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The Strong Twins: one born white, the other black. A travelling sideshow attraction.

Has anyone else seen the National Geographic Special ‘In The Womb: Twins’? The imagery is nothing short of bizarre- over the course of 3 pregnancies (twins, triplets, and quadruplets) you watch as wee cell clumps evolve into itty bitty humans kicking and hitting each other in utero. It’s boggling that they managed to capture crisp footage of pre-humans just floating around in their amniotic sacs, opening their eyes, twitching as their nerves develop.

There are plenty of pro-lifers out there who will most likely use these images to further the belief that life begins before birth, all the way towards conception, and it’s hard to argue against it once the fetii stop looking like primordial globs and take on human aspects. I, on the other hand, do not base my beliefs on that argument. I don’t give two figs when life is established. My personal opinion of pregnancy as a parasitic invasion was fully and completely confirmed watching this show. They’re alive, alright, and they’re wee leeches that grab on to the uterus and drain precious resources. When they show the mothers all prepped for delivery, each one looks terrified in a completely different way. It’s no wonder so many horror movies have successfully integrated the fears accompanying pregnancy and birth (that scene from Cronenberg’s ‘The Fly’ comes to mind).

Throughout the special they had interesting facts about and examples of twins, fraternal and identical, mirror and gender differentiated. There was a brief section on Vanishing Twin Syndrome, a phenomenon once thought rare until the advent of superior technology. With the ability to clearly see in utero earlier and earlier, it’s come to light that many pregnancies, possibly 1 out of 8, are multiple. But only 1 out of 70 are born as twins. Somewhere along the line, one of the fetuses vanishes, leaving little to no trace. Occasionally early scans will show an empty amniotic sac that eventually disappears, or more rarely a fetus papyraceous, the flattened, paperlike remains, will be found after birth. For the most part however, it’s next to impossible to know if you started life as a twin.

While looking for genuine scientific signs pointing to the possibility, I came across this site for ‘wombtwin survivors’. I just can’t sympathize with people still suffering, years after popping out into the world, of something that may or may not have occurred prenatally. Shouldn’t they be glad they made it, instead of finding new ‘traumas’ to victimize themselves with?

Their questionnaire to find out if you were a ‘wombtwin’ ranges from strange to hilarious. A good number of the questions seem to test for depression or mania:“I have wanted to commit suicide more than once in my life”), this one sounds like you need to come out of the closet: “All my life I have been pretending to be someone else, and I know it is not my authentic self.” Let’s say you were a surviving twin; how does that have anything to do with twin-ness?! Some questions are completely random: “There is at least one room in my home that is completely full of stuff”, and far too many for this questionnaire to be taken seriously go on ‘vibes’:“I think I am psychic.”, “All my life I had the feeling that I may have once been a twin.”
I’d like to point out for the record that Elvis had a stillborn twin brother, and except for the dying on the toilet part did pretty well for himself.
One of the few scientifically possible signs you might be a remaining twin is if you’re left-handed. The chance grows greater if you’re a left-handed female. This is based purely on statistics: males have a higher instance of left-handedness than females, and twins, both male and female, have a higher instance of left-handedness than the general population. Ergo, the chance of you being a run-of-the-mill left-handed lady compared to the remaining half of a twin-pair becomes smaller.

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If you answered in the affirmative, then check out the Anatomia Collection from the Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library, at the University of Toronto. They’ve oodles of lovely full-sized images of disections, trepanning, skeletons imparting lessons on morality, and grave-robbing putti. I found it through NeatORama, yet another website filled with delightful oddities. I love it when others do the work for me. Similarly, the good folks at the Athanasius Kircher Society posted an article on Honoré Fragonard, a body plastinator years ahead of Gunther Von Hagens, the fellow behind Bodyworks.

The parties at Johann Vesling’s place used to get seriously out of hand.

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