“Lady Monkey”: an incredible Mexican woman who became a curiosity of the circus in the XIX century
In the XIX century, circus performances were incredibly popular, in which people with all kinds of physical characteristics performed. Some were naturally conjoined twins, others had extra limbs, and others resembled animals. It was the latter that Julia Pastrana belonged to. She was called the “bear Woman” or “lady Monkey”. And all because the woman had incredibly thick hair on her face and body.
Julia Pastrana was born in 1834 in Mexico. She had a rare hereditary disease-hypertrichosis, i.e. the entire body of Julia from the feet to the head was covered with thick, coarse hair. In addition to this, the girl had an unusually large nose, ears, and teeth, which reminded her of a gorilla.
When Julia Pastrana was about 20 years old, she crossed the border between Mexico and the United States, where she was noticed by a certain M. Wrights. He asked the girl to work in a popular freak show, and she agreed. Despite her terrible appearance, Julia Pastrana was very friendly, sang and danced well.
After a while, she got another entrepreneur, and then Julia got to Theodore Lent, who later became her husband. They went on a tour of Europe, where in addition to performances, the amazing woman was shown to professors and doctors of science. Theodore Lent even made up a story according to which Julia’s mother allegedly went to the mountains, where she mated with monkeys. And from this there was a baby, all covered with hair.
In 1860, at the age of 26, Julia Pastrana became pregnant. When it was time to give birth, she was on tour in Moscow. The child was born with the same thick hair as the mother. He lived only 35 hours. Julia herself died five days later due to postpartum complications.
Instead of burying his wife and child, Theodore Lent asked a Professor at Moscow University to mummify the dead. Even in the death of Julia, he saw his advantage: he placed the embalmed remains in a glass coffin and began to carry around Europe, exposing them to the public.
Two years after Julia’s death, Theodore Lent found another woman with the same hairy face, married her, named her Serona Pastrana, and introduced her to the public as Julia Pastrana’s sister.
After Theodore Lent’s death in 1884, the mummies were lost in a Russian psychiatric hospital. In 1921, they appeared in the Norwegian Museum, but at the insistence of the public, the sarcophagi were sealed and sent to the archive, where they remained until 1970. Then the mummies were sent to an exhibition in the United States. There, vandals mutilated the body of a newborn, and his remains were eaten by mice.
The body of Julia Pastrana found peace only in 2013, when the University of Oslo, where the sarcophagus was located, agreed to give the mummies to Mexicans. The body was buried 150 years after death.