The Death of Chang and Eng, Conjoined Twins Until the Last

We all know the basics of the story of Chang and Eng Bunker, the "Siamese Twins" who toured with freak shows in the 1800s, then settled down as farmers and family men until their deaths. But the details of their last years may be a story you've never heard. Financial setbacks during the Civil War and the deaths of two of their children exacerbated Chang's alcoholism. The pair went back out on tour to raise funds, and to seek medical help.

In the last years of their life, with the knowledge that it might reach an end soon, the two became almost obsessed by the idea of a possible separation, dreading the moment when one would have to carry on with his brother’s corpse at his side. Tied up for life, Chang and Eng desired their own deaths. Separately. Sadly, the physician’s answers carried no hopes, as they all advised against severing their cartilaginous link. The procedure would likely result in a tremendous loss of blood and kill them both.  

Upon their return to the United States, the situation was almost impossible. Chang had a fit which left him paralyzed and obliged Eng to prop his legs with straps and crutches in order to activate his brother’s legs like a puppeteer. Back in their village, both hopeless and frustrated, Chang and Eng kept having arguments with each other and begged Dr. Hollingsworths, the local physician, to split them apart. Yet a few months after, the same doctor was called down to their house to certify their deaths. On January 17, 1874, Chang left our world first, then Eng did too, three hours later, asking as a last favor that the dead body of his brother be pulled closer to him.

But that wasn't the end of the story. Find out what happened to the twins' bodies, and more, at Atlas Obscura. Link


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