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Circus Oddities Who Actually Existed

Antonia R.Antonia R.
Circus Oddities

The penguin lady, the man with 3 legs, the camel girl and others are all circus performers who really did exist and were famous for their unusual physiology.

Traveling with their circus troupe, they were quite a sight to see for the crowds who called them freaks.

Francesco A. Lentini - the man with 3 legs

Francesco was one of the few circus performers who managed to earn respect after years of humiliation and teasing. He had a 3rd leg attached to his back.

The leg was most likely part of his Siamese twin who did not survive. Realizing that he wouldn't be able to lead a normal life, Francesco joined a circus troupe when he was still a kid.

Schlitzie - the pinhead

Schlitzie, known in the circus as the man with the pinhead, was born with microcephaly, where the circumference of the skull is several times smaller than usual. The condition is also accompanied by slight mental disabilities.

Schlitzie's parents sold him to a circus troupe while he was still a baby. He was known for his incredible unconditional love for every single creature, even though he himself was not loved by anyone.

Ella Harper - the camel girl

Ella was born with a deformity where her knees bent backwards. After she appeared in the circus, media all over the world presented her as the most amazing freak to have ever existed.

Ella Harper

She toured with the troupe until 1886 when she had saved up enough money to go to school. Afterwards, the only documented sign of her was a marriage certificate from 1905.

Fanny Mills - the Bigfoot lady

Widely known as the woman with big feet, Fanny Mills was born with a genetic condition where her feet grew to unnatural size. She died at 39 years of age, with each one of her feet having reached a thickness of 17″ (43.2 cm).

Joseph Merrick - the elephant man

The most popular circus performer was the elephant man, whose name was Joseph Merrick. He was born a normal baby but over the years the right side of his head began to swell. By the age of 12, his deformity had reached a frightening size and his father kicked him out of the home, leaving him alone and penniless.

He tried working as a cashier with a mask on his face but was unable to hide himself from the curious stares of the customers. Then he decided to become part of the circus troupe, where he was the main attraction. To this day, the exact cause of his condition is unknown.

Len and Ernie - the 2 boys with 1 head

Ernie Defort was born with a parasitic twin attached to his body. His growing twin was named Len and at the age of 12 he became a serious hazard to Ernie's health. Doctors recommended a surgical removal of Len but the boy was already emotionally attached to his twin and refused to undergo the operation.

Len and Ernie

Nicodemus the Indescribable

Nicodemus, whose real name was John Doogs, was born with limbs several times shorter than average. In the circus he performed as a talented acrobat.

Mignon - the penguin lady

Mignon, known as the penguin lady in the circus, was born with phocomelia - a rare disease where the arms are unusually short and the fingers are glued to each other and look like flippers.

Mignon married twice, with a completely healthy son from her first marriage.

Percilla - the monkey girl

Percilla was born with hypertrichosis, due to which she had 2 rows of teeth and excess hair growth on the face. Her father wanted to benefit maximally from his daughter's condition, renting her to a circus troupe for payment.

The head of the troupe, Karl Lauther, became strongly attached to Percilla and after her father was shot dead in a fray, it was he who adopted and cared for her as his own daughter.

While in the circus, Percilla met Emmitt Bejano - the alligator-skinned man. They fell in love and lived happily until the end of their days.