Isn’t it great to have a sibling? Well, some of you will disagree by claiming how troublesome yours is. But deep down, we all love them, don’t we? Have you ever wondered how it would be like to have a twin (unless you have one already)? Furthermore, have you imagined how it would be like if you were one of the “Siamese Twins”, that is, conjoined twins?
The original Siamese Twins
Chang and Eng were the original Siamese twins. This term was contributed by these conjoined siblings and is now widely used for all who are born such.
They were born in Siam in the year 1811, to a Chinese fisherman and a half – Chinese, half – Malay housewife. In the 19th century, such twins were rare. Out of sheer horror, the midwives refused to cater to the babies. Therefore, their mother had to save their lives. She untwisted the connecting ligament.
She named the one on the left as Jun (anglicized to Chang) and the other one as In (anglicized to Eng). She encouraged them to exercise, stretch, run and swim. As a result, they became active boys. One day, a British merchant, Robert Hunter, saw them swimming in the river. He realized their commercial value. Hunter easily convinced the low-income family to allow the twins to go to the West with him and work as showmen. Since their father had already expired, this seemed to be a good offer. Their mother received an amount, by the contract, and off they went to the US.
Life as Showmen
They were extremely bright 17 – year – olds. In theaters, they entertained for four hours a day, with somersaults and other antics. The compensation for their hard work was well enough.
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Gradually, they drew the attention of some of the finest doctors in America. The twins sensed the tickling together, concluded the doctors. But one could not feel a pinch on the other’s arm. “Will they survive if they are separated?“, was the frequently asked question.
Being a source of entertainment soon became tiring for the Siamese twins. They wanted to lead a peaceful life. They moved to North Carolina in the US and decided to become US citizens. When they got to the neutralization office, they realized they had no surname. So, they borrowed ‘Bunker’ from the man standing behind them in the queue. Now, they were Chang and Eng Bunker.
In North Carolina, they opened a store, bought 200 acres of land, built a house and started farming. The one – time slaves now owned slaves to work on their plantations. They had all the riches. But, they longed for love from the opposite sex.
After pursuing the daughters of a neighboring farmer for several years, the twins married the two sisters. Chang married the more attractive Adelaide, while Eng married Sarah. A British preacher married the couples in 1843. However, the public did not take it politely, and the twins received public fury. In spite of this controversy, Chang and Eng went on to father 21 children between them, 11 by Eng and 10 by Chang.
Before their wedding, the twins had tried to move apart, via an operation. However, the sisters persuaded them out of this, just as they were entering the operation theater.
In January 1874, Chang caught bronchitis but refused to take the necessary precautions. Two days later, Eng awoke to find his brother dead. He panicked, started sweating profusely and said he was in immense pain. Two – and – a – half hours after Chang’s death, Eng passed away too. They were 62.
The postmortem revealed that Chang died of a cerebral clot while Eng died of fright; the fright of being attached to a dead man. Also, the twins shared a liver. Their connecting ligament was so complicated that they would never have survived on being separated.