Siamese apples and Freak shows

We wouldn’t go to a freak show nowadays, would we? WP_20150930_12_58_55_ProThe Elephant man – the bearded lady – the Siamese twins?

What started this train of thought? Well an apple. This apple.

Which I popped on to Twitter – it was cute, I thought, but wanting to check my spelling of Siamese (Siamese twin apples) I came across the story of the eponymous Siamese Twins.

I had known nothing of these particular gentlemen. For some reason I had assumed that the first documented occurrence had been in Siam as is often the case with medical descriptions – and indeed these two did come from Siam – but they were far from the first documented.

‘Comments’ are to be found in history as far back as 300 AD (a statue of conjoined twins) or St Augustine of Hippo 415 (a full description of a man with two heads, two chests and four arms but only one torso and pair of legs). The first full medical examination was of conjoined brothers from Armenia examined in Constantinople in 942 AD

Chang and Eng Bunker courtesy wikipedia
Chang and Eng Bunker courtesy wikipedia

The name ‘Siamese Twins’ came from the freak-show label attached to the two men, Change and Eng Bunker, when on tour with P T Barnum’s Circus. The Bunkers (a surname they later adopted) had been born in 1811 near Bangkok in the, then, the kingdom of Siam to a Malaysian Thai mother and a Chinese Thai father.

A Scottish merchant, Robert Hunter, saw them swimming one day and realised their ‘potential’, getting the parents to allow him to take them on a world tour. This was highly successful and, when their contracts ended, the brothers bought themselves a 110 acre farm in North Carolina. There they also met and married two sisters, and over time fathered a total of 21 children. By then the term Siamese Twins has become synonymous with conjoined twins.

Roll-Up Roll-Up come and see the Freak Show!        No, we wouldn’t go now – would we?

Yet every other day Facebook seems to throw up a ‘freak show’ item. Sometimes in the guise of ‘helping’ the ones pictured by giving them ‘Likes’. I even saw one that suggested for every Like the page got money would be donated to the fund to heal the boy shown, with a terribly cleft palate – or so it said…. Then there’s the ones that say ‘share and you care’ ‘ignore and you are heartless’ showing people, or animals, in a distressing state – freak-shows with menaces.

TV serves up lots of freak shows too – I don’t need to name them. From people seeking love lives, to medical enhancements or medical problems, from crazy weddings to weight gain and weight loss, almost every ‘reality’ show – where everyone is a caricature – at the very least.

People are curious, of course we are – but we have obviously not moved on from the Victorian freak show – the only difference now is that it comes to us – and the ‘showmen’ know it – just as P T Barnum did.  No, not everyone, if you just turn off – turn over, flick past, you probably wouldn’t have gone to the shows if you were born in Victorian times either.

But it made me think … and all this just from an apple.

Do you get led astray by thought threads …..

Is it a time-waster or a means to learning new things

What do you think? You know I love to hear from you  🙂


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