ByJancy Richardson, writer at
To avoid fainting, keep repeating 'It's only a movie...It's only a movie...'
Jancy Richardson

Beloved American Horror Story fans! It's been one of the best seasons yet, and we're all dying to know how much of the incredible people of the Freak Show are based on real life.

I've looked in more depth at the real life inspiration behind Bette & Dot Tattler, Meep the Geek and - most amazingly of all - Schlitzie, the real life Pepper. We share a journey with these characters, but what about the amazing people we only see for the briefest of glimpses?

Yup, the Freak Show credits show a whole lot of amazing figures which are incredibly based on real life people. Here I must give a big shout out to the awesome J Tithonus Pednaud and his dedicated research into the phenomenon of Human Marvels! There are many wonderful resources to read about these incredible real life wonders but Human Marvels is a must for any fan of the fantastic and bizarre...

Check out the amazing real life inspirations behind the American Horror Story: Freak Show credits!

The Lady with Large Feet

L: AHS Credits, R: Fanny Mills
L: AHS Credits, R: Fanny Mills

Fanny Milles was born in Ohio, 1860 with the condition Milroy disease. Due to fluid build-up, she wore size 30 shoes despite being only a slight young woman weighing under 120 pounds.

From 1885 she featured in museum exhibitions as 'The Ohio Bigfoot Lady,' wowing crowds with her feet which reached a maximum of 19 by 7 inches, dressed in socks made from pillow cases and shoes fashioned from goatskins.

She married, but sadly passed away in 1892, aged only 32.

The Three-Legged Lady

L: AHS Credits, R: Blanche Dumas
L: AHS Credits, R: Blanche Dumas

Blanche Dumas was born on Martinique, in 1860 with a number of physical abnormalities, including three legs and two sets of genitalia. Her unconventional body led to her inclusion in George Gould's 1896 book, Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine.

Dumas worked as a courtesan in Paris, where it's rumored she had an affair with Juan Baptista dos Santos - a man who had three legs and dual genitalia similar to her own.

If you look closely at the picture of Dumas, you can see another vestigial limb stump next to her middle leg - this has been bizarrely eroticized by her promoters with the painting of nipples onto the bumps!

One Head, Two Bodies

L: AHS Credits, R: a human skeleton in New York
L: AHS Credits, R: a human skeleton in New York

There are many different types of conjoined twins, but this randy little skeleton is a Cephalopagus. This type of conjoined twin is typified by a single head with a fused upper body, separating into two figures below the rib cage. Medically, these twins are sometimes known as syncephalus or Janiceps (after the Roman God Janus, who was pictured with two faces).

Sadly, most Cephalopagus conjoined twins do not live longer than a few hours due to brain complications. There are certainly no records of Cephalopagus living past infancy that I could find.

Lobster Boy

Grady Stiles Jr. - as you can see from the above photos - is the direct inspiration for the Lobster Boy of the AHS Credits, although Jimmy Darling in the show bears more resemblance to sideshow performer, Fred Wilson.

Stiles Jr. performed as 'Lobster Boy' with other members of his family that shared his genetic condition of ectrodactyly, or SHFM - 'Split Hand and Foot Malformation.'

However, for all of his physical unconventionality, it is the dark human nature of Stiles Jr. that makes his story so bizarre. For more on the murderous and drunken story of Grady Stiles Jr., see here.

The One-Legged Man

L: AHS Credits, R: John Doogs
L: AHS Credits, R: John Doogs

John Doogs - or to use his more impressive stage name, 'Nicodemus the Indescribable'! - was born 1863 and grew to only 27 inches tall. Although he had shortened limbs, Doogs was a strong and daring sideshow acrobat.

Little is known about his life, to the extent that accounts of his death differ: some say he drowned in th Ohio river in 1894, while others report him being spotted alive in Chicago, 1908.

Amazing. I just hope that these incredible people found some happiness carving out a livelihood for themselves in a difficult world. They've certainly left us with a fascinating and unconventional legacy!


Which of the real people from the American Horror Story: Freak Show credits were you most surprised were based on Real Life?

Sources: Human Marvels, Wikipedia, Phreeque, Gallery Hip, Tumblr, Monstropedia


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