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Myrtle Corbin: Four-legged woman and 'freak show' star

myrtle corbin, four legged woman, victorian freakshow
Myrtle Corbin was one of the most successful 'exhibitors' in the sideshow industry

To get our 'freak fix' we have reality TV and plastic surgery addicts, but in 'ye olden days', if you wanted to gawp at people who looked weird you would head to a freak show - and boy, there was a LOT to see.

Victorian freak shows: Looking at the controversial spectacles through 'woke 2020' eyes, it can be easy to immediately dismiss them as purely exploitative and cruel; but if you've watched The Greatest Showman, then you'll know that actually for a lot of these 'freaks', being part of a circus allowed them a life that most people could only dream of.

Don't kick off about me referring to The Greatest Showman as a legitimate historical text- it's based on the TRUE life story of PT Barnum, who was one of the first freak show proprietors - and his troop made a LOT of money.

He was also the first person to import an elephant from Africa and that makes him a total c**t in my opinion - animals all over the world are still suffering in hellish conditions today thanks to that brainwave.

Myrtle Corbin was a 'dipygus', meaning she had two pelvises
Myrtle Corbin was a 'dipygus', meaning she had two pelvises

One of Barnum's 'attractions' was Myrtle Corbin, a 'four-legged woman'. Medically speaking she was born a 'dipygus', which is a serious congenital condition that meant she had two pelvises, two sexual organs, and two extra legs. She also worked for the Ringling Bros. and at Coney Island during her short career.

When she was born in Tennessee in May 1868, it was a very different world to today - but she ended up being more successful than her able-bodied siblings and peers, earning up to $450 a week at her peak - a huge sum for those days.

The medical community was just as fascinated with Myrtle Corbin as the sideshow audience

It was noted that her parents, who had four other children, looked so similar that doctors had to confirm that they were not siblings or any other kind of blood relation when trying to work out what might have resulted in her unusual deformity.

As was common for people with disabilities in those days, Myrtle joined the circus when she was 13. On the flyers she was described on flyers as the 'Four-Legged Girl from Texas' and having a "gentle of disposition as the summer sunshine and as happy as the day is long." It was also reported that she could move her smaller legs, but they were not strong enough to be used.

Myrtle was such a crowd puller that rival circuses started advertising their own "four legged woman", using a trick chair and hidden extra person to give the illusion of multiple lower limbs.

myrtle corbin
Fans loved the 'showmanship' of how she would put matching socks and shoes on her additional legs

When she was 19 she married James Clinton Bicknell, and retired from showbiz to start a new life as a farmer. But a year in to wedded life, there was fresh intrigue about this unique woman when it emerged that she was pregnant.

A doctor revealed that she was carrying a child in her "left uterus", which shocked Myrtle, who inadvertently revealed she preferred sexual intercourse in the vagina on her right side. The pregnancy was causing her so much pain and discomfort that she underwent an abortion at four months.

myrtle corbin
Myrtle's family encased her coffin in concrete to deter grave robbers

Myrtle recovered and went on to have eight children, but only four survived. Medical texts from the time claim that she menstruated from each womb (poor woman), and that her children were born from both sides.

Sadly for Myrtle, it seems the family's economic situation took a severe decline, and she was forced back in to 'exhibiting' at the age of 41 at Huber’s Museum in New York.

myrtle corbin
Myrte retired from showbiz at the age of 19, but returned 20 years later

According to Appalachian History: "The family no doubt intended this new turn of events to be temporary. But then 1910 turned into 1915: Dreamland Circus Sideshow, Coney Island. Riverview Park, Chicago.

"Myrtle worked the circuit and Myrtle made money. It had been more than 20 years since she last exhibited. She appears to have finally stopped exhibiting around 1915."

She enjoyed a good fifteen years 'retirement' before dying a week before her sixtieth birthday after developing a skin infection in her right leg, something that could be easily sorted with antibiotics in the present day. She was dead less than seven days after being diagnosed.

Upon her death her coffin was encased in concrete to stop grave robbers from stealing her corpse and selling it to the highest bidder. The family also denied several big money requests from different doctors, collectors and anatomists to buy her body after she passed away.

There has never been another four-legged woman. Apart from this pretend one from iconic US tabloid The Weekly World News.

ashley brasitle, weekly world news
No one does fake news quite like the Weekly World News


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