The Fortean world is the epicenter of the world’s the strangest stories, most of them starting out as side show attractions. The notorious politician and showman P.T. Barnum contributed much to this charade, since he was renowned for his skills in taxidermy.
His famous creations were known as gaffs, (the result of rogue taxidermy), offering the world creatures straight out of legends and fiction, shaped by patching together the preserved corpses of various animals emerging into what he would name as the jackalope, dragons, chimeras, or even unicorns.
But from the hands of gaff collectors around the world came to be what we consider as probably the only real and also most intriguing attractions of all fakes, Kap Dwa, the two-headed Patagonian giant.
The following events are not clear, but his mummified remains were finally brought to England in the 19th century, where they passed from the Edwardian Horror Circuit to various freak show attractions, ending up at Weston’s Birnbeck Pier in 1914.
After being displayed the next 45 years in North Somerset, England, old Kap Dwa was acquired by Thomas Howard in 1959, and following a few more hand-offs he ultimately ended up in Baltimore. Nowadays, he can still be found among the collection of oddities at Bob’s Side Show at The Antique Man Ltd. in Baltimore, owned by Robert Gerber and his wife.
Gerber provides a somewhat different past of the giant, although the ending is still the same tragic event. The corpse of the unique Homo giganticus was found on a beach, with a spear protruding from his chest and nothing is certain about his assailant. His body was later mummified and even worshiped by some locals in Paraguay that formed some kind of religion based on his remnants.
The unbelievable rumors about Kap Dwa reached Capt. George Bickle of the English clipper Olive Branch out of Plymouth, leading to Bickle claiming the giant’s remains, but that was no easy task. According to Gerber, Kap Dwa was then taken to England, ending up in the Blackpool museum where he remained for the next several years. Only then was his body eventually embarked on the journey back to Baltimore, Maryland.
Those who have seen the encased giant up-close claim that no seams or stitching are visible and the only piece of string was that of his loin cloth, concluding that no rogue taxidermy had been performed on the unusual exhibit.
The conflicting stories may simply be the product of the natural promotion of such an oddity over so many years of sideshow display.
However unusual, Kap Dwa wasn’t the only giant to come up in anecdotes from the 17th century. Dutch captain Sebalt de Weert (1567-1603) described an incident where he and his crew witnessed members belonging to a race of giants. While passing through the Magellan Strait, de Weert saw seven unusually large rowboats menacingly approaching their ships. The boats were allegedly manned by naked giants with reddish-brown skin and long, red hair. Their stance and demeanor were aggressive, determining de Weert to steer clear of them.
This account and many others support the theory that the American continents were once home to an ancient race of red-haired giants. Legend has it that the giants came from a distant island by crossing the ocean on rafts when a cataclysm destroyed their homeland.