As you’re probably aware, many characters from each season of American Horror Story are based on actual people, including this season’s Edward Mordrake. And he’s not the only member of the Freak Show with real-life inspirations, as most of the so-called freaks are at least partially grounded in reality.
Now available for instant streaming on Netflix is a 2012 documentary called Bound by Flesh, which tells the tragic tale of siamese twins Daisy and Violet Hilton. Joined at the side, the sisters are the real-life inspiration for Freak Show‘s Bette and Dot Tattler, and their true story is surprisingly quite similar to the fictionalized characters on the show.
Though their affliction wasn’t quite as visually peculiar as the Tattler twins, Daisy and Violet Hilton were nevertheless ostracized by society and even their own mother, adopted at a young age by a woman who wasn’t all that different than American Horror Story‘s Elsa Mars.
Born in 1908, it wasn’t long before the Hilton sisters were exploited for monetary gain, as their handler Mary Hilton was more interested in profiting off of their deformity than caring for them. They became big time stars on the sideshow circuit, since at the time nobody had ever seen anything quite like them, and it’s said that Hilton pocketed all of the money they pulled in.
Much like Bette and Dot, Daisy and Violet had their own personalities and even their own relationships, and later in their career Daisy dyed her hair blonde, to differentiate herself and spice up their act. Their act included singing and tap dancing, and they were needless to say the headliners everywhere they went.
After emancipating themselves from the ownership of Hilton, the siamese sisters landed a role in Tod Browning’s Freaks, which was a huge inspiration on Freak Show. In fact, the characters they played in the movie were much the same as the Tattler sisters, right down to conflicting personality traits.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t long after Freaks that the Hilton sisters fell off the radar, their act worn thin and the sideshow scene all but replaced by movies and television. Towards the end of their lives they worked in a supermarket to make ends meet, and their story came to a tragic end in 1969.
It was the Hong Kong Flu that spelled the end of the sisters, contracted by Daisy. According to forensic reports, Daisy died a few days prior to Violet, leaving Violet to sit around and wait for the disease to claim her life. Right up until the end, the sisters stayed by each other’s side, never giving much thought to the idea of being separated.
If you’re interested in learning more about the real-life Tattler twins, I highly recommend you check out Bound By Flesh, which is again on Netflix. Theirs is a fascinating story, and it’s a film that’s a must for all fans of American Horror Story.