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

Since American Horror Story: Freak Show began, I've been reading a lot about the amazing real people who inspired such interesting characters.

I touched a little upon the Real Life Meep in another article, but the woman in question had such an interesting story - and you guys were so warm-hearted and enthusiastic to learn about about the Real Life Pepper - I wanted to share it with other American Horror Story fans...

Minnie Woolsey was born in 1880, Rabun County, GA

Her early life is obscure, but we know that she was placed in a mental asylum until she was taken from the institution to the stage by an enterprising showman. Minnie was known by many different names on stage, including Minnie Ha Ha, Koo Koo the Bird Girl, and Koo Koo the Blind Girl from Mars! Her stage act involved dressing in feathered or fake 'Native American' costumes and speaking her own stream of non-standard words.


Her unusual appearance is due to a congenital condition

Minnie Woolsey had Virchow-Seckel syndrome, which affected her skeletal growth, resulting in her unconventionally shaped small head. It also left her almost totally blind and mentally impaired. Similar to Meep on screen, she did not communicate in regular language, but would babble.

Ben Woolf, the actor who plays Meep on American Horror Story: Freak Show has no such condition, but instead was born with pituitary dwarfism.


Minnie famously appeared in the 1932 movie, Freaks

Minnie's dancing on the dinner table during the wedding feast is one of the most iconic scenes in Tod Browning's controversial 1932 movie.


There was actually another performer who went by 'Koo Koo the Bird Girl'!

Betty Green in her 'Bird Girl' costume
Betty Green in her 'Bird Girl' costume

Elizabeth 'Betty' Green also featured in Freaks with Minnie, but details about her life are less clear. We know she was Jewish American and originally from Massachusetts, and seemed to have a similar condition to that of Minnie Woolsey.

She performed as 'Koo Koo the Bird Girl' before Minnie did, but it was Minnie who was given that name for the film Freaks, therefore becoming more associated with the Koo Koo moniker in the public mind. Betty is better known for performing as 'The Stork Woman' or 'Molina, the Pinhead.'


There is more background to Meep's character...

American Horror Story's Meep is known as 'Meep the Geek,' which refers to a sideshow practice. 'Geek Shows' were sometimes part of carnivals, involving a single performer chasing chickens before biting their heads off.

Interestingly, the word 'geek' meant 'sideshow freak' in 1916, and the word likely originates from a the 16th Century German 'geck,' meaning a 'fool' or 'simpleton.'


Minnie Woolsey may well be the direct inspiration for Meep the Geek, or she may simply be an influential part of the development of the character.

Still, although we cannot be precise about the exact span of her life, accounts report seeing her perform in a Coney Island sideshow in 1960 - meaning she lived into her 80's! I hope she was happy performing - her iconic contribution to popular culture will never be forgotten.


Who do you think Meep the Geek is based on?

Sources: Altered Dimensions, Wikipedia, Human Marvels, Phreeque,


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