Julia Pastrana was born in 1832 in Mexico, and was widely known as the
ugliest woman in the world: she was four feet two, her face was covered in
thick black hair, she had an extraordinarily large nose and ears, misshapen
teeth and enlarged gums which gave her face a strange, animal shape.
As a teenager Julia was discovered by the proprietor of a travelling freak
show, one Theodore Lent, who seems by all accounts to have been an unscrupulous
and horrible man. He praised Julia's sweet unearthly little voice to the skies
and toured her around, dressed up to the nines, doing Lola Montez-style
Mexican dance routines and singing songs from her native village: eventually, he
seduced her. Julia fell deeply in love with Lent, believing blindly that he
loved her for herself, and was delighted when she became pregnant. She hoped
desperately for a normal child, but sadly the baby, a boy, was born deformed and
covered with hair, and died less than two days later. Julia, heartbroken, died
soon after in 1860, aged only 28. Lent had both their bodies mummified, and
continued touring them around as part of his show for years: later, he sold
them for lots of money.
The body of Julia is now a medical curiosity at the Institute of Forensic
Medicine in Oslo. Her story has been adapted as a play ("The True History of
the Tragic Life and Triumphant Death of Julia Pastrana: The Ugliest Woman in the
World", by Shaun Prendergast) and there is apparently a film in the making, too,
at the time of this writeup.