He gnarled and he roared as best he could to impress the audience already in awe of his fearsome appearance.
Meet Lionel the Lion-Faced Man, the sideshow freak tens of thousands of people paid to see during his carnival career, when he toured Europe and the U.S.
He was presented as a beast – half-man, half-lion – although he was was quite an intelligent man, no different from his contemporaries, except for his body covered in hair. Who was this Lionel and what do we know of his life?
Stephan Bibrowski, The Polish Boy Who Became A Circus Freak
Unfortunately, little is known about the life of Stephan Bibrowski who rose to fame as the Lion-Faced Man.
Stephan was born in the town of Bielsk, in Poland, in 1890 and everybody was shocked to see the baby was covered with a fine one-inch hair all over his body, except for his palms and the soles of his feet.
Imagine the impression this unusual child made at a time when no one knew the baby had a medical condition we now call hypertrichosis, also known as the werewolf disease. Legend has his mother explained the child’s appearance by the fact that, during the pregnancy, she’d witnessed her husband being mauled by a lion.
At the time, people would believe such an explanation. Everybody knew a powerful shock or something odd a pregnant woman saw would leave an impression on the unborn child. Except there were no lions in Poland at the time, at least not in the wild.
Some suggest that the story was made up by Stephan’s handlers later on to give their prized freak an aura of mystery.
It is said the mother sold the boy to a German entrepreneur who saw the boy’s potential when Stephan was only four-year-old.
This might also be part of the well-crafted legend, as some reports indicate his family never gave up on the boy and he kept in touch with them.
Making Of The Lion-Faced Man
Stephan’s new master was a guy called Sedlmayer who came up with the boy’s stage name Lionel the Lion-Faced Man and started touring Europe with his little freak.
By the time the child started his career as a sideshow freak his hair had grown to at least eight inches on his face and about four inches over the rest of his body.