Williams, known as the Turtle Boy
Millie & Christine
McCoy Conjoined Twin Sisters
Freak Show Raised
The first time the carnival rolled into town to occupy Washington
Avenue more than 100 years ago, citizens of the city were
concerned about whether the human oddities and shocking
exhibitions would taint the wholesome community.
After all, a girl who bites heads off rattlesnakes is not
something every parent would want their children to see.
But the show went on.
Train cars carrying the Robinson Carnival Co. with personnel and
talent numbering 146 arrived in Grand Haven the morning of Monday,
Aug. 11, 1902.
The carnival set up that afternoon on Washington Avenue from Third
Street to the river as a large crowd gathered to watch.
City officials brought the carnival to town to generate business
for downtown merchants and retailers. The city would pick up the
tab for extra police and ticket takers at a cost of $45-$60 per
day and receive a small percentage of receipts from shows. By the
end of the spectacle the city barely broke even with the venture.
The carnival featured a Ferris wheel, said to be the largest
portable one in existence at the time, standing 50-60 feet high
and capable of carrying 40 patrons.
Daredevil diver Kid McComb, whose act was situated at the rear of
the post office, climbed a 60-foot ladder then dove off into four
feet of water in a tank situated below.
One famous act of the sideshow was George Williams, known as the
Turtle Boy. Born in 1859 in Arkansas with a rare form of dwarfism,
Williams was only 18 inches tall and his bones were twisted into
spirals. Despite looking nothing like a turtle, Williams was often
depicted wearing a shell in advertisements during his heyday 20
Williams was not content to simply allow patrons to view him; he
preferred to earn his money by performing on harmonica and flute
and possessed a rich and wonderful baritone singing voice.
Another sideshow attraction, Millie and Christine, were often
billed as “the eighth wonder of the world.”
Millie and Christine McKoy, conjoined twin sisters born into
slavery on July 11, 1851, were professionally known as “The
Two-Headed Nightingale.” They presented themselves as being of one
body with two heads — which was untrue — the pair was joined to
the rear at the waist.
The McKoy twins, notably articulate and fluent in five languages,
entertained Grand Havenites with song and dance.
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Kevin Collier -
Grand Haven Tribune
- Jan 2013
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