Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-99c86f546-4k54s Total loading time: 0.313 Render date: 2021-11-29T19:09:17.573Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": true, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true, "newEcommerce": true, "newUsageEvents": true }
This chapter is part of a book that is no longer available to purchase from Cambridge Core

3 - The Afterlife of Freak Shows

from Part I - Science and Spectacle

Fiona Pettit
Affiliation:
University of Exeter
Get access

Summary

During the spring of 1862, two years after their death, the preserved corpses of the hirsute Julia Pastrana and her infant child were exhibited to popular audiences in London at the price of one shilling. During her life Pastrana had toured extensively around Europe as the ‘Nondescript’. Popular and scientific audiences alike were drawn to her performances, which showcased not only her body covered in dark hair, but also her talent as a singer. It was the intervention of Professor Sokolov of Moscow University that enabled Pastrana's show-life to continue. Having bought the bodies of both Pastrana and her son (both had passed away shortly after the birth) from her showman and husband Theodore Lent, Sokolov tried an experimental embalming process to preserve the bodies in a lifelike manner. Unlike other preservation techniques, both corpses retained their colour and texture giving them an appearance ‘exactly like an exceedingly good portrait in wax’. Upon hearing of this success Lent regained ownership of the bodies and returned to England for the 1862 tour. In their natural appearance the corpses were deemed suitable for public consumption in much the same manner as waxworks, while their innovative preservation captured the interest of scientific audiences. In life and death Pastrana's body simultaneously served as a public curiosity and as a specimen of investigation for the learned disciplines. Such freak bodies were often borrowed to enrich medical knowledge and provide points of reference for future cases of the conditions they presented.

Type
Chapter
Information
Publisher: Pickering & Chatto
First published in: 2014

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Send book to Kindle

To send this book to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Send book to Dropbox

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Send book to Google Drive

To send content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×