3 Legendary Texas Sideshow Performers to Prepare for AHS: Freak Show
Next month we'll see the return of American Horror StoryWith its fourth season. Freak Show centers one of the last traveling sideshows in America filled with human oddities like conjoined twins, bearded ladies, crab boys, and the like. Beyond that, not much is known yet, but the trailer above gives a pretty good ook at some of what we can expect.
Texas has been home to a fair number of famous sideshow performers, and in honor of their return to mainstream fiction today we're gonna throw in two bits for a gander.
Jack Earle Jack Earle weighed just four pounds when he was born in Denver, Colorado in 1906. Once his family moved to El Paso, Earle's acromegalic gigantism kicked in and he was towering nearly eight feet in the air by the time he reached adulthood.
He started out working in silent film. Playing the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk where he made enough money to live comfortably and go to school. A fall from a scaffolding left him blind when it was discovered that a pituitary tumor was now pressing on his optic nerve. X-ray treatments restored his sight, and also halted his growth.
For 14 years Earle toured with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Tired of the road, he left for Califonia to become a wine salesman and worked his way up to public relations in the Roma Wine Company. He also became a talented poet and visual artist before dying in 1952.
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Festival of Laughs featuring Mike Epps
TicketsFri., Apr. 14, 7:30pm
TicketsSat., Apr. 15, 8:00pm
Jeff Dunham: Perfectly Unbalanced
TicketsSun., Apr. 23, 3:00pm
Myrtle Corbin Born in Tennessee, Myrtle Corbin was born with a rare condition described as dipygus dibrachius tetrapus. Essentially, from the waist down she was split into two separate pelvises, each with their own set of legs. The two inner legs could move, though they were too weak to be used for walking. Other than that. Corbin was a normal, healthy, happy girl.
She entered the sideshow circuit in 1981 at the age of 13, billed as the "Four-Legged Girl from Texas". She was so popular that other women attempted to use trickery to emulate her. At the age of 19 Corbin married Clinton Bicknell.
After marriage it was discovered that Corbin possessed two perfect reproductive systems, and though her first pregnancy ended up in a medically induced abortion, she would eventually give birth to five children from between her unique legs.
Daisy and Violet Hilton The conjoined Hilton sisters have a tragic story. Born to an unmarried barmaid, the woman's boss essentially bought the twins from their mother and planned from day one to make a spectacle of them. They were taught perform, and beaten if they made a mistake or misbehaved.
Eventually they were brought to America from their native England, and no less a performer than Bob Hope formed a dance act with them on 1926. Their foster mother died, willing the girls' "contract" to a former balloon salesman and his wife who imprisoned them in a San Antonio mansion and kept them hidden from view as they were taught new tricks.
Eventually, they were able to sue for their freedom in 1931, as well as $100,000 in damages ($1.5 million in today's dollars and a significant boon as they had never received pay for their work from their managers). The twins hit the Vaudeville circuit, had plenty of affairs, and appeared in Tod Browning's Freaks. They performed until the 1960s, where they were abandoned by their management with no income and forced to work in a grocery store. When they didn't show up to work in 1969, it was discovered that Daisy had died of the Hong Kong flu, with Violet expiring some days later.
It's a fair bit that a few of these Texas legends will have had some influence on Freak Show. We'll find out next month.
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