Bird Girl: Sad Life Story Of A Circus Actress With Unusual Appearance Who Was Saved From A Mental Hospital

Date June 10, 2019 16:10

Children with genetic abnormalities have always been an ordeal for their parents. While today, the medical possibilities allow us to determine anomalies during prenatal development, in the 19th century and during almost the entire 20th, such studies were impossible. People were ashamed of their children with visual or mental defects. They hid or simply tried to get rid of them. The poor kids had no choice but to become actors in freak shows and monster circuses.

In the 18th century, monster circuses were a common part of the entertainment program at fairs. In those days, people weren’t interested in strongmen or acrobats. The audience needed other, more emotional spectacles. We don’t know who came up with the idea of ​​flaunting human imperfection first. But it turned out to be in demand.

In 1880, Minnie Woolsey was born in Georgia. She was an unusual girl. Very little is known about her childhood and youth. It was believed that she was once “released” from an institution for mentally ill people. She suffered from a rare congenital defect, Virchow-Seckel syndrome, which greatly affected her appearance and abilities. Minnie was very short and had an abnormal skeletal structure.


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The girl also lagged behind in mental development and was very different from most people. A small head with almost no hair and teeth, together with a narrowed-down and bird-like face, made her far from what was considered beautiful. In addition, she was either completely blind or very nearsighted.


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However, this was her lucky ticket to the world of entertainment. Minnie soon started appearing in various freak shows as Koo-Koo the Bird Girl. She dressed up in bird costumes, walked around the stage, waving her arms, and spoke in an unknown language, which people simply called gibberish.

There is no solid evidence on the girl’s last years or personal life. The latest information is dated 1960 when she still acted as a bird-girl.

Although Virchow-Seckel syndrome is considered very rare, Minnie has a modern follower. Sarah Houbolt was born with a similar diagnosis. At merely 4'6" tall, the girl suffers from Hallermann-Streiff syndrome. Cranial anomalies are also characteristic of this disease, making the face resemble a bird. The girl also has problems with teeth, hair, and other malformations.

Nevertheless, Sarah, who doesn’t like to talk about her condition, performed at the Paralympics and became a sought-after actress. The girl performed in circuses and theaters, turning her flaws into the target of admiration. Even though she has poor eyesight, she can feel her body perfectly. She indulges the audience with incredible performances, which are quite dangerous even for a perfectly healthy person.

Sarah is an active advocate for people with disabilities. The girl believes that they are no less worthy to be a part of modern society.

Eventually, many areas in life, including fashion and beauty, are becoming more diverse. This helps such unusual people accept their uniqueness and turn it into dignity. And this deserves great respect! What do you think about this? Share your thoughts in the comments.