The life and death of the world’s ugliest woman: the Amazing story of Julia Pastrana
Julia Pastrana was called the ugliest woman in the world, and there were objective reasons for this: from head to toe, Julia was covered with coarse black hair, her nose and ears were much larger than usual, her bite was wrong, so that they even called her “APE woman”. Nevertheless, Julia had plenty of suitors, and she made a lot of money.
The reason for this unusual appearance of Julia Pastrana (Spanish: Julia Pastrana) was a congenital hypertrichosis, due to which her entire body, except for the palms and soles, was covered with hair. Julia was also very short – only 138 centimeters.
The real history of Julia is unknown, only the story that was told by managers of circus performances where Julia performed has survived to this day. According to their story, the girl was found in the forest by an Indian girl, brought her to the people and baptized her under the name of Julia Pastrana. Julia was raised in different families, until finally she was assigned to work as a servant in a rich family. At the age of 20, she met an American who immediately realized that you can make money on the appearance of Julia, and persuaded the girl to go with her to America. This was the beginning of Julia’s career as a circus performer.
In America, Julia was an incredible success. Circus shows where Julia was shown as a “half-human, half-APE” were popular. Moreover, the girl was interested in doctors and scientists who are eager to study such an “unusual specimen”.
The girl did not resist such attention, on the contrary, it was interesting to her to understand why she is so different in appearance from other people. At the same time, by nature, Julia was very kind and inquisitive, loved to travel, cook, learned three languages, and learned to dance. Interestingly, the girl was also examined by Charles Darwin, who described her as “a stunningly pleasant woman” despite “a thick male beard and a hairy forehead.”
Together with another Manager, Theodore Lent, Julia went to Europe, where they organized theater productions together. Julia, being at that time a real star, has repeatedly received marriage proposals, but the girl firmly decided to marry only a very rich man. At some point, when Julia herself had earned so much money that it was difficult to find an equal in wealth, she married Theodore.
Together, Theodore and Julia went to Moscow, where the girl became pregnant, gave birth to a child — as hairy as herself — and died five days later due to postpartum complications. The child lived only two days and also died.
Still, Julia’s “career” didn’t end there. Theodore mummified both Julia and his son, then sold both bodies to a Russian anatomy Professor. The mummies changed hands several times — each new owner, including Theodore and his new wife, who also suffered from hypertrichosis, tried to get rich from these mummies. At some point, both bodies ended up in Oslo, where they had been for more than 90 years. During world war II, the mummies came into the possession of the troops of the Third Reich, who also exhibited Julia and her son for money.
Julia Pastrana was buried only 150 years after her death. The University of Oslo, where her body was stored at the time (the child’s mummy was destroyed by vandals in 1976), agreed to transfer Julia to Mexico. Pastrana’s mummified body was buried in a white coffin decorated with white roses.