

Thank you, Fred, for sharing your thoughtful insights with me, with us. I always look forward to hearing from you.


cameciob profile image

cameciob 5 years ago

James, In a way it was good that there was a community that gathered all those kids. Among "normals" their life would have been much harder. Now days we regard such problems as a medical condition but before, I believe, our judjment wasn't sympathetic at all.


prasetio30 profile image

prasetio30 5 years ago from malang-indonesia

Another great hub from you, James. I really love to read this hub. There are many "great" person out there with all their shortcomings. But it made the world so beautiful. How you find all this information? including the pictures. At least you open my eyes about what happen outside. I believe they all special people. Thank you very much. God bless you.

Prasetio


Doug Turner Jr. 5 years ago

Bizarre and fascinating. A very well done hub. Thanks.


gusripper profile image

gusripper 5 years ago

Really freak hub.Thanks James for the informations


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

Fascinating and compelling as always, James, and a humane treatment of those who were often abused by an inhumane world.

Thanks for sharing all these details and amazing photos.


Alexander Mark profile image

Alexander Mark 5 years ago from beautiful, rainy, green Portland, Oregon

Wow James, you did it again. I was thoroughly entertained throughout and pleasantly surprised by the positive side of the freak story. Until this hub, I had the impression that all freaks in a freak show were enslaved, mistreated and / or poorly paid. Apparently that was not the whole story. When I compare it to the erroneous blame placed on guns for murder, and the fact that we can admit civilian owned weapons can provide opportunity to commit crime, it easy to make the next logical leap and as the idea that gun control over law abiding citizens is going to stop crime and illegal gun ownership is ridiculous, so is saying that freak shows were always bad news for the participants.

I still want to wonder if it wasn't such a negative phenomenom, but you presented heavy evidence to the contrary and also turned these freaks into human beings. I'm starting to think that even when ordinary people from previous centuries lacked knowledge, maybe they were more thoughtful and reasonable than we are today.

Kudos by the way on delivering a perfectly presented point. You mentioned progressives in the beginning and I felt that it was a positive mention, but then you reiterated the success of deformed entertainers over and over, and even in the case of Schlitzie showed us how detrimental socialized help was for him, and then in the last section it became an undeniable fact that boxing humans into categories and numbers is the end result of "helping" people who do not need or want help.

Forgive me if I have written too much again - this hub was spectacular and enlightening and I couldn't contain myself.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

stars439— Thank you, brother. I know you can relate. I agree with your words. I always enjoy your visits. God Bless You!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Coming of Age— Hello there! You make many outstanding points, that are thoughtful and insightful, my friend.

I agree with you up to a point. The whole idea of show business is based on extraordinariness. We don't seek to see shows of people who are average or normal, but those who have unusual beauty, talent, or skills. Admittedly, freak shows are the flip side of this.

By loving show business—having been in it myself—I mean it is easy to love the hurly burly, the excitement, the performing, the comraderie, the travel, the sense of belonging to a group of extraordinary individuals who do what most folks only dream about.

You are surely correct that medical advancements and employment opportunities have increased since these old days.

As to your idea that you would rather not perform in public if you knew people were paying to see you perform because you were odd looking, I am sure many did stay home and choose not to do this. The people I highlighted on this page chose to become performers and the evidence is that they were glad they did for a variety of reasons. Fame is a powerful lure. Many mass killers only wanted to be famous.

Ha! I love your point about reality TV being one long freak show. And this makes a similar point: surely people on Jerry Springer and Jersey Shores or whatever are aware that most people are laughing at them. They want to be in the limelight anyway.

Thank you for making these extraordinary comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

allpurposeguru— Thank you for visiting my humble Hub. I appreciate your thoughtful comments. I do not know the answer to your last question, though it is a good one.

You wrote: "It's amazing how and where the law of unintended consequences turns us, isn't it."

Yes, it is. You wrote:

"Did the ones you mention develop their talents and personalities precisely because they had an opportunity to perform in public?"

A very good question. I might guess yes. Most of these acts did not just stand there. All of them were trained to DO something. And many of them proved quite talented.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

CASE1WORKER— See! That's what I'm talking about. :D

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate the visit.


Coming of Age profile image

Coming of Age 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Hi James.....Well, I decided to do a bit of research and have discovered that the traveling "Freak Show" has really not gone away at all. Less common perhaps, but alive and well.

