Wednesday, 28 March 2018

💀 Living Dead Dolls - Edgrr - Series 30 💀


As I've mentioned before I've always had a fascination with the concept of Freak Shows, while I find them to be very sad examples of the ignorance and exploitation of Humanity I still find the stories of  the lives of the people who made their livings performing in these shows fascinating and in many instances inspiring. 

I lapped up Carnivale, a series set in a travelling carnival during the American Dust Bowl - a period during the 1930s, when dust storms blew across many places in America and Canada, destroying crops and agricultural land, coating everything with dust and causing respiratory issues in old and young alike as it passed on through, unemployment was high and hundreds of people migrated looking for work, a clean place to call home, and clean air in their lungs. On the back of the dust clouds came severe droughts further compounding the economic and health issues people where suffering from. 

I couldn't get enough of The Jim Rose Circus, loved American Horror Story 's forth Series entitled Freak Show and have always admired Todd Browning's Freaks - the once banned 1932 mortality tale, set in a travelling Freak Show, staring real life performers from a Carnival Side Show.

Google Images

So I'm sure it comes as no surprise that I was really excited when I discovered that the 30th, yes 30th!? Series of Living Dead Dolls was to be based on this once popular "entertainment".

Out of the six dolls released in the series there are only three that appealed to me. 

Wurmhttp://livingdeaddolls.wikia.com

My favourite by far is Wurm as he is clearly based on my favourite performer in Todd Browning's Freaks; Prince Randian, who performed in Sideshows and carnivals under various monikers including "The Human Caterpillar", "The Human Torso", The Human Worm" and "The Human Cigar" amongst others.

Photo of Prince Randian (The Human Torso)  & Johnny Eck (The Legless Man) - Google
  







Prince Randian was born, without arms and legs, in British Guiana in 1871, was brought to America by P.T. Barnum where he performed in travelling Sideshows for 45 years, married and fathered four children before passing away aged 63 in 1934.

Prince Randian shaving- Still from Todd Browning's Freaks, 1932.

He was fluent in four languages, could shave himself using a cut throat razor, despite having no limbs since birth and could roll and light a cigarette using only his mouth. 

Having seen him in action in Todd Browning's film, I couldn't help being impressed by his ability to overcome any challenge in his way and let's face it, he must have had quite a few yet he held himself with a grace and dignity which I find so inspiring.

Lucy the Geek - http://livingdeaddolls.wikia.com

Other dolls in this series are: 

Lucy the Geek - I'm really not a fan of this doll or Geeks in general, there is a character in Carnivale  , called Henry Scudder, who for most of the first series is only ever seen in dreams, but spoken of often by various members characters throughout the series..  


There is also a Geek in American Horror Story Season 4: Freak Show; called "Meep" and played by Benjamin Woolf, who was born with Pituitary Dwarfism causing him to a little over 4 feet tall. The character Meep is more animalistic in his ways than human and is unable to speak, uttering only "Meep" when spoken to.

google.com

I find the whole concept of Sideshow Geeks repugnant, and I'm amazed that given the sensibilities of society at the time when they were an attraction, that people would pay to watch someone biting the head off a live animal, then swallowing it whole.

The Feejee Mermaid - http://livingdeaddolls.wikia.com

The Feejee Mermaid - another doll in the series I'm not fond of, I would have been far happier if she was made to look more like the Side Show attraction she takes her name from. 

The original exhibit which was also sometimes billed as The Fiji Mermaid was shown in America by P.T.Barnum, in the early 1840s. 

Google Images

It must have been one hell of a shock for the paying public to have entered the tent, expecting to see an aquatic human like the one in the above advert for the show, and instead to be confronted by a glass case containing a creature which looked more like the sketch below.


The Feejee Mermaid - Wikipedia

This freakish looking thing was the result of a horrible bit of taxidermy, where the tail of a fish was sewn onto the head and upper torso of a young monkey. The resulting "creature" was then mummified and touted around as being a "real life" Mermaid, the addition of Fiji is most likely due to not only its distance geographically from America and likely to be a destination widely not travelled to in those days, but also because it puts in mind a kind of exoticism that could only be dreamed of by the average Side Show viewer and therefore, made more believable by the addition of that Country in it's title.

In 2016, The Boston Globe wrote an article published an article which stated that P.T. Barnum's Feejee |Mermaid (or at least that's the way I read it) is to be displayed at Harvard Museum, while the exhibit is a relic from the 1800s, 

I'm not sure it is the original "Barnum's Mermaid" as I've always thought that was lost to antiquity, anyhoo, the story can be found here: This mermaid will make your skin crawl if you're interested in reading about it for yourself.

