Freaky Girls Of The Sideshow

The lives of sword-swallowing, tattooed, bearded women and giantesses reconsidered.

When you’re known as "Percilla the Monkey Girl" or "Julia the Baboon Lady,” your life is anything but ordinary.

But the sideshow life could be empowering for women who were born different -- and those who demanded to be different. So says Ilise “The Lady Aye” Carter and Marc “Backwash” Hartzman, two featured speakers at the Morbid Anatomy Museum, who join us on the HuffPost Weird News Podcast

Hartzman, the author of  "American Sideshow," documents the lives of midway stars past and present. Carter, a writer, sword swallower and burlesque performer, explores the fringe side of show business through a feminist lens.

Part of the allure for these women in these show was taking control of the word "Freak," turning it from an insult into a badge of honor -- the right to be be different.

Check out photos of many of these ladies below as you listen to our guests. Many of the woman below were sideshow stars. Other starred in movies and plays that borrowed heavily from that tradition. It's an art form that is a curious reflection of American tastes and obsessions as it has evolved.

Also, check out the Morbid Anatomy Museum. It's one of our favorite spots in Brooklyn. And thanks for listening. 

 LOOK: Freaky Girls of the American Sideshow

  • Julia Pastrana, circa 1855
    UniversalImagesGroup via Getty Images
  • Lady Aye, New Orleans, 2015
    Lady Eye
    Shadow Angelina
    Lady Eye
  • The Circus of Horrors, 2009
    sarahphotogirl via Getty Images
  • The FreakShow Deluxe, 2015
    Miikka Skaffari via Getty Images
  • Hilton Sisters' 17th Birthday Party, 1925
    Visual Studies Workshop via Getty Images
  • Emily Padgett and Erin Davie in "Side Show"
    Walter McBride via Getty Images
  • Josephine-Joseph, in "Freaks"
    Fox Photos via Getty Images
  • Todd Browning's "Freaks," 1932
    Movie Poster Image Art via Getty Images
  • Pig-Faced Lady, 19th Century Victorian Freakshow
    Culture Club via Getty Images
  • Trashique D' Lamour, Tinderbox Circus Sideshow, 2013
    Stephen J. Cohen via Getty Images
  • World's Shortest Woman Jyoti Amge at 18
  • Giantess Sandy Allen
    John Allen/Cast A Giant Shadow
  • Jessa "The Bearded Lady" in AMC's "Freakshow"
    JB Lacroix via Getty Images
  • JoAnn the Double Sex Wonder in Abingdon, Virginia, 1967
    Robert Alexander via Getty Images
  • Kali Von Wunderkammer, "Storyville Rising"
    JonGunnar Gylfason
  • Alex Doll, Sideshow Scribe
    Photo by Katherine Gaines /
    Katherine Gaines/ AmbientEye Photography
    Photo by Katherine Gaines /
  • Gala Of Union Artists In Paris , 1975
    Keystone-France via Getty Images
  • Married Giants, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus 1930
    Transcendental Graphics via Getty Images
  • Reggie Bügmüncher Olde City Sideshow
    Shadow Angelina
  • Asia Ray In AMC's "Freakshow," 2014
    JB Lacroix via Getty Images
  • Insectavora, World of Wonders Sideshow, 2014
    Mel Melcon via Getty Images
  • Stella the Bearded Lady, World of Wonders Sideshow
    Courtesy of Ward Hall
  • Percilla the Monkey Girl And Emmett The Alligator Skin Man
    Percilla the Monkey Girl
    Courtesy of Ward Hall
    Percilla the Monkey Girl