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 the
 
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 child.
 
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.

 

Ward Hall
 

Images

Simon Metz - appeared as Schlitzie in the Movie Freaks

Athelia - said to be Simon's sister

Schilitzie pitchcard


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