|The Muse brothers: Willie (left) and George with showman Al G Barnes, |
1918-22. Photograph: PR
One day in 1899 a “freak hunter” called James Herman “Candy” Shelton spotted two African American children with albinism toiling in tobacco fields near their home in Truevine, Franklin County. They were George Muse, six, and his brother Willie, nine. Shelton was looking for sideshow attractions as lucrative as the conjoined twins from Thailand who became the act Chang and Eng, or the dwarf brothers from Ohio, whom circus showman PT Barnum called the Wild Men of Borneo. Shelton renamed the Muse brothers Eko and Iko and presented them to the world as sheepheaded cannibals from Ecuador.
Truevine: Two Brothers, a Kidnapping and a Mother’s Quest: A True Story of the American South by Beth Macy is published by Macmillan.