Who was Myrtle Corbin? (The Real Story)

In this brief guide, we will look at who Myrtle Corbin was, and other details of her life. Was Myrtle Corbin actually someone with 4 legs? If so, what was the disease Myrtle Corbin had that caused her to look that way? We will answer these questions and more.

Who was Myrtle Corbin?

Myrtle Corbin, whose full name was Josephine Myrtle Corbin, was born in Lincoln, Tennessee, and she is famous because she was a circus performer who became a source of curiosity due to the fact that she had 4 legs.

Myrtle Corbin had a condition called Dipygus, which led to her having part of a twin sister who never formed fully, and therefore she had the bottom half of another person as well, in addition to herself.

Myrtle Corbin became quite famous in the late nineteenth century as the Four-Legged Womanand the reason she was so popular among people who were coming out to see the circus or the combination of people who had oddities in their body was that even looking at her without scrutiny one could plainly see four legs dangling beyond the hem of her dress.

When someone has a condition of conjoined twinness in the Dipygus form, one part of the body may be thought of as belonging to another person, and in Myrtle Corbin’s case, only one pair of legs belonged to her, while the other set of legs and reproductive system belonged to her dipygus twin sister.

Myrtle Corbin’s childhood was spent mostly in Blount County, AL and her parents were William H. and Nancy Corbins, who also had four sons and three other daughters and there was also a daughter from Nancy’s first marriage. 

According to Myrtle Corbin’s mother, there was nothing amiss in the labor or delivery either, despite the fact that she had a second set of limbs and organs below her waist, probably due to the fact that she was born in a breech position.

A breech position is when the baby comes out leg first, rather than head first, which is how it is supposed to be, and her mother said at one point that Myrtle’s birth did not consist of anything “peculiar about the labour or delivery”.

It was therefore a stroke of luck that Myrtle Corbin was not a breech baby, as this would have been a problem. This fact was attested to by doctors as well when they examined the child after her birth noted that a breech presentation “would have proved fatal to the infant, and possibly to the mother.” 

Myrtle Corbin was also not unhealthy or in any way lesser than might be expected from a child her age, in fact, she was a very strong child who weighed 10 lb (4.5 kg) three weeks after the birth, and it was also reported in a journal published later that year that she “nurses healthily” and was “thriving well”.

Myrtle Corbin was introduced to the circus/exhibition life when she was still fairly young, and there is an archived advertisement from her first exhibition that can be found online.

The advertisement writes her name as Myrtle Corban, with an a in the last name, rather than the way it is written now. It also mentions the date and time of the exhibition and it calls Myrtle Corbin the “Greatest Living Wonder of the Age”. The primary message in the advertisement read as the following, and it is followed by a Medical Certificate attesting to her medical condition

“A well formed and fully developed female child, one year old, born in Lincoln County, Tennessee. She is the most remarkable Freak of Nature among Scientific Men, than any curiosity ever known before, will be exhibited in this city as above.

She has found well developed legs and feel, and is, in fact, from the waist down, two distinct beings; while above the waist she has a natural symmetrical form, with one head and body; so perfectly and naturally formed that no other sensation is felt than that of satisfaction and wonder at so great a manifestation of the power of the great I Am, to do as he willeth.

She is remarkably healthy, vigorous and intelligent, and scientific men have pronounced her the most wonderful curiosity that nature ever produced.

The parents are traveling with the child, who are worthy and respectable citizens of Alabama, and their only object in the exhibition is to gain means to give the child a thorough education, and if possible a competency for life.”

The medical certificate gives the following information about Myrtle Corbin and her condition. The medical certificate is dated June 26th, 1868, presumably a month after Myrtle Corbin was born, and it is written by Joseph Jones, M. D., who was a Professor of Physiology and Pathology at the University of Nashville and Paul F. Eve, M. D., a Professor of Surgery at the University of Nashville.

