Prince Randian went by many names, including “The Snake Man,” “The Human Torso,” and “The Human Caterpillar.” But no matter what name he went by, when the curtain opened and the spotlight fell upon Prince Randian, there was no doubt that the audience was shocked by what they saw.
Standing under three feet tall, without arms and legs and dressed in a one-piece red and white striped suit, he resembled a caterpillar more than a man.
Throughout his sideshow career, his act was to wiggle about the stage and perform tricks using only his mouth, indeed, with just his mouth, Prince Randian could roll cigarettes, light them, and even shave his face.
Not much is known about his early life, including what his birth name was, but what is known is that he was born on October 12, 1871 in Demerara, British Guiana to Indian slave parents. He was a Hindu and spoke Hindi, English, French, and German, and he was born with Tetra-amelia syndrome, which is characterised by the complete absence of all four limbs. Unfortunately, being limbless is only part of its clinical characteristics.
The syndrome also has the potential to cause severe malformations of various parts of the body such as the heart, lungs, eyes, and nervous system, and sadly, due to the many severe medical issues that come with having Tetra-amelia syndrome, the majority of infants are either stillborn, or will die shortly after birth.
Despite his disability, Randian lived a surprisingly normal life. Before he began his career, he married his wife, a Hindu woman known as Princess Sarah. Together, they had four children, three daughters, Mary, Elizabeth, and Wilhelmina, and a son, Richard.
In 1889, whilst travelling abroad, P.T. Barnum came across Prince Randian, and was instantly interested in having him in his show, both because of his appearance, but also because he was so impressed with how he’d managed to overcome it, Barnum brought the 18-year-old Randian back to the United States to work in his famed sideshow.
When Randian moved to the U.S., his family accompanied him, and by the end of the 19th century, they had settled into a quiet neighbourhood in Plainfield, New Jersey, where they stayed while Prince Randian was performing.
Prince Randian’s act was a simple one. Like most sideshow “freak” performers, he simply had to do the things he normally did while looking like an oddity.
One of Randian’s first acts was his most famous. Randian was able to roll a cigarette using just his mouth and then light the cigarette with a match. Holding both the match and the cigarette between his teeth, he would strike the match, and then move the cigarette close enough to the flame that it would light. Then he would inhale and blow the match out along with the cigarette smoke.
Though the feat was impressive, it was just one of many things that Randian could do. Over the years he’d taught himself to paint and to write, holding the brush or pen between his teeth and using his lips to manoeuvre it, and was incredibly self sufficient.
He had taught himself to shave his face by using a wooden block, to which the razor was secured, and he would then shave by moving his face, rather than the razor. His feat was filmed for the movie Freaks, Randian’s only film appearance.
More impressive yet, he would keep his razor and block, along with paintbrushes and cigarette materials, in a wooden box he had constructed himself, it even had a lock affixed to the front.
After more than 45 years of performing, Randian died on December 19, 1934, from a heart attack, just hours after giving his final performance at Sam Wagner’s 14th Street Museum in New York. He was 63 years old.
By Paul Middleton, source: Ghosts, the paranormal, myths and legends
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