Photo: Remains of "Ape Woman" to Finally be Returned and Buried in Mexico
Known as the “Ape Woman”, the body of Julia Pastrana is being returned to Mexico after decades in Europe.
Pastrana worked as a carnival sideshow attraction known as the “Ape Woman”. Born in 1834 in Mexico, Pastrana was born with hypertrichosis terminalis, a deformity that caused the development of an oversized jaw, excess facial hair growth, her ears and nose were unusually large, and her teeth were irregular.
Charles Darwin once described her:
Julia Pastrana … was a remarkably fine woman, but she had a thick masculine beard and a hairy forehead; she was photographed, and her stuffed skin was exhibited as a show; but what concerns us is, that she had in both the upper and lower jaw an irregular double set of teeth, one row being placed within the other, of which Dr. Purland took a cast. From the redundancy of the teeth her mouth projected, and her face had a gorilla-like appearance
Pastrana was reportedly bought by Theodore Lent (aka Lewis B Lent). The two actually ended up getting married and she was taught to dance and play music. She even learned to read and write in three languages.
She and Lent conceived a child, but while on tour in Moscow in 1860, five days after giving birth to a baby with features similar to hers, Pastrana died. The child died three days after birth. Pastrana’s body, as well as the child’s, were mummified and displayed in a glass cabinet until the end of the carnival’s tour. Lent would later find a woman with features similar to Pastrana’s. He married the new woman and named her Zenora Pastrana. He became a wealthy man using Zenora as an attraction. He was eventually committed to a Russian mental institution in 1884, where he died.
In 1921, a Norwegian carnival owner bought the original Pastrana’s remains, but they were removed from view in the 1970s. In 1976, the child’s remains were mutilated and eaten by mice after vandals broke into the warehouse where the remains were kept. Pastrana’s mummy was then stolen in 1979, but recovered and held in Oslo’s Forensic Institute but not identified. Finally, in 1990, she was identified as the famous “Ape Woman”.
In 1994, the Norway Senate recommended burying her remains, but the Minister of Sciences decided to keep them so scientists could perform research.
On the 2nd of August 2012 it was reported that she would finally be buried in Mexico. A date was not given.