Friday, May 30, 2008

Lori and George Schappell

Lori and George Schappell, born September 18, 1961 in Reading, Pennsylvania, are American entertainers. George Schapell was born Dori Schapell, and was known for several years as Reba Schapell.As conjoined twins, Lori and George have acted in an episode of Nip/Tuck, playing Rose and Raven Rosenburg. They have also appeared in a number of television documentaries about their lives as well as talk shows.

As country singer Reba Schappell, George has performed widely in the United States, and has also performed in Germany and Japan. In 1997, she won the L.A. Music Award for Best New Country Artist. She also sang Fear of Being Alone as the voice-over to the credits of a spoof on conjoined twins, Stuck on You.[1]

Previously, George designed support equipment for people with physical handicaps, including her own specialized wheelchair, and a mobility aid for dogs. She is also a trophy-winning bowler.

Lori acts as George's facilitator. She works in a laundry, arranging her workload around George's singing commitments. Lori says that, as a fan of George's, she pays to attend her concerts, just like all the other fans, simply making herself quiet and "invisible" while her sister is on stage.[2]

On June 21, 2007, Lori and George Schappell, took part in grand opening of "Ripley's Believe It Or Not ! Odditorium" in Times Square in New York. This is the first time they were billed as Lori and George Schapell.[3]

[edit] Lifestyle

Born as Lori and Dori Schappell, the sisters are craniopagus conjoined twins, joined at the head and sharing 30% of their brain matter, but having very different personalities and living, insofar as possible, individual lives. As a mark of individuality, and disliking the fact that their names rhymed, Dori changed her name to Reba. By 2007 she was preferring to be known as George.

While Lori is able-bodied, George has spina bifida which has caused growth retardation of her lower body and severe mobility impairment. The two women are therefore of very different heights. There was no wheel chair that suited George's unique condition, as to move around, she must be raised to her sister's height, to avoid undue strain upon Lori's neck and back. The only thing on wheels that was the right height was a bar stool. Using this as the foundation, George designed the wheelchair that she currently uses. One of the benefits of having a high wheel chair is that, unlike most people in conventional wheelchairs, the user is raised to about the height of a standing adult, which better facilitates normal communication.

Lori and George spent the first twenty-four years of their lives living in an institution in Reading in which the majority of inmates suffered severe intellectual disability. Although neither is intellectually disabled, George's condition required special care. A court decision was made that their parents would be unable to care for them properly and they were removed and institutionalized. In the 1960s there were few hospital institutions for those people who had special needs that were unusual. In order that they might be placed in the institution, they were diagnosed as suffering from intellectual disability. When they reached adulthood, George, with the help of Ginny Thornburgh, wife of a former Governor of Pennsylvania, fought to have this diagnosis overturned and Lori and George were able to go to college.[4]

They live in an apartment, each maintaining their own private space. George has several pets. They respect each other’s privacy in terms of work time, recreation and friendships.

In 2006, George was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, in Reading, PA. Lori did not join the LDS Church, but has been supportive of her sister's decision.

Video Reba Schappell - "The Fear of Being Alone"

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Robert Wadlow

Robert Pershing Wadlow

Street Parking Accessible Attraction

Robert Wadlow was a pituitary giant, someone who grows enormously due to an overactive pituitary gland. He was born in Alton, Illinois on February 22, 1918, a completely normal baby, 8 ½ pounds. However, by the time he was a year old he weighed twice normal, 44 pounds. By nine years he'd reached 6', 2", by sixteen he hit 7', 10", and weighed nearly 400 pounds. At the time of his death in 1940 he was 8', 11.1" tall and weighed 439 pounds making him the world’s tallest person in history, according to the Guinness Book of Records, surpassing the record previously held by an 8', 4" inch Irishman who died in 1877.

Robert was the first born of Addie and Harold Wadlow, who later had four other children. Despite Robert's size, all of his family members were of normal height and weight. He tried to maintain a normal life as a child. Robert enjoyed collecting stamps and matchbooks, joining the YMCA, and taking up photography. When he joined the Boy Scouts at age13, he became their tallest member at 7' 4". In 1936 Wadlow received a scholarship from Shurtleff College of Alton and planned to become an attorney. He found college life difficult due to his size. Pens and pencils were difficult for him to use. Lab instruments were a nightmare. He quit after one year mostly because he could scarcely walk in icy winter conditions and he had difficulty moving from building to building between classes. His bones were brittle, and a single fall could put him in the hospital.

