Johnny Eck and the Sawing-in-Half Illusion

Johnny Eck was an actor, artist, musician, and sideshow performer who was billed as “The Amazing Half-Boy,” among other titles. You may remember him from the 1932 movie Freaks, or as the Bird Monster in early Tarzan movies. Due to sacral agenisis, Eck appeared to only exist from the waist up. He actually had all necessary body organs, and even underdeveloped legs and feet, but hid them under his clothing. John Eckhardt, Jr. was born a twin. His brother Robert had a normal build, and although they were fraternal twins, the brothers looked very much alike.

Robert was often part of Johnny’s act. This made possible an amazing stunt you won’t soon forget.

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In 1937, Eck and Robert were recruited by the illusionist and hypnotist, Rajah Raboid, for his “Miracles of 1937” show. In it they performed a magic feat that amazed audiences. Raboid performed the traditional sawing-a-man-in-half illusion, except with an unexpected twist. At first Robert would pretend to be a member of the audience and heckle the illusionist during his routine, resulting in Robert being called on stage to be sawed in half himself. During the illusion, Robert would then be switched with his twin brother Eck, who played the top half of his body, and a dwarf, who played the bottom half, concealed in specially-built pant legs. After being sawed in half, the legs would suddenly get up and start running away, prompting Eck to jump off the table and start chasing his legs around the stage, screaming, “Come back!” “I want my legs back!”

You must read the rest of the story for the exquisite audience reaction. No doubt a few were seriously traumatized. The article includes more about Eck’s astonishing career. -via a comment at Metafilter

Source: neatorama

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