Schlitzie the Pinhead was made famous by the 1932 horror movie “Freaks.” He enjoyed his life as a circus freak and managed to leave a legacy that endures to this day. But who was Schlitzie?
Life did not give him much, but he made the most of a bad situation. He worked the sideshow circuit for his entire life, yet never made any money and he was put to rest in an unmarked grave.
Some people are fighting to correct that, because almost 50 years after his death Schlitzie still has an army of fans.
Mysterious Origins Of Schlitzie The Pinhead
There is little information about the early life of Schlitzie. He may or may have not been born in the Bronx, possibly in 1901.
Some say his real name was Simon Metz, but it is possible he got this name while appearing in the sideshow of the Tom Mix Circus, a show operated by one Ted Metz.
On his death certificate, his name is listed as Schlitzie Surtees, the surname of his official guardian George Surtees, a fellow performer who took care of him in his later years.
What we do know is that he was born with a condition called microcephaly, which left him with a misshapen head and the intellect of a three-years-old.
He was passed from one foster family to another until he found his real family, the circus. Schlitizie performed with all the major circuses of the era Dobritsch International Circus, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Tom Mix Circus, and the Clyde Beatty Circus.
His head was usually shaved with only a tuft of hair at the top, to emphasize the oddity of the skull shape.
He was presented sometimes as “The Last of the Aztec Children” or even “The Monkey Girl.” There was a practical reason for presenting Schlitzie as a female because dresses made it easier for his handlers to change his diapers.
Aside from his small head, Schlitzie was incontinent and had the mental abilities of a toddler. He was only able to form short sentences but seemed to understand easily what he was told.
He could perform simple tasks, loved to dance, and was very talented at mimicking other people, which made him an excellent performer.