If you use your search engine and look up the following names you will discover that the freak show is still traveling the country, and available for booking.....This might even be good subject matter for you to do a follow up hub.

"Chuy-The Wolfman", Jesse Stitcher-"The Haf Boy", Dame Demure-The Dancing Dwarf", "Jackie of All Trades-The Human Tripod", "Erik-The Gentle Giant", "Lobster Boy-The Black Scorpion", Jason Brott-"The Penguin Boy", "Lobster Girl"

All of the names above represent off & on again performers in traveling freakshows that tour the U.S. today. Each represents a performer that has a medical condition making them unique, and are in most cases representative of the same sorts of conditions from your list and photographs. These folks have chosen to keep the sideshow traditions of old going. I guess it proves the old adage that "the show must go on".

Of course the freakshows also have the self made freaks: swordswallowers, & tatooed man sorts.

To be concise, it is only the state of Michigan that has outlawed putting human beings on display as "freaks".

The names of the freakshows themselves are: "999 Eyes", "Hellzapoppin", Ken Harks-"The Brothers Grim Sideshow", "Coney Island USA's".

At any rate, I thought you might like to have/be interested in this fresh information.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

ama83— It doesn't sound bad to be shocked, no. I understand.

I agree these were some strong individuals. One of my best friends was born blind and he is one of the happiest, level-headed, steady-mooded people I have ever met. A reminder to count our blessings.

Thank you for visiting and commenting. I enjoy hearing from you. I hope your folks are well.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

fastfreta— Thank you for your compliments and up rating. It is good to hear from you. I need to get over and see what you've been writing. I'll do that soon.

I agree with your remarks and I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us here.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

cameciob— It is a pleasure to see you here, my dear. Thanks for coming.

Yes, we are much more sensitive these days. And I agree that many of these folks were blessed to be part of a community of entertainers. I appreciate your comments!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

prasetio30— You are welcome, Prasetio. I did a lot of research on this subject, and a lot of thinking about it, too. I had to get a clear vision as to my feelings about this before I expressed it.

These were special people. Thank you for your gracious compliments. I enjoyed reading your words. God Bless You!

James


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Doug Turner Jr.— You are welcome. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate the compliment. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

gusripper— You are welcome, my friend. Thank you for your note. Good to see you. :D


akirchner profile image

akirchner 5 years ago from Central Oregon

Wow, James, freaky is definitely the word! I often think of my boy, Patrick and had he been born in a different time and place, he probably would have been part of a "freak" show....not sure if that is good or bad but I much prefer him in the here and now!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas

That was a fun and very interesting read, James. It is amazing what some people can live with and still achieve to significant levels in life. Thanks for sharing it! WB


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

drbj— You are welcome. I appreciate you taking the time to read my article. I am glad you found this piece compelling. Thank you for your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Alexander Mark— Very good to hear from you again, my friend. You didn't write too much. Your comments are thoughtful and insightful. I certainly appreciate the laudations. :D

There was surely a positive side to the freak shows for the entertainers themselves, particularly considering the alternatives.

Yes, I agree that blaming guns for the things people do is off target. In cities where guns have been banned in America, crime goes up. Of course, criminals can always get guns on the black market and they love an unarmed populace.

Relegating people to being wards of the state is never a positive development in my book. I stand for individual freedom and liberty. Thank you for coming by and offering your point of view. I agree with you.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Coming of Age— Yes, there has been a revival of freak shows, though with a much darker tenor. Since it has become politically incorrect, I don't see postmodern freak shows as being as beneficial to the entertainers themselves as those of old.

Thank you for that diligent research. It is very interesting stuff. I doubt I'll do a follow up on this topic but I think it would be great if you do.

I appreciate you coming back with this new addition to the conversation. Well done!


HealthyHanna profile image

HealthyHanna 5 years ago from Utah

Just want to add my voice to how interesting this is. What I read into the lives of these 'freaks', is that it is not really about what life hands you, BUT, it is how you handle life.


Coming of Age profile image

Coming of Age 5 years ago from Rocky Mountains

Hi again James-You're right about the "dark tenor" of the new sideshow tours, but I think that probably just goes with the times....You know, the heavy metal and gothic culture swing.

Maybe it just means that you and I are getting old. Afterall it wasn't all that long ago that I used to join others and say "if the music is too loud, you're too old." Now, its too loud for me, so there you have it.


gachapoz profile image

gachapoz 5 years ago

So interesting, wow, i had to read it all.


maggs224 profile image

maggs224 5 years ago from Sunny Spain

On the first full weekend in October Goose Fair the largest travelling fair in the UK comes to Nottingham. This annual fair has been a feature on Nottingham life for over seven hundred years and it is still going strong.

