Saturday, 30 July 2011

WEREWOLF SYNDROME – Hypertrichosis

The Wolf Boy, Living Werewolf or Dog-Faced Boy have been fixtures of the sideshow world for centuries. Jo-Jo, the Dog-Faced Boy is likely the most famous of the lot however cases of hypertrichosis have been reported and documented long before Jo-Jo.
Hypertrichosis is really a blanket medical term that refers to excessive body hair. It can actually be generalized, symmetrically affecting most of the torso and limbs, or localized, affecting only a small area or location. The term is, however, usually reserved to refer to very above-average amount of normal body hair that is unwanted.
Nearly all the skin of the human body – with the exception of the palms and soles of the feet – are covered with hairs or hair follicles. The density of the hairs per square centimeter, the thickness of the hairs, color of the hairs, speed of hair growth, and qualities such as kinkiness tend to vary from one part of the body to another and also from one person to another. But in hypertrichosis all of the various controllers for the regulation of that genetic information are these lacking, damaged or none existent. Furthermore, there are a few subcategories of hypertrichosis.
Congenital hypertrichosis terminalis is the variation most people associate with the condition. This version involves all over body hair growth. Interestingly this form of hypertrichosis is almost always associated with gingival hyperplasia – meaning these ‘savage and vicious’ wolf men often posses very few teeth. Furthermore persons afflicted are said to have soft, smooth and gentle voices. Naevoid hypertrichosis is an unusual form of hypertrichosis where a solitary circumscribed area of hair growth occurs. It is not usually associated with any other diseases, except if it arises as a faun-tail on the lower back, then it may indicate underlying spina bifida. Naevoid hypertrichosis can occur at birth or appear later in life and symptoms can range from hairy tufted ears, tails, a heavy unibrow or excessive beard growth in females and males alike. Finally, Congenital hypertrichosis lanuginosa is a very rare form of hypertrichosis with only about 50 cases reported worldwide since the Middle Ages.
The condition is characterized by excessive hair growth on a child at birth. Most of the body is covered with lanugo hair, which is a fine, soft and silky hair that covers the fetus and which is usually shed at around 8 months gestation and replaced with fine vellus hair. In this condition the hair continues to grow throughout life. The initial shock of a fur covered infant, however, is luckily a very rare occurrence.
The exact cause of hypertrichosis is unknown. But it is believe to be a genetic disorder that is inherited or occurs as a result of spontaneous mutation.

Friday, 29 July 2011

GRADY STILES JR. – The Murderous Lobster Man

Grady Stiles Jr. is a rarity in the world of Human Marvels. By many accounts, this teratological terror was every bit the monster he appeared to be.
The Stiles family has been afflicted for over a century with ectrodactyly, a condition commonly known as ‘Lobster Claw’ syndrome. It is a rare congenital deformity of the hand where the middle digit is missing and the hand is cleft where the metacarpal of the finger should be. This split often gives the hands the appearance of lobster claws although cases range in severity. Often this condition occurs in both the hands and the feet and, while it is an inherited condition, it can skip a generation. While the term ectrodactyly sounds medically sterile when compared to ‘Lobster Claw Syndrome’.
William Stiles was apparently the first in the family to display the condition in 1805. He was followed by Jacob Stiles, Elisha Stiles and Grady Stiles Sr. Grady Sr. was a sideshow attraction and when Grady Franklin Stiles, Jr., ‘The Lobster Boy’, was born in Pittsburgh on July 18, 1937 his father added him to the show at a young age.
Grady’s condition was severe and he was unable to walk. He learned to use his hands and arms for locomotion and, as a result, developed incredible upper body strength. He married twice and had four children. Two of those children, a girl, Cathy, and a boy, Grady III, were born with variations of ectrodactyly. Although the siblings were from different mothers, they sometimes toured together as The Lobster Family.
Grady had a dark side. He was known to be a highly abusive drunk. He often used his frightening strength to beat his wives and his children. When his oldest daughter Donna fell in love and became engaged with a young man in 1978, Grady didn’t approve with her choice. Perhaps the young man stuck up for Donna, perhaps he confronted Grady. The night before the pair was to be married; Grady picked up a shotgun and murdered the young groom in cold blood.
The trial was a media circus. In court Grady openly confessed to his crime and showed little remorse. However, he did not serve any time for the murder. He used his condition to his advantage. It was stated that since the prison system was not equipped to deal with his ‘disability’, confining him to such an institution would constitute cruel and unusual punishment. Grady was let off on 15 years probation.
Following these events, Grady felt invincible. When he resumed beating his family one of his favourite taunts was ‘I killed before and got away with it, I can do it again’. Amazingly, during this time Stiles remarried his first wife Maria. She left her new husband, a sideshow dwarf, to remarry Grady and almost instantly regretted the choice.
Eventually, the family had had enough. On November 29, 1993 Grady was gunned down by a hired assassin. The hitman was then 19 year old sideshow performer Chris Wyant, a neighbor to the Stiles family. He was paid $1500 in cash by Maria and her stepson Harry, to put three bullets into the skull of Grady Stiles Jr.
Wyant was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to twenty-seven years. Harry was considered the mastermind behind the plot. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison. Maria was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and was sentenced to twelve years in prison.
In her defense, Maria stated ‘My husband was going to kill my family. I believe that from the bottom of my heart. I’m sorry this happened, but my family is safe now’.
The family has carried on. Grady III has a daughter, Sara, who does not have ectrodactyly. Cathy is married and has a lobster-clawed daughter named Misty. The three of them still perform on occasion.

