Author(s): Mark Slouka
Their birth was greeted by the sound of midwives screaming. The two children looked perfect in every way, just two normal Siamese boys - except for the skin joining them at the chest. They were Chang and Eng: the first Siamese Twins. A typhoon, when the twins were seventeen, marked the beginning of their travels: their devastated mother sold them to an opium trader, bound for Europe, to ensure their safety. For a short time they were an entertaining spectacle - but the fickleness of fashion cast them asunder. Soon they were penniless and starving, trawling the flophouses of London. Until, that is, a chance meeting with Phineas T. Barnum. Packed off to America with an entourage of bearded ladies and German midgets, they became famous before settling as slave owners and farmers - where they finally found peace. But that peace was to be threatened, however, by the looming spectre of the Civil War, its shadow signalling their final battle with fate.