6 Sideshow Freaks With Dark Pasts

Number 6. “Schlitze”: In the 1930s, the
Barnum and Bailey circus was known throughout the country for its spectacular traveling
freak shows, and Schlitze was one its top attractions. Standing only 4 feet tall, the
little person was plagued by a host of deformities, most notably his tiny, shrunken head, which
was only a fraction of normal size and rose to a pointed tip. His appearance was made
even more bizarre when the Barnum and Bailey circus decided to put him on the freak show
roster as a girl, first billing him as “Maggie, Last of the Aztec Children”, and later,
more famously, as “Schlitze Surtees the Pinhead”. For this second persona, they
gave Schlitze a flowery dress and a little tuft of hair that they pulled back into a
girl’s ponytail, ribbon and all. His legend grew as he traveled from town to town, scaring
and intriguing everyone in sight. While Schlitze did not necessarily do anything
scary in his act, the medical explanation for his condition is the real reason why he
makes the list here on Chills. Poor Schlitze was born with microcephaly, which has recently
made headlines again with the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil. This virus, which is transmitted
by mosquito bite, caused over 5 thousand cases of microcephaly this year in Brazil alone,
and many more throughout South America. In severe cases of microcephaly, like with
Schlitze, the baby has an unformed brain, which can result in seizures and problems
with motor coordination, vision, and hearing, along with mental retardation. Sufferers of
this condition are severely mentally unstable and often require lifelong supervision. With
that said, Schlitze’s mother probably did not get bitten by a Zika-infected mosquito
when she was pregnant. There are other ways to develop microcephaly besides mosquito bites,
such as alcohol abuse and malnutrition during pregnancy, or birth complications during the
delivery itself. Still, the thought that Brazil could have an entire generation of upcoming
Schlitzes on their hands is disturbing enough to make him number six on this list. Number 5. Chang and Eng: You may have heard
of two people who are joined together at birth being referred to as “Siamese twins”.
Well, the term directly refers to these two brothers in particular, named Chang and Ang.
In 1811, the brothers were born in a remote fishing village in Siam (now known as Thailand).
They were almost two fully separate people except for a giant chunk of flesh that connected
them at the torso, more specifically at the liver. As a result of this mutation, they
lived their entire lives facing chest-to-chest, with Chang on the left, who was shorter than
his brother and seemed to permanently lean in. Despite their low chance of survival, especially
in their small village just outside of Bangkok, their mother did not give up on them. Instead,
she encouraged them to exercise and stretch until they could run, swim, and even steer
a boat together. They probably would have been stuck selling duck eggs with their mother
in Thailand if a British merchant hadn’t seen them swimming in the river one day. At
first he thought they were some sort of animal he had never seen before, but after meeting
them in person, he convinced their mother to sell them for $500 and take them back home
for side shows. Together, they toured all over London and
made a good deal of money. At one point, top scientists even paid to curiously study them,
finding that Chang could sense when Ang was tickled, or when he ate something, and vice
versa. Eventually they toured America with the Barnum
and Bailey circus until they had enough money to settle down on their own as adults. They
picked a spot in North Carolina, and here is where things get really bizarre even for
Siamese twins. Chang and Ang were in their 30s by now. It was in the 1800s, and slavery
was still in full effect. Under a North Carolina legal loophole, Chang and Ang were classified
as white and could legally own slaves – which they did, and by the dozens. That’s right,
despite being sold by their parents themselves, the twins grew up to become wealthy slave-driving
businessmen on a large plantation. They even got married to two sisters. In fact, Chang
and Ang had 21 kids between the two of them, though I suppose the babies all technically
came the same father (there’s a thought). Being one of the first documented cases of
conjoined twins is strange enough, but the way Chang and Ang died is definitely enough
to earn them the number five position. They were 62-years old when Chang came down with
a severe case of bronchitis. He had not been feeling well for a long time when the two
went to bed one night as usual. When Ang woke up, however, he was horrified to see that
he was now lying in bed attached to a dead body. Ang struggled and struggled, but there
was nowhere for him to go. He died an hour later, medical examiners say, from fright.
Just imagine waking up next to your dead brother and knowing you will soon be next. Number 4. “The Egyptian Enigma”: Hadji
Ali was born in 1800s Egypt, and he had the amazing ability to spit out vast quantities
of water, along with anything else he swallowed. He would commonly gulp down entire fishbowls
of water and spit them back out in high arcs like an elegant human water fountain sculpture.
Sounds interesting, right? Maybe even charming or, dare I say, beautiful? Wrong. The audience
may have been delighted, they may have clapped and cheered Hadji on, but in reality, there’s
nothing attractive about what Hadji was actually doing. Hadji was a master of controlled regurgitation.
What does this mean? He was vomiting everywhere. The vomit was incredibly accurate and precise,
but he was still using intense stomach spasms to eject the contents of his stomach into
containers and all over people as they cheered and begged him for more. Hadji could even
vomit a gallon of kerosene into a powerful geyser that he would set on fire, but that’s
not the point. The point is, if the audience knew that Hadji’s water-spouting act was
actually the same as throwing up, there probably would have been far more empty seats at his
shows. That’s just gross, Hadji. Number 3. “The Elephant Man”: Born Joseph
Merrick in 1862, the “Elephant Man” did not get his nickname from the condition known
as elephantitis. Contrary to popular belief, the name has nothing to do with his appearance
at all. Rather, it is the result of a medical diagnosis that a doctor gave to his mother
after he explained that her son was deformed because she was scared by an elephant when
she was pregnant. This is a true fact. A doctor really believed that the Elephant Man looked
