'Ape woman' returned from Oslo to Mexico

Share this article

10:14 CET+01:00
The remains of the 153-year-old so-called “ape woman” have been returned by Oslo University to her homeland of Mexico

Born in 1860, Julia Pastrana, who measured just 1.34 metres (four feet, five inches), had a gift for dancing and singing and was brought to Europe by an American businessman who paraded her at circuses and fairs as the “ape woman”.   

Her unusual appearance meant that she was in demand at markets and circuses and she was exhibited as a hybrid between an ape and a human and was also at times known as "Bear Woman".

Charles Darwin once described her as: "Julia Pastrana, a Spanish dancer, was a remarkably fine woman, but she had a thick masculine beard and a hairy forehead ... and her face had a gorilla-like appearance."

She died at the age of just 26 on a tour in Moscow three days after giving birth to a child of similar appearance. She died of a rare disease – congenital generalized hypertrichosis terminalis, or CGHT – that covered her face and body with thick hair and gave her fat lips and gums.

She had previously married circus director Theodore Lent and after her death Lent contacted Moscow University to have his wife mummified, displaying her in a glass cabinet for the remainder of the tour.

Her mummified body was acquired in 1921 by a Norwegian show promoter Earl Jaeger Lund who displayed her remains at the Lund amusement park until the 1950s.After a public outcry following the announcement of a proposed tour of the USA, the exhibit was finally removed from display.

The remains were eventually stolen from a warehouse in Groruddalen in August 1979, before they later ended up at the University of Oslo. The remains have rested in a sealed coffin at the Department of Anatomy in Oslo since 1997.

Story continues below…

Authorities inher home state of Sinaloa, in northwestern Mexico, have since demanded that her remains be returned and inJune 2012 the National Commission for research on human remains recommended that the woman should be returned to Mexico for burial.

A Mexican foreign ministry official said the body was already in Mexico andwould be sent to Sinaloa for a proper burial.

Share this article

From our sponsors

Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections

Election Day in the U.S. is less than a month away, and time is running out for Americans living overseas to vote absentee. Here's what to do before it’s too late.


Popular articles