Saturday, 6 August 2011

TAI DJIN – Kung Fu Werewolf

sukong 209x300 TAI DJIN   Kung Fu Werewolf

Sometimes a story comes along that contains so many fanciful elements one must assume that it is the work of fiction. Such is the story of Su Kong Tai Djin.
Tai Djin was born in China in 1849. He was born unique, afflicted with hypertrichosis. Unlike Jo-Jo, who would be born a few decades later, Tai Djin was born into a highly superstitious family. As A result they saw his affliction as the work of demons and he was left in the forest to die.
A Shaolin monk traveling through the forest discovered the child and took him back to the Fukien Shaolin Temple. There Tai Djin was raised by the monks.
He was trained in martial arts and it quickly became apparent that he was exceptional in both appearance and ability. The boy must have been a sight practicing kung-fu with his face covered in fine fur. He quickly became a favorite of many of the Shaolin masters and, as a result, each master passed their knowledge on to Tai Djin.
He was a sponge and mastered every technique shown to him. He became the first to master over 200 different empty hand systems and over 140 weapon systems. His various specialties included the infamous Chi Ma, or ‘Death Touch’. After several years of extensive training he became the first Grandmaster of Shaolin-Do and one of the first to master all skills of the seven Shaolin temples.
He became known as Su Kong Tai Djin. Su Kong simply means, Grand Master.
Perhaps the most amazing part of that much the story is true. Su Kong Tai Djin was a real man, he really did have hypertrichosis and he was associated with Shaolin.  Some have built and embellished upon his legend but the kernel of truth is there.  Tai Djin was witnessed in the flesh by many, and revered by many more. He lived on for many years and passed away in 1928 after reaching a ripe old age and teaching others to be masters.

Friday, 5 August 2011


 CAPTAIN COSTENTENUS   The Tattooed Prince
The Great Captain Costentenus is often regarded as the first tattooed man to be exhibited in the United States. That, however, is not true. The first tattooed man is believed to have been James F. O’Connel. Evidence indicates that O’Connel appeared at Barnum’s American Museum in 1842 and Constentenus didn’t appear until the 1870’s. O’Connel was also the first tattooed man to write and publish his embellished origin, as an extra source of income, under the title ‘The Life and Adventures of James F. O’Connel, The Tattooed Man’.
While Constentenus was not the first, he was by far the most remarkable tattooed man of the 1800’s. In fact, he was likely the most heavily tattooed man in the world during that century. Even today, the magnitude of his tattoo coverage remains rather remarkable. The Captain was the first man to display a full body tattoo with his face, scalp, genitals and finger webbing all tattooed. The only part of his body not tattooed were the soles of his feet.
The designs were Burmese in origin, blue and red in color and depicted mostly animals native to Burma and eastern mythology.
Little is known of Constentenus, rumor has it that he was born in Albania in 1836, and it is believed that he tattooed himself for the sole purpose of exhibition. Exactly who did the work is unknown. His origin story involves the same ‘kidnapped and forcibly tattooed by island natives’ story that was par for the tales told by his European contemporaries and it was, of course, completely false. The same story alleged that Captain Costentenus was actually an Albanian prince.
The person, or persons, who actually did the tattoo work were masters of their craft as the quality of his tattoos were the most elaborate ever exhibited at that point. As a result, Constentenus enthralled doctors and skin specialists and he was even extensively studied by the University of Vienna on several occasions.
In America, Constentenus was exhibited by Great Farini and P. T. Barnum and he proved to be a very successful attraction. He eventually commanded a weekly base salary of $1000, which he further augmented with sales of his mostly fictional biography.
At the time of his death he was a wealthy man. According to legend he willed half of his fortune to the Greek Church of London. The other half of his fortune he divided amongst his fellow showmen and peers.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

MIRIN DAJO – The Extreme Human Pincushion

15112003095315 1 738876 MIRIN DAJO   The Extreme Human Pincushion
The man in the video is Dutch Fakir Mirin Dajo. He was born in 1912 as Arnold Gerrit Henskes and adopted his name, an Esperanto term that translates to mean ‘wonderful’. In 1947, at the Corso Theatre in Zurich, Mirin Dajo allow an assistant to plunge a fencing foil right through his body. The foil appeared to have pierced several vital organs and yet, the fakir remained relatively unharmed.
Needless to say, people were shocked, amazed and terrified by what they saw.
As word of his remarkable talent spread, a Swiss doctor Hans Naegeli-Osjord invited Mirin Dajo to the Zurich Cantonal hospital for study. Many people, including Naegeli-Osjord, the chief of surgery Dr. Werner Brunnerand as well as several other doctors, students and members of the press witnessed these tests. All were dumbfounded by what they saw.
In front of the witnesses assembled Mirin Dajo stripped naked to the waist and, following a period of meditation, once again had his assistant plunge the steel rapier through him. He then stood for some time, impaled, while the doctors examined him.
The doctors could find no evidence of trickery but many still refused to believe what they saw. Mirin Dajo agreed to an x-ray with the foil in place. The resulting image confirmed the legitimacy of his abilities.
Later that same year, Mirin Dajo was again submitted to examination , this time in Basel. There he actually allowed the 15112003095316 4 796293 MIRIN DAJO   The Extreme Human Pincushiondoctors themselves to pierce him. Again, there was no evidence of trickery. Not only did Mirin Dajo insist that the doctors treat him roughly, he later jogged several laps while still impaled to illustrate his complete tolerance of pain.
Mirin Dajo was a very religious man and some media outlets labeled him a ‘Messiah’. According to some reports, Mirin Dajo could hear voices, a spiritual guide. His public displays were often concluded with a lecture and a message of peace.
How was Mirin Dajo able to survive this repeated trauma? Who knows. Luck, faith, unique biology, mind over matter – your guess is as good as mine. He kept performing his feat for audiences. Eventually, to prove his talent was real while on stage, he took to being impaled by three hollow skewers. He would then pump water through those skewers. He became a human fountain.
It is not uncommon for eastern fakirs to pierce themselves with swords, many of them can push swords completely through their bodies. However, the majority of them do so through the fatty and ‘safe’ areas their body. The piercing feats of Mirin Dajo were extreme.
It is important to note that his unique skill may have resulted in his demise on May 26, 1948. An autopsy revealed that Dajo died of an aortic rupture.
images: 1. promotional photo of Mirin Dajo – no known original source. 2. the x-ray image that shocked the medical world.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