At the age of 19 he joined the Ringling Brothers Circus and at age 20 he came a goodwill ambassador for the International Shoe Company. In a specially converted automobile Robert and his father made a goodwill tour of the West Coast. The company thereafter gave him complimentary size 37 shoes for which he had been paying $100!

While otherwise remarkably healthy, he did have considerable trouble with his big feet. He had little sensation in his feet and did not feel any chafing until blisters formed. While making an appearance at the National Forest Festival in Manistee, Michigan in July 1940, a fatal infection set in when such a blister formed. On July 4th, doctors had Robert confined to a hotel bed, unable to find suitable accommodations at the local hospital. On July 15th, after emergency surgery and blood transfusions, Robert passed away in his sleep.

His body was brought back to his hometown of Alton for burial two days later. The 1,000- pound casket required twelve pallbearers, assisted by eight other men. It was placed in a 12' long reinforced concrete tomb. Out of respect for Alton's "Gentle Giant," all city businesses closed for the funeral. Over 40,000 people attended the funeral and burial services. Robert's gravestone simply reads "At Rest." A life-size bronze statue of Wadlow was unveiled in 1985 on the grounds of SIUE’s Dental School. Wadlow's grave is in nearby Upper Alton Cemetery.

Ella Ewing The Missouri Giantess

Ella Ewing, the Missouri Giantess, was born on March 9, 1872. By the time she died on January 10, 1913, she had reached a height of 8 ft. 4 1/2 in., officially the world's tallest woman at that time.

During her lifetime, she gained for herself a nice living traveling with the Barnum and Bailey Circus. But years of touring had taken its toll, and on a cold and snowy January morning, she succumbed to tuberculosis and pneumonia.

Ben Ewing, Ella's father, contacted young Fred Gerth from Wyaconda. In those days of horse and buggies, it took Fred most of the morning to make the 8 mile trip from Wyaconda to Gorin. He took an apprentice with him to help with the embalming, which in those days was done in the home.

Frederick Gerth, Jr., recounted the story that his father told him, "He said that he got the call that Ella Ewing had died and that he had no idea how would be able to embalm her. She was so tall that there was no equipment available. He had a portable embalming table called a cooling board, which was at operating height. He went into her bedroom and opened up the folding table, which is about two foot wide and six feet six inches long, which was too short for her. He discovered that her specially made dining room chairs were so tall that the seat of the chairs was the same height as the table. He placed one at each end of the table and placed her body on it and was able to embalm her," Frederick Gerth recounted.

Ella Ewing had long wished that her body be cremated, so as she would not be made a spectacle by scientists or worse -- grave robbers. But Ben could not bear to do that to his beloved daughter. He was very insistent that Ella have a regular funeral, but that she also have a burial that would not be vulnerable to vandals. So Fred went about the task of embalming her 260 lb. body.

Fred suggested a cement-lined steel vault to permanently seal the remains, so as they could not be exhumed later. Ben Ewing then presented Fred with another request, find a casket large enough without crowding her. Fred had intended to just construct a pine box for her, but now it was a matter of pride to honor Mr. Ewing's wishes.

On the cold ride back to Wyaconda, Fred came up with an idea. He contacted the Embalming Burial Case Company in Burlington, Iowa, and they informed him that they had an oversized display vault for advertising purposes from the Baker Vault Co. The salesman said he would contact the foreman of the casket factory and see if they could make a casket to fit the vault.

After some time, the salesman called Fred Gerth back and said they could build the casket, but he would have to come to Burlington to give his authorization to it. Gerth then boarded the train for Burlington while the factory made the casket. When he arrived at Burlington, he checked it out to make sure it would work, and then he returned with the casket and vault to Wyaconda. He then loaded the casket and drove on to Gorin.

When Fred got to Gorin on the morning of January 12, 1913, he had not slept for two days. Upon arriving at the home, he and a group of Miss Ewing's friends and neighbors placed her body in the casket. They then prepared the room for visitation. A weary Fred Gerth, showered with praise and gratitude for the job he had performed, promised to return the next day for her ride to her funeral.

