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Image: Dr. Jan Bonderson

The Tocci twins, Giacomo and Giovanni.

We sometimes say that two people are so close that they appear ‘joined at the hip’ – metaphorically speaking, of course. But imagine this were a reality. (Indeed, think about how the phrase might have arisen.) What if you came from an egg that started to separate into identical twins but got stuck (or, as the alternative theory has it, were one of two embryos that became fused together) attaching you to your double for a lifetime? As we shall see in these seven cases from the late 19th and early 20th century, nature’s whim can join twins in the strangest of places – from the breastbone to the buttocks – making life difficult, to say the least. Given the state of medical knowledge at the time, surgical separation would have been out of the question in many cases, even if no organs were shared. Here are some of history’s most famous conjoined twins.


Image: Michael A. Wesner

Conjoined twins Millie and Christine McCoy in the early to mid-1890s.

A hundred years or so ago, few conjoined twins would have been likely to survive more than a few weeks; indeed, even today, only one in four cases survive. Yet, back in the days when people were less scrupulous about what constitutes public entertainment, those born with this condition could become celebrities over night – whichever part of the world they came from. Likely facing limited options in terms of earning a living, many conjoined twins became sideshow attractions, turning their lives into one long public display. Beyond photographs and medical records, some history about these individuals has also survived – and it makes for fascinating reading.

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Image: Edena Co.

7. Liou Seng-Sen and Liou Tang-Sen

The ‘Korean’ twins in 1903, aged around 7 years old.

Conjoined twins Liou Seng-Sen and Liou Tang-Sen were born in Nanjing, China, in 1886, or thereabouts. Their juncture was classified as xiphopagus, meaning they were joined between the navel and breastbone, as we can see in this image. Though quite solid looking, the connection between the pair was actually quite flexible, allowing them to stand side-by-side as well as facing each other. The twins’ mother died when they were only two years old, leaving their father as their guardian. However, from age six onward, they were readied for a life in show business, traveling from fair to fair in China, and later to Korea, Japan, India, Australia and Europe.

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