Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Rosa & Josepha Blazek - The Bohemian Twins
The conjoined sisters Rosa and Josepha Blažek were born in Skrejšov, Bohemia on January 20, 1878. The two were pygopagus - joined at the posterior. They shared tissue and cartilage but were also joined at a thoracic vertebra. It was that delicate fusion that negated any possibility of separation and when their mother took them to Paris at the age of thirteen, doctors told her just that.
It was in Paris were the twins began their career in professional exhibition. Depending what story you believe, until that point their mother was either adamantly against displaying her daughters for profit or limited their publicity to local fairs. But the twins themselves saw Paris as an opportunity to get out of their tiny village. They found a manager, learned to sing and play the xylophone, and began drawing crowds.
Like many conjoined performers, much was made of their differences in personality and tastes. Rosa was considered the sharper of the two. She was witty and talkative while Josepha was introverted. Physically Rosa was the more dominant of the two sisters. Josepha was slightly more deformed than her sister, with her left leg being substantially shorter than her right. In matters of promotion the pair was heavily sexualized and posters for their appearance at the Theatre Imperial de la Gaiete featured with bared midriffs and tight corsets. As a result the public conjectured on their sexual activity and the complications their physical condition posed.
The Blažek sisters were famous in the 1890’s as they toured Europe. They eventually become quite skilled on the violin and stunned crowds with their enthusiastic duets. But, by the turn of the twentieth century, their popularity quickly evaporated due to poor management and overexposure.
Their obscurity was shattered in 1909 when Rosa claimed to be pregnant. Controversy spread like wildfire and rekindled their celebrity.
To the public, the idea of such a liaison was bewildering. Although the twins had separate vaginae, their physical proximity seemingly made any tryst a ménage à trois. The newspapers filled with rumour laced articles. Some believed the twins were sex crazed harlots; others depicted Josepha as an unwilling victim. Rosa claimed she had only had intercourse once and she refused to name the father. There was much speculation that their manager was the father and legend has it he gave the girls 95,000 marks for three years to keep the duo quiet. Regardless of the paternity, on April 16 1910 ‘Little Franz’ entered the picture.
As Franz grew, he joined the twins' travelling show as ‘The Son of Two Mothers’ and with their newfound celebrity the three of them left Europe and appeared in the 1893 Columbian Exposition in New York. The twins set their sights on vaudeville and established a base in Chicago but their dream of the American stage was cut short when Rosa fell ill with influenza. As Rosa recovered, Josepha became sick and her illness soon overcame her. Doctors were uncertain of the diagnosis and shortly after being admitted into Chicago’s West End Hospital on March 22, 1922, Rosa fell into a coma.
A brother, Frank, appeared out of nowhere and once Rosa also succumbed to a coma Frank spoke for the sisters. Newspapers disagree on the final days of the Blažek twins. Some claim Frank would not allow any attempt at surgical separation and others claimed Rosa was adamant about remaining joined or just as adamant about being separated. All newspapers agreed that Frank was a gold digger who only had his eye on their fortune.
Josepha Blažek died on March 30, 1922. Rosa followed her twelve minutes later. With their death, another media frenzy began around who was entitled to their fortune. Soon after they were laid to rest, the matter was a moot point. It was discovered that the pair only had a savings of $400 between them.
Even today, much controversy exists regarding the origins of Franz. Many historians and authors believe that the boy was nothing more than a well timed publicity stunt. When an autopsy confirmed that the two had separate uteri, it fails to mention any evidence of pregnancy. In fact, any evidence points to the contrary.
In addition, stories of the paternity of Franz changed during the time the boy toured. At one point it was claimed that the baby boy was named after his father, a soldier named Franz Dvorak. It was claimed that Rosa married the soldier shortly before his death in 1917. But there is no record of the marriage, nor did the man ever appear publicly with his family. It was likely a story engineered to evoke sympathy and further attendance.
It is known that Franz did spend time in an orphanage, and some believe that is where the boy originated from in the first place.
The fate of Franz is currently unknown as he disappeared into history following the death of the Blažek twins.