Josephine Joseph – the story continues….
I think my favourite post so far on my blog is this one – my bit of history detective work on Josephine Joseph, the Half-Man Half-Woman from the 1932 horror film, Freaks, and which gave me my first presence on Wikipedia to boot.
There was almost no information available on Josephine, including what her name really was. Josephine Joseph was her stage name and is absolutely in line with other Half-Man, Half-Women acts (and, oh yes, there were a number of these). But not only that, it wasn’t even clear whether Josephine was really a woman or a man, although it was thought by many that it was likely that he/she was a man, as such acts usually were. It’s easier for a man to develop muscles on one side, leaving the other side flabby, than it is for a woman to disguise her figure. Finally, one piece of information that Wikipedia did have, was that Josephine was aged 19 in Freaks, which I did find hard to believe.
I made a lucky find though – newspaper reports from 1930 on the appearance of Josephine and her husband George Waas before Blackpool Magistrates on the charge of fraud, relating to their Half-Man Half-Woman stage act in the town. This has proved to be the key to unlocking at least part of the mystery. Ray Mullins has done sterling work on digging up more in his excellent post on Finding Josephine, that I am happy to spread far and wide. He’s cleverly identified Josephine and her husband from ship passenger lists, and found out that the “George Waas” of the newspaper reports is actually “George Wass”, for one thing. Click the link to read more on his amazing detective work.
Incidentally, in my original post, the newspaper article I found says this is “Another Half Man-Half Woman Case”. And I’ve found out why this was. Another similar act was summonsed in Blackpool, just two weeks earlier, with the same policemen investigating. This chap (and it sounds like it was a man this time) was an act called Phil-Phyllis. I think we’re done on the half-man half-woman detective work for now though….