An Open Letter


An open letter to B... First, you need to know that unlike this one your site cannot be found. Ms. B..., People like you are responsible for removing a strong, mostly intelligent, self reliant culture to the realm of the handicapapped though ignorant, bigoted, do-goodism rather than asking those who lived the life in the "Human Oddity" shows... They were responsible for educating many thousands of people about physical deformities...The family strength of the shows is something you can never understand...You needed to live it.. Lumping all of the disorders under a self effacing umbrella is blatantly stupid! For example, I worked with Alzora, the turtle girl, and her cousin Joanna the bear girl. I can certainly certify neither was "double jointed" They were as they appeared! I've taken the liberty of gathering the names of some of the anomalies to perhaps give you a stronger data-base to reason from... I know you won't change your mind about us, your kind can't!

Walk a mile in our shoes lady, it will serve you well.....

ALBINO - Person or animal lacking skin pigmentation. Very pale skin, white hair and colorless eye are typical

ALLIGATOR MAN/WOMAN/ETC. - Sideshow human oddity afflicted with skin condition, commonly ictheosis, that gives the skin a scaly, reptile-like appearance.

ANATOMICAL WONDER - A sideshow performer, usually perceived by the public as a human oddity, but more a working act. The performer would do stunts such as 'the man without a stomach' (pulling the gut in until the backbone shows), pulling themselves through a coat hanger or similar challenge. when I was young I had this ability BEARDED LADY - Woman with a beard appearing in a show. They were most often genuine, though there were the occasional gaffs. Hirstutism.

BLOCKHEAD - An act where a spike is ‘driven’ into a performer’s nose. Performers use screwdrivers, drills, anything to enhance the effect.

CYCLOPS BABY, A baby born with one eye. They seldom live long, due to other complications.

DWARF - A person with shortened arm and leg bones, fingers, etc. Usually other bones, like the skull are normal size. Achrondoplasty.

FREAK - A human oddity on exhibition in a museum or in a circus or carnival side show. Early day circuses also displayed some featured freaks in their menageries. Often called “VSP’s (Very Special People) as a salute to Frederick Drimmer.

FROG BABY - Anacephalic. Baby born with a fog-like appearance, the result of the top of the skull being sunken, causing the face to bulge.

FROG MAN/GIRL/ETC. - Human oddity whose legs and arms could be contorted so they could squat in a frog-like position. This ability was often the result of the Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, an affliction which can result in hyper-extensible joints, skin laxity (such as that of Rubber Skin people), and other anomalies. Otis Jordan, on the other hand, often billed as Frog Boy, was so called as his locomotion was by hopping, necessitated by his shriveled limbs.

HALF GIRL/BOY - A human oddity born without lower limbs.

MIDGET - a small person, usually normally proportioned. Not a victim of achodroplasia (dwarfism)

MONKEY GIRL/BOY/ETC. - Human oddity afflicted with hirsutism. (Hypertrichosis) Such individuals might also be called Wolf Boys, Dog Boys, etc. Their hairiness is more extreme than, say, a bearded lady's. MULE-FACED WOMAN - Grace McDaniels. severe Rosacea. Also, KOKOMO, The mule faced-boy. Grossly prognathous...

OSSIFIED GIRL/BOY/ETC. - Human oddity afflicted with a condition which effectively freezes them in position, withering their limbs, etc.

PARASITIC TWIN- A twin dependant on its sibling host. Betty Lou Williams is probably the most famous of these. Also LALOO.

PENGUIN BOY/GIRL/ETC. - Human oddity afflicted with foreshortened limbs, usually with hands and feet attached directly to the torso without arms or legs. See Seal Boy/Girl.

PICKLED PUNK - A carnival term for human fetuses. Two-headed human babies, joined together twins, etc., etc. (Also normal specimens from one to eight months). Some real, some fake, these specimens were repulsive to some, but highly educational for millions of others. See BABY SHOW as well.

PINHEAD - Human oddity afflicted with microcephally, the head coming to a point, a fact which was often further emphasized by leaving a top knot of hair to emphasize the head shape. ZIP, SCHLITZIE, and others.

SEAL BOY/GIRL/ETC. - Human oddity afflicted with phocomelia, or foreshortened 'seal,' limbs, usually with hands and feet attached directly to the torso without arms or legs. See Penguin Boy/Girl.

SIAMESE TWINS - Conjoined twins, connected to each other in various ways. Although ENG and CHANG were the source of the name, there have been many others, dating back to the year 1100.

John Merric - The Elephant Man - Neurofibromatosis, Proteus Disease.

I can take very little credit for this dictionary. Most of it is built on Joe Mckenna’s fine work, and it’s been expanded by James Taylor’s “Shocked and Amazed.” Then the next step was blatant plagarizing from Joe Bates. The language (lingo) is hundreds of years old, and has roots in many tongues, from all over the world. Some of these definitions are crossed over circus terms I added a little, with the help of some of my carny “family.” Thanks to all. Ms. B, we are not as limited as you might think!

Slim Price 11-06-1998


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