that way as a direct result of his mother having been scared by a circus elephant while
pregnant. Obviously, medical science was somewhat lacking back then. To clear up another common misconception,
Merrick did not have elephantitis at all, but rather Proteus syndrome, which is marked
by an overgrowth of skin, bone, and organ tissue throughout the body. Merrick’s deformities are not what places
him on this list, but rather how sad and lonely his life was. He started life looking completely
normal as a child. Then at the age of five, he began developing horrible tumors and lesions
all over his body and face as the disease began to steadily take over. His disfigured
appearance displeased his stepmother so much that he was kicked out of the home as a young
boy – his biological father simply stood back and allowed for this to happen. During
this time, he attempted door-to-door sales while wearing a burlap mask, which worked
about as well as you would expect. Things just continued to get worse for the
poor Elephant Man. He traveled to Belgium for work at a freak show, but was robbed and
left for dead by his promoter. When he went back to London, he had grown so grotesque
that he nearly started a riot at the train station by just standing around. By this point,
the Elephant Man couldn’t even speak, and only had a doctor’s business card to show
authorities as an explanation. At one point, he was eventually noticed and
pitied by Queen Victoria herself, and he lived a higher quality of life with the upper class
thanks to her sympathy. Still, he grew so lonely that he hoped to find love at a blind
home out of desperation (this never happened). You would hope that a person who had this
rough of a life would at least get to die a peaceful death. The truth is, Merrick did
die in his sleep, but probably not in the way that you were hoping for. Merrick always
slept sitting upright, but one night he decided to try something different and slept laying
down. Unfortunately, his head had grown so ridden with tumors at this point that it was
extremely heavy, heavy enough to dislocate his neck during his sleep. Was the Elephant Man still mercifully asleep
when his neck snapped under the weight of his own misshapen head, or was he awake and
fully conscious to experience all of the pain? There is no way to tell for sure, but based
on all of the previous suffering that he had to endure, there’s no reason to suspect
that his luck suddenly changed for the better in those final few moments. Number 2. “The Lobster Boy, Grady Stiles”:
“I’m not a fan of my dad as a person,” said the son of Grady Stiles to the Pittsburgh
Post-Gazette, going on to call his father “racist and abusive”. His daughter, Cathy,
on the other hand, prefers to describe her father as “Satan himself”. Grady Stiles, otherwise known as the “Lobster
Boy”, was born with a special defect that mutated his hands and feet into single-pincher
“claws”. Most of the family is afflicted with the same genetic disease. Apparently,
Grady’s claws grew to become extremely muscular and powerful, which, when combined with a
sadistic temper and alcoholism, was a recipe for mistreatment for his poor family. Though he appeared friendly enough at the
sideshow attractions he worked at, it was not uncommon, according to family members,
for the “Lobster Boy” to choke people with his claw-like hands and head-butt them
in the stomach whenever he got angry or upset. The “Lobster Boy” himself, however, did
not admit this. Instead, he preferred to talk at length about other uses for his wriggling
appendages, which he says the women especially enjoyed. Either way, the family grew fearful
of his constant threats, and one day, Grady’s wife had enough. She contacted a neighborhood
friend and said she didn’t feel safe, that something needed to be done, and that she
was willing to pay. According to Grady’s wife, she had meant
just to have him beaten up and taught a lesson, but one night, as Grady pinched a cigarette
between his claws and drank Seagrams 7 on the sofa, a man entered his home and shot
him in the head multiple times. The Lobster Boy was no more. He was hated by the local community so much
that hardly anybody attended his funeral, and absolutely nobody would volunteer as a
pallbearer to carry his coffin. Ironically enough, his tombstone is marked by two praying
hands. Whether or not this was done intentionally to spite and mock him forever remains unknown. Number 1. “The Running Man”: No one on
earth was more glad to be stabbed than Arnold Gerrit Henskes, aka Mirin Dajo, a European
from the Netherlands. One day in the early 1900s, he traveled abroad to live with monks
(at least according to his story). When he returned, he had learned a new skill that
was unbelievable: he could stab himself without injury. Now when I say “he could stab himself without
injury”, we’re not talking about some horizontal slash across the wrists. No, I
mean this guy would stab a sword straight through himself and not even blink. After
a while, he changed his name to Mirin Dajo and started making a living. He was such a medical marvel that doctors
had to take a look for themselves. On multiple occasions, doctors from around the world performed
a variety of medical tests on him while he stuck swords through his body over and over
again. They even took an X-ray to verify that this wasn’t one of the world’s best optical
illusions, but it certainly wasn’t fake. Somehow, he was truly able to impale himself
without dying. Mirin Dajo had such confidence in his abilities,
and was so eager to show that this was not a trick, that he encouraged doctors to run
the blade through themselves. He even told them, at times, to be rougher and not so gentle.
As if this weren’t enough, on one occasion he began to jog laps with a sword sticking
straight through him. That’s right, this man was literally running swords through himself
and then going running. Doctors have no easy explanation as to how
he made this possible. Their best guess is that he was able to create tunnels of scar
tissue for the sword to pass through by slowly inserting the blade inside of himself repeatedly
over a number of years. Other monks are sometimes able to do something similar to this, but
they can only run a sword through fatty areas such as their arms, never through vital organs
(pretty much making him certifiably insane). In 1948, a voice in his head told him to swallow
a steel needle and he died of a ruptured heart. When you already have a propensity for stabbing
yourself the last thing you want to hear is voices encouraging you to do more, but he
did, and there’s number one for you.

