This is an article on a famous sideshow performer named Stephan Bibrowski (18901932). Due to an incredibly rare condition called hypertrichosis, virtually his entire face and body (excluding the palms of his hands and the soles of his feet) was covered with hair. The excess hair made him look similar to a lion. Luckily for Bibrowski, his bizarre condition helped land him a job as a circus freak.
Bibrowskis Mother Blamed His Condition On An Attack By A Real Lion
Bibrowski was born in 1890 in Congress Poland. He was born with one-inch hair that covered his body. Sadly, Benedict (Stephan’s mother) considered her son an abomination. When he was just 4-years-old, she chose to give him up to a German promoter named Sedlmayer.
When Benedict was pregnant with Stephan, she witnessed Michael (Stephan’s father) being eaten alive by a lion. Oddly, she blamed Stephan’s unusual condition on the vicious attack on Michael.
What Is Hypertrichosis?
Hypertrichosis (also known as Werewolf Syndrome) is defined as a very rare medical condition (may be congenital or acquired) that causes excessive hair growth over the body. The condition can occur in both men and women, and can be either localized to one part of the body, or generalized (affect in full). In a past post, we mentioned Hirsutism, which is a type of hypertrichosis that only occurs in women. It causes excessive growth of facial or body hair. Bibrowski is just one of many sideshow performers from the 19th and early 20th centuries who suffered with hypertrichosis.
The Beginning Of A Lucrative Sideshow Career
After Bibrowski was given up by his mother, in 1895, Sedlmayer decided to give him his stage name so he could begin his exhibition career around Europe. What made Bibrowski such a popular sideshow attraction was that his hair grew a whopping 8 inches on his face. Plus, his body was covered in hair that was four inches long. In 1901, Bibrowski traveled to the United States to appear with the Barnum and Bailey Circus.
Interestingly, Bibrowski was an intelligent man who not only spoke 5 languages (or more), but also had an interest in becoming a dentist. Although he never got the chance to pursue a career in dentistry, at least he was able to make a living by entertaining people at the circus.
Bibrowski Loved Being A Circus Freak
Bibrowski certainly became a very popular attraction in the United States. Fortunately, he enjoyed the business of entertaining people for money. According to one source, in 1904, in New York, he was staying at a hotel that caught on fire. With the fear of losing his excessive hair, he managed to be the first person to escape. Interestingly, it seemed like he was more worried about losing his hair than anything else. He was afraid that if he were to lose the hair on his face and body, he would just be an ordinary man with no career as a circus freak.
To entertain the crowd, Bibrowski would perform a variety of gymnastic tricks. With the appearance of a ferocious lion, in order to show his gentle side to the world, Bibrowski would often speak to spectators. Since he looked quite similar to a lion, first-time visitors of the circus were probably surprised to hear Bibrowski speak with such a gentle voice.
Although Bibrowski would occasionally take a trip back home to Europe, he eventually chose to settle in the United States. In 1920, he moved to New York City. There are no records that report Bibrowski having a wife or children.
In the late 1920s, Bibrowski decided it was time to retire from the sideshow business. In 1932, he moved back to Germany and became a German citizen. According to various sources, in 1932, in Berlin, Bibrowski died from a heart attack at the young age of forty-one. However, some sources say he passed away while living in Italy. Although Bibrowski was Catholic, some sources say he died in a Nazi concentration camp. With all of these conflicting reports, you can definitely say that the actual cause and location of Bibrowski’s death is a mystery.
5 Of The Hairiest People On Earth
For years, Bibrowski had entertained many people while working with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. Despite having a rather unusual condition that gave him the bizarre appearance of a lion, he was not afraid to show off his abnormality to the world. Thanks to the rare condition known as hypertrichosis, Stephan Bibrowski will always be remembered as “Lionel the Lion-faced Man.”