Test Your Knowledge: Famous Sideshow Freaks

By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

Wildly popular during the Victorian era, sideshows were some of the only leisure entertainment activities available to the American public. For that reason, the curious masses would visit traveling circuses and exhibitions, paying for peeks at people with disabilities, disorders and general embellishments, such as tattoos. Test your knowledge of famous female freak show performers with this quiz from HowStuffWorks.com.

Which did P.T. Barnum invent first: beauty contests or freak shows?

Barnum organized the first beauty contest in 1854 after he started showcasing freaks and "human curiosities" in the 1830s.


P.T. Barnum's British counterpart, Tom Norman, briefly managed which famous sideshow freak?

Nicknamed the "Silver King," Norman managed Joseph Merrick, better known as the Elephant Man -- but only for a few months until Merrick was sold back to another showman.


Which of the following sideshow sisters were not conjoined twins?

The Sutherlands were a group of seven adopted sisters who collectively had 37 feet of hair, referred to as a "Niagara of Curls." Their family made more than $1 million by marketing a popular turn-of-the-century hair tonic.


Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton starred alongside a cast of other sideshow stars in what 1932 pre-code horror film?

Now a cult classic, Tod Browning's 1932 horror film "Freaks" starred the Hilton Sisters, Peter "Human Skeleton" Robinson, Francis "Armless Girl" O'Connor and other sideshow stars.


After Daisy and Violet Hilton's entertainment career faded, the conjoined twins took a job where?

The Hilton sisters' last job was at a Charlotte, N.C., Park-N-Stop grocery store, where one twin would ring up customers while the other bagged groceries.


How old was Joice Heth, billed as The World's Oldest Woman and George Washington's nurse, supposed to be?

One of P.T. Barnum's first traveling attractions, former slave Joice Heth was supposed to be 161 years old. Her postmortem autopsy, however, revealed that she was likely in her 70s.


When freak shows fell out of social favor in the early 20th century, what was one of the first attractions to go?

According to a 1911 New York Times story, fat ladies were among the first freaks to get pink slips as sideshow businesses began to dwindle.


Abraham and Mary Lincoln hosted a White House wedding reception for what sideshow star?

Tom Thumb's 1893 wedding to Lavinia Warren, "Queen of Beauty," was a national publicity sensation. Afterward, the newlyweds embarked on a honeymoon tour, which included a White House reception.


What was P.T. Barnum's stationary sideshow attraction?

P.T. Barnum's American Museum in New York was one of many "dime museums" that were popular in the late 19th century. Rather than the conventional educational exhibits displayed in today's institutions, dime museums profited from freaks and hoaxes.


Juliana Pastrana's congenital generalized hypertrichosis terminalis was responsible for what freak show "abnormality"?

Geneticists recently pinpointed congenital generalized hypertrichosis terminalis as the source of Juliana "Baboon Lady" Pastrana's excessive hairiness, and gingival hypertrophy caused her noticeably protruding jaw line.


Which of the following female freaks performed for Queen Victoria?

Conjoined twins Millie-Christine McKoy traveled around post-Civil War America and England, and the "Two-Headed Nightingale even sang for Queen Victoria -- not once, but twice!


A metabolic disorder caused Mary Ann Bevan to bill herself in sideshows as what?

Mary Ann Bevan suffered from an adult-onset metabolic disorder called acromegaly, which stimulates excess bone development. In Bevan's case, the acromegaly expanded her facial bones, and she adopted the title "World's Homeliest Woman."


A signature part of fat lady Ella Milbauer's routine was baring which part of her body?

Billed as "586 Pounds of Feminine Charm," Milbauer's performance always included revealing her ample thighs to the audience.


An undeveloped twin left behind what physical feature on Myrtle Corbin's body?

Myrtle Corbin's dipygus, or phantom, twin didn't fully develop, but left the sideshow star with an extra pair of legs that dangled between her two full-grown stems.


Half man/half woman Josephine Joseph was most likely which gender?

Little is known about Josephine Joseph, who appeared in Tod Browning's "Freak," but the Austrian-born performer was most likely a biological male who posed as an intersex person.


Where can someone go today to see a regular freak show?

Coney Island has been the American home of freak shows since 1880, and sword swallowers, firewalkers and human blockheads still regularly perform there.


Gibsonton, Fla., is known for being the site of what?

Gibsonton became a popular retirement spot for sideshow and circus performers, since Ringling Bros. often spent the winter months in nearby Sarasota, Fla.


It took almost 130 years to bury what famous female freak's body?

When Julia Pastrana, Baboon Lady, who sang opera tunes and danced the highland two-step, died in 1860, her body was immediately embalmed and sent back on the road. Not until the mid-1990s was her body finally buried properly by the Norwegian government.


At the peak of sideshow era in the early 1900s, a popular performer could earn how much per week?

During the golden age of freak shows, performers regularly pulled in $200 per week, but as the era waned, weekly salaries dropped dramatically to barely more than $10 or $20.


When did freak show popularity fizzle out?

With more sources of entertainment available to the American public in 1940, including movie theaters, freak shows didn't maintain their appeal. In addition, the notion of paying to gawk at people's disabilities, disorders and physical anomalies didn't sit as well with society any more.


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