Woodside Amusement Park
by Walt Hudson
After Princess Yvonne, the midget
stripper, and her brother Hans left suddenly as a result
of her accident, our show was without a real feature
attraction. We still had Billy Ryan with his illusions;
Eikee the Snake Enchantress; and Virginia Dakota who
smoked cigarettes through her eyes. I was doing my
animal hypnotism act and also exhibiting the Chinese wax
After a couple of days of making phone calls our manager
reported that he had talked Susie the Elephant Skinned
Girl into returning to our show. She had been with us
when we had opened in May but had left about the middle
of June to join a side show at Coney Island. I figured
the manager must have offered her much more money than
she was making at Coney to get her back.
Susie was really the star of our show. She had the
strangest skin of anyone I've ever seen. Her entire body
was covered with a thick, heavy, gray-colored skin
which resembled the hide of an elephant. I do not. know
what the medical term for her condition is but .
she..was, born with it and none of her brothers or
sisters shared her unusual epidermis.
There were a few other people in the side show business
with a similar condition and they called themselves
"alligator skinned" people. The only three alligator
people I remember seeing were Emmett Bejano, Esther
Blackman and a fellow who called himself Toney. None of
their skins was as thick or as gray as that of Susie's.
Their skin was more scaley. I am sure the dermatologists
of today have classified this condition and may even
have ways of treating it effectively.
Susie dressed in a two-piece bathing suit so the "marks"
could see a large portion of her body. Her lecture was
short. "I was born of normal parents and none of my
brothers or sisters have this condition. I have had
X-ray treatments so that my face is the only part of my
body that is not covered by the thick gray skin you see
on the rest of me. I have no pores and I cannot sweat. I
rub my skin several times a day with ice in order to
breathe. I have been examined by leading physicians in
this country and none of them can help me. There is no
cure for my condition. I have these brochures for sale
which contain a brief story of my life as well as three
different photos of my body."
The "marks" were fascinated by Susie and often asked
questions and offered solutions for her skin problem.
Some suggested doctors she should visit; others told her
about home-made remedies to cure her condition. I
remember one guy who said that he had had a large area
of his arm that had been covered with warts and that he
had applied Preparation H on the arm for several days
and the warts had disappeared! He suggested that Susie
might want to try this.
I do not know how factual her spiel was but I did see
her lubricate her body several times a day with baby
oil. Offstage Susie was Charlotte Vogel. She was a very
pleasant girl to converse with. She was an avid
crossword puzzle worker and, when not onstage, she would
spend hours doing puzzles. She had quite a collection of
puzzle magazines and would always ask anyone reading the
daily newspaper to save that day's puzzle for her.
One day we were talking backstage and Susie told me
about the time she was working at the side show in Coney
Island. This one "mark" came to see the show three or
four times a week and stayed to see the performance over
and over again.
"He would always remain at the rear of the crowd but
when I came on he would push his way to the front of the
platform and stand there with a grin on his face while I
gave my lecture. When I pitched my brochures he always
bought two of them. That would be about a dozen or more
"This went on for about a month. It got so everybody in
the show recognized him. They'd come backstage and say
that the 'Grinner was out front.
"The crazy thing was that after I left the stage he
would return to the rear of the crowd and stay there
until I reappeared. He never bought another act's pitch
"Then one day when I went down the street to Nathan's
Hots to get something to eat, he came up and started
talking to me and paid for my lunch. Next he started
waiting for me outside when the show closed for the
night and offered to walk me home. I had rented an
apartment a few blocks away for the summer months. Then
one night, out of the clear, he asked me to marry him!
He said I was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen.
Can you imagine that?
"I wasn't interested in him and I told him that I was
already married to a guy who ran a side show which was
out on the road and that 1 would be joining him in two
"He seemed so disappointed and, after that, he stopped
coming around. I heard that he was visiting our rival
side show down the street and was putting the make on
Lena the Leopard Skinned girl.
Some people! The guy must have had a skin
Susie was with us for the month of August and then took
off for another show. She never had trouble getting a
job and played in most of the large carnivals (and
amusement parks that booked side shows). I often wish 1
could have spent more time with her. Her life
experiences would have made a fascinating book.
I last saw Susie at the Greater Allentown (PA.) Fair in
the late 1960s. She was working as a "single-o" (a show
that had just one attraction). The show was called The
Swamp Girl and it was housed in a truck.
The truck was parked lengthwise and there was a platform
along the side of it with stair steps at either end.
Customers walked up one set of stairs, across the
outside body of the truck which had a large glass window
mounted in it, and down the other set of steps.
On the inside of the air-conditioned truck was Susie who
was asleep on a mattress on the floor. She had her
biographical summary printed up and glued to the window.
She looked comfortable inside the cool truck, compared
to those of us outside in the one hundred degree
temperature, looking in.
The "marks" walked across the side of the truck and then
down the other stairs. The outside of the truck was
painted with a jungle/swamp motif. There was a taped
bally, with jungle sound effects in the background,
telling all about this strange jungle girl with the skin
of a swamp lizard! Susie had gone from being an elephant
skinned girl to a lizard skinned girl!
Susie (Charlotte Vogel) died February 2, 1975, in New
York City. Her photos appear in just about every article
and collection of human oddity material.
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