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Born without limbs in British Guyana in 1871, Prince Randian’s future looked bleak.
In those days there were no special hospitals or hospices, no GoFundMe campaigns for life-changing treatments, and no prosthetics to make living with the rare tetra-amelia syndrome easier.
Most babies with the condition are stillborn as it also often affects internal organs, but Prince Randian beat the odds, growing to be a “precocious” child.
He developed incredible upper body strength by working on a farm with his India-born parents.
But as he war learning how to survive, spending hours every day finding ways to master everyday takes such as shaving, painting, and writing, he was also unknowingly laying the foundations for a new life of riches, love and international travel.
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He would even appear in a movie that is still discussed almost 100 years after its controversial release.
But there was a price. In 1889 he moved to America after agreeing to join a freak show, where he would be laughed at, mocked and degraded by baying crowds.
Circus boss P.T. Barnam knew that more money could be made by labelling his troupe of “human oddities” with dehumanising stage names.
Prince Randian was described in gruesome, beastly terms – “The Snake Man”, “The Human Worm,” “The Human Caterpillar,” and “The Living Torso”.
As part of his act he wore a striped woollen onesie to emphasise his disability and make him look like a caterpillar.
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The crescendo of his act was to roll and light a cigarette unaided – something which left paying crowds absolutely gobsmacked.
However, Prince Randian wasn’t just skilled with daily tasks, he was also fiercely intelligent and able to speak Hindi, English, French, and German.
He also had a witty sense of humour and was incredibly charming, meaning he had no problem developing relationships with women.
He eventually married Princess Sarah, and they had four children. After he retired – as a rich man – from the circus, the family lived a peaceful life working a farm in New Jersey.
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In 1932 Prince Randian starred in Tod Browning’s circus film, Freaks.
The grainy black and white film, which would never have been given the go head in the modern day, means his cigarette rolling act has been preserved for eternity.
It also gave a glimpse of his sense of humour when he makes fun of a clown’s eyebrows.
Off the back of the success of the film he made a brief comeback, but died aged 63 from a heart attack shortly afterwards in 1934.
When he died he had an estimated fortune of $1.1m, meaning his children would never have to face the hardships he had.
- In the News
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