When I was a child over fifty years ago I can remember being taken into a Freak show at the fair of course today there are hardly any Sideshows at all at the fair at all it is nearly all rides.

When I was a child there were still many different types of Sideshows at Goose Fair. There was the Flea Circus where the Fleas would pull tiny chariots and walk the tight rope a Mouse town where tiny white mice would play in a miniature town. There were mini circus type shows boxing and wrestling booths where members of the public were invited to take their chances against the fair’s fighters. There also use to be a sideshow that had freak animals like two headed lambs or five legged goats’ etc.

I found the hub very interesting, I am glad to see that many of them became rich as well as famous I often wondered if they had been misused and exploited. Life back when the film was made back in the UK and the USA was very different to how it is now.

I wonder what sort of an alternative lifestyle would have been available to these people if they had been denied the chance of being part of the show business community. It is very difficult to judge what you would have done unless you have been faced with the life chances that were available at the time to people in their situation.

I personally would rather be a part of a community that cared about me where I could live life with some semblance of normality with money in my pocket (plenty of money it seems) than be institutionalise locked away in conditions that were appalling.

This is an excellent hub I am voting it up and hitting the awesome button.


Edoka Writes profile image

Edoka Writes 5 years ago

Great hub! I love reading about topics like this. Interesting.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

akirchner— Where was Rick James when they need him!? :-)

I am not familiar with Patrick's story. So, I'm not sure what you mean there, though I would like to. Is he disabled in some way? Or challenged?

Thank you for visiting my Hub. I appreciate your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Wayne Brown— Good to hear from you, brother! I'm glad you liked my article. Thanks for saying so. I appreciate the visitation, WB.

JAW


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

HealthyHanna— Thank you for coming by and making your presence known. It is good to see you. I agree that all we can control is how we respond to unfortunate circumstances. I appreciate your comments.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Coming of Age— Don't trust anybody over thirty.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

gachapoz— Thank you for letting me know how interesting you found my article to be. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

maggs224— It is a pleasure to receive you here! Thank you very much for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your thoughtful and insightful remarks. And I am grateful for the up vote and you hitting the awesome button for me. :D

I had not heard of the Goose Fair. Seven hundred years!? WOW! Now that's a long time. I have seen a Flea Circus! HA! I had forgotten about those.

I agree with your comments. I enjoyed reading them too. Yes, life is always changing. That is for sure.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Edoka Writes— Thank you! I'm glad you enjoyed it. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community!


Betty Wilson 5 years ago

This was really interesting! Unbelievable how humans can endure. Appreciate all your research and work. Thanks for sharing. Betty


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Betty Wilson— You are welcome. It is always a pleasure to hear from you, Betty. I'm glad you found this article interesting. Thank you for visiting and showing your appreciation of my work. :-)

James


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

This was a good read James, I especially enjoyed the line:

"Schlitzie was well loved by his fellow performers for his child-like innocence, exuberance, and unconditionally loving and affectionate nature. He loved the spotlight; he lived to sing, dance, and perform for people."

The Ramones do a song that I believe is about Schlitzie Surtees called, "I don't wanna be a pinhead no more." Great song.

There are still freak shows, my daughter saw a mutated woman reading a book at a fair we went to in Milwaukee a few years ago. She said the woman looked incredibly sad.

It's too bad you included the usual conservative propaganda in your verbiage here. It makes your POV look myopic and misguided. Abuse of human rights seems to be the latest trend of conservative thinkers for the past ten years in our country. Now if we can only get American corporate executives off of welfare we can restore dignity to business in our nation as well, the white collar freak show.

Other than that, a sound tribute to the dignity of the people of the "Freak Show".

Ben


gr82bme profile image

gr82bme 5 years ago from USA

Loved the pics. Thank you for sharing.


Dolores Monet profile image

Dolores Monet 5 years ago from East Coast, United States

Johnny Eck is a Baltimore folk hero due to his fame as a local screen painter. An old Baltimore tradition, screen painting became popular early in the 20th century. Row houses, set very close to the street were not very private. Screen painting ( painting a picture on a screen) allowed those inside the houses to see out while people passing by could not see in. Johnny Eck is one of our famous screen painters.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Ben Zoltak— Thank you, Ben, for taking the time to read my article. I appreciate your compliments.