Lydia The Lobster Girl - http://livingdeaddolls.wikia.com

Lydia The Lobster Girl is one another of my favourite dolls from this series, but only because of her hands showing that like the real "Lobster Boy" Grady Stiles she was born with Ectodactyly, characterised in her case by her fingers being fused into two large digits on each hand.

Grady Stiles - http://holaamigoz.com

The story of Grady Stiles has always fascinated me ever since I first read about him as a child. He was born in 1937 and made his living as a Side Show attraction in a carnival. Having Ectodacty in both of his hands and feet, in those days made opportunities for work outside of the "Freak Show" circuit pretty much non-existent. 

It was during the period of American History known as "The Depression" when times were hard for everyone and much of rural America was suffering from the conditions caused by The Dust Bowl.

 I guess this is why this kind of entertainment still survived, people needed an escape, and what better form of escapism than one which would make you feel that no matter how hard times are getting, "There is always someone worse off than yourself"?

Grady's father also had Ectodacty and worked in a carnival, when Grady was born with the same condition, his father added him to his act. So it's hardly surprising that Grady would continue working Side Shows, becoming a star in his own right and performing under the name "Lobster Boy".  

There was also a family tradition of Side Show work due to this condition being hereditary; Grady was the 6th generation of children in his family to have been born with this condition.

 He also fathered four children himself, two of which were also born with the same condition and joined in in his act where they were billed as "The Lobster Family".

A.H.S - Google Images

In American Horror Story Series 4: Freak Show, Evan Peters played a character called Jimmy Darling, who's story in some ways mirrors the story of Grady Stiles, or at least some elements of it.

His portrayal of Jimmy is very sympathetic and really brings it home just how hard life must be for people born with this condition, especially in the days when the only form of employment open to someone which this kind of condition was to be gawked at like an exhibit in a zoo for the paying public's amusement.

The Madam - http://livingdeaddolls.wikia.com

The Madam is another doll in the series which to be honest is my least favourite of the lot. She seems to be loosely based on American Horror Story: Season four's Elsa Mars - herself the owner of a travelling "Freak Show" as well as an amputee but her character does not have a hook for a hand. 

Elsa Mars - Google Images

The fact that this doll does have one makes her look more like she's based on the Urban Legend "The Hook" or the film Candyman from 1992 rather than either a real life performer or a TV Series character, like many of the others in this series seem to be.

Tony Todd - Still from Candyman 1992 - Youtube.com

To be brutally frank, I really don't see the point of including this doll in the series, I really don't think she adds anything, in fact I think her presence distracts from the other dolls in this series that are really good. I've been wrong before though so perhaps if I ever get the chance to see her in "person" I'll change my mind, like a have with other Living Dead Dolls I didn't appreciate upon their release.


Last, but definitely not least, the final member of the Series 30 Side Show troupe, the little guy I found it impossible to resist - Edgrr!

There are several reasons why I fell for this little man, the most obvious being that he has a rare condition known as Diprosopus, why would this swing it for me?

 Well when I was a child I loved reading books about unexplained or unsolved mysteries from all over the World, several of these books had images of people and animals born with conditions which would in earlier times have seen them labelled as freaks of nature, being as most of the books I read at that time were published before the 1980s, this was an acceptable chapter title under which to gather such stories, nowadays they would come under the heading Medical Mysteries, which I have to say doesn't make me feel as uncomfortable as the former title.

animalsake.com

In several books I read about the condition, a few of which were accompanied by colour photographs of cute animals which were conjoined twins, such as a snake with two perfectly formed heads, the very famous "Siamese Twins" Chang and Eng Bunker, who between them fathered 21 children - a huge feat in itself but when you combine that with the fact that they were joined at the chest, and had joined livers.

Chang and Eng Bunker www.ourstate.com

They made their living in P.T Barnum's travelling Freak Shows, where they were "exhibited" throughout America and England in the mid to late 1880's. Like most stories of Freak Show performers, their story is tinged with sadness. Their legacy continues however as not only are there now over 1000 descendants from their 21 children alive and well and having regular met ups today, they will always be synonymous with the term "Siamese Twins", a term still used today to describe conjoined twins, coined during their performing days as although they lived in America from a young age, they were in fact born in Siam.

Pasqual Pinon - Wikipedia

Fascinating as these stories were, my child mind was in awe when I turned a page and saw a photo of Pasqual Pinon, a Mexican man which my book informed me was born with the head and face of his twin brother coming out of the top of his head. In later years I discovered that this description was in fact a lie used to draw punters into the Side Show in which he performed.