100 Replies to “6 Sideshow Freaks With Dark Pasts”

  1. if you really think about it, its sad. these people only had one time on earth, and didnt have a full life, or a good happy one, didnt even get a chance. now they are gone forever. i hope they are happy in heaven

  2. OK… I was thinking about your channel but didn't know the name, because I have only visited it a couple of times… And just out of the blue a video of yours pops up in my recommended… This is not the first time this has happened to me… Does YouTube know what I'm thinking??

  3. Number three the elephant could be an undocumentable unification that means he took fourm of what he was most awake in in his out of body travels which means that he had a possibility of high intellect that he didn't know how to express hypothesis


  5. aren't these people at those types of freak shows or circuses with people who are deformed or just weren't born in right shape?

  6. That last one legit thought I was April fooled or something but nah, man. NAH MAN. NAAAAWWW MMAAAAANN !!!!!!!

  7. Lobster boy would of been perfect for chopping up vegetables. Like say lettuce for a fast food restaurant. Hopefully he'd just use his claws and not his feet.

  8. I remember when we had to do a paper about the elephant man. the story was so intriguing. I highly recommend people to read the book

  9. at 8:03 what is the elephant man holding in his hand? looks like a smart phone to me… what’s everyone’s thoughts on this, what could he be holding? maybe a notepad (the old timey version aka pen and paper?)

  10. Not hating and not wanting to start a riot – but I do agree Dylan could use a public speaking class. The only one in the list with a "Dark Past" would be Lobster Boy. Despite sounding like stoner Spicoli, Chills has some cool stuff and I will still give thumbs up.

  11. He figured out how to beat the narrative, and he's not in his body anymore. So yeah, scientist would never figure it out.

    until he decided to swallow a needle… you whut?

  12. Number 15 Burger King foot lettuce. The last thing you want in your Burger King burger would be someone else’s foot fungus but that may be what you get(I’m sorry his voice is really cool)

  13. What is it with well-known dutchmen and hearing voices, running man, Vincent van Gogh
    But I gotta be proud of our country, we're strong, and as this list shows, quite fascinating

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