The man who could turn his head 180.
Life sometimes blesses people with good hair and amazing skin whiles others- a deformity. This is one of the few times life gave one person a disability and turned it into an ability. The story of the Owlman helps us to accept things we can’t change.
Martin Joe Laurello was born in May 1885 in Nuremburg, Germany. Laurello was born a ‘normal’ human being. He had no diseases, genetic or otherwise, no malformations, defects or disfigurations. He was believed to be an anatomical wonder because of a bizarre act he could perform sice he had the ability to turn his head at a 180-degree angle. While it is not exactly clear how Laurello was able to perform such a wondrous feat, it is quite probable that it was because he was born with a bent spine that he could twist his head to that an extent.
Laurello being able to turn his head by 180 degrees was not a feat he possibly achieved overnight. Laurello spent three years practicing to slowly twist his head little by little until he was finally able to achieve this feat. Interestingly, when he had his head turned, his spine was in the shape of a question mark.
Moreover, very less is known about Martin Laurello’s personal life as there is practically no documentation of it but it was known for a fact that he married to Amelia Emmerling in his early adult years. However, he deserted her to seek greener pastures in another country. Also, being of German descent, Laurello was supposedly a Nazi supporter and according to his fellow performers, he “didn’t like the American flag”.
Martin Laurello migrated to the United States of America in 1921, along with several other people who suffered from rare conditions like Laurello himself. He was a German- American performer, who was given the stage name of ‘The Human Owl’.
As years went by, the anatomical wonder began performing with famous sideshows such as Ripley‘s Believe it or Not, Ringling Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey ( Barnum was adapted into the musical ‘ The greatest Showman‘). He is also believed to have worked at Hubert’s Museum during the winter, which is based in New York City.
When Martin Laurello was working at the Bailey Circus he came to be known as ‘Bobby the Boy with the Revolving Head’. In the 1930s, Laurello attracted huge crowds when he was working at ‘Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditoriums’.
When Laurello would twist his head, he was not able to breathe. However, he was able to drink. During performances, he would prefer wearing a white shirt, and could walk straight, even when he twisted his head to look backwards. His name soon spread far and wide after many shows and the medical mystery was a star!
Unfortunately, his abandoned wife lodged a complaint against him via telegram. He was duly arrested by the Baltimore police for abandoning his wife back home. The matter was settled early so that the show could go on. As time went by, Laurello brought out his other hidden talents to the circus world.
Other than being able to rotate his head, Laurello was also known for training various animals, particularly cats and dogs, to perform acrobatics. He would typically begin his act with the animals that he had trained himself. One of his famous acts was one where two cats were made to wear gloves, and would box each other. Laurello also had an act where he would have two dogs engage in a dance routine together. Laurello had a dog named ‘Frisco’ who had been trained to walk only on his hind legs, like a human, and it could even smoke a cigar while carrying an umbrella. It was only after his animals had performed their acts that Laurello would proceed to astonish his audience with his signature act of twisting his head by 180 degrees, and showcase the anatomical wonder that he was.
His last recorded appearance was on the show “You Asked For It” on March 24, 1952. after which he probably chose to retire. He died of a heart attack and was cremated in 1955, at age 70.
Laurello died with a reputation of being a man who trained himself to do an almost impossible feat but was a rather horrible human being. He and most “freaks” learned, through their disabilities, defects and malformations, how to be more human than most of people, making them true heroes.
What do you think of this mystery man?