In 1883 London was thrilled to appear at the Royal Aquarium Circus, Westminster, girls 7-8 years old, whose the body was covered with thick hair … It was claimed that she was found in the forests of Laos.
Press reports suggested that it has some of the characteristics of apes and is nothing more than a "missing link" in Darwin's theory of the descent of man from apes.
Other scientists argued that this is just one of the cases of atavistic hairiness known to science, in all other respects the child is quite normal.
Conflicting information was also reported about the child's parents, including in scientific journals. In a letter to the editor of the scientific journal Nature, it was stated (Resident 1883) that the girl's parents were ordinary Siamese and lived in Bangkok. Other publications said that the girl was caught in the forests of Burma (and her father was as hairy as she).
In the Rowal Aquarium, the entrepreneur known under the pseudonym Guillermo A. Farini often exhibited outlandish exhibits. He introduced the public to the living gorilla, the tallest people from Africa, and wanted to consolidate his success with demonstrations of hairy people who, according to him, lived in the impenetrable jungles of the Indochina Peninsula.
Farini assumed that the demonstration of real hairy savages would be more attractive to the audience than people with atavistic hairiness, such as the then famous Julia Pastrano.
To this end, he agreed with the famous traveler in Indochina, the German officer Carl Bock, that he would try to deliver such a creature to him. Karl Bock's ethnicity is not entirely clear. Born in Copenhagen in 1849, he was most commonly referred to as a Norwegian, as well as a Swedish and German officer.
Bock agreed and soon became convinced on the spot that such people really exist. At the court of the King of Burma there was a family of hairy people who were kept for amusement. Bock hoped that it would be very easy to carry out the assignment. He offered to buy one of them and raised the price to one hundred thousand dollars (a huge amount at the time), but was refused.
A photograph of Krao's alleged father, allegedly taken by a camera obscura, appears in a pamphlet by Farini and Boca for the show with Krao at the Westminster Aquarium. It is also possible that this is an engraving from a photograph made for printing.
Therefore, when Bock had the opportunity to join the expedition of the anthropologist Georg G. Shelly to Laos, then a vassal of Burma, he took an ardent part in it.
Shelley and Bock met in Singapore in early 1882. Their first expedition was directed to the Rumbo region of the Malay Peninsula, from where information came about the race of hairy people. These people were called Jacoons. Shelley and Bock couldn't find them. They returned to Bangkok, the capital of Siam.
The organization of the new expedition met with difficulties. But after Bock cured the country's prime minister from a painful illness, he received support, an escort, twelve elephants and a letter to the king of Laos. After a four-month journey, the expedition reached Kyang-Kyang, the capital of Laos.
Upon arrival in Laos, travelers learned that a number of wild hairy people actually live in the local forests. Professor J. Shelley reported on the following events in the expedition in an interview with the Philadelphia Times.
The tribes of the Dayaks, bounty hunters and cannibals were fairly well aware of them. The Dayaks talked about these creatures that way. They are called krao-moniek, which means ape-man. They are considered a different kind of people. The area where they live is poorly explored.
They live in such wetlands, saturated with malaria insects, that there, in addition to these creatures spending their lives in trees, there can only be elephants and snakes. Other people, getting there, get sick from malaria. Monieks twist the branches of two nearby trees and arrange their nests (huts) on them.
Shelley pointed out that when climbing trees, they act with their toes, like monkeys, leaning on them. They do not cover the tree with their feet, as we do. They do not use fire, eat fish, wild rice and coconuts. Their only weapon is a thickened stick at the end.
After the delivery of the letter, the king gave the travelers a good welcome, replaced the tired elephants with fresh ones and assigned a guard of ten local warriors armed with pikes and bows with poisoned arrows. After a few weeks of a new journey, they reached the swamps where the "hairy people" live.
But it was not easy to catch any of them. Professor Shelley said they were hard to even see. The creatures were extremely alert to danger, very cowardly, and had a keen sense of smell. The native warriors discovered many of their nests before they saw the first.
Finally, a group of hunters led by Shelley came across one family for food and managed to surround it. They were a man, a woman and a child, as it turned out, a girl of about eight years old. The parents offered little resistance while the child scratched and bit. They were all completely naked, the body was covered only by hair.
The captives were taken to Kyang Kyang and shown to the King of Laos. When it was time to return, the king suddenly refused to release the captured woman from his country, out of superstition that this would bring him bad luck. She remained at court under close supervision. It seemed that she did not care much about the fate of the child, and she did not resist when he was taken away.
The king allowed the expedition to take the man and the child with them. The long way back began. At one of the sites, the expedition was struck by cholera. The "wild man" and three warriors from their escort died.
Karl Bock himself was on the verge of death. Before the death of the hairy man, Bock took a photograph of him. He recorded that he was completely covered in thick hair, like an anthropoid. Anthropologist Kean (1983) gave a more subtle characterization of it on the basis of fresh data in the journal Nature:
“He was completely covered with a dense layer of hair, similar to that of anthropoid monkeys. Not only were there thick and bushy beards and sideburns on his face … and his level of intelligence was such that before his death he was able to learn to pronounce a few words in Malay."
On October 4, 1882, the expedition with the captured girl returned to Europe. The girl was then about seven to eight years old.
