Spectacle of Deformity: Freak Shows and Modern British Culture

By Nadja Durbach | Go to book overview

TWO
Two Bodies, Two Selves, Two Sexes
Conjoined Twins and “the Double-Bodied Hindoo Boy”

AT THE SAME MOMENT THAT “the Elephant Man” was admitted to the London Hospital in the summer of 1886, “Lalloo the Double-Bodied Hindoo Boy” began to exhibit himself across the United Kingdom. The following year, like Merrick, he appeared before the Pathological Society of London as a case of “parasitic foetus.” Lalloo was what was frequently referred to in the medical literature as a “double monstrosity,” the scientific term then used for what are now called conjoined twins. But rather than being attached to a fully grown brother, Lalloo had a much smaller sibling growing out of his chest. This “parasitic twin,” which had no head and no heart, was described throughout the act’s twenty-year span as Lala, a little sister. Lalloo (sometimes spelled Laloo or Lalou) was thus a particularly fascinating “human oddity,” as he embodied two characters that were frequently associated with the freak show: he was both conjoined twin and hermaphrodite. Not only was he attached to another body, but that body was apparently female.

This chapter argues that as both a spectacular entertainment and a pathological exhibit, Lalloo’s double body generated popular and professional debate about the boundary between the self and the other, and the distinction between male and female. However, his act also raised concerns about the sexual potential of a double-sexed body. Although they never explicitly addressed the sexual relationship between Lalloo and Lala, the promotional

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