Felix Wehrle: The Elastic Skin Man

Felix Wehrle (1858-1933) was born in Mount Ida, Wisconsin and discovered in his youth that he possessed the unsettling ability to stretch his skin in great bunches and tug it like taffy. Even creepier — he could bend his fingers backwards — all the way. Without breaking them! He put the skills to good use on the dime musem circuit and with circus sideshows like that of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. His principal competition in the field was James Morris, the Rubber Man. It has since been surmised that Wehrle suffered from Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, a major symptom of which is weak connective tissue, resulting in skin that streches like elastic and extremely loose joints. At the time of his death in 1933 Wehrle was living in Laredo, Texas.

For more on variety history, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous,