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Are Sarah Paulson's 'American Horror Story: Freak Show' characters real people?

Are Sarah Paulson's "American Horror Story: Freak Show" twins based on real people?
Sarah Paulson/Twitter

Sarah Paulson recently revealed who she's going to be playing on "American Horror Story: Freak Show," and she's definitely going to have her work cut out for her. Instead of just playing one character, she'll be tasked with bringing two women to life. The difficulty of doing this is increased exponentially because these women share one body.

On June 12, Paulson tweeted, "So excited to be playing Bette AND Dot this season. Two heads are better than one! #AHSFREAKSHOW." The tweet was accompanied by a photo that featured the actress as a two-headed woman whose image was being distorted by funhouse mirrors.

There have been many conjoined twins in freak shows throughout time, but it's hard to find many that are two-headed twins with two arms and two legs like Paulson's characters (it's presumed they'll look like this based on the star's Twitter photo), and it doesn't look like there were ever any such sisters named Bette and Dot. However, there are two young women who have this two-headed appearance who have never starred in a freak show: The Hensel sisters.

Abby and Brittany Hensel are dicephalic parapagus twins who became media sensations by starring in a TLC special titled "Abby and Brittany." It's hard not to wonder if Ryan Murphy was inspired to create Sarah Paulson's "American Horror Story: Freak Show characters" after learning about these two extraordinary young women who actually manage to live pretty ordinary lives.

The most famous female conjoined twins who starred in freak shows are probably the Hilton sisters. Daisy and Violet Hilton were huge celebrities long before Paris and Nikki became the most famous siblings bearing the Hilton surname. Unlike the Hensel sisters, they were simply joined at the hip by a mass of tissue. Their mother abandoned sold them soon after they were born, thinking that they wouldn't live very long. As they got older, their new "stepmother" started exploiting them by making them sing and play instruments in freak shows.

During the 1920s, the pretty sisters' fame grew so much that they made friends with huge celebrities like Houdini, and they got to perform with the likes of Bob Hope. Houdini advised the girls to get a lawyer after learning that their manager basically treated them like slaves by giving them none of the money that they earned. The Hilton sisters eventually won control of their finances and went on to star in the movies "Freaks" and "Chained for Life." However, their stars eventually faded, and they spent their final years working at a grocery store. If you want to learn more about the sisters, check out the documentary about them titled "Bound by Flesh."

By studying the Hensel sisters and the Hilton sisters, Ryan Murphy could introduce "AHS" fans to two characters who accurately reflect what life is like for conjoined twins. However, you just know that something horrible is going to happen to poor Bette and Dot based on Sarah Paulson's past experiences working on "AHS" (she's been blinded, raped, kidnapped, and thrown in an insane asylum). Maybe one conjoined twin will get frustrated and try to cut the other's head off, or maybe one of them will murder someone (this is part of the plot of "Chained for Life").

According to SFist, Sarah Paulson's characters might have to worry about a sinister character called "Clown Killer." Dennis O'Hare's character also doesn't sound like a very good guy – Jessica Lange will play a woman who rescues freaks while O'Hare will play someone who is "working at cross-purposes with her." There's no word on the other freaks that will be featured on the show, but it has been revealed that Michael Chiklis is playing Evan Peters' father. This makes it seem very likely that Peters will be playing a character based on the infamous killer named "Lobster Boy." Lobster Boy was a freak show performer with hands that looked like lobster claws, and his father had the same genetic condition. Kathy Bates will be playing the ex of Chiklis' character.

Other returning cast members are Frances Conroy, Emma Roberts, Angela Bassett, Gabourey Sidibe, and Jamie Brewer. Which sideshow attractions do you think that they'll star as on "American Horror Story: Freak Show?"

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