Human Oddities

According to archeologists, the fossil evidence suggests that homo sapiens started evolving in East Africa approximately 200,000 years ago.  Over the course of the existence of our human race, it is estimated that over 106 billion people have been born.  Our current human population has rapidly exceeded to 7 billion.  According to the most recent United Nations estimates, by the spring of 2024, the world population is expected to reach as many as 8 billion people.

The bigger the ­­­­­­­population, the more chances of unwanted human oddities.  Unfortunately, there have always been people suffering from rare conditions that effect their everyday lives.  Diseases and abnormalities have kept scientists busy to find treatments and cures.

Although for some, their unfortunate conditions may limit their physical abilities and acceptance into society, many will still live happy and productive lives.  In fact, some will end up becoming financially successful while they continue to fight for acceptance and survival.

We have an article about people using plastic surgery to tailor themselves with a certain look.  However, this page discusses a variety of human conditions that people have absolutely no control over.  Here are fascinating human conditions people have to struggle with everyday.

Conjoined Twins

Conjoined twins is a very rare phenomenon where identical twins are joined in the mother’s womb.  It is so rare that it only occurs in an estimated range from 1 in 50,000 births to 1 in 200,000.   Unfortunately, half of them end up being stillborn.  The condition is more common with females.  The survival rate for this extremely rare condition is only about 25 percent.  One can only image living attached to your twin while simultaneously sharing appendages and organs.

Image shows a pair of human conjoined twins.  The picture was taken at the Dupuytren Museum of pathological anatomy in Paris, France.

Giant People


Edouard Beaupré  was a big (to say the least) freak show star in Barnum And Bailey’s circus.  He lived from July 9, 1881 to January 3, 1904.  Although the his growth in the first years of life were completely normal, this significantly changed.  By the age of 9, he was already up to 6 feet tall.  By age 17, he gained 13 inches and was all the way up to 7 feet 1 inch.  By age 21, he weighed over 400 pounds and measured 8 feet 2.5 inches.  Due to his abnormal growth and struggle with tuberculosis, he passed away at only age 23.  He died with a height of 8 feet 3 inches.  Doctors were able to determine that even after his death, he was still growing.

The tallest known person to ever walk the Earth is a man by the name of Robert Wadlow.  Robert reached a height of 8 ft. 11.1 in with a weight of 439 pounds.  Like Beaupré , Wadlow also was said to have continued growing even after his death.  He suffered from a condition of hyperplasia of his pituitary gland causing extremely high levels of the human growth hormone.

Bearded Lady

Helena AntoniaHelena Antonia was a bearded lady that likely lived sometime in the 1600s (based on research). Antonia was a court dwarf of Maria of Austria (spouse of Maximilian II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Bohemia and Hungary) and Holy Roman Empress. She was also a lady-in-waiting for Constance of Austria (a queen of Poland that lived from December 24, 1588 – July 10, 1631).

Although we were unable to verify Antonia’s date of birth, Wikimedia claims she visited Wroclaw in the year 1621. The above painting was placed in the cabinet of curiosities of the Protestant Parish of St. Mary Magdalene in Wroc?aw.

Unfortunately, we were unable to get an answer to why Antonia had a beard. Only a small number of women can grow facial hair that qualifies as a distinct beard. The cause can be from a hormonal imbalance, anabolic steroid use or a rare disorder called hypertrichosis. Although a bearded lady may be viewed as a social stigma, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, some were famous and performed in sideshows.

For a list of bearded women from various centuries, visit our post called 7 Women With Beards.

A Woman With Severe Burns

The above image is a woman with severe burns to the face. Of course, the least serious type of burns are when only the outer layer of the skin is burned. This is obviously a terrible trauma case.

For some interesting and useful information on how burns are medically treated, visit Mayo Clinic. The website provide information on treating burns of 1st-degree, 2nd-degree and 3rd-degree.


Joseph Merrick


Joseph Merrick was an English man who suffered from severe deformities.   He lived from August 5, 1862 to April 11, 1890.  He became a popular human curiosity and eventually was given the name “The Elephant Man”.  The first stages of his abnormal development occurred within the first few years of his life.  He had abnormally large lips with immensely thick and lumpy skin.  Both of his feet and his right arm grew extremely larger than normal.

