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Kap Dwa: The (Real?) Story Behind the Two-Headed Giant

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What is this thing? Where did it come from? If it’s a taxidermy fake, who made it and why?

Martin Clemens recounts the history of Kap Dwa.  As one story goes, the giant was captured by Spanish sailors and taken away on a ship.  He broke free and was then skewered in the heart by a pike, ending his life.  Other versions of the story state that the body was found washed up on a beach with with a spear protruding from his chest.  The remains of the giant were then brought to Blackpool when a schooner captain by the name of Captain George Bickle caught wind of the remains and retrieved them. 
 
I have yet to find any proof that Captain George Bickle actually existed. 
 
Whatever the “origin” story, Kap Dwa was apparently making the sideshow rounds in the U.K. in the late 1800’s. 
 
Kap Dwa has both supporters and detractors: there are the taxidermy truthers and there are the people that believe this to a real body. On the “real” side, several sources report no obvious evidence of taxidermy.  This PowerPoint made by a high school teacher claims that Johns Hopkins University students did an MRI on the body of Kap Dwa (I found no other information about that claim). According to an article in  Fortean Times (Tucker – what can I link to for this?), Frank Adey remembers seeing it in Blackpool around 1960. “There were no signs of sutures or other ‘joins’, even though the body was largely unclothed. In the 1930’s, two doctors and a radiologist reportedly inspected it in Weston and found no perceptual evidence of it being a fake”.  

Picture

Full length view of Kap Dwa 

 
​Now we get into what I think is a very interesting part of the story of Kap Dwa: Rouge Taxidermy.
 
According to RoughTaxidermy.com, rouge taxidermy would be best described as “a genre of pop-surrealist art characterized by mixed media sculptures containing conventional taxidermy materials that are used in an unconventional manner.” Icons of rouge taxidermy include the Fiji Mermaid (perpetrated by sideshow connoisseur P. T. Barnum) and the Jackalope.  

​The conflicting origin stories and the status of Kap Dwa as a sideshow attraction, of course, immediately damage its credibility. P. T. Barnum is referenced in every article about Kap Dwa that I found. Some suggest that Kap Dwa may have been one of his projectsWouldn’t Johns Hopkins university students or actual doctors taken a real interest in something this unusual? Wouldn’t Kap Dwa be in a museum? 
 
The conflicting origin stories are full of suspense and action, designed to attract a crowd. Why not stop by and see a two-headed giant? 
​Reproduced at the bottom of the Kap Dwa article on Sideshowworld.com is an advertisement for this very kind of taxidermy, complete with the pitch:

“Supply House, Special attraction. King Mac-A-Dula. The Two Headed Patagonian Giant.  A whole show. A Big Classy Attraction. Made so legs come off at the waist so as to ship in a box 5x2x1 – ½ ft. An old body dress covers where legs come off. IT’S A WINNER, A MONEY GETTER” 
Any sideshow could have a “Kap Dwa” or a “King Mac-A-Dula” of their very own complete with “doctors” to come look at it for sutures or stitches or seams to create the illusion that its real.  The loin cloth probably covers where the legs detach.Kap Dwa appears to be nothing more than a case of rogue taxidermy with a backstory pieced together to attract customers. These are things created by people for revenue and for attraction. People who want to believe it will pay to see it.

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