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Freak show star Prince Randian - 'the Human Worm' - was born with no limbs

Prince Randian was born with no arms or legs, but despite his crippling disability, he still lived a full life, making a name for himself on the 'freak show' circuit and fathering four children.

The word 'inspiring' gets bandied about a lot in 2020 - sadly, it's usually used in the context of Mummy-bloggers who meal prep, or reality stars showing off their perfect size 8 figures and hashtagging it 'proud of my curves'. But look back 100 years, and you can find real evidence of body confidence and overcoming adversity from the celebs of the 'freak show' circuit.

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Prince Randian with his wife, Princess Sarah
Prince Randian with his wife, Princess Sarah

Prince Randian was born in 1871 in Demerara, British Guiana to Indian slave parents. He was born without arms or legs, but despite his very obvious disability, he went on to become one of the biggest stars of the circus. When he died, he was worth an estimated $1.1m.

It's worth remembering that life in Victorian times and the early 1900s was very different to the present day, and while freak shows and circuses to modern eyes seem exploitative and cruel, for those born with such disabilities they could be a lucrative way to make a living.

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A vintage photo of Prince Randian, who was able to roll a cigarette and light it with a match
A vintage photo of Prince Randian, who was able to roll a cigarette and light it with a match

Prince Randian was brought to the States by P.T. Barnum in 1889, and quickly became incredibly famous. He had tetra-amelia syndrome, an incredibly rare genetic disorder that means people are born without limbs.

He performed in sideshows and circuses for 45 years under the monikers of The Snake Man, The Human Torso, The Human Worm, and The Human Caterpillar.

Prince Randian was incredibly intelligent, and could speak Hindi, English, German and French, and was also very self sufficient. He could shave, paint and write, and his ability to roll and smoke a cigarette after lighting it with a match got him featured in the 1932 film, Freaks.

For his act, he wore a woollen onesie which exaggerated his shape, and made him look like a potato.

Away from the sideshow circuit, he lived a full life and found love with his wife, Princess Sarah. The couple went on to have four children, Mary (born 1893), Richard (1901), Elizabeth and Wilhelmina (1904).

He died aged 63 shortly after a performance at Sam Wagner's 14th Street Museum - World Circus Side Show - in New York.

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