Circuses were a great hit back in the day being the only means of entertainment for people. Along with many acts and animals, people were displayed in circus shows featuring them as “freaks”.
Many of these people suffering from mental or physical abnormalities and their obvious dissimilarity with other people made them a huge crowd puller at these shows. These remarkable black and white images show the small, large, and malformed individuals who were exhibited as human curiosities to the paying public.
And though little-known today, many of the characters in these photos would go on to become the most famous and wealthiest stars of their generation.
By the 1890s ‘freak shows’ began to lose their popularity as scientific advances lead to the explanation of these physical differences.
But still, the photos remain as a reminder that people once found differences entertaining – no matter how disturbing that fact is.
When 19th century circus-goers weren’t watching men eat fire or women swing from trapezes, they could ogle at disabled and different people put on display in what were then called ‘freak shows’. Pictured are a group of the individuals who were on display
Schlitzie Simon Melt was born with microcephaly – meaning he had a shrunken head and brain. because the disease was not understood at the time he had little choice by to be a member of a freak show
Lady with beard: Madame Devere from Bracksville, Kentucky. Her beard was 15 inches long
This man was known as the ‘Human Caterpillar’ because he was born limbless. For entertainment, he would roll himself over and light cigarettes with only his mouth
This man was clearly put in the freak show because of his lack of legs. Though little-known today, many of the characters in these photos would go on to become the most famous and wealthiest stars of their generation
Remarkable black and white images show the small, large, and malformed individuals who were exhibited as human curiosities to the paying public. Pictured are a group of traveling ‘freaks’ who were all a part of the same show
This performer was known as Koo-Koo, the bird girl
Pictured here is a woman 7 feet tall, while her parents were not tall themselves
Another girl with excessive body hair was part of the “freak show”
The whole entertainment package