World’s First Conjoined Twins and Their Wonderful Story
The Unbelievable True Story of the World’s First Conjoined Twins, Who Fathered 21 Children.
“The difference between fiction and reality is that fiction has to make sense” – Tom Clancy
In the most simple terms, conjoined twins can be defined as 2 babies who are physically connected to each other, at the time of their birth. Conjoint Twins are also known as – “Siamese Twins” because the first babies (which brought the entire attention of the world on this unfortunate condition) were born in Siam (modern day Thailand), in a small fishing village 60 miles from Bangkok. This is their story.
World’s First Siamese Twins – The Early Years
Chang and Eng Bunker Siamese twins – were born in the early 19th century (in 1811) at a time when medical science, was still at its infancy and the acceptable moral codes of society, were much less forgiving. Born as Jun and In, they owed their life to their mother, who untwisted the ligament, connecting the babies above their waist, thus saving their lives. She reportedly did not face any difficulty during the birth, and recollected her experience, as being similar to the birth of her other children. Her difficulties however increased tremendously, when her husband died, while the children were still very young. The only way they could help their mother was to help her in selling duck eggs in the village.
To ensure that her children could live the best life under the circumstances, their mother encouraged the boys to exercise, so the joining ligament could become longer. This advice actually worked and the ligament grew more than 5 inches, which enabled the twins to lead a near normal life. The brothers could run, swim and even handle a boat. Life was not easy, but a known atmosphere of the village certainly helped their situation. However, all that would change when destiny made them move away to a far-off country, on the other side of the world, after a chance encounter with a stranger.
The Famous Conjoined Twins Arrive in America
A British merchant Robert Hunter was responsible for introducing the world’s first Siamese twins (at least the first to be documented so thoroughly) to the western community. As a trusted business associate of the Siamese government, he enjoyed considerable freedom & liberty in his movement. A chance encounter with the cousins, whom he saw swimming in the Menam river, set in motion a set of unforeseen events, which would change the life of twins forever.
After initial confusion of mistaking the twins, for some unknown strange animal, the businessman that he was, Robert Hunter decided to make a handsome profit of this accidental encounter. He decided that if he could bring the twins to America, he could financially benefit from the people, who would be intrigued to see this marvel of nature. Although it took him 5 years, however, with help of an American sea captain – Abel Coffin, he was finally successful in departing for the United States in 1829, along with the 17-year-old twins. The twin’s mother received $500 as compensation for sending away her children, for a period of 30 months.
The twins arrived in Boston on 16th August 1829, where they were exhibited to public & also examined by the physicians, both in US and Britain. The examining doctors carried various tests on the twins. When a pin was pricked in the middle of the connecting ligament, both the twins felt the pain, on deviating from the center only the twin on that side felt that pain. If one brother experienced sour taste or tickling, the other twin could feel it too. However, words whispered to a twin’s ear or a pinch on his arm, couldn’t be appreciated by the other.
The general population was also no less intrigued, by the twins. They paid a decent amount of money to see the twins attired in Oriental clothing performing somersaults, running, lifting weights & other physical feats. After a short stintin the United States, they also toured major cities of the United Kingdom & Ireland, doing shows for the public, before returning to New York in March 1831. Not had they earned just a decent amount of money during these tours, but had also picked up a good reading & conversational skill in the English language.
The appearance of the Siamese twins in the western scenario did create some rather illogical but unfortunate situations too. A woman in Kentucky, who had given birth to a dead conjoined twin, attributed her misfortune to, looking at the twin’s representation in newspapers, around the time she conceived. Even in Europe, the French authorities had banned the twin’s entry into the country in 1831, fearing the effects of the men in the country’s women.
From Underdogs to Wealthy Slave Owners
After almost 10 years of coming to the United States, and innumerable public performances later, the brothers decided to settle down. For this reason, they purchased 150 acres of land, in October 1839, in Traphill, in northeastern Wilkes County, North Carolina. Soon they became naturalized citizens of the country & eminent members of the local rural community. The “Bunker” surname they had acquired, belonged to another person, with whom they had a chance encounter. They believed that this surname would help themselves to settle down as proper southern gentlemen.