Date unspecifiedCharles Eisenmann/Wikimedia Commons
They married a pair of sisters and fathered 21 children.
1890 Charles Eisenmann/Syracuse University Library
1902Charles Eisenmann/Syracuse University Library
Rejected by his parents, he was left to join a touring freak show act.
As an adult, he was an alcoholic and would eventually murder his daughter's fiancee.
1948 Paul Balanchuk/Flickr
The weight loss continued throughout adulthood until his untimely death. 1866Wikimedia Commons
Years later, he was an influence on the physical characteristics of Chewbacca in Star Wars.
1888Fred Park Swasey/Wikimedia Commons
When his family moved to the United States from Italy, Lentini entered showbiz as "The Great Lentini," joining the Ringling Brothers Circus.
1914Ronald G. Becker/Syracuse University Library
They were kidnapped, told to grow out their hair and forced into the circus freak show life as "Men From Mars."
Circa 1927Wikimedia Commons
1882Charles Eisenmann/Wikimedia Commons
Date unspecifiedWikimedia Commons
However, this would ultimately prove to be his downfall when he died from swallowing a needle.
Circa 1940sPhil Coppens/Wikimedia Commons
1908Charles Eisenmann/Syracuse University Library
He would also make several appearances as a bird creature in Tarzan movies.
She lacked both teeth and hair and worked at a Coney Island sideshow until her death.
Date unspecifiedWikimedia Commons
He would eventually marry in 1863 (pictured), before dying at the age of 45 two decades later.Mathew Brady/Wikimedia Commons
He traveled with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus for 14 years before becoming a salesman.
1930The British Library
The idea of a spectacle that exploits people with severe physical deformities and abnormalities, better known as a "freak show," has existed for centuries. However, these shows only really started to take off as the traveling shows that most of us now recognize in the 1800s, when they traveled to towns with lurid banners advertising examples of nature gone wrong.
After paying their money, spectators would be taken inside dimly-lit tents to gawk in horror and amusement at people suffering from all sorts of rare abnormalities. Conjoined twins and those with deformed limbs or no limbs at all were put on display and labeled as "freaks."
By the time these people came to be freak show performers, most of them had already had terribly difficult lives as they suffered rejection from family members and peers. In many cases, they were sent to the freak shows as children by their parents to earn the family extra money and because public schools wouldn't have them.
For others, the freak show was the only employment option available and became a home where they could find some kind of acceptance among others suffering from similar conditions.
Moreover, freak shows were big business, especially during their heyday in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when the likes of P.T. Barnum promoted these spectacles. Barnum, who was actually known to pay a fair wage, would comb the globe looking for new people to join his growing show.
But it wasn't long before the trend stopped growing. By the 1940s, the appeal of the freak show had begun to decline with the medicalization of human abnormalities pulling the curtain back on some of the mystery that lent the show its appeal.
Today, while you can still find the occasional freak show, the performers are generally ones who with extreme body modifications (such as tattoos and piercings) or those that can execute astonishing physical performances like fire-eating and sword-swallowing — all of which represents a welcome departure from the insensitive days of yore.
Next, dig deeper into the lives of six of the most well-known . Then, learn how a pair of conjoined twins survived one of the world's most difficult surgeries.