Back in August of 2010 I wrote a blog about some antique photos of the so-called “Bearded Lady of Elk County.” I found a number of pictures of her and various information, I've since discovered a book titled “Madame Viola, the Bearded Lady of Elk County: Age 24, Born in Elk County, Pennsylvania, June 6, 1854.” Of course there are no known copies of the book available but this web site says that the book was written and stereotyped by “Damon & Peets.”
This is the third name I have found for her. She has also been identified as Mrs. A. Myers or Meyers and one site claims she was also known as Annie Jones when she appeared with Barnum & Bailey Circus. But, she remains as mysterious as ever. Because I have been so fascinated by her I decided to use these photos as inspiration for a new story in my Marienstadt collection I finished it today and am pretty please with it. I call it “Of Beautiful Strangers, Woodchucks, and Bearded Ladies” and it is really three inter-woven stories: a beautiful journalist comes from New York and gives heart-throb Henry Werner a run for his money, a former resident of Marienstadt is trying to raise funds to buy back a 17-foot fiberglass woodchuck that was once popular in town, and the two women who own Bearded Lad Hometown treats find out that their logo is more than just a random image from long ago.
It's such fun to work on these stories. Because they are created within a familiar setting I can rely on past experiences to get me through rough spots but, because they are fiction, I can let my imagination go crazy.
While working on this one I did some research on the lives of some of the sideshow performers from Barnum & Bailey and it is rather unsettling now to think of people who were victims of bad genetics as only being able to find respectability by being exhibited and gawked at as “freaks.” I suppose I will always wonder about Mrs. A. Meyers but, in my story, the background I concocted for her, is a hopeful one. It would be nice to think it had some basis in fact.
I have one more Marienstadt story to go based on an old mill that stood behind the grade school I attended when I was little. It has been torn down since but it was once a grist mill and then later, during Prohibition, it became quite famous for the rum-running business it housed. My imagination is churning away.
So it is a beautiful day and I have errands to run. But while I am about them I will be thinking about stories and, hopefully, be full of ideas by the time I return home.
Thanks for reading.