Characteristic features of Krao
She received the name Krao among people after the capture of the family, when her parents warned her about the danger with this cry. Professor Shelley was interviewed by the Philadelphia Times, in which he emphasized the following specific features of Krao:
"Her entire body is covered with hair except for the palms and soles. On her forearm, the hair grows upward. The hair on the forehead is very different from the hair on the rest of her head. It is thick, measuring three-eighths of an inch (9 mm) in length. On the back, the hair is directed towards in the middle and over time, as she gets older, they will form a kind of mane, such as that of her father and mother. Her hands and feet, although human in shape, had the same grasping ability that monkeys have. She has thirteen pairs of ribs and thirteen thoracic vertebrae, like a chimpanzee, while we only have twelve. In addition, she has cheek pouches in her mouth, in which she holds nuts and other food, like monkeys."
The publication of the newspaper describes how the journalists reacted to this message of the professor. One of them said:
- I am ready to swallow everything in this story, except for the cheek pouches in the mouth!
Then Shelley went into the next room and soon returned with Krao. Everyone could examine the bags in their mouths with a nut in each one. At the end of the interview, the child signed and presented everyone with his photograph and quite meaningfully talked with those present.
In the same interview, Shelley said that Krao was examined by such luminaries of science of the time as Professor Rudolf Virchow from the University of Berlin, Professors Kirchhoff and Welcher from the University of Gali, Darwinist Ernst Haeckel and many other scientists who published publications in various medical and general scientific journals. They noted many of the above-mentioned features of Krao. They called her the "Missing Link" between ape and man, but also "ape man."
Most of them, without considering the features of Krao's morphology in the complex, and also driven by anti-Darwinian sentiments, reduced the phenomenon to a rare, but still familiar diagnosis of hypertrichosis of an ordinary person.
Anthropologist A. H. Keane, who prepared publications in the leading scientific journal Nature (Keane 1883), advocated a thorough study of Krao from the standpoint of the origin of mankind, as well as the possibility of detecting an unknown human race. Let us supplement the description of J. Shelley with the observations given by A. Keane:
“Her nose was extremely low and wide, with very wide nostrils. It merged with full cheeks, which contained cheek pouches, and where she had a habit of hiding food in a monkey fashion. the hands were so flexible that they bent almost to the wrist, the thumb also bent all the way back, and on the other four the upper phalanges could be bent individually.
The prognathism was very faint, and the beautiful round black eyes were very large and perfectly horizontal. Consequently, the overall impression was far from unpleasant and did not in the least resemble the ape-like appearance that is present in many Negritos, and especially in the Javanese "Ardi". But here it should be mentioned that, according to the stories, as a child, her lips protruded so far forward that it gave her an appearance that is completely similar to that of a chimpanzee."
It was noticed that she pulled her lips forward when she believed that she was being bullied.
Keane paid particular attention to the nature of the hairline. Her head was decorated with thick, very black and somewhat coarse hair, similar to the hair of the Mongoloid peoples. They reached bushy eyebrows. The rest of the body was covered with soft black hair. Under them was dark, olive-colored skin. Keane believed that Krao could represent a separate race of people, preserved among the population of a completely different race.
Krao among people
Farini, who acquired the child, was very kind to him. Krao became attached to him, called him "Dad", and Professor Shelley "Uncle".
Farini had a little monkey with whom Krao played on equal terms. “Daddy” did not allow her to keep ordinary food, meat or fish behind her cheeks, but allowed her to keep nuts or sweets there.
Some scientists came and played with her, evaluating her natural capabilities. They noted that, although these games were like the fuss of puppies, they were not left with the understanding that in front of them is a truly human being. They were trying to figure out if this creation was an accidental deviation, a game of human nature, similar to what they knew before - hairy Julia Pastrana and others.
Or is this child a member of an unknown hairy race of ape-like ancestors of people who still live in Siam, but are rarely seen by travelers?
Many naturalists attached exceptional scientific importance to Krao. If not the "missing link", then evidence of the existence of hairy people with large round eyes among the Mongoloid hairless (on the body) peoples, unlike them, was obtained. Karl Bock also pointed out that in the same area where Krao and his parents were found, other similar hairy people were caught, who appeared at the Royal Court of Burma.
Krao possessed the abilities of an ordinary human child. After just 10 weeks in London, she learned a few English words, which she used with understanding. She had difficulty in pronouncing the R and L sounds, which is common for children. But she quickly progressed in communication.
Professor Shelley also saw Krao ten years after her arrival in England. He noted the changes that have happened to the girl over the years. She showed good intellectual abilities, learned English and German, could read and write, and expressed a truly feminine love for beautiful clothes.
She was characterized by modesty, sensitivity and playfulness, she was obedient. Shelley found in her appearance that the shape of her head mirrors that of an orangutan. Its freestanding teeth were like those of a chimpanzee.
Krao in America
After the shows in London, Krao's further life was marked by exceptional events for her. She was taken on tour to continental Europe and America. She traveled to New York and Philadelphia, circus arenas in other cities, showing the public what she wanted from her.
Krao signed postcards, lifted a handkerchief off the floor with her foot, showed her teeth, which were different from human ones, hid nuts by her cheek and talked about her life in the jungle.
She said that the inhabitants of her tribe had speech, their language had about 500 words. At the same time, she behaved very dignified.
Soon, Krao, who took the surname Farini, settled in America so much that she was able to permanently settle in Brooklyn and earn her own money, performing in numerous New York museums. She was the star of one of the American circuses for the rest of her life.
Krao became friends with a German couple of Zeilers and conducted conversations with them in German. She developed a hobby - a violin, on which she played folk melodies without notes. Krao also loved reading. She took to the streets of New York in a thick long veil. She was offered to marry, but she refused.
Krao died of a cold in 1926 at the age of about 50 and was buried in the Saint Michel cemetery in Astoria.