Johann Petursson, the Viking Giant

??????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????

Today is the birthday of Johann Petursson (1913-1984). Born in Dalvik, Iceland , he was completely normal until age 15, when his astounding growth spurt began. He eventually reached a height of 7’ 8 although he claimed to be a foot taller.

In 1934, he moved to Denmark and began exhibiting himself. He performed in music halls throughout Europe, usually accompanied by two dwarves for humorous contrast. When World War II arrived he found himself trapped in Copenhagen, and waiting out the duration of the war working in a shipyard.

In 1948, Petursson moved to America, where he initially worked for the Ringling Brothers side show. His original costume consisted of a top hat and tails, but he eventually settled on the Viking costume, billing himself variously as the Viking Giant, the Icelandic Giant, and Johann (or sometimes Olaf) the Giant. After several years of travelling with sideshows, he branched off on his own as a Single-O, saving up a pile of money as a result. In 1950, he was cast in the film Prehistoric Women.

Petursson retired to the famous sideshow colony at Gibsonton, Florida in the 1960s, although he emerged on occasion, as when he did an event at the Smithsonian in 1973, and appeared in the 1980 film Carny with Gary Busey and Jodie Foster.

As with many giants, musculoskeletal problems plagued him his whole life. He died following a fall in 1984.

Check out this cool film about him  (he appears after some brief preliminaries):

To find out more about the variety arts past and presentconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famousavailable at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold. 

safe_image

And don’t miss my new book Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Media, also available from amazon.com etc etc etc

chain%20of%20fools%20cvr%20front%20only-500x500

About these ads

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,470 other followers

%d bloggers like this: