Tuesday, 2 August 2011
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 His idea was outdated for even his time.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.