Tag Archives: freak shows

Conjoined twins: art, ethics, and the media

John Raffensperger Fort Meyers, Florida, United States   Conjoined twins have fascinated humans since earliest times. Artists illustrated twins in clay, stone statues, wood carvings, and portraits. They were exhibited on stage, in freak shows, and the circus. The worldwide news media, especially the intrusive television camera, has now replaced the circus as a means […]

Joseph Merrick, “The Elephant Man”

JMS Pearce Hull, England, United Kingdom   Fig 1. The Elephant man and other reminiscences As a specimen of humanity, Merrick was ignoble and repulsive; but the spirit of Merrick, if it can be seen in the form of the living, would assume the figure of an upstanding and heroic man . . .6 The […]

Enfreakment in the medicalization of difference

Camille Kroll Chicago, Illinois, USA   An advertisement for the Barnum and Bailey circus, of which P.T. Barnum was a cofounder Credit: Wellcome Collection License: Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) terms and conditions Exalted showman P.T. Barnum was thrilled when he discovered Joice Heth, a severely disabled elderly slave woman. In grotesque detail, he […]