The Most Unusual
Attraction I have Presented
When asked which was
the most unusual attraction I have presented, I would have to
name "Schlitzie, the Monkey Girl". By the time I knew Schlitzie,
she was already elderly.
I shall refer to Schlitzie as a female, however Schlitzie was a
male who was always represented as a female. A microcephalic,
commonly called a pinhead, who had intelligence in the idiot
class. Small in stature with a slight curvature of the spine,
Schlitzie stood a little over five feet tall, with a head the
size of a coconut or large cantaloupe, which slanted back from
the eyes. To accentuate the odd head formation, her hair was
clipped except a tuft at the pinnacle. A full time nurse was
required for her care since there was so little
intelligence, compared to a two or three year old child. I was
told that Schlitzie and a sister (female) microcephalic were
originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico, of a family who were so
ashamed to have them that they were kept locked up out of sight
of their fellow townspeople.
Pete Kortes, dean to freak show impresarios, gained custody of
them. Pete and Marie Kortes kept and cared for Athelia as well
as their own daughters, from childhood until she died at an old
age. Schlitzie was given to the care of George Surtees and his
wife. Microcephalies seem blessed with strong physical health.
Schlitzie was in her seventies when George, now a widower passed
away. He had a daughter who had not been in show business, and
had no contacts in it. Not knowing what else to do, she took
Schlitzie to a local hospital in the area of Los Angeles. By
chance, a sword swallower, Bill Unks, was spending his winter
off season working at the hospital. He saw Schlitzie seated in
the waiting room, by herself. Knowing Schlitzie from having
worked in the sideshow with her, he talked with Schlitzie. It
was of course useless to try a conversation, so he inquired of
the hospital staff what she was doing there. It was explained
they were to admit her to a mental institution. Bill called Sam
Alexander, whose show the Surtees and Schlitzie had been with.
Sam called the institution authorities advising them of
Schlitzie's background. When psychiatrists had finished their
evaluation, they suggested the state make Schlitzie a ward of
Sam Alexander. The doctor stated that with Schlitzie's advanced
age , if she were institutionalized
and deprived of the affection of the showpeople and attention of
the public she wouldn't live six months.
Schlitzie lived many years under Sam's watchful care. She was a
sweet old thing, loved by all who worked with her. She was quite
comical and would repeat things like a parrot. Calling the shows
patrons to her stage, she would say whatever she had heard
people discussing. Sometimes it would take four or five minutes
for the patron to realize they were listening to the incoherent
rambling of an idiot before nervously glancing around and
embarrassingly moving away.
I would no longer exhibit anyone mentally deficient, due to the
criticism of those who would not understand the improvement in
quality of life such as a person would receive in a freak show
environment, as opposed to confinement in an institution.
I have no doubt that Schlitzie enjoyed the trips to Hawaii,
Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Canada, etc.. Attending luaus,
holiday dinners and parties where the entire freak show would
celebrate. This with the same delight and exuberance of a small
Once having been rescued from the locked away existence of early
childhood, Schlitzie had a comfortable, happy existence for the
rest of her eighty plus years.
Simon Metz - appeared as Schlitzie in the Movie Freaks
Athelia - said to be Simon's sister
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©1991-2008 Ward Hall,
all rights reserved. The stories and images are
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