Many people are stricken with disorders from birth. While some sulk over their misfortune there are others that move on and make the best of what they have been blessed with. Even today we find people who are even half as able as us performing tasks that would be difficult for those who are abled bodied. These are a few characters that used their appearance to entertain the locals, while most turned out to be wealthy others went in to the books of being the all-time performers in history. They didn’t hold themselves back due to their disabilities; they embraced it and made the best use of themselves from being differently abled.
1. Ella Harper
Formerly known as ‘The camel girl’, this lad was born with a strange orthopedic disorder in which her legs were hooked backwards, making it possible for her to walk on all fours like a camel. Ella did not waste her life sulking about her disorder, she sought it as a blessing and became a performer at the circus. Back in the day she charged $200 a night to perform. She passed away when she was 51 in the year 1921.
2. Joseph Merrick
In 1836 there lived a man in Leicester, London that used his abnormality to the best use by becoming famous. Popularly known as “The Elephant man” in his prime, he was born with a disorder called Proteus syndrome in which his bones were deformed and used to thicken, he also had huge lumps on the surface of his skin. His mother died when he was young leaving him to his father who chose to abandon him because of his case. At the age of 11 he approached showman and offered his services only to end up being popular worldwide. His greatest desire was to sleep like any other normal person, lying down. Due to the size of his head he was unable to do so. One night this desire overwhelmed him, leaving him dead as his neck snapped while he tried to sleep normally.
3. Butch Lumpkin
During the 50’s and 60’s doctors prescribed Thalidomide, a drug to prevent nausea. While the drug worked instantly it affected unborn children with Phocomelia, a disease in which children are born with either shunted or deformed limbs. Butch was one such unfortunate case as he was born with short arms and deformed fingers. Through his development stages his parents did not treat him differently and supported him leading to Butch’s extreme desire to achieve his dreams. He always dreamed of becoming a pro tennis player and did so, did he. By his twenties he became a certified pro, and till today continues to train young lads tennis with his inspiring story.
4. Dora Gutterman
Born with sever Hypertrichosis, a disorder in which hair grows all over the body. Dora used her strange disorder in the circus between 1925 and 1940, in which she travelled the world to perform.
5. Rudy Santos
Born in 1953, this Pilipino man was born with a condition known as parasite twin. Due to this condition he has a pair of extra legs, hands, shoulders, nipples stuck to his pelvis and protruding from his abdomen. It usually happens during the fetal stages in which the other twin‘s body is absorbed into the one who suffers from it. During the 70’s and 80’s he earned the name “Octoman” in which he performed freak shows for 20,000 pesos per gig. He became a national celebrity in the process.
6. Maurice Tillet
Known as “The French Angel”, Maurice suffered from a disorder called acromegaly in which his bones thickened and overgrew. This disorder soon became an ability for Tillet as he used the power of his body strength caused mainly due to the disorder to become the two time heavyweight World champion and sooner got into Hollywood as an actor.
7. Frank Letini
Was later called “The Great Letini”, this man was also a case of that of a parasite twin. Letini had a fully formed third leg in which only the foot was clubbed. He used to get onstage and kick a football on stage, hence the name” The great footballer”. He also has another pair of fully functional sex organs. Around his 30’s he travelled with major circus crews and became nationally famous for his ability. His humble and lovable nature and attitude on stage gave him the name “The King” by his peers.
Born with a disorder microcephaly, which causes the undersize of the skull, brain and stunted growth, Schlitzie became one of the most famous side show performers in history. He was only four feet and his short stature bagged him roles in Hollywood, one such was “Freaks” in 1932. The disorder took a toll on him as he suffered inability to perform basic tasks and talk fluently, only in short sentences or phrases.
9. Charles Sherwood Stratton
This little fella became the most famous little person performer in history. Famously known as “Tom Thumb”, he was born with a disorder that caused dwarfism. He was only two feet tall and at the age of four his charisma and height got the notice of Barnum himself. For the rest of his forty year career he remained in the Barnum circus and became wealthy, back in the day which was equivalent to a millionaire of today, even bailing out the Barnum circus at one point. He married another little lady Lavinia Warren and the both of them were invited by President Abraham Lincoln himself to the Whitehouse. Through his years he continued to grow but only reached a height of 3 feet by the time he passed.
10. Isaac Sprague
Born in Massachusetts in 1841, Isaac was born a normal boy and lived a normal lifestyle. It was only until he was 12 years old that he experienced rapid loss of weight that led him to the title “The Skeleton Man”. Isaac also worked with Barnum in the showbiz as many were baffled with his condition. He toured with him quite frequently due to his gambling addiction that costed him to be broke most of the time. At the age of 43 he died due to asphyxiation.