I haven't heard that song by the Ramones. I will have to check it out. Thanks for that tip.

I have heard that a certain sort of Freak Show is making a comeback.

I do apologize for offending your liberal sensibilities. I simply find the solution of making everyone a ward of the state not only an insult, but dangerous. I don't want to see the USSR replicated in the USA.

james


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

gr82bme— You are most welcome! Thank you for visiting my Hub! :-)


Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 5 years ago from England

Hi, James, now this is my kind of hub! fascinating stuff, and I quite agree with you, sometimes the so called politically correct get it all wrong, they enjoyed themselves and they felt part of a family and community, so why take them away? sad, cheers nell


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Dolores Monet— I knew Baltimore was famous for screen painting but I completely missed the connection with Johnny Eck. Thank you for enlightening me on this. I very much appreciate your comments and the visitation from you.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Nell Rose— Good to see you! I am glad we are in agreeance, Nell. And that this is your kind of Hub. I appreciate the visitation from you. Thank you for your comments.

James


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

James, you are a thoughtful American, I hope we can work together to get to some common ground. I miss conservatives who fought monopolies (no purer form of communism agreed?) Perhaps you can find some of your party who would help to break the strangle hold Rupert Murdoch has on our democratic republic? I say this without vitriol or antagonism Jim, our country can't bear more of this man's 75% stranglehold on our media. Bring the good conservatives back my friend, where are the positive conservatives? You are a good American, an adversary perhaps, but a worthy one, and still a good American.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Ben Zoltak— Thank you, Ben. I find you a thoughtful person as well. I feel the same way about hope for common ground. ummm . . . purer form of communism? I've always found it odd that a man who employs 500 people is considered a capitalist dog but a man who is boss of 500 bureaucrats—who produce nothing—is considered a fine fellow.

I hardly think Mr. Murdoch is in control of our media. Surely ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc. etc. etc. are not getting their marching orders from him. I think the Left is simply upset that Fox News has broken THEIR monopoly on the news. I say Thank God for that.

I would love to be positive but when I look about my beloved country, its culture, its society . . . frankly, it makes me sick.

For some reason this book just came to mind:

http://www.amazon.com/Unreality-Industry-Deliberat...


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

James Watkins, it's too bad our country makes you sick, from the look of your profile pic, and the anecdotes you share, your country has done a lot for you. It certainly has done a lot for me, the people and the government too. As for the culture, it has been tainted by the continued fear and hate campaign of scapegoating and prohibition. There's a "geewhiz why are people so violent" attitude by conservatives, while they do everything they can to imprison people for victimless crimes and then create real criminals in the process.

Murdoch is the consummate American conservative. An immigrant who, now that he has been granted citizenship into our great country, turns around and vilifies immigrants! Much like the actor/President he idolizes, Ronald Reagan, whose daddy left him and his mom when he was a kid, and who himself was saved by funding from our welfare system. What does this conservative do when he becomes President? Spit on the very system that saved him and his mom.

There is a large swathe of our culture that has enjoyed a vast measure of opulence on the backs of working families. Our country needs those people to invest back in our great country, and to give back to regular people. Sure wealth is great, but we don't need kings and queens here, we need yeomen. Remember? We had a revolution against those guys because they wouldn't give regular Americans representation.

Mindless propaganda and "some people say" references on Murdocks news outlets only inflame our citizenry. I find it very difficult to communicate with many conservatives because they robotically repeat whatever strange (let's say freak show, for the sake of your article) propaganda their media outlets are selling them. I've been friends with some great, free thinking conservatives, I believe James you're probably one of those rarer and rarer kinds.

Glad you call me to a reference, I wish I had the dough to buy that book, but it's out of my price range, maybe I'll check the library. You might enjoy the movie "Outfoxed" which shows conservative journalists that were fired for not distorting facts or outright lying as they were ordered to do. It also explains the stranglehold Murdock has on our media better than I ever could.

Let's bring the hate and anger speech down and get to the matter of bringing our country back to the top.

Take it easy James, united we stand.

Ben


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

Hey Mr. Watkins, here's a link to an article of an American who would benefit from the changes our President has been proposing:

http://consumerist.com/2011/01/cancer-patient-lose...


rls8994 profile image

rls8994 5 years ago from Mississippi

This was very interesting James. I can remember as a child walking into some of these freak show tents at carnivals and fairs. I remember being a little scared to go in but I was very curious to see. I always felt bad for them and also guilty for paying money to look. I enjoyed reading this. Great job! :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Ben Zoltak— I saw that article when it came out and I am glad it was quickly resolved.

