American Horror Story has always been darkly creative, but Freak Show finds its intensity in its close connection to reality.
Elsa Mars and her performers work with what nature gave them, carving out a niche for themselves in an unforgiving world. Sadly, the cruel attitudes portrayed in American Horror Story: Freak Show are often close to what really happened to 'Freaks' of the past.
Check out some of the incredible real people of the past that American Horror Story: Freak Show based its characters upon - many portrayed by actors and actresses with the similar conditions as the "freaks" their characters were modeled after.
Fred Wilson - 'The Lobster Boy'
Born in Massachusetts, 1866, Wilson worked as a professional in a 'Freak Show' attraction.
Actual Condition: ectrodactyly - a latinate term meaning 'monstrous fingers.'
Inspired AHS to create: Jimmy Darling
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Possessed of a third leg as well as double genitalia, Dumas was born in Martinique, in 1860, before she worked as a courtesan in Paris.
Actual Condition: a birth defect, possibly the result of fused twin embryos, similar to the development of conjoined twins.
Inspired AHS to create: the naked girl in the credit sequence
Annie Jones - 'The Bearded Woman'
Jones had a full moustache and sideburns at the age of 5. Incredibly, she was kidnapped by a New York phrenologist (who presumably wanted to study her) until she ran back to her parents during the kidnapping trial!
Actual Condition: suspected hirsutism
Inspired AHS to create: Ethel Darling
Minnie Woolsey - 'Koo Koo the Bird Girl'
Woolsey's condition gave her some mental problems as well as leaving her bald and almost blind (hence the large glasses). She was sent to Georgia Asylum until a showman released her.
Actual Condition: Virchow-Seckel syndrome, or 'bird-headed dwarfism'
Inspired AHS to create: Meep the Geek
Eli Bowen - 'The Legless Wonder'
Born in Ohio, 1844, Bowen amazed audiences with his flips, tumbles and stunts despite his missing limbs. He lived to the ripe old age of 79 before his death at Dreamland Circus, Coney Island.
Actual Condition: Phocomelia, a genetic disorder known colloquially as 'seal limbs.'
Inspired AHS to create: Legless Suzy
Lucia Zarate - 'The Smallest Person Who Ever Lived'
Lucia Zarate was born 1890 in San Carlos, Mexico. As a fully grown adult, Zarate weighed around 4lb.
Actual Condition: Majewski osteodysplastic primordial dwarfism type II
Inspired AHS to create: Ma Petite
Pip and Flip - 'Pinheads'
Pip and Flip appeared in Tod Browning's 1932 movie Freaks, which showed sideshow performers and carnival attractions with various physical conditions on the screen for the first time. AHS: Freak Show gives many nods to Browning's controversial creation.
Actual Condition: Microcephaly - an unusually small cranium caused by a neuro-developmental disorder
Inspired AHS to create: Pepper
Millie-Christine - 'The Two-Headed Nightingale'
Millie and Christine were born into slavery in 1851 in North Carolina. Their parents sold them for $1,000 to showman John Pervis, though they were later kidnapped for exhibition in other shows and medical gatherings.
Actual Condition: polycephaly, a particular form of conjoined twins, created when monozygotic embyros fuse in utero.
Inspired AHS to create: Bette & Dot Tattler
Check out Bette & Dot's starring moment in American Horror Story: Freak Show.
I was amazed by these photos, and grateful that society is more understanding these days. I can't wait to see which other real life inspirations American Horror Story will bring us...