Thursday, 28 July 2011


The trait of polydactyl (also known as supernumerary fingers) is an inherited trait and these occurrences have been carefully documented for centuries. Some extreme cases include: an instance of 13 fingers on each hand and 12 toes on each foot, an infant at the Htel-Dieu in Paris in 1687 which had 40 digits, ten on each member, a woman who had six fingers and two thumbs on each hand, and another who had eight toes on one foot.

The Foldi family (pictured above) was first written of in the 1896 publication Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine. The family of Foldi, part of the Hyabites tribe living in Arabia, confine their marriages to their tribe and they all have 24 digits.

The inhabitants of the village of Eycaux in France, at the end of the last century, had nearly all supernumerary digits either on thier hands or feet. Being isolated in an inaccessible and mountainous region, they had intermarried for many years and perpetuated the anomaly.

It is surprising that the trait of extra digits is not all that uncommon. In fact, it is estimated that about one in three thousand Europeans are born with an extra finger or toe.
The trait is even more common in Africa, with about one in three hundred displaying the trait. 
The French mathematician Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis (1968-1758) wrote about a doctor he knew named Jacob Ruhe who not only had six fingers and toes – but so did his most of his family including his grandmother, three siblings and two of his children. The Russian Geneticist E.O. Manoiloff published a paper in 1931 on one Viaceslav Michailovic de Camio Scipion who was able to document his multi-digit lineage back over six centuries.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

MARY ANN BEVANS – The Homeliest Woman

Mary Ann Bevans, commonly referred to as ‘The Homeliest Woman in the World’, likely suffered from acromegaly. She was born Mary Ann Webster in London, England in 1874 as one of eight children. She was employed as a nurse and began to display characteristics of acromegaly shortly after her marriage in 1903.
Following the passing of her husband in 1914, found herself solely financially responsible for her four children. In an attempt to make some money, she entered and subsequently won an ‘Ugly Woman’ contest.
She was quickly hired by Coney Island’s Dreamland Circus in 1920 and there she remained, excluding a few short appearances for Ringling Bros and a 1926 World’s Fair spot, until her death at the age of 59 on December 26, 1933.
More recently, a Hallmark Birthday card featuring the image of Mary Ann Bevans launched a feeling of outrage in UK shops. A Dutch doctor complained that the card was inappropriate. Hallmark realized their error and promptly removed the offensive cards.

Monday, 25 July 2011

THE FRENCH ANGEL – Maurice Tillet

Perhaps most well know under the name ‘The French Angel’, Maurice Tillet was born in France in 1903 as a completely average and healthy child. He aspired to become an actor and was highly intelligent, allegedly speaking 14 languages and being quite gifted in prose. However, in his twenties, Maurice developed acromegaly.
Acromegaly is a rather rare hormonal disorder that occurs when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone. Usually, the condition is caused by a pituitary tumor, and results in bones growing wildly and uncontrollably. The word ‘acromegaly’ is derived from Greek and literally translates as ‘large extremities’. Because the disease is slow to progress, it is difficult to diagnose in the early stages and is often missed for many years. In the case of Maurice Tillet a diagnosis was long in coming and his body, and his face in particular, were disfigured significantly. Unable to endure the constant gawking and humiliation, Maurice fled France.
In America, Maurice crafted a new identity befitting his disfigured appearance as a rough and villainous professional wrestler. Renamed ‘The French Angel and often called the ‘freak ogre of the ring’, Maurice was a great success finishing off adversaries with his patented Bear Hug. On August 1, 1944 The French Angel defeated Steve ‘Crusher’ Casey for the American Wrestling Association World Championship.
Ten years later, almost to the day, on April 4th 1954 Maurice died prematurely at the age of 51. In life, Maurice was a private and reclusive man however, on his death bed; he gave permission to have a cast made of his face. One subsequent ‘death mask’ currently resides at the USA Weightlifting Hall of Fame inside the York Barbell Building in York, Pennsylvania.

