Chang and Eng, The Siamese Twins
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gstecyk's picture


Édouard Pingret must have been as fascinated with the wonderfully weird questions raised by the lives of Chang and Eng Bunker as we are.

Like, what happens when Siamese twin brothers and two hot sisters all end up in bed together for some interracial lovin’?  It's not the start of a very bizarre porno, but an average night in the home of the Bunker brothers…who were real life conjoined twins.

Chang and Eng were born in Thailand (formerly Siam) and were thus billed as the “Siamese Twins.”  They became so famous that the term now commonly applies to conjoined twins of all nationalities.  Local villagers thought they were a monster and the King of Siam ordered them killed at birth, but their mother protected them. 

A British merchant observed them swimming, bought them, and took them on tour as a sideshow attraction.  They later joined B.T. Barnum’s famous circus of “human curiosities” in which their talents included doing back flips. Despite the exploitative nature of the freak show business, Chang and Eng were generally popular and respected. Well, they were however refused entry to France on the grounds that their appearance would corrupt children and horrify pregnant women into giving birth to mutants.

Odd as it would seem, the place the twins felt most at home was the antebellum South, where they bought a plantation and numerous slaves. Here, Chang and Eng fell in love with sisters Adelaide and Sara Anne Yates, two lily-white Southern belles. The community was outraged by the sexual implications of two conjoined brothers and two sisters marrying and dubbed the foursome an “unholy alliance.”  The girls’ father on the other hand had no problem with his daughters marrying conjoined twins…but couldn’t abide them marrying Asians.  Probably fearing lynch mobs, Chang and Eng sought a separation surgery that would almost certainly kill them, but Adelaide and Sarah stopped them. Mr. Yates relented in the face of their devotion, and the two couples married in a double (obviously) wedding in 1843.

After the marriage, Chang and Eng won the hearts of the community that had once ostracized them.  They were beloved by their neighbors, perhaps due in part to their ability to chop down a tree from both sides at once…a handy skill to have in rural Appalachia. The foursome shared a specially built bed, and Chang fathered 10 children, while Eng fathered 11.  Things went swimmingly until the sisters started to fight, and The Bunkers built separate houses with the twins alternating between houses and wives every three nights.  We can only imagine what turned Adelaide and Sarah against each other. Maybe one of them got into the wrong side of bed.

Among the many improbabilities of their life, the slaveholding Asian-American Chang and Eng were loyal Confederates, and the Civil War ruined their fortune.  Chang sank into alcoholism and depression. Tension between them reached a breaking point when Chang chased Eng with a knife…which must have been something to see. In 1874, Eng woke up next to his brother’s dead body. Unable to separate himself he screamed, “Then I’m going!” and died three hours later, some say of terror.  Adding a cherry on top of this creepy banana split (or not, as the case may be), their attached double liver is still preserved and on display to the public.