What I mean by a sick culture is:

A concerted effort has been made since the Sixties to destroy the social habits and traditions of the American people. All institutions of authority that might set limits to acceptable behavior, what sociologists call the intermediate institutions—families, churches, schools, private associations, city governments, state governments—that stand between the individual and the national government and its bureaucracies have been weakened. Equal acceptance has been assigned to the opinions of the most foolish among us. The result has been societal chaos—the necessary precondition for an all-powerful government to step in and take control, with not only the permission of society, but upon its pleading.

The Supreme Court has steadily advanced the rights of individuals in regard to non-religious expression; while steadily curtailing the rights of individuals in regard to expression of their Christian faith. The Court has decided that it is a grave harm to godless individuals to hear or see expressions of the Christian faith.

Edmund Burke: "The only liberty I mean is a liberty connected with order; that not only exists along with order and virtue, but which cannot exist without them. . . . The effect of liberty to individuals is, that they may do what they please: We ought to see what it will please them to do, before we risk congratulations . . . "

Since the Supreme Court of the United States banned God from the public schools, SAT scores have dropped 10 percent; violent crime increased 700 percent; divorce rates doubled; unmarried couples living together increased 600 percent; single parent households have tripled; premarital sex increased 400 percent; illegitimate births quadrupled; pregnancies among girls under 15 years old have increased 600 percent; sexually transmitted diseases have tripled; 55 million unborn children have been killed in the very place Nature designed to keep them safe; pornography is America's # 1 export; a girl from nearly every block in America can be seen having sex on the internet; preteens have been sexualized in marketing and some media; society is full of vulgar language; 19 million persons are infected with a STD each year in America—4 million of them teenagers. 65 million Americans have a contagious Sexually Transmitted Disease right now. 25 percent of all American adults have a lifelong incurable STD.

If that is not a sick society, pray tell: WHAT IS?


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

rls8994— Hey! It is great to see you! I'm glad you enjoyed my article. You've actually been to Freak Show!? Wow! I haven't ever had access to one. Thank you for visiting and commenting. :D


katiem2 profile image

katiem2 5 years ago from I'm outta here

God bless them each and every one that a full charge of angels be with them, guiding them, protecting them and blessing their foot steps and or path that they be in a place and truly doing what makes their hearts light and filled with real joy!

Thanks James for bringing this to our attention. Well Done! :) Katie


lilyfly profile image

lilyfly 5 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

Captivating read ,John! I've always thought that we all have some kind of freakishness, It's just normal looking people can hide it.

When I was a girl, I used to be shunned completely, I had warts all over. That gave me a little compassion for freaks... lily


englishtea profile image

englishtea 5 years ago

Like I've said before, you have an incredible gift for selecting topics. This topic is fascinating and sure does stimulate thought and conversation. I do enjoy your flare for details.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

katiem2— You are welcome, Katie. Thank you for reading it and for your kind compliments. We all need a full charge of angels, don't we? Your comments are deep and lovely. I appreciate them and you—for your huge heart. :)

James


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

lilyfly— Ha! We are hiding our abnormalities!? Do ya think? :D

Warts? That is a serious impediment to social acceptance. Thank you for sharing, Lily. I appreciate your compassion.

James


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

englishtea— I very much appreciate your laudatory remarks. It makes a man feel good to be recognized. Thank you! :D


alinadelea profile image

alinadelea 5 years ago

Thanks for sharing


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

alinadelea— You are welcome! Thanks for visiting and commenting.


lightning john profile image

lightning john 5 years ago from Florida

Yes, some of these unique people did live like rock stars. Some were made welcome by kings and queens. They understood that they were different than others in a very severe way. Earning their own money for being who and what they were, must have given them a certain sense of independance and status. But we other humans cannot let them be exploited so we can feel good about ourselves.


Ben Zoltak profile image

Ben Zoltak 5 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

I disagree with your non-referenced statistics up there Jimmy, but I thoroughly enjoyed the brilliant Edmund Burke quote and I'll be looking after this comment to see if you wrote more about him in one of your other hubs.

Pornography to me isn't so bad, god knows just about all of my conservative friends take their paychecks to the strip joints on a regular basis. Human trafficking to me is the biggest fight going on in the world now. We are privileged to live in a country that diligently fights it, the world at large is not so lucky to be protected from those all to real freaks though I'm afraid.

