Freak Show Quiz

By: Staff

4 Min Quiz

Image: refer to hsw

About This Quiz

They were peculiar, and sometimes horrifying, but what was really wrong with them? Test your knowledge of some famous circus "freaks" in this seven-question quiz.

"Bearded Ladies" were a common attraction in the fairground freak shows, as were other hairy acts such as Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Boy. What was the medical condition most likely responsible for this affliction?

Hirsutism is a condition usually caused by a high amount of male hormones, where thick, dark hair appears on the face, chest, back and belly.


Joseph Merrick believed that his appearance might have been shaped to some extent when his mother was pushed under an elephant during a circus parade while she was pregnant with him. What is another example of an unusual animal-like condition supposedly caused by traumatic circumstances?

Leonine, the Lion-faced girl was born in Sierra Leone to English parents in the late 1800s. Her father had been mauled to death by a lion only a few weeks before her birth -- and her mother had witnessed the ghastly attack. When Leonine's mother first gazed at her newborn baby, she supposedly saw the exact features of a lion's face, and soon died from shock. Leonine later worked at exhibits in Chicago and London, and was known for her gentle charm and ability to speak several languages.


Billed as the "World's Strangest Married Couple" were Emmett, the Alligator-skinned Man, and Percilla, the Monkey Girl. What medical condition did the alligator-skinned man most likely have?

Ichthyosis is correct. This is a skin disease characterized by very thick, scaly skin. "Ichthy" is from the Greek word for fish. There are more than 20 variations of ichthyosis, and no cure exists.


Were some circus "freaks" intentionally created -- or even sold by their parents -- to enter shows so they could earn a living?

Some individuals ate their way to gross obesity so they could become "Jolly Fat Ladies" -- or even starved themselves to become "Living Skeletons." Conjoined twins Violet and Daisy Hilton were sold by their English barmaid mother in 1908 -- when they were only two weeks old -- to be trained to perform in sideshows.


A "Pin Head" was sometimes advertised in circuses as "Darwin's Missing Link" or an "Ancient Aztec Child." What was the medical condition responsible for this abnormality?

Microcephaly is a neurological disorder where the head -- already small at birth -- does not develop, causing the appearance of a large face, receding forehead and a small skull, or "pin head." These cephalic disorders are birth defects of the head, usually caused by hereditary and/or environmental factors during pregnancy.


The freak show performer known as the "Frog Man" had what medical condition?

Ehlers-Danlos syndrome is correct. This disease manifests itself in wildly loose skin and contorted joints, to the point of dislocation.


Were so-called circus freaks usually childless, because of their deformities?

Nikolai Kobelkoff, the "Human Trunk," was born in Russia in 1853. Despite living a life without arms and legs, he married Anna Wilfert in 1876, and the couple had 11 children together. And Chang and Eng, the original "Siamese" conjoined twins, married Sarah and Adelaide Yates in 1843, and established homes and families in North Carolina. Chang had 10 children; Eng had only nine.


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