Victorian Freak Shows: Pictures and Posters

On May 18, 2013 by Tim Newman

Victorian Freak Show Posters - Babil & Bijou - Giant Amazon Queen

In this article, I’ll focus on the strange, dark world of Victorian freak shows. We’ll zero in on some of the most famous characters of the time.

While freak shows are (mostly) a thing of the past, and rightly so, they give us a sobering glimpse into the mindset of humanity.

Babil and Bijou

The poster above was created for a fantastical play called Babil and Bijou, performed at the Alhambra Theatre. The performance was heavy with special effects and featured this “Amazonian” woman from Germany.

One of the posters from 1882 says:

“Marian, the giant Amazon queen, will make her first appearance in England at the Royal Alhambra Theatre on Saturday, 8th July, in the magnificent silver armour scene in the enormously successful fairy extravaganza, “Babil & Bijou”.

This young lady was born on the 31st January, 1866, at Benkendorf, a village near the Thuringia Mountains, Germany, and has attained the remarkable height of 8 feet 2 inches (2.49 m), and is still growing.”

Marian - Amazonian Girl - German - Freak Show

However, the Guinness Book of World Records puts the tallest woman — China’s Zeng Jinlian — at just under 8ft 2in, so it ‘s unlikely she really was that big.

Chang and Eng Bunker

The poster below showcases Chang and Eng Bunker, the original “Siamese twins.” They hailed from Thailand, which was known as Siam back then. So, they were the first people to be called Siamese twins.

After their world tour as a freak show act, they went to live on a plantation in North Carolina, bought some slaves, and made a go of it as American citizens.

They both married, Chang had 10 kids and Eng 11! They initially all slept in a big bed made for four, but the wives squabbled, so the two had to split their time between households.

Chang And Eng - Origianl Siamese Twins - Freak Show

Chang eventually died in his sleep. Eng woke to find his brother dead, called for emergency surgery, but died before they could be separated.

On a positive note, thanks to their impressively fruitful loins, they have are around 1,500 direct descendants alive today.

Victorian Freak Show Posters - Chang & Eng - Siamese Twins

Julia Pastrana

Julia Pastrana, a Mexican lady, suffered from hypertrichosis — a condition characterised by thick, widespread hair growth.

She also had Gingival hyperplasia, which thickened her lips and gums. She toured successfully in America and Europe, and Charles Darwin had this to say:

“Julia Pastrana, a Spanish dancer, was a remarkably fine woman, but she had a thick masculine beard and a hairy forehead; she was photographed, and her stuffed skin was exhibited as a show; but what concerns us is, that she had in both the upper and lower jaw an irregular double set of teeth, one row being placed within the other, of which Dr. Purland took a cast. From the redundancy of the teeth her mouth projected, and her face had a gorilla-like appearance”

Julia Pastrana - Victorian Freak Show - Mexico

Theodore Lent purchased Pastrana, possibly from her mother, and taught her to dance and read and write in three languages.

He also impregnated her. Julia gave birth to a baby who was born with a similar condition but died at just 3 days old; Julia died of complications five days later. Lent did not let this stop him, he had them both mummified and continued to display them.

Later, he found a similar looking woman who he named Zenora Pastrana. He made a lot of money from Zenora. He eventually married her, but ended his days in a mental institute in Russia.

You may have seen Julia Pastrana in the news in February 2013. She was finally re-interred in Mexico.

Mario Lopez, the governor of Sinaloa state where Julia was born, lobbied to have her brought back from Norway where she had been stashed in a cupboard for years. She had a full Catholic funeral back in her home town.

Victorian Freak Show Posters - Julia Pastrama - Regent Street

The Dog Face Man

I couldn’t find out anything specific about the man in the picture below, but he seems to have been one of the many people with hypertrichosis who were paraded around in those days.

Victorian Freak Show Posters - Kohl &^ Middletons - The Dog Faced Man

Krao Krao

Krao Krao was born in Siam in 1876. She was covered with hair, including a mane-like track of hair flowing down her back from between her shoulder blades.

Krao was discovered at the age of 6 by a promoter called the Great Farini.

Krao - Victorian Freak Show - Missing Link

Farini took the girl on a successful tour of Europe before starting a tour in the United State. She was heralded as evidence for Darwin’s controversial theory and was dubbed “the missing link” by many.

She eventually died of flu aged 48, and a funeral on Coney Island was attended by many of the local “freaks.”

Famous fat lady, Carrie Holt, said, “If anyone has gone to heaven, that woman has.”

Victorian Freak Show Posters - Krao


Lalloo Ramparsad, or Lalloo was born in India with a fully attached parasitic twin that comprised a few limbs and a lump of flesh stuck to his chest.

His twin had a fully functioning penis and urinary tract, and although Lalloo could sense touch through his brother, he was unaware of his need to urinate until it was too late.

Lalloo was often described as the “Handsome, Healthy, Happy Hindoo.”

Laloo Lalloo Ramparsad - Victorian Freak Show

Lalloo was an activist and, in 1889, campaigned vigorously for the word “prodigies” to be used in the place of “freaks.”

It seems he was pretty successful, and the word did stop getting used so frequently.

He made a fair amount of cash from sideshows and by lending himself to inquisitive doctors. He married a “normal” woman and lived a pretty lavish lifestyle. Lalloo died prematurely in a train crash aged just 32.

Victorian Freak Show Posters - Lalloo

Miss C. Heenan

I couldn’t find much out about Miss C. Heenan, unfortunately, but I found another poster, which says the following:

“Now exhibiting at The Universum, 369 Oxford Street, London; Miss C Heenan, the great prize lady and her four prize cups; 26 inches round her arms, 3 feet 6 inches across the shoulders and 7 feet round the body, weighs 40 stone, the heaviest female living.”

That’s nothing in modern day American terms, is it? Walmart is today’s freak show, I guess. Here’s what another advert had to say:

“Now exhibiting for a short time, at 122, Fleet Street, City, opposite Punch’s office. Just arrived from America! The greatest wonder of the world………Handsome in appearance, and not 19 years of age. .… Great reduction in price to give all classes an opportunity of seeing her. Admission:—Ladies and gentlemen, 3d. Working classes, after 6, 2d. Open from 12 till 11 p.m”

Victorian Freak Show Posters - Miss C Heenan

History Collection

Victorian Freak Show Posters - S watson American Museum

Victorian Freak Show Posters - South London Palace - Speedy & Poole

General Mite and Millie Edwards

General Mite (real name Francis Flynn) and Millie Edwards, were a married couple who toured together showing off their stature. Australian born “General Mite” is still considered one of the smallest human beings ever documented.

General Mite Millie Edwards - Victorian Freak Show

His adult height was 27 in (68.5 cm) and he weighed around 12 pounds. The two “married” in Manchester, England when he was probably only about 12, but they said he was much older of course.

Victorian Freak Show Posters - General Mite And Millie Edwards

So, there you go. It’s quite an uncomfortable trip, really. It wasn’t so long ago that we were pointing and laughing at people who were physically different. We know we can’t get away with that sort of thing nowadays, but we still retain that urge to stare.

In these modern times we have to make do with laughing at people who are socially unusual instead, through the medium of Jeremy Kyle and Come Dine With Me.

I hope one day we’ll stop that, too.





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