Great comments here on your hub Mr. Watkins. I thought katiem2's was especially heart warming.

Ben


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Lightning John— How great to see you, my friend! You wrote:

"Yes, some of these unique people did live like rock stars. Some were made welcome by kings and queens."

Indeed! More than simply being exhibited, the majority of them displayed skills and talents which were also extraordinary.

Thank you for visiting and commenting.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Ben Zoltak— I am glad you enjoyed the Burke quote, Ben. And yes, Katiem2 is a special gal with a warm heart.

I believe my statistics are accurate. Do you want references for all of them? How about you pick the one you think is most off the mark and I will supply you with the stats right here and now.

I have written about pornography. HubPages demonetizied for an unspecified reason. Perhaps it is politically incorrect. Too bad though because it has proven to be one of my top four Hubs for viewership out of 213:

http://hubpages.com/relationships/Amateur-Pornogra


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 years ago from Kyle, Scotland

Hi James - coming to this late, but I enjoyed your exchange with Ben as much as the hub itself. Hope all's well.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Paraglider— It's never too late, brother. Thanks for coming by and making your presence known. I'm glad you enjoyed it.


Amy Becherer profile image

Amy Becherer 5 years ago from St. Louis, MO

In my former life, which I will forever more put into perspective as inconsequential, comparatively speaking, to this lengthy list of horrific conditions, I watched TLC and learned of "Tree Man", and the "Mermaid Girl". Even today, the tendency to voyeuristic curiosity makes a living hell for the people afflicted with these birth defects and diseases. The adults afflicted that were documented on cable television spent their lives secluded, other than publicly humiliated in a circus environment to earn a living. I have great admiration for their resilience in adapting to a life that, even in my wildest imagination, would be too compromising for me to tolerate. Fascinating, informative piece on a subject I find very disturbing.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Amy Becherer— I had no idea TLC had such a program. I will look for that show. Thank you for telling me about it. You paint a pretty sad picture here. People are surely voyeuristic, it's true. Look at "gapers delays" when a bad accident happens on the freeway. You can't help but look. I suppose it is part of human nature. And it is somewhat disturbing on some level.

Well, I appreciate your thoughtful insights. It is always my pleasure to hear from you.


Beth100 profile image

Beth100 5 years ago from Canada

Another exceptional article James. It seems teaching a person to be independent and allowing them to be so has been lost on those who make judgements.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Beth100— Thank you! I agree with you that there are those who want dependents not independents. Dependents are far easier to mould.


DIYweddingplanner profile image

DIYweddingplanner 5 years ago from South Carolina, USA

Amazing...and a little freaky. A great hub, I am absolutely a devotee and follower.


no body profile image

no body 5 years ago from Rochester, New York

The same kind of thinking that would call these people handicapped and make the people around them feel sorry are the same people who do not realize God made us all as we are. These folks accepted who they were and how God created them. The only unfortunate thing is the crass type of ogling and laughter that goes to freak shows. That type laughter is covering up an uncomfortableness at having to see a strange individual. It's unfortunate there was not a way to have both things, the curiosity expressed and the shock but without the element that everyone thought was evil and mean. The people that destroyed those people's lives and livlihood were actually thinking they were doing them a favor. I totally agree that the progressive thinking destroys and will continue to destroy until Jesus comes to get us. Great hub as usual. I would say I love you like usual but I think I love you a little more with each thing I read that you write. Your brother. Bob.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

DIYweddingplanner— Thank you very much for your kind compliments. Welcome to the Hub Pages Community! I look forward to reading your work.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

no body— Hey Brother Bob! Good to see you here. Yes, the ogling is crass. The good thing is that in almost every case, these folks weren't just displayed for ogling per se, but had developed amazing talents as performers. I think they inspired people: Heck if these people can overcome these disadvantages, what am I cryin' about?

Of course, there will always be mean and evil people. And I agree with you that the do-gooders thought they were doing something good. The law of unintended consequences came to bear.

I appreciate the love, my friend. Thank you for your ongoing support and encouragement.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Interesting history with a rather oversimplified conclusion. Having worked closely with people with disabilities for most of my life, I would have to say that the majority (all whom I have known) would not want anything to do with a "Freak Show".

