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The opening credits in the new season of American Horror Story, called “Freakshow,” show fictionalized versions of real historical performers. They are identified by J Tithonus Pednaud on his website The Human Marvels.
There are several acts in the opening credits that have been popular throughout sideshow history, such as sword-swallowing and doing the human blockhead. (Ask me to show you if you ever see me at a party!) Listed here are some real, specific performers of circus fame.
1. Cephalophagous babies are a type of conjoined twin that are conjoined at the head. There has been no recording of any living past infancy, but deformed babies and fetuses in jars were a popular attraction in traveling sideshows, dime museums and the like as “pickled punks.” Sometimes they were real, sometimes they were fabricated fakes, or “gaffs.”
2. Nicodemus the Indescribable was born with truncated limbs and was known for being incredibly strong and an amazing acrobat.
3. The Ohio Bigfoot Lady wore custom-made size-30 shoes. Her real name was Franny Mills and she had lymphademia, which caused fluid build-up and swelling in her feet and legs.
4. The Lobster Boy is based on Grady Stiles Jr., who had ectrodactyly. Many members of the Stiles family, including Grady’s father and two of his children, also had lobster-claw hands. He was considered a bully and an abusive drunk. Grady was convicted of murdering his daughter’s fiancé, but was not incarcerated because he insisted that the jails would not be able to handle his disability. Afterwards he resumed beating his wife and children, so they hired a hit man to kill him.