Before he could rest though, Gerth had another problem to deal with. The regular horse-driven hearse was not long enough to hold the large casket. But he did have a second hearse that had a seat high in the front. In order to make it work, Fred removed the lower half of the front wall of the hearse so that the casket could be slid all the way into the compartment and then under the driver's seat, so no part of it extended past the loading end. Thus, the rear doors could be closed and prevent the casket from falling out on the bumpy and muddy roads. This switching from the regular hearse to the second hearse, has over the years, led to many false claims as to whom actually has the real hearse used in the Ella Ewing funeral.

Ella Ewing's casket, with two representatives from the Embalming and Burial Case Company from Burlington, Iowa. One man is the salesman that called on Fred Gerth, the other the president of the company. They are holding a ruler which marks the length of the casket. In the top right hand corner, the sign reads," FRED GERTH, EMBALMER, WYACONDA, MO." Underneath is the steel burial vault.

So on the sunny morning of January 13, 1913, Fred Gerth arrived at the Ewing home to take Miss Ella to her final resting place. It required ten men to move the casket to the hearse. They stopped and placed the casket on a new church truck for just one minute so a photographer from the Gorin Argus newspaper could snap a picture.

"On the way to the church, (Fred Gerth) said that when they got a mile from the church, there were teams of horses and buggies all tied up to the fences on the side of the road," Frederick Gerth said. "When they got to the church, they found that neighbors had brought stoves and put them up in the church yard, keeping some of the large crowd warm."

After the service, Miss Ewing was buried in the cemetery adjoining the Harmony Grove Baptist Church. When they went to the cemetery and placed the casket in the vault, they poured cement on the vault before they covered it up so that no one could remove the body.

Ella Ewing is still remembered even today. George Baskett, while serving in the Missouri House of Representatives many years later, had a statue of her placed in the capital at Jefferson City. Around Northeast Missouri, there are still several reminders of her, including the lake that bears her name near Gorin. The Scotland County Historical Society, located in the Downing House in Memphis, has a large display of many of her personal effects. The Downing House used to be a hotel, which Ms. Ewing would stay in before returning home to Gorin after being on tour with the circus. One of her specially made shoes is a top attraction. This year a woven throw which features her image along with many other landmarks in the county is being sold to help raise money for the Historical Society.

The funeral of Ella Ewing presented a unique challenge to Fred Gerth, but the quality of service and high standards he set are still remembered. That devotion to professionalism and quality has been passed on through the generations, and it is still the cornerstone that Gerth Funeral Service operates on today

Ella Ewing's funeral leaving the specially designed house custom built for her size. Fred Gerth, in the fur hat and coat, is at the front left of the casket. Tragically, the house burned in 1965. Several attempts had been made to preserve it, but all failed.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Pauline Musters - The Little Princess

In the history of the world, little Pauline Musters is the smallest mature woman ever recorded. Pauline is currently listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as having stood only 1 foot 11.2 inches in height.

Born on February 26, 1876 in Ossendrecht in the Netherlands Pauline Munster’s was almost half of her final height straight from her mother’s womb. At birth, she was just over 12 inches. At age nine, the tiny dynamo weighed only three pounds and in adulthood Pauline Munster weighed less than nine pounds. Her measurements at age 19 were 181/2 -19-17, meaning she had curvy little figure and in truth she had no shortage of male suitors.

Pauline began her profession career as an infant at which time the public simply marveled at her tiny proportions, but as she grew older Pauline took to performing as well. She was eventually known for being an adept acrobat and for skilfully dancing with partners drawn from the audience. As her performances progressed in quality, Pauline took on many unique stage names. She was perhaps best known simply as Princess Pauline and on par with her name she took to wearing remarkable elegant gowns on stage, with details and stitching so minute that the garments themselves were a wonder to behold.

During her career, Princess Pauline toured Belgium, Germany, France and Britain before being invited to perform in the United States in 1894. She debuted in New York City’s Proctor’s Theatre on New Year’s Eve before and stunned and thoroughly charmed audience. She performed with a grace that moved those who saw her. She was a fairy, a tiny regal princess on a huge stage dancing out what she felt in her heart – and it was beautiful. Princess Pauline quickly became the darling of New York.

Tragically, while Pauline’s star burnt brilliantly, it expired far too quickly. Shortly after arriving in New York the diminutive Princess contracted pneumonia and meningitis. Pauline Musters succumbed to illness on March 1, 1895 in New York and the world lost its smallest but greatest miracle.