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Daisy and Violet Hilton: British conjoined twins who took over Hollywood - and met tragic end

If today, in 2022, someone asked you who was the most famous person from Brighton you might say "Katie Price". But rewind 100 years and the answer would have been "Daisy and Violet Hilton".

Daisy and Violet were joined at the hips and buttocks, sharing a blood supply but no vital organs. But while modern day science could have separated them, at the turn of the last century, there was little option for them other than to join a freak show.

Born in 1908, their impoverished mother thought they were a curse placed on her for getting pregnant out of wedlock, so they were taken on in by the midwife who delivered them. Along with her daughter and son-in-law, she exploited them for decades, charging people to touch where their skin joined, and touring the world singing and and dancing from the age of three.

The twins were incredibly successful, and at the height of their fame they were earning the equivalent of £53,000 - although they barely saw a penny of it. Aged 23 (on the advice of Houdini!) they legally emancipated themselves and were awarded $100,000 - over a million in today’s money.

A year later they starred in controversial movie Freaks, with a trashy horror about conjoined twins on trial for murder following a few years later.

Sadly the fortune - nor the fame - would last. After WW2 the interest in human oddities and Vaudeville performances declined, and the twins found themselves lacking the star power of their youth.

There was plenty of drama away from the spotlight, though. Both sisters had a failed marriage, Violet charged the public 25 cents to watch her ceremony, which was labelled a cheap publicity stunt.

From middle age onwards they worked as servers in a local grocery store, with most customers unaware of their physical connection.

The twins were found dead at home in 1969 after catching Hong Kong Flu. Unsettlingly, a post mortem found Daisy died four days before her sister, meaning her final hours must have been heartbreaking, scary and agonising.

There's a great documentary on Amazon about the sisters called Bound By Flesh.

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