The executive director of the independent living skills agency where I worked during the 1980s would have had no other choice had it not been for programs that assisted him in getting a degree in communication. He had severe cerebral palsy, could not speak and communicated by use of a Speak N Spell which he operated with his toes.He did a great job and was an excellent executive director.

The agency, itself was conceived of and operated by, of and for people with disabilities. Services for paraplegics and quadriplegics were coordinated by qualified paraplegics and quadriplegics. Deaf services were coordinated by qualified deaf people. Our board of directors was comprised of 51% people with disabilities.

We empowered people with disabilities to take control of their lives and live full lives, and none of these people would appreciate being called lazy or lay-abouts because they needed and accepted assistance to begin their journeys.

If it were not for the very "progressive thinkers" you blame for bringing about changes, none of these people would be in the effective, positive positions they were in then and are in today.

Additionally, many of the conditions which placed people in freak shows in the past are now easily treated allowing people to pursue a vast array of choices rather than being consigned to a life of being considered simple oddities to be gawked at.

As far as I know, people of all sorts are still free to join the circus if they wish. Being given resources that enable them to make other choices is progress, and that's a good thing.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

justmesuzanne— Yes, I agree with your comments. I don't think deaf people, or quadriplegics, paraplegics, and unfortunate folks with cerebral palsy were ever used in Freak Shows.

I think empowering people with disabilities is wonderful work.

Freak Shows are outlawed in many states so no, people are not still free to join circuses. Even where not outlawed, they are politically incorrect—held in disdain, which makes it a very unattractive business.

Learning how to use Speak and Spell is great but hardly comparable to being an international star in Show Business.

I appreciate your thoughtful comments. Thank you for sharing your insights.


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

Apparently you missed the part of my description of my former Executive Director in which I explained that he was the Executive Director of an agency by, of and for people with disabilities and had a degree in communications. This was a man who could not speak or walk and did not have the use of his hands. He was severely malformed and would, indeed, have been "freak show" fodder in the days of "freak shows" if he had not been institutionalized or killed/allowed to die at birth as many people with disabilities were in those days.

Only the very lucky made it into freak shows, and not all of them did so willingly or with freedom to choose. Many were owned and used.

It is wrong to make money exploiting others for whatever reason. If a person does, indeed, choose to display his or her self for money, it poses a number of philosophical questions: e.g. How does this differ from producing pornography or engaging in prostitution? If it's legal to exploit your own abnormalities for money, should it also be legal to exploit your own body otherwise to produce pornography or to engage in prostitution?


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

I surely did not mean to poo-poo the incredible accomplishments of this man you wrote about.

I was only saying people should have the freedom to choose for themselves. And this freedom was taken away.

Pornography is legal. It is all over the internet, as I'm sure you know. I don't think it should be; but it is. As far as I am concerned, prostitution should be legal, heavily taxed, and regulated for health reasons. It will never be stopped. Get rid of the pimps, beatings, disease, sex slave trade and surely the situation would not be worse than it is today.

Exploitation . . . well, how about modeling? Here we have unusual beauty being exploited. How about a professional baseball player—extraordinary (freakish, if you will) talent that people pay to see. Artists?

I agree with what you are saying. There are many angles to this, as you say, philosophically. :-)


justmesuzanne profile image

justmesuzanne 5 years ago from Texas

I think that the freak show situation can be most closely equated with prostitution. The circumstances you described often existed in the freak show setting. Heavily regulated, with full comprehension and consent of those involved, it would be a different situation.

Modeling and professional sports are well-regulated industries, entered into with the full consent and understanding of the participants.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

justmesuzanne— Well then, thank goodness the Freak Show is a thing of the past. I do see your point. I would not endorse the exploitation of human beings. I stand fully convinced that the Freak Shows were wrong.


pinkydoo profile image

pinkydoo 5 years ago from New York

Whoa...I don't know what to say! I'm still feeling kind of confused by that last picture! Yes, I know what I want to say, this hub is fascinating (as demonstrated by all these comments here)! this is by far, one of the most interesting "reads" I've ever had at Hubpages! All the details and photos - very well done!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

pinkydoo— Thank you for the kind compliments. Yea, that last picture is a bit confusing. At least the guy always has a place to sit down.

