Minnie Woolsey (born in 1880) was an American sideshow entertainer/film performer. In the 1932 film called Freaks, she was billed as Koo Koo, the Bird Girl. Woolsey suffered from an extremely rare birth defect syndrome, resulting in short stature and bird-like physical characteristics.
Woolsey’s Rare Disorder
Woolsey had a rare inherited disorder called Seckel syndrome (also known as bird-headed dwarfism, Bird-headed dwarf of Seckel, and Harper’s syndrome). The condition causes growth delays prior to birth which result in not only low birth weight, but also unusual physical features.
Woolsey’s Bird-Like Features
Below is a list of Woolsey’s bird-like features.
Large eyes with an antimongoloid slant
Woolsey was also bald and toothless. As if that wasn’t enough, she also had to deal with serious vision problems. Woolsey was believed to be blind, or at the very least, near-blind. In addition to her odd appearance and limited vision, she also had a mild intellectual developmental disability.
Woolsey was born in Georgia in 1880 (day and month unknown). There is virtually nothing known about Woolsey’s early life. What is known, is that she had spent many years of her life in a mental asylum in Georgia. Some sources say she was rescued and taken out of the mental asylum after she was discovered by a showman who believed she would be a great asset in sideshow entertainment.
Woolsey started her career in the sideshow business and was billed as Minnie-Ha-Ha, which was a play on a fictional Native American woman named Minnehaha. Although Woolsey was said to be quite shy when she began her career, it didn’t take long for her to break out of her shell and enjoy all of the attention from the spectators. She would dress up in a Native American costume and entertain many crowds. Her act would consist of dancing. However, she only spoke gibberish.
Woolsey Lands A Role In An American Horror Film
Although Woosley was already successful as a sideshow entertainer, little did she know, it was only the beginning. In 1932, she was chosen to play a role in Tod Browning’s Freaks film. In the film, she was billed as Koo Koo, the Bird Girl. Like her sideshow acts, she was dressed up in a costume and danced. In the film, she danced on top of a table during a wedding feast, but did not speak. After making her appearance in Freaks, not only did Minnie Woosley keep her new stage name for future performances in sideshows, she also continued to dress up in the same costume.
Woolsey’s Several Nicknames
Minnie Ha Ha
Koo Koo the Bird Girl
Koo Koo, the Blind Girl from Mars
Woolsey’s actual day of death, and even the cause, remains unknown. However, various sources say she was still alive and well in 1960. Woolsey was believed to be in her 80’s still performing at Coney Island. According to some reports, she died in a car accident sometime in the 1960’s.
Elizabeth Green: The Stork Woman
Elizabeth Green (October 10, 1905 – May 9, 2001) was professionally known as Elizabeth Green the Stork Woman, and was also referred to as Molina the Pinhead. Interestingly, she was the “first” Koo-Koo the Bird Girl. In the 1920s and 1930s, she toured with the Ringling Brothers Circus and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Green’s act would consist of her dancing around in a feathered body suit with a long feather located on her head. To make her look even more like a bird, she would wear a pair of large bird feet. Like Woosley, Elizabeth Green (aka Betty Green) also played a part in Freaks.
More Images Of Woolsey
Although Woolsey had a career as an entertainer in the sideshow business, she is best known for her appearance in the American horror film Freaks. Despite living with a very rare condition that made her look like a bird, she was not afraid to get out and show herself to the world. Although Woolsey earned several different nicknames, perhaps Koo-Koo the Bird Girl was the most fitting.