Step right up, Step right up! The show is about to begin as we explore the world of the circus and those who made and make a magical place to visit. The tradition of the circus has a long incredible history as we learned from last week, but that history lesson is not over today as I will make it point of how history and even film has influenced the circus.
For months month’s now we have explored the world of the circus and those performers we call freaks, although the term itself it derogatory and should not be used today, this is what they were referred to. I stand by using the terms of those times, but we must always remember these were human beings that should have been treated better but weren’t always. Many of the performers we have profiled lived incredibly sad lives and some lives very exciting lives t a great deal of money for their talents and eccentricities. These performers did not have a lot of options to live a normal life and many times society outcaste them living many no choice but to join a circus or freak show to make a living. Today these people hopefully would be respected and even maybe have a rockstar status for their differences, but society is still a cruel place today.
Can you imagine if the Elephant man existed today? Or Lobster boy or any of the other performers I have profiled here. Its hard to say if society would accept them or run-in fear over their differences. One type of performer that has seemed to have a normal life is “Little People”, where today many little people are incredible performers in film and television like one of my favorite Warwick Davis who has been in multitude of films like Willow and Harry Potter.
There are so many performers that have been forgotten or their stories go untold because of little or no real information other than a picture and some history, but they existed. Some of the so called freaks were not freaks at all, but unusual in their appearance all human beings of course, but it’s sad that we as society exploited that to make money and bring fame.
Previous Profiles and Stories
The Human Caterpillar
T.A. Valenzulea (The World’s Biggest Man) (B. 1886, D.1925)
Jennie Quigley (August 20, 1850- March 11th, 1936)
Issaac W. Spraque and Peter Robinson (The Original Thin Man)
The Muse Brothers
Edouard Beaurpre (Worlds Tallest Man)
Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man)
Stephan Bibrowski (Lionel the Lion-faced Man)
General Tom Thumb and Admiral Dot
Ohio Bigfoot Lady
Grady Stiles (Lobster Boy)
The Pinheads Pip/Flip and Schlitizie-
Myrtle Corbin (The Four Legged Girl)
Koo-Koo the Bird Girl
The Siamese Twins –
Felix Wehrle (The Elastic Man) – 1858-1933
Felix Wehrle born in Mount Ida, Wisconsin, known as the Elastic Skin Man, due to his amazing ability to stretch his skin to great lengths. Also a skilled contortionist, able to completely bend his fingers backwards. Traveling with Barnum and Bailey all over the world performing his act, stretching the limits of his skin. He would then perform various contortionist acts, bending his body in unnatural ways.
Wehrle was a popular act in the late 1890’s and worked with other who shared his condition. Afflicted with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). EDS a combination of several generic connective tissue disorders. There is no cure for EDS, but treatment helps in alleviating painful symptoms. It affects around 1 in 5,000 people across the world and was first documented by Hippocrates more than 2,000 years ago.
At the time of his death on December 9th, 1933 Wehrle was living in Laredo, Texas.
As I continue this journey, which I have started years ago, there are still man performers that I have not wrote about. Many of the performers have little or no information about their life and history. I continue to bring these names to light as many of long forgotten , but slowly emerging in film and television like some of my favorite shows and movies I have mentioned often.
These men and women often exploited for there freakness and uniqueness, but I will say that many made money, some astounding amounts in those days. Do we still exploit people today, sure we do but we do it on the social stage of social media, on TV and movies for a profit?
Thank you for continuing to be on this journey with me as these posts are not as often but certainty not forgotten.