The prodigious (unnatural/abnormal) Julia Pastrana was known by many monikers during her life and perhaps just as many names in death. Both her life and her death were sad tales but they hold a very special place in sideshow history because, for a time, she was not considered a member of the human race.
Julia’s origins are shrouded in mystery. It is believed that she was born in 1834 to a tribe of ‘Root Digger’ Indians in the western slopes of Mexico. Julia was suffered from a rare inherited disorder — Hypertrichosis — not understood during the Victorian Age which caused her entire body to be covered in silky, black hair. In addition to excessive hairiness over her body ~ predominately in the face ~ Julia also possessed a jutting jaw and swollen gums — huge teeth made her look positively like a monkey. In odd juxtaposition to her ape like features, Julia possessed great poise in her 4 ½ ft figure with a well developed a buxom.
Her documented career began in 1854 at the age of 20 years as she was exhibited in New York at the Gothic Hall on Broadway as ‘The Marvelous Hybrid or Bear Woman’. Her ‘handler’ was Mr. M. Rates who allegedly discovered the young Julia as a servant girl to the governor of Sinaloa, Mexico.