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

Of all the performers in American Horror Story's Freak Show, conjoined twins Bette and Dot Tattler are perhaps the most striking... but are the Tattler twins based on real life people? The short answer is 'Kind Of.' The long answer? Well, that's a lot more interesting...

The Tattlers' type of conjoinment is highly unusual

Brittany and Abigail Hensel, dicephalic twins
Brittany and Abigail Hensel, dicephalic twins

Bette and Dot are dicephalic parapagus twins, a rare type of twinning. They have two heads atop one fused body - meaning they bear the most physical resemblance to modern twins Brittany and Abigail Hensel. The Hensels, born in 1990, are outgoing, healthy young women who've been the subject of TV documentaries to increase understanding of their condition.

However, the closest life similarities to the Tattlers are found many years earlier with the performing conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton.


The Hiltons were born in Brighton, England in 1908

Daisy and Violet were pygopagus twins, meaning they were conjoined at the hips by a fused pelvis, but did not share major organs. Their mother, young and unwed, gave the twins away to her landlady Mary Hilton.


Mary Hilton started exhibiting the twins early

They toured the sideshow and vaudeville circuit, showing alongside Rose's Royal Midgets, dancing as 'The United Twins' and even performing in Australia. When Mary died, her daughter Edith Myers took 'ownership' of the Hilton twins.


Like Bette and Dot, the Hiltons were musically talented

Daisy and Violet played saxophone and clarinet as well as singing and dancing. Sadly, Myers was cruel to the twins, treating them as her possession. The Hiltons eventually won an $80,000 lawsuit and emancipated themselves.


Affairs of the heart were tricky

Their talent and fame drew famous admirers, although they found relationships and marriage difficult due to their unusual situation - when Violet was engaged to bandleader Maurice Lambert in 1933, their marriage request was denied in 21 states on 'moral grounds.'


There's a whole, fascinating movie starring the Hiltons

Chained for Life (1952) was a melodramatic movie starring Daisy and Violet Hilton as conjoined twins caught up in a deadly love triangle. The trailer promises 'murder that baffled justice' and 'the strangest marriage the law ever permitted'! The wild subject matter outraged the public and the movie flopped.


In 1962, they were abandoned, dirt poor, by their agent

A kindly storekeeper took them in and the Hiltons worked in his grocery shop. The Hiltons lived until 1969 when they succumbed to Hong Kong flu. Doctors think that Violet lived for more than two days after her sister had died.


However much the Hilton sisters' amazing story influenced the creation of Bette and Dot Tattler, their contribution to history is unforgettable. We can only hope that they found some joy in amongst their years of fame.

For more amazing real life American Horror Story: Freak Show folks, check out the people who inspired Pepper, Meep the Geek, Lobster Boy, and the Freaks of the AHS: Freak Show Credits!


Do you think that American Horror Story: Freak Show's Bette and Dot Tattler are based on real life twins?

Sources: Bustle, Wikipedia, Youtube, Human Marvels, Phreeque


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