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Persons with unusual skin conditions often used their affliction to their financial advantage in the world of the sideshow. The alligator-skinned (sometimes called elephant-skinned) individual became a very common attraction in the golden age of sideshow – in fact few popular sideshows were without at least one such individual. Not to be confused with the common gaff (faked display) Jake the Alligator Boy.
Ichthyosis is a life long skin disorder which causes the formation of dry, fish-like scales on the surface of the skin. It is an recessive inherited disease – and therefore not a contagious skin condition – however the exact defect that causes the skin to lose moisture is currently unknown. The degree of scaling can vary, as there are twenty five variations of the disease. Some forms of ichthyosis result in little more than ‘dry skin’ and can treated with simple drugstore lotions. However, most forms of ichthyosis are far more severe – and rare – and the scaling can be very heavy causing restriction of movement, deep cracks or fissures at the joints.
The most severe and shocking form of congenital ichthyosis is Harlequin ichthyosis, also know as Harlequin fetus – as until recently survival of the condition was limited to mere hours after birth. Many of the children born with Harlequin ichthyosis ended up in Victorian pickled punk shows as ‘devil children’ but with the advent of modern anti-inflammatory and disinfectants some children have survived more than a decade. The affected child is born not with skin, but instead massive, diamond-shaped scales. Furthermore the eyes, ears, mouth, and other appendages can be abnormally contracted and even ‘turned inside out’. The eyelids especially can appear very disturbing. The scaly armor restricts movement to an alarming degree and because the skin is cracked where normal skin would fold, bacteria and other contaminants easily pass into the cracks and can cause lethal infections.
The term harlequin refers to the baby’s facial expression and the diamond-shaped pattern of the scales. The jester and harlequins of the 17th century wore costumes with diamond patterns on them, as well as a particular style of face paint. The features of the harlequin fetus mimic this stylized makeup, and their faces are often pulled tight into grim parodies of a clown’s smile.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

COUNT ORLOFF – The Transparent Man

Few Human Marvels can ever compare to the unusual case of Count Orloff. He was a human oddity sometimes incorrectly billed as ossified, and correctly touted as being transparent.
Ivannow Wladislaus von Dziarski-Orloff was born in Hungary in 1864. While he was completely normal during his childhood, at the age of 14 he began to experience an unknown wasting disease. By early adulthood, Orloff was little more than a living skeleton – unable to stand and in constant pain. To deal with his tragic pain, Orloff took to the opium pipe – strangely enough the pipe became something of a trademark as many of his pitch cards pictured him puffing away and ‘chasing the dragon’.
While during his career Orloff was known as an ossified man, his condition was actually quite the opposite. Orloff actually had a lack of bone density and this allowed his bones to bend and twist. Furthermore, his skin was paper thin and his musculature so atrophied that – with the aid of a bright spotlight – spectators could actually see the blood coursing through his veins. Not only that, but when a bright light was placed behind Orloff, the warm glow could actually been seen from the other side.
As strange as Orloff was – many promoters felt a need to further embellish it. As a result – to this day, some still claim that a person could read a newspaper through the body of Orloff. A claim made in an early pamphlet.
Orloff was known primarily as the Living Ossified and Transparent Man, but later in life he adopted the moniker of ‘The Human Window Pane’. His tendency to show himself as a medical specimen allowed him to travel around the world. Eventually he went into business for himself – he owned his own successful sideshow.
Orloff died in 1904.

