The Two-Headed Giant

Fairground Exhibit has not been Displayed for Seven Years

“The Two-headed Patagonian Giant”, said to have been over 12ft (3.7m) tall, was a famous fairground attraction allegedly brought to England in the 19th century. The story was that he had been captured by Spanish sailors in 1673 and bound to the mainmast. He broke loose and killed four of his captors, before being killed himself by a boarding pike plunged into his heart [FT112:15].

In the early 1900s, the stuffed giant was purchased by a Mr Bartram who toured the country on the Edwardian horror circuit, ending up in Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, where the curiosity passed through several hands and was exhibited at various locations. It was known as Kap Dwa, which translates approximately as Two-Heads. (In the Malay language, kepala means head and dua means two; how this relates to the supposed Patagonian provenance is unknown.) In 1914, visitors to Weston’s Birnbeck Pier paid tuppence to see the black giant lying on his back wearing a loincloth, armed with a large club and with a snake coiled on his breast. The exhibit is mentioned in An Innkeeper’s Diary (1931) by John Fothergill, and in Cider With Rosie (1959) by Laurie Lee. It was sold to a showman called “Lord” Thomas Howard in 1959, after which it left Weston.

FT reader Frank Adey remembers seeing it in Blackpool around 1960. He was certain it was a fake, but commented: “There were no signs of sutures or other ‘joins’, even though the body was largely unclothed” [FT114:50]. In the 1930s, two doctors and a radiologist inspected it in Weston and found “no perceptual evidence of its being a fake”. They speculated that it was some kind of conjoined twins. Another FT reader saw it in Blackpool at the end of the 1960s. One account maintains that in 1974 Howard sold or transferred Kap Dwa to his brother Scott in New Jersey. An exhibit purporting to be the dubious relic was seen in a Baltimore antique shop called Antique Man 1 in 1998 [FT116:53], and as far as we know it is still there – but FT doubts it is the Kap Dwa of Weston-super-Mare.



A two-headed giant in a glass case with a coiled snake and a spear was seen at a travelling funfair in Manchester in November 1998 [FT124:51]. Gang of Fort member Ian Simmons then asked “Professor Stomboli” about Kap Dwa. Stomboli, one of the last of the British freak show operators, put word out “on the drum” as fair people say, and found that showman Billy Hill had bought the giant from Howard in Blackpool and, though semi-retired, still toured in his white bus with an assortment of attractions – including a two-headed boy, “the smallest woman who ever lived”, a six-legged lamb, and a three-eyed fox. Last we heard, he exhibited Kap Dwa in Newcastle in September 1999 [FT130:54]. Have any readers seen the two-headed wonder since then?

The main image of the giant (far left) was provided by North Somerset Museum. Recently, Craig Cooper of Swadlincote, Derbyshire, sent Fortean Times some more documentation. The black and white photo was taken at “Lord Thomas Howard’s Kap Dwa Show” at Nottingham Goose Fair on 4 October 1962. The accompanying clipping is from the Nottingham Guardian on the same day. The colour photograph was taken at the Newcastle-on-Tyne Fair in June 1971.

 

Article Fortune Times Magazine

Photos courtesy of Michael Diamond

 


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