The Origins of the Freak Show

J Tithonus Pednaud of The Human Marvels wrote about the origin of the human freak show as a business and an event and traced it to one by Lazarus and Johannes Baptista Collerdo in the 17th century:

Born in Genoa in 1617, Colloredo exhibited himself all over Europe because from his belly hung a parasitic twin that had one thigh, hands, body, arms, and even a well-formed head covered with hair. Lazarus was the name the complete twin was known by and his underdeveloped sibling was Joannes. It is highly unlikely that these were their giving names as Joannes Baptista translates to ‘John the Baptist’ in English. However, interestingly enough, it was the practice of the day to baptize both twins in a parasite or conjoined twin situation.

There were allegedly some faint signs that Joannes had some independent existence as movements of respiration were evident as were occasional rapid eye fluttering movements. The mouth of Joannes was said to be in a state of near constant salivation and Bartholinus himself wrote that he had seen the arms of Joannes move in response to stimuli. The genitals of Joannes were said to be ‘imperfect’ and it is unclear if any regular eliminations occurred.

The popularity and financial success of the twin "ensured that freak shows and human exhibition would be a worthwhile endeavour for managers and freaks alike."


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""ensured that freak shows and human exhibition would be a worthwhile endeavour for managers and freaks alike."

Not every "freak" was so lucky. "Primitive" humans like Saartjie Baartman and Ota Benga were horribly exploited since they were regarded as less than human.
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Just wanted to thank you for posting my article. We've just revamped the design over at and I appreciate the hat tip.

Part two of this article should be posted in the next week.

Thanks again,

J. Tithonus Pednaud
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