1. Zazel the Human Cannonball
The first human cannonball was a 16 year old girl by the name of Rosa Pitcher. However, this stunt was more of an illusion as the explosion and propulsion were enhanced. ‘Zazel’ eventually retired after breaking her back during the dangerous performance.
2. The Willow Bunch Giant
Edward Beaupré stood at an enormous 8 feet and 3 inches. He travelled with the Barnum and Bailey Circus throughout the early 1900s performing his signature stunt of lifting a horse onto his shoulders. The cause of Beaupré’s height is considered to be that of a pituitary gland tumor, which never allowed his body to cease from growing.
3. The Ohio Bigfoot Lady
Fanny Mills wore a size 30 shoe after being afflicted with a condition known as Milroy disease. Mills freak show act entered the museum circuit in the late 1800s until her retirement.
4. General Tom Thumb
Called one of the “most famous midgets in history,” General Tom Thumb is a name I’m sure you’ve heard! The infamous titled has coined by none other than Barnum himself. General Thumb never reached 3 feet, but was characterized as a perfect gentlemen. Dressed to the nines, her performed throughout the 1800s bringing a smile to all he encountered.
5. The Cardiff Giant
Another massive man is George Auger. Although both men reached above 8 feet and toured with Barnum and Bailey, Auger was a police escort for Queen Victoria before hitting show business. Eventually, Auger moved onto the silver screen and even wrote a screen play.
6. The Bearded Lady
Although not the first bearded woman, Grace Gilbert was well known for her red, or sometimes bleached, burly locks. An antichrist of femininity, she performed under the tents of the Ringling Bros, Barnum & Bailey, McCaddon circus, and Hagenback-Wallace circus.
7. The Lobster Boy
Grady Stiles, Jr. is one of the most well known freak show acts. For generations, his family, all affected by ectrodactyly, have been headlining traveling carnivals. Lobster boy is also infamous for his murder, plotted by his wife and family, after years of his alcohol fueled abuse.
8. The Skeleton Dude
After developing a condition in his early adulthood leaving him at only 70 pounds, John Coffey became one of the most charming ‘freaks’ to have ever been. He was billed dude due to his attire that spared no expense, impeccable charm, and mustache perfecting good looks. The contrast of his demeanor to his skeleton body made him a star! His act included choosing a very ecstatic young lady from the crowd to wed before moving onto the next town.
9. The Elephant Man
Joseph “Elephant Man” Merrick is the most distinguished individual of this group.His sympathy provoking story of disfigurement and mistreatment has been the subject of media since stepping onto the London show business scene. Even the Royal family favored Merrick. Although his condition is still unknown, it is referred to as elephantisasis.
10. The French Angel
Maurice Tillet was not a circus performer nor a carnival act. However, his peculiar appearance, caused by acromegaly, made him a wrestling legend. When not holding his champion title, Tillet was a very private man. He was also extremely intelligent, speaking 15 languages.
11. Nicodemus the Indescribable
Although titled a freak for his curtailed limbs, John Doogs was a talented and powerfully built acrobat. Doog gained fame in the late 1800s, performing into the early 1900s, with Barnum and Bailey and the Worth’s Museum. He was said to be indescribable due to his curious condition leaving him with an arm ending in a horn, a webbed right foot, and a left foot resembling that of a hog.
12. Pip and Flip The Pinheads
Jenny Lee and Elvira Snow performed in the early 1900s in various shows as well as in the movie, Freaks. The sisters were born with microcephaly, a condition that not only affected them physically, but that also inhibited their intellectual development. Pip and Flips charmed crowds with their child like demeanor and earned a comfortable wage, even during the depression.
13. The Tattooed Wonderman
Not born a ‘freak’, Ramus Neilsen was the pioneer of body modification. To set himself apart from the other tattooed and strength acts, this wonderman pulled incredible weights with his piercings. Some of Ramus’s signature moves included moving 250 pound anvils with his nipples, nose, or tongue!
14. The World’s Strongest Woman
During her time, Kate Brumbach was the strongest
woman person in the world! Billed as Sandwina, she could hold a carousel with 14 people on her shoulder and juggle 30 pound iron spheres. Brumbach stood over 6 feet tall at 87 pounds, with 17 inch biceps and 26 1/2 inch thighs.
15. The Mighty Atom
Lastly, Joseph Greenstein, a true hero. The beginning of his life began with a premature birth and childhood spent coping with a frail physique. Until one day Greenstein’s role model, a circus strong man performer, took Greenstein under his wing after discovering Greenstein beaten senselessly outside his tent. The senior freak went on to train Greenstein, creating him into the Mighty Atom. He could break chains with his bare hands and bend iron bars with his teeth! Although his journey from a feeble young boy to an American viking is incredible enough, Greenstein publicly prevailed against intolerance and antisemitism during WWII.