Monday, October 15, 2007

Freak of the Week #5 - Eko and Iko, The Men From Mars!

Willie and George Muse led the kind of life they make movies about, shady ladies and gentle gigolos - well, the kind of life they make slam-bang sideshow attractions out of, anyhow!

click picture to enlarge (original freakStomp illustration by RelleR)

These African-American albino twin brothers were born in the 1890s, and were kidnapped as children by bounty hunters contracting out to a sideshow promoter! Told their mother was dead, the two were resigned to a lifelong fate as carnival attractions!

As they toured, their promoter made them grow their hair out into natty dreadlocks to accentuate their already odd appearance, and in 1922 Al G. Barnes presented them in his circus as "White Ecuadorian Cannibals" under the stage names Eko and Iko.

This act failed (if there's one thing the sideshow has enough of, it's Ecuadorian Cannibals), and they were relabeled "Sheep-Headed Men" - then, after that inevitable failure (sheep-headed men...yeesh), freshly dressed in dapper tuxedos, George and Willie were re-branded the "Ambassadors From Mars" in 1923!

click to enlarge

The brothers traveled with the Barnes Circus and learned to play the mandolin, but evidently they didn't learn how to play "We're In The Money" on it, because the shyster Barnes never paid them!

They toured with Ringling Bros. in the mid-1920s, and their Mother (who'd been alive all this time) finally tracked them down as they passed through their hometown in 1927. She fought and threatened to sue the circus, and the Muse brothers were at long-last free!

They filed a lawsuit in an attempt to recoup back wages, but weren't successful in their attempt to reap the 100,000 dollars they felt they were owed. Instead, they found themselves missing the carnival life (it is addictive, my boils and goils, like chocolate-flavored Crystal Meth), so their personal ambulance chaser got them a small lump-sum payment and a fat contract with a hefty monthly wage!

They made their triumphant return to the freakshow in 1928. During their Madison Square Garden appearances, crowds of 10,000 gawkers watched their act! Their contract allowed them to market and sell their own merchandise, and they became wealthy sheep-headed men from the profits! In the 30s they toured Europe, performing for dignitaries - even the Queen of England!

In 1937 they returned to Ringling, and finally wound down their long careers with the Clyde Beatty Circus in 1961.

Returning home, they settled in a house they'd built for their mother - never marrying, although entertaining many a curious dame.

George Muse passed in 1971. His brother Willie filtered into the ether in 2001, at an incredible 108 years of age!

They're probably together on the Red Planet right now, decked out in spit-and-polish tuxes, playing a tune on the mandolin for their Martian leaders...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much for this little piece about Willie and George. I have been interested in the brothers for some years and it is always nice to see new pictures of them being posted. I have never seen a colorized picture of them before!

If anyone out there could tell me what George and Willie did in the time between their stints with Ringling Bros, then i would be extremely grateful. I know that they appeared at the Coney Island Dreamland Sideshow in 1931 but have no info about their appearances between that year and 1937.

Anonymous said...

Wow that's pretty cool. I saw these guys in ripleys believe it or not and thought they had an interesting story. It's sad they were never married. They should have hooked up with Thelma and Doris Patton, the other set of albino twins featured in Ringling brothers and Barnum and bailey combined circus sideshow! That would have been so sweet...

The Old Timer said...

In the early 1930's I heard a broadcast from Madison Square Garden describing Ringling's GRAND ENTRY. The announcer mentioned that Eko and Iko, "Peculiar People" were marching in the procession. Later that year I saw the brothers in Detroit at the Ringling Bros. sideshow. Their hair looked unreal, as though it was made from strips of yellow felt. They were billed as Mayans from the Yucatan area. A few years later, still in the 30's, they appeared with the MIGHTY SHEESLEY MIDWAY at the Michigan State Fair.