These Conjoined Twins Probably Lived The Most Tragic Lives In Modern History

Conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton were born in the early 1900s in England. Referred to as Siamese Twins, the Hilton sisters were connected at the hip and buttocks. At the time of their birth, it was feared separating them would cause one or both to die. If the Hilton conjoined twins were born in the 21st century, it's likely they could have been surgically separated; because unlike most conjoined twins, such as Abby and Brittany, Daisy and Violet only shared blood circulation and each had their own organs. 

The twins' mother abandoned them after they were born, and the sisters were displayed in sideshows from the age of three through adulthood. When Daisy Hilton and Violet Hilton moved to the United States, they became famous for their vaudeville act and their burlesque performances during the 1920s and 1930s; they also appeared in a couple of films. The conjoined burlesque sisters struggled under the heavy hand of their guardians before reaching financial independence. Ultimately, the world grew bored of their act, and they lived the last of their days content to be clerks at a grocery store. 

  • They Were Connected At The Hips And Expected To Live Less Than A Month

    Daisy and Violet Hilton were born in February of 1908, in Brighton, England. They were pygopagus twins and connected at the pelvis and buttocks. The obstetrician believed they would die within a month of birth. They lived until the age of 60, however. 

  • Their Mother Rejected The "Monsters"

    Their Mother Rejected The "Monsters"
    Photo: Progress StudioNew York / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

    Daisy and Violet's mother, Kate Skinner, was not married when she gave birth to the twins. During that time, children with birth defects were called “monsters" in England. Skinner believed their condition was punishment for her actions, so she sold them to a woman named Mary Hilton.

    The twins referred to Hilton as "Auntie," and it wasn't long before the woman realized she could capitalize off of their disability. Meanwhile, Skinner had two more children: a son named Frederick in 1910, and a daughter named Ethel Kate in 1912. Skinner, aged 25, died a month after Ethel was born due to childbirth complications.

  • At An Early Age, They Were Put On Display So People Could Lift Their Clothes And Examine Them

    Mary Hilton didn't see the conjoined twins as a liability. In fact, she saw opportunity. It didn't take her long to display the girls in the rear room of a British pub in her own sideshow. For the right price (two pennies), people could examine the girls. One of their first memories was having people lift up their dresses to look at their connected bodies and see if they were actually conjoined. The girls wrote in their memoir:

    Our earliest and only recollections are the penetrating smell of brown ale, cigars and pipes and the movements of the visitors’ hands which were forever lifting our baby clothes to see just how we were attached to each other.

  • They Were Abused By Their Caretakers

    Auntie had several men in her life, all of whom the girls called "Sir." Daisy and Violet were physically and emotionally abused and mistreated by Auntie and the various "Sirs" they encountered over the years. And Auntie made sure the twins knew they had to perform for her; their purpose was to make her money. If the girls didn't do as they were asked, they were hit and slapped.

    They wrote in their 1950s memoir, “When we displeased her, she whipped our backs and shoulders with the buckle end of that belt."

  • They Were Initially Denied Entry Into The United States

    They Were Initially Denied Entry Into The United States
    Photo: Progress StudioNew York / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

    By the time the girls turned 3 years old, Hilton was already taking Daisy and Violet on the road. They had a little bit of success in Germany and Australia, but Hilton wanted more. So, she set her sights on the United States.

    In 1915, when the twins were eight-years-old, they traveled to San Francisco. They were initially denied entry because they were deemed "medically unfit." Hilton, however, was shrewd and involved the local media to help intervene on her behalf. Eventually, authorities allowed the children to enter the country.

  • They Referred To Their Guardians As Their "Owners"

    They Referred To Their Guardians As Their "Owners"
    Photo: Progress Studio, New York / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 4.0

    When Auntie died, her biological daughter, Edith, became the twins' guardian. She took care of them alongside her husband, Myer Myers, a salesperson from Australia. The twins referred to Edith and Myer Myers as their "owners," and the adults didn't let the pair out of their sight. They even stayed in the same room at night. The Myerses didn't let anyone near them for fear it would interrupt their money-making scheme.