Parents force daughter to work in freak show as "Werewolf Girl"

To everyone around her she was a freak. Yet despite her appearance, she was a perfectly normal little girl. Alice Elizabeth Doherty was known as the "Minnesota Woolly Girl" due to her incredibly bushy hair which grew all over her body, including her face.

She was born on March 14, 1887 in Minneapolis and was soon diagnosed with hypertrichosis, a rare disease also known as "Werewolf Syndrome" at the time. At birth she already had two inches of fine, blond hair covering her body. Alice was the first documented case of this condition in the United States.

No one else in Alice's family suffered from the condition — her parents and siblings all had normal hair growth. But Alice looked very different and was soon the talk of the neighborhood. For the family it was difficult. Her parents felt self-conscious about their "unique" daughter — in those days it was quite normal for people who looked different or had disabilities to become outcasts from society.

At first Alice's father Aloysius had a tough time dealing with the situation. But when he noticed how curious the neighbors were, it gave him an idea that would help the family capitalize on the situation — he would charge people admission to come and see his "werewolf girl."

Alice was only two years old when her father first put her on display. First she was only a local sensation, but soon her father saw greater potential and took her and the family on long tours through the Midwest. Alice was often used as a window display in the bigger cities where hordes of people would gather and stare at her in amazement. City to city, show to show, the tour continued and the family made a comfortable living from the ticket sales.

And Alice wasn't the only hairy outcast earning a living from her appearance. At the time, Lionel the Lion-faced Man and Jo-Jo the Dog-faced Boy were more famous and financially successful than Alice. Her competitors had professional promoters and because they were from other countries, they had a more exotic appeal with U.S. audiences than the nice little girl from Minnesota.

At the age of five, Alice's hair was five inches long and by the time she became a teenager, it was nearly eight inches. Yet despite her outward "wolf-like" appearance, on the inside Alice was still the girl next door, always pleasant and polite. Journalists described her as a bright and curious child who was very playful and a bit rambunctious. But one thing she wasn't was an entertainer. She had never wanted to be put on display in front of crowds of people and hadn't enjoyed a second of it.

By 1915 Alice's career as a freak show entertainer came to an end. The family had saved enough money to live comfortably and Alice as able to return to a normal life, even if only a relatively short one.

On June 13, 1933 Alice died peacefully in Dallas and the cause of death was never revealed. One can only hope that her last few years out of the limelight were enjoyable enough to make up for her lost childhood.


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