In the history of medicine, over the time, numerous cases of rare diseases or malformations have been reported and documented, and from the time of the daguerreotype on many of them were also immortalized. Singular cases, sometimes so bizarre and abnormal to create real monstrosity. For this reason, in the past centuries, some of these people became phenomena attraction for circuses (freaks) or part of the collections of medical and scientific museums. I cannot deny that during this photographic search, came across some picture and testimonial so disturbing and strong to bring me to exclude some of them, and though these images show unusual syndromes, I tried to select the older one. Where specified, you will find the type of disease, the time, and the name of the subject.
Elephantiasis Cases [A disease characterized by the thickening of the skin and underlying tissues, due to a microscopic parasitic worms]
Joseph Carey Merrick
(5 August 1862 – 11 April 1890), was an English man with severe deformities who was exhibited as a human curiosity named the Elephant Man.
Baron Raimund von Stillfried, (1839 – 1911), was an Austrian photographer.
“Bellevue Venus” portrait. Oscar G. Mason (1830 – March 16, 1921), better known was an American photographer and radiographer at the department of Bellevue Hospital in NYC.
Hands and Legs Deformity
Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr. (1937 – 1992) known as Lobster Boy”,was a freak show performer with ectrodactyly deformity, in which fingers and toes are fused together to form claw-like extremities.
Marfan syndrome is a genetic disorder of the connective tissue. People with Marfan tend to be unusually tall, with long limbs and long, thin fingers.
Ella Harper (born in Tennessee in 1873), known as the “Camel Girl“,was born with an orthopedic condition that caused her knees to bend backwards.
Blanche Dumas was born on the Caribbean island of Martinique in 1860. and had a third leg attached to her sacrum. Her pelvis was wider than normal and with double genitalia.
Francesco Lentini (1881-1966) was born in Sicily with with three legs, and two sets of functioning male genitals.
Hugh or Huey Baily was born in Louisiana around 1936 and appears to have had OI or very rare type of dwarfism.
Johnny Eck, (Baltimore 1911 – 1991), an American freak show performer and was born with a birth defect that deprived him of the entire lower part of the body, starting from the end of the ribcage. Although equipped with pelvis, feet and legs, they were minute, malformed and non-functional.
John Doogs, known professionally as Nicodemus, was born in 1863 with two shortened legs and one truncated arm
Cases of Acromesomelic Dysplasia
Prince Randian or Prince Rardion (ca. 1871 – 1934), also known as The Snake Man, The Living Torso, The Human Caterpillar, a famous limbless American performer, was born with tetra-amelia syndrome.
Sirenomelia, known as Mermaid Syndrome, is a very rare congenital deformity in which the legs are fused together, giving them the appearance of a mermaid’s tail.
Historic Medical Photographs, a photograph from the Willard work at Mütter Museum
Josephene Myrtle Corbin (1868 Tennessee, 1928 Texas) was born with a dipygus, two separate pelvises side by side from the waist down.
Francis Joseph Flynn (1864–1898), known as General Mite, was an American who performed as a showman at various competitions as the smallest man in the word. The back of one of his Cart-de-Visite photos states that at 16 years old, he was 22 inches in height and 9 pounds.
Carrie Akers was a double feature in the world of sideshow – she was both a midget and a Fat Lady. While the date of her birth is not certain, Carrie weighed a purported 309 pounds and stood only 34 inches tall.
Medusa Van Allen (1908-1943), “The Sunshine Girl”. After she was born, her bones never grew, (only her head) making it impossible to even sit up. She exhibited with Ripley’s in the 1930’s
John William Rogan (1868-1905),Tennessee, is one of 17 known people in medical history to reach a height of 8 feet (2.44 m) or more.
Robert Pershing Wadlow (1918–1940) is the tallest person in history. Sometimes known as the Alton Giant or Giant of Illinois Wadlow reached 8 ft 11.1 in (2.72 m)in height and weighed 439 lb (199 kg) at his death at age 22.
Robert Earl Hughes (1926 – 1958) was, during his lifetime, the heaviest human being recorded in the history. Hughes was born in Illinois an at the age of six, he weighed about 92 kilograms (200 lb), while later the highest and confirmed was 1,041 pounds (472 kg).
Isaac W. Sprague (1841-1887), Bridgewater MA, called the ”Living Skeleton”, at the age of 12 he began rapidly losing weight despite having a healthy appetite. He apparently suffered from an extreme case of muscular atrophy, having a weigh less than 50 pounds.
GOITRE [or goiter is a swelling of the thyroid gland which can lead to a swelling of the neck or larynx
Intersex is a variation in sex characteristics including chromosomes, gonads, and genitals that do not allow an individual to be distinctly identified as female/male sex binary. Such variation may involve genital ambiguity.
Theodore, a four year-old boy with precociously developed adult genitalia. The physician was Dr. Robert King Stone (1822-1872), a professor of physiological anatomy in the National Medical College at Washington. Mütter Museum.
As a medical term, precocious puberty describes puberty occurring at an unusually early age. In most of these children, the process is normal in every respect except the unusually early age, and simply represents a variation of normal development. In a minority of children, the early development is triggered by a disease.
Jean (or Juan) Baptista dos Santos was born in Portugal around 1843.It was not dos Santos’ three legs that most
excited medical men, but his double genitalia. He possessed two functioning penes and three scrota, the outer two of which each contained a single testis. Wrote the photographer C.D. Fredericks, creator of the only known photograph of dos Santos, in 1865, “….He functionates with both of the penes, finishing with one, then continues with the other.” He urinated and achieved erections with both penes simultaneously.
[also called Ambras syndrome is an abnormal amount of hair growth on the body.
Extensive cases of hypertrichosis have informally been called werewolf syndrome]
The Russian Fedor Jeftichew (1868 – 1904), known as “Jo-Jo the Dog-Faced Man”, became a famous sideshow performer in United States of America.
Stephan Bibrowski (Poland, 1891–1932), better known as Lionel the Lion-faced Man, was a famous sideshow performer.
A recent example of Ambras Syndrome. A girl named Supatra, from Thailand, with thick hair growing оver hеr fаce, еars, аrms, lеgs аnd bаck. Nоthing cоuld stоp the hair growth, even laser treatment.
[A rare phenomenonof identical twins whose bodies are joined in utero. Parasitic twins occur when an embryo begins developing in
utero, but the pair does not fully separate, and one embryo maintains dominant development at the expense of the other.]
Pasqual Pinon (1889–1929), known as The Two-Headed Mexican, was a performer with the Sells-Floto Circus in the early 1900s.
Giacomo and Giovanni Battista Tocci were Dicephalic conjoined twins born in Italy between 1875 and 1877.
Madame Dimanche, called Widow Sunday, a French woman living in Paris in the early 19th century, grew, in six years from the age of 76, a 24.9 cm (9.8″) horn from her forehead before it was successfully removed.
Wang, a Chinese farmer from Manchuria, had a 13-inch horn protruding from the back of his head. This 1930 photo was featured in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!