The head of his "brother" was in fact a face, moulded from wax and placed over a huge cyst or tumour which was growing out from the top of his head, when the Circus manager paid to have it surgically removed, Pinon gave up his Side Show days and went back to his old life in Texas. 

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Twin Embolisation Syndrome, which Pasqual Pinon was said to have been suffering from, is often confused with Diprosopus, at least it was in the old books I was reading as by grouping the images and stories of people and animals with both these conditions together it gave me the impression that they were related disorders, this however, is not the case.

Twin Embolisation Syndrome comes about when one twin passes away only to be absorbed into the body of the surviving twin, this of course is completely different to conjoined twins, where both twins survive the separation of process in utero, there is a later fusing of stem cells which then rejoins the twins. 

This is vastly different to what happens to a fetus with Diprosopus syndrome. Diprosopus is caused by an abnormality of a protein which causes duplication of facial features. The name of this protein (you probably won't believe me) is Sonic Hedgehog or SHH for short. 

Too much SHH during the development stage causes the fetus to be born with duplicated features, such as the kitten above. Another name for cats in particular suffering from this condition is Janus Cats.

Statue of Janus - Wikipedia

Janus the Roman God of endings and beginnings, who is often depicted as having two faces, one at the front of his head and one facing the other way at the back of his head, this enabled him to look at both the past and future at the same time.

Wes Bentley as Edward Mordrake - American Horror Story wikia.com

This brings me to another of my favourite characters from American Horror Story Season four - Edward Mordrake. In the show Edward Mordrake is the subject of tradition, disbelief and fear, in the same way that "Bloody Mary" is. He is spoken of in hushed tones (least he be called out) and while those who know of him say they don't believe in him, there is a pervasive fear that runs through them all at the slightest hint of his name, and no-one wants to be the first to "test the theory"!

In the show the carnies have a whispered rule, and that is never perform on Halloween or Edward Mordrake will come, when he leaves he will take one of them, any one of them with him, for reasons they don't know or care to understand, they just know they don't want to be the one chosen to follow. 

He is depicted as a handsome, well dressed and educated gentleman, from a good social standing, who was driven mad by the voice of his evil twin, who's twisted face is situated on the back of Edward's head, at night it whispers to him, vile evil things that having no way to stop it, he is forced to listen until he eventually loses his sanity and commits suicide.

Edward Mordrake - ebaumsworld.com
The character fascinated me, even though he only appears in three episodes, he was such an interesting figure, so I wondered if he was made up for the show or somehow based on a real person, to my surprise, I discovered that the legend is real, although the man most likely wasn't. 

His story is an Urban Legend, an early Bogey Man, whether he was based on a living person and whether his story was a source of fear to Side Show and Carnival performers is unknown but the legend of Edward Mordrake is real, as real as these stories can be, made more real with each telling...

The first known mention of Edward Mordrake comes from around 1895 when an article appeared in The Boston Post, an article on the subject of "Human Freaks" as it's writer Charles Lotian Hildreth entitled them.  


So what does Edward Mordrake this have to do with Edgrr ? Well I believe in some ways the doll was based on him; the long hair, the dapper suit, the hint of Victoriania.

His forehead shape is similar to Joseph Merrick's (also known as The Elephant Man, another famous Side Show "exhibit" - what a disgusting word to use in conjunction with a human being) while at the same time it is quite "normal" in terms of length and width, whereas children born with Diprosopus syndrome tend to have a much wider forehead, cheeks and chin.

I just love the look of him, his hair is perfect, with a little widow's peak which acts as a separation between his faces. He is so well turned out in his dress suit, he really does look like a little gentleman, or at least a person of wealth.

As he is 11 inches tall, he comes with his own little Death Certificate which reads:

Date of death: 8/8/1870

"He died of tumorous growths upon his swollen brain.
Many were fast to say this drove Edgrr totally insane.
In truth it gave him the ability to enter his audience's dreams
And turn their joy and laughter into suffering and screams."

The Poem in the Certificate hints at where the inspiration for him came from; The first line puts me in mind of Joseph Merrick, although his body was covered in growths, he actually died of asphyxia. The second line seems to refer to the legend of Edward Mordrake, driven mad by the voice of his "evil twin". The third line makes it clear he made his living a side show performer.

I love the look of him, his little faces are both adorable, even though one of them seems to be a bit more aggressive than the other, his outfit is perfect, in fact everything about him is!