Friday, 22 July 2011

THE STONE PEOPLE – Living Statues

In the 17th century the French physician Patin described the case of a local woman who had ‘turned to wood’. This ‘wood’ was actually bone and the woman possessed an incredibly rare condition that caused her muscles to be slowly turned to bone.
Fibrodysplasia Ossificans Progressiva or FOP, as the condition is know by today, affects 1 of 2 million people with varied severity. The condition is a genetic mutation in which the bodies of those affected cannot switch off the mechanism that grows the skeleton in the womb. Also, any small injury to connective tissue – muscles, ligaments, and tendons – results in the formation of hard bone around the damaged site. As it is a spontaneous genetic mutation, a FOB child can be born of normal parents – however persons with the condition have a 50% chance of passing the traits on to their offspring. As the hereotopic (extra) bone growth only becomes painfully obvious after a few years – 10 being the average – the only sign of the condition observable in an infant is malformed big toes. It is not until the second skeleton begins to form and mobility becomes severely restricted that the condition becomes evident.
Persons with FOP have been involved in sideshow and curio displays for centuries. Those with the condition were commonly called ‘ossified men’ or ‘stone men’, ‘The Ossified Man’ became a popular attraction. An ossified woman named Miss Emma Shaler once even shared billing with Harry Houdini in 1894. Strangely enough the ossified individual became quite a common attraction – likely due to the fact that it was a Marvel easily faked.
For those with the condition, life was far from easy. Movement was severely hampered and, in many cases, movement involved little more than lips and inner workings. The money these ossified men and women earned while on display paid for much needed medical attention. Many were often attended to during display by hired nurses. Few were able to eat anything, and their jaws became fused, and many had to sustain themselves on liquid diets. Thus many individual with the condition appeared incredibly gaunt and sickly. Most died quite young of pneumonia or other ailments that fed upon the sickly.
Harry Raymond Eastlack (pictured above) was born in the early 1930’s and was one of the last modern ossified men presented as a curiosity. He died of pneumonia in 1973, and his case is particularly notable because shortly before his death, he made it known that he wanted to donate his body to science. The gesture was in the hopes that in death he would be able to help find a cure for this rare and somewhat cruel disease. As per his wishes, his preserved skeleton now resides in The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia. Mr. Eastlack remains the best documented Stone Man in history.
Update 09/06/2006
Another FOP skeleton, belonging to a veteran Peter Cluckey, lives at the National Museum of Health and Medicine on the Walter Reed campus in Washington.
From public affairs officer Steven Solomon  at the Kircher Society:
Peter Cluckey was born in 1882, enlisted in the Army at age 17 just after the Spanish-American War, retired from the service after 3 years, and rejoined in 1904. Two months after his second enlistment he experienced joint pain and stiffness after a horseback mounted drill held in cold rain. After several medical examinations he was diagnosed with “rheumatism chronic, articular, affecting both hips, knees, and ankle joints, and the right elbow.” Over the next 20 years his condition worsened to the point where every joint in his body became fused. Cluckey was moved into a sitting position so that he could be placed in a chair or on his side in bed to sleep. His front teeth were removed so that he could be fed soft foods. In his will, Cluckey donated his body to the museum and his skeleton has been on display seated in a wooden chair in the museum since his death in 1925.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

most body piercings

Brent Moffatt from Winnipeg, Canada, pierced himself with surgical needles to set a Guinness record for most body piercings, in Montreal, December 13, 2003. Moffatt inserted 900 needles into his legs to break his previous record of 702 piercings.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

“The Big Drizzle”

Chicago Bulls Center Drew Gooden aspires to overtake Dennis Rodman as weirdest NBA player in history. He wants to be called “The Big Drizzle”, whatever that means, and had a weird haircut of a small patch of hair–which he says he tore off of Rasheed Wallace's head–on the back of his head. Now, the 6'10″ player is sporting this bizarre new beard that has seven or eight tentacles.

It's being called the “Octobeard”, for lack of a better name.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

The Woman Who is Allergic to Modern Technology

For most people talking on a mobile phone, cooking dinner in the microwave or driving in a car is simply part of modern living in 21st century Britain. But completing any such tasks is impossible for Debbie Bird - because she is allergic to Cell Phones and Microwaves.

The 39-year-old is so sensitive to the electromagnetic field (emf) or 'smog' created by computers, mobile phones, microwave ovens and even some cars, that she develops a painful skin rash and her eyelids swell to three times their size if she goes near them. As a consequence, Mrs Bird, a health spa manager, has transformed her home into an EMF-free zone to try and stay healthy. 'I can no longer do things that I used to take for granted,' Mrs Bird said. "My day-to-day life has been seriously affected by EMF".

Monday, 18 July 2011

The Girl That Collapses Every Time She Laughs

Kay Underwood, 20, has cataplexy, which means that almost any sort of strong emotion triggers a dramatic weakening of her muscles. Exhilaration, anger, fear, surprise, awe and even embarrassment can also cause sufferers to suddenly collapse on the spot.

Kay, of Barrow-upon-Soar, Leicestershire (UK), who was diagnosed with the condition five years ago, once collapsed more than 40 times in a single day. She said: "People find it very odd when it happens, and it isn't always easy to cope with strangers' reactions. "

Like most cataplexy sufferers, Ms Underwood is also battling narcolepsy - a condition that makes her drop off to sleep without warning. Narcolepsy affects around 30,000 people in the UK and about 70 per cent of them also have cataplexy.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

The Musician Who Can't Stop Hiccupping


Chris Sands, 24, from Lincoln, hiccups as often as every two seconds - and sometimes even when he is asleep. He has tried a variety of cures, including hypnosis and yoga, but nothing has worked. Mr Sands thinks his problem stems from an acid reflux condition caused by a damaged valve in his stomach. "If the acid levels are severe enough they are going to do keyhole surgery and grab part of my stomach and wrap it around the valve to tighten it," he said.

Mr Sands, who is a backing singer in the group Ebullient, said the condition has hampered his career as he has only been able to perform four times. In the next couple of weeks --as of the day of the report--, doctors at Nottingham's Queen's Medical Centre will put a tube into his stomach to monitor acid levels and decide if keyhole surgery is possible.