CONGRESS OF THE ODD
CAROLINE CRACHAMI – The Sicilian Fairy
Recently a number of television shows, documentaries and circulating picture sets have generated great interest in the genetic phenomena of primordial dwarfism. These tiny people, these seemingly fragile, delicate and near ethereal human beings conjure images of gossamer fairies and quaint folk stories. Such enchanting imagery is likely the root of this new interest in the condition.
Crachami caused a great amount of sensation and proved to be incredibly popular. Hundreds of people would queue up daily and pay one shilling admission to view the nine-year-old nineteen inch marvel. For the most part, inside the exhibit, Miss Crachami would simply wander around the stage while listening to music. For a few shillings more one was permitted to handle the tiny girl, permitted to dance a little with her, to pat her head and feed her a biscuit or two. King George IV was and admirer as were three hundred members of the English nobility. More than three thousand members of high society visited and played with the doll-like Crachami and likely thousands more common folk did so as well.
The exhibiting schedule was gruelling and on June 3rd of 1824, after receiving more that two hundred patrons, the tiny Miss Crachami collapsed and expired during exhibition.
Her exhibitor, Dr. Gilligan, shopped Crachami’s earthly remains around to various medical institutions before selling them to the anatomist John Hunter for $500, and this is where the tale takes a tragic twist. Caroline was a child far younger than the nine years she was billed as. Modern examinations of her remains place her age at no more than three. She was also likely not Sicilian and probably hailed from Ireland where her parents read of her death in the Cork Inquirer. Her father quickly ferried to England in an attempt to halt any dissection and autopsy. However he arrived too late and Caroline’s bones had already been stripped bare.
The skeleton of Caroline Crachami now resides at the Hunterian Museum at the Royal College of Surgeons together with a few mementoes of her life including a pair of her silk stockings, her slippers, a ruby ring and casts of her face and arm. There Caroline forever stands next to The Irish Giant Charles Byrne, his seven foot seven skeleton standing as a silent protector.
image: Portrait of Caroline Crachami by Alfred Edward Chalon.
For more on the life of Caroline Crachami I highly recommend Jan Bondeson’s book A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities .
Note: Caroline Crachami has also been cited as having Seckel’s syndrome or ‘bird headed dwarfism’, however this diagnosis is not the consensus of the medical community.
© 2007 – 2012, J Tithonus Pednaud. All rights reserved.
J Tithonus Pednaud has dedicated this site to highlighting the remarkable lives of those born exceedingly different. These so-called freaks and human oddities stand as uplifting testaments to human spirit and serve as inspiring examples of human tenacity.