• Into the Rabbit Hole

Ep. 9 Lazarus and Company

Updated: Jul 28, 2019

One is lonely but two can sometimes be... complicated. Lazarus and his brother Joannes Baptista Colloredo did not have a choice. That didn't stop Lazarus from being a top notch showman and all around good guy! Who were these dudes and why did they make our list of bizarre history? Listen and learn.

Lazarus Colloredo and Joannes Baptista (which translates to John the Baptist) Colloredo were twins born in Genoa, Italy in the terrifying year of 1617. During this time period, superstitions and fear were rampant, and children born with disabilities were often cast off. Little is known about the twins youth, though we can assume it came with hardships we cant even imagine.

Why you ask?

The upper body and left leg of Joannes Baptista stuck out of his tall handsome brother Lazarus. Joannes did not speak, kept his eyes closed and mouth open all the time, and was…… as you may have guessed a parasitic twin.

From the chest and abdomen of Lazarus, protruded the distorted body of his twin that had one thigh, hands, body, arms, and even a well-formed head covered with hair. Joannes Baptista (the parasitic twin) would, when prodded, move his hands, ears, and lips. Sometimes making unintelligible noises of discomfort.

Contemporary accounts described Lazarus as courteous and handsome, except for his brother who just dangled before him. When Lazarus was not exhibiting himself, he covered his brother with his cloak to avoid unnecessary attention.

Accounts by anatomists and physicians who visited the brothers confirm John Baptista’s consciousness to have been very minimal: he hardly, if ever, opened his eyes, had faint but utterly foul-smelling breath, and could not speak,

(As described in an illustrated broadside paper which will be up on our website) Due presumably to an inability to drain cerebral-spinal fluid, John Baptista’s head eventually grew twice as large as Lazarus’, and his gaping, toothy, and saliva-dribbling mouth rimmed by red lips and an unkempt blond beard must have been an astonishing sight, to say the least.

The people Lazarus would encounter would think he was a cloaked high gentleman, charming and kind. Which in most accounts, he was.

He was also a smart showman.

To make a living, Lazarus toured around Europe and visited at least Basel, Switzerland and Copenhagen, Denmark before he arrived in Scotland in 1642 and later visited the court of Charles I of England.

As traveling spectacles go, the pair were somewhat unusual in that Lazarus was both the showman and the show

On tour he carried a “self”-portrait of both himself and John Baptista, which he would hang outside his lodgings as an advertisement of their presence.

He also visited Turkey, and toured Germany and Italy in 1646.

Besides the fascination inspired by their grotesque appearance and the contrast between Lazarus’ genteel affability and intelligence and his twin’s “shapeless and speechless” existence (Pender p. 157), the brothers’ ambiguous state unleashed a flood of questions about the nature and causes of monstrosity and the boundaries of personhood, especially vis-à-vis the resurrection (had they one soul or two?).

Later accounts state that Lazarus did eventually marry and sired several children, none with his condition. He and his twin were then removed from the limelight and lived a presumably content life. His engraved portrait depicts him in a costume of a courtier of the period of the House of Stuart.

The brothers' exact date of death is unknown.

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