MORTADO – The Human Fountain

mortado 784038 MORTADO   The Human Fountain
Mirin Dajo used his unique talent to turn himself into a ‘human fountain’.

Mortado actually had holes bored through his feet and hands. These holes were not traditional piercings and, while seated in a specially constructed chair, copper tubes were feed through the wounds. Water was then pumped through those pipes at high pressure and Mortado became a fountain.
Remarkably, there was no trickery in Mortado’s crucifixion-like wounds. When not seated in his chair, Mortado placed corks into his wounds to keep them from healing over. On occasion, Mortado did reenact a biblical crucifixion. After placing small bags of red fluid into his open wounds, he would then allow an assistant to drive nails into those same holes. The bags would break, the ‘blood’ would flow, and people would proceed to faint.
Not much is known of Mortado’s history. His pitch biography is mostly fictional and that makes reconstructing his true origin difficult. According to his biography he was born in Berlin and served in World War I. He first exhibited himself in Berlin in January of 1929 before meeting a New York Agent and signing a deal with Dreamland circus for their 1930 summer season. But, according to the same biography, his wounds were the result of torture at the hands of savage natives.
How Mortado got the idea for his bizarre act, how he managed to create the holes or even his eventual fate remains unknown. Mortado dropped in popularity and disappeared from public exhibition.
Mortado does live on in Ripley’s Museum at Fisherman’s Wharf as an exhibit featuring a statuesque fountain.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


hairymaid 747292 BARBARA URSLERIN   The Hairy Maid

Barbara Urslerin presents one of the earliest and most well documented historical cases of hypertrichosis on record. ‘The Hairy Maid’ was born in February of 1629 near the village of Kempten, Germany. She was purported to be the only member of her family afflicted with the mutation which is rather unique situation and quite different from the case of her nearest predecessor Petrus Gonzales.
All records indicate that Barbara was exhibited from a very early age. Her displays centered around her skill on the harpsichord, which she played happily and skillfully. Her existence was first confirmed in 1639 when anatomist Thomas Bartholin saw her exhibited in Copenhagen. Bartholin had opportunity to examined Barbara and he wrote that her ‘entire body was covered with soft, blond hair and a luxuriant beard’.
In 1655, Barbara was documented in London and English writer John Evelyn visited Barbara her there in 1657. He wrote that she was married to a German man by the name of Johann Van Beck and had one normal child. In 1660 records show that Barbara was touring France and her husband was acting as her agent. When she came to Beauvais, her husband applied to the local bailiff for permission to exhibit a ‘strange prodigy of nature’.
In 1668 Barbara returned to London. She was examined there by the Dane, Holger Jacobsen. He hypothesized that Barbara was the result of a mating between woman and ape. His idea was outdated for even his time. His notes indicated he examined her fully for any similarities to a monkey.
Following her 1668 visit to London, Barbara Urslerin disappeared from record. Given he unique appearance, this disappearance is incredible. Still, her final history remains unknown.

Monday, 1 August 2011


In typical sideshow fashion, the Wild Men of Borneo were pure gimmick. The Davis Brothers, Hiram and Barney, were not from Borneo at all. Hiram was born in 1825 in England and Barney in 1827 in New York. The dynamic duo were dwarves, each standing only three and a half feet tall.
The brothers began their exhibition career in 1852 after showman and promoter Lyman Warner purchased the brothers from their destitute and widowed mother. Warner created an intricate persona for the tiny brothers. Renaming them Waino and Plutano – he billed them as savages from darkest Borneo. Audiences at the time had likely heard of Borneo, but the area was still veiled in great mystery. As a result, the public swallowed the story completely and Warner was inspired to elaborate the fictional biography further. He created a promotional booklet, entitled ‘What We Know About Waino and Plutano, Wild Men of Borneo’, and within its pages their ‘capture’ was detailed.
For their part, the brothers played their roles to the hilt. During exhibitions the ‘Wild Men’ acted wild and spoke a strange gibberish language. Over time, the brother began to develop characters. Waino played a gentle savage character who read poems while Plutano played a trickster and stubborn character. Both brothers were remarkable strong for their size and would often lift volunteers from the audience off their feet.
Warner passed away in 1871. His son Hanford took over possession of the duo until their retirement in 1903. In 1905 Hiram (Waino) died of natural causes. Seven years later, in March of 1912, Barney joined his brother at the age of eighty-five.
Today, the brothers rest side by side in Mount Vernon, Ohio.