November 10, 2011

Human "Oddities"

This is pretty much a G-rated blog, mainly because I'm a G-rated person, for no other reason than that I just am. I can swear, though! I can really have a mouth, especially with Steven out of the house. I use the f-word frequently when talking to my husband. However, it's beginning to bore me.

The other thing is that I don't relish birth defects or diseases. I'm a nurse, I can look at most things without flinching, but seeing pictures of a baby with a cleft palate is not my idea of entertainment. 

But I got to thinking about the old freak shows at fairs. I must admit: I absolutely loved those, and I would get all shaky with excitement while waiting in line at various Kansas fairs, particularly Topeka's Mid-America Fair every August and September. It was there I saw the bodiless head, which was a girl about my age under a table with only her head exposed. For realism, there was a bottle of red-colored liquid on the table with a tube going from the bottle to somewhere under the table.

Of course it was fake, I knew that instantly, but I just stared and stared, wondering what it'd be like to be part of the traveling fair. Finally the girl stuck her tongue out at me and I jumped three feet. Truly that was unnecessary. Since that event, I have had no sympathy for bodiless heads. heh.

In the 1870s and 1880s, Charles Eisenmann took an interest in photographing "freaks." His photos were printed as trading cards and are now, of course, highly collectible.

I chose three pictures to accompany this post and on only one can I provide any information. The first picture is of Ella Harper, a girl born with a very rare hereditary condition called genu recurvatum. Ella wrote:

‘I am called the camel girl because my knees turn backward. I can walk best on my hands and feet as you see me in the picture. I have traveled considerably in the show business for the past four years and now, this is 1886 and I intend to quit the show business and go to school and fit myself for another occupation.'

 photo EllaHarper.jpg

All references to Ella stopped when she was thirteen years old. It's hard to say what happened to her.

Here are two more of Eisenmann's subjects. I find no information on the people in the photos.

 photo CharlesEisenmann2.jpg 

 photo CharlesEisenmann.jpg