Wow! You really like cats! Welcome to the Hub Pages Community! :D


Alastar Packer profile image

Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

How could I have missed this one till now. 'Freaks' is a one of a kind movie and you've got a couple of the 'performers' in that classic featured and pictured here. Fantastic article James with many new...what's the word used now.. bio challenged? I've lived close to some of these people: 5 miles away in Dobson N.C. from Eng n Chang's farm. Maybe 10 miles as the crow flies from where the Hilton ladies ended their days working at a Park-n-Shop grocery as you pointed out. The saddest cases here to me are Grace and Betty Lou. You do deserve to be one, if not the most respected writer on this site. AP :D


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

Alastar Packer— I love the film "Freaks." What a truly original classic piece of work.

Thank you for the accolades, my friend. Yes, Grace and Betty Lou are particularly tragic cases of human deformity.

I find it interesting that you live near Eng & Chang's farm, as well as the grocery store where the Hiltons worked. Have you met anyone who knew them?

I have close friends in Thomasville, Hendersonville, and Franklin NC. Beautiful country. I appreciate the visit!


A.A. Zavala profile image

A.A. Zavala 5 years ago from Texas

Can't believe I missed this. I remember the case regarding the lobster boy and the murders. These "oddity" shows will flourish, because of our innate morbic curiosity. Thank you for sharing.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

A.A. Zavala— You are welcome. It is good to hear from you again. We humans are a curious lot alright. Thank you for reading my article. I appreciate your comments.


biblicaliving profile image

biblicaliving 5 years ago from U.S.A.

It seems our society is always trying to save "us" from "ourselves." As you stated, many of them appeared to have enjoyed the lifestyle. As long as they were not being "forced" to do anything against their wishes,it should have been left up to the conscientious of the promoter, performer and their spectators.

Personally, freak show aren't my thing, but I don't think that it would be proper of me to advocate for regulation.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago Author

biblicaliving— Yes, there are many who want to "save us from ourselves." Makes me wonder how my generation survived into middle age without them. :D

The stories I read made it clear that these "freaks" had a better life in show business than they possibly could have had as government dependents or trying to find a place working regular jobs.

Thank you for your thoughtful insights. Welcome to HubPages!!


Marlin 55 profile image

Marlin 55 4 years ago from USA

It's a great hub James. I am familiar with some of these personalities from watching the movie Freaks. You gave some great background into their personal lives that I found interesting. Thanks for sharing this great article.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Marlin 55— Thank you for saying so. I love that movie. I am glad you enjoyed my Hub. I appreciate your kind comments. And you are most welcome.


dc 4 years ago

This is really cool. There's a novel (The Haunted Man, by Dori Davis) that talks about the rights of so-called "freaks" to decide for themselves how to make a living, and how the politically correct crowd ruined that for them. I recommend it, and I'll recommend this hub to anyone.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

dc— I appreciate you telling me about the novel, The Haunted Man. I had not heard of it and it sounds quite interesting. I agree with the author's premise, as you might have gathered.

Thank you for expressing your admiration of this Hub. I am honored that you might recommend it to your friends. :D


superstitiousspec 4 years ago

absolutely amazing! your are ans great go-to, james! thatnk you so much! i hope get an a on my project. thanks to you, i probably will! thanks again.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

superstitiousspec— Good luck on your project. I hope you do get earn an A. Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I really appreciate your accolades. :D


Александра 4 years ago

? ????! ?????? ????!


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

??????????— Thank you!! Thank you very much! :)


jsasson profile image

jsasson 4 years ago from Florida

Very interesting, they all seem like they have their dignity and humanity intact.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

jsasson— I agree with your assessment. Thank you for reading my Hub. Welcome to the HubPages Community! :)


Levertis Steele profile image

Levertis Steele 4 years ago from Southern Clime

I had not read about the four-legged woman and her husband, the physician. Wow! Two wombs! Doc was a freak, too! Well, at least he did not have an excuse to cheat, if you can discount his affair with the conjoined twin as adultery. I have a thousand questions about this story. I am amazed.

So, the woman would rather be called mule-faced than a freak. Interesting.

I had never heard of Lazarus Colloredo. Married. Brother hanging at midsection. Children. Yes, the questions are running full throttle!

Chang and Eng had slaves!

The others, I can handle, but Myrtle Corbin is unforgettable.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 4 years ago from Chicago Author

Levertis Steele— Thank you for visiting. I got a joyful kick out of your hilarious comments.

"Doc was a freak, too! Well, at least he did not have an excuse to cheat, if you can discount his affair with the conjoined twin as adultery."

LOL

Myrtle Corbin IS unforgettable.

It is a pleasure to "see" you here. I am always happy when you come by and offer your keen observations. It is always great to hear from you. :-)

James

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