Merrick lived a difficult life being ridiculed, losing his mother at age 10 and being rejected by his father and step mother.  On April 11, 1890, Merrick passed away at the young age of 27.  The cause of his death is asphyxia (suffocation).  Surgeon Frederick Treves claimed the actual cause of death was from a dislocated neck.  Because of the heavy weight of Merrick’s head, he had to sleep sitting up.  Treves believed Merrick had tried to sleep normally, resulting in his death.  Although the exact cause of his deformities is to this day unclear, a theory suggests that he had a condition called neurofibromatosis type 1 (tumor disorder).

In 2001, experts suggested that he also suffered with Proteus syndrome (congenital disorder causing skin overgrowth and unusual bone development).  However, even after performing DNA tests on Merrick’s hair and bones, the results were still proven to be inconclusive.

Joseph Merrick 1886


Sirenomelia: Mermaid Syndrome

"Sirenomelia" by Marta Ježová et al is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sirenomelia” by Marta Ježová et al is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Sirenomelia is a rare congenital disorder where the legs are fused together. The fusion of the legs is what gave it the alternative known name “Mermaid Syndrome”. The extreme rareness is quite similar to conjoined twins.  One out of every 100,000 births suffer from this miserable condition.  This type of malformation is very incompatible with life.  In fact, due to the complications associated with abnormal kidney and urinary bladder development and function, death will usually occur within in just one or two days before their birth.

Identical twins have a much higher risk of sirenomelia than fraternal twins and singletons.  Although the reason for this unusual condition still remains unknown, more discoveries are actually leading researchers closer and closer to understanding its pathogenesis.



Anencephaly is a cephalic (head) disorder resulting from an opening in the spinal cord or the brain.  It occurs in the early stages of human development.  The defect results in the lack of a significant portion of the brain, skull and scalp.  Most of the fetuses do not survive.

Man With A Tail

An Indian man by the name of Chandre Oraon (from Alipurduar, West Bengal) has been growing a 14.5″ tail right at the base of his spine since his birth.  Although his very unusual appendage is scientifically due to his spina bifida, many Hindus disagree and worship him.  They claim that his tail points to him being a incarnation of the monkey god Hanuman.

His worshipers will often make their way to India hoping he can cure their sicked loved ones.  His occupation is a tea picker, requiring him to climb up trees. This gives his followers even more of a reason to see him as the monkey god.  He is said to be the only person in the world living with a tail.  His dream is to have a temple built for his hundreds of followers so they can worship him.

To learn more about the science of human tails, visit our post called People With Tails.

Mental Retardation

Mental retardation is a developmental disability with below average functioning of intellectual abilities.  It is present before the age of 18 and is usually diagnosed in infancy or prior to birth.

People suffering from this disability deal with severe limitations in daily life skills such as self-care. This often prevents them from not only being accepted into society, but also finding employment.  However, for some people, this is not always the case.

Down Syndrome


Down syndrome is a genetic disorder arising from the presence of an extra 21st chromosome.  People with this congenital disorder will suffer from short stature, moderate to severely below average mental impairment, decreased and weak muscle tone, a broad facial profile, short fingers and complications with physical development.  Although we now know more than ever about Down syndrome, there are still a lot of common misconceptions out there.

Life Expectancy For Those Dealing  With Down Syndrome

Due to the significant advancement in medical technology, people have been living much longer than before.  Generally, the life span is shorter than the average person, but is dependent on a number of factors such as their prone to infections and the severity of heart defects it exhibits.  The average age is around 55-60 years old.

Schlitzie Surtees

Schlitzie Surtees (true name is still unknown) was an American sideshow performer born with a condition called microcephaly (neurodevelopmental disorder).  He was born on September 10, 1901 and died on September 24, 1971 (birthday is disputed).  He was a popular attraction with Barnum and Bailey.  The unusual disorder gave Surtees an extremely small brain and skull.  The name given for his unique appearance was commonly referred to as a “pinhead”.  Surtees was also very short in statue with a height of only about 4 feet tall.   He also suffered from moderate to severe mental retardation.

Although he had the mind of a three-year-old, he was still able to take care of himself.  He also loved to sing, dance and socialize with virtually anyone.  His condition didn’t stop him from performing and even acting in a 1932 horror movie called “Freaks”.  Despite all of his abnormalities, Surtees lived a fairly long life dying at the age of 70 from bronchial pneumonia.


Living With Human Oddities

These are just some of the many human conditions one can potentially suffer with.  After reading this article, you know that regardless of the type of condition they may have to deal with, there are still people who strive to be accepted and live somewhat normal lives.  They don’t let their condition influence them so much that they give up on life.  In fact, some will actually use their abnormalities as an advantage for career opportunities and a shot at fame.