“The reality in this case surpasses expectation, and we are of the opinion that this interesting living monstrosity exceeds in its curious manifestation  of the powers of nature in abnormal productions, the celebrated “Siamese Twins”.”

What did Myrtle Corbin Have?

Myrtle Corbin had a condition called Dipygus, which means that she had the lower body of her twin that did not develop fully, and therefore Myrtle had four sets of legs and other lower body organs.

Myrtle Corbin’s condition, Dipygus, is a very rare deformity, in fact, it is the rarest conjoined twinness that there is, and is not found in human beings too often.

Dipygus predominantly causes extra sets of lower limbs, and while there may be other body parts that happen in the same person, usually this is the extent of the condition.

It is also notable that in Dipygus, the extra lower limbs are developed slightly smaller than the limbs of the person, and this was seen in Myrtle Corbin as well. Additionally, the person’s own limbs may keep growing but their extra set may not grow as much due to not being a proper part of their body’s other systems, like the nervous system.

Myrtle Corbin also had a clubbed foot on one of her own legs, which means that she was only able to walk with one leg despite the fact that she had four. However, this does not mean that she had in issue with all the extra organs she had because she still had children from both parts of her body.

Here is an extension of the report from the doctors who wrote Myrtle Corbin’s medical certificate mentioned in the advertisement above, and they comment the following on the condition that this girl had:

“Josephine Myrtle is the third offspring of W.H. and Nancy Corban, aged twenty-five and thirty-four, the wife being the senior by nine years. They are so much alike in appearance, having red hair, blue eyes and very fair complexion, as to produce the impression of their  being blood kin, which, however, is not the case.”

“Mr. Corban is a Georgian, served in the Confederate army through the war, and was severely wounded in the right arm and left  hand.  The parents are in fair health, though the mother is anemic.  She recollects no fright or disturbance during her last  pregnancy.  The presentation was fortunately the head, which accounts for the preservation of the life of the child.  It would be curious to speculate on the trouble which might have been produced had the feet or breach presented, while the result, in all probability, would  have proved fatal to the infant, and possibly to the mother.”

“When three weeks old the child weighed ten pounds.  It now nurses healthily, is thriving well, and we saw it urinate simultaneously,  between the two paris of labia of the two vaginæ, situated about six inches apart. From the crown of the head to the umbilicus the child measures twelve inches, and from this point to the toes of the right and left external feet eleven inches.” 

“From the umbilicus up all is natural and well formed; all below this extraordinary and unnatural.  An inch below the navel is a mark of an apparent failure for a second one.  There are four distinct, pretty well developed, lower extremities. They exist in pairs on both sides of  the medium line, which resembles the cleft of an ordinary pair of legs; but here there are no marks whatever of rectum or genital organs, and upon pressure we discover no os coccygis or sacrum.”

“The outer legs of boths sides are the most natural of the  four (though the foot of the right one is clubbed), but are widely separated by the two supernumerary ones, which are less developed,  except at their junction with the body, from which they taper to the feet and toes more diminutive, and which are turned inwards.  One  toe is bifid on the left extra inward extremity.  At birth these extra legs were folded flat upon the abdomen.  We are led to believe that  there are two uteri as well as two recti, in fact, that the pelvic organs are double.  Of course a minute dissection would alone expose the true condition of these parts.”

“Should this infant reach maturity, and the internal generative organs be double, there is nothing to prevent conception on both sides.  The first difficulty will, however, be in her walking. The outer, or external, legs may be used for progression; the inner, or inturned, ones probably never. These might be successfully amputated at the knee, or higher up.”

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What did Myrtle Corbin do?

Myrtle Corbin was put on exhibition from the time she was 1 year old, and she did that for most of her life, stopping only after she got married because her husband thought it would be better if she did so.

However, when things got financially difficult for Myrtle Corbin’s family later, she did decide to go back to the circus and start exhibiting again, so that they could make money and support themselves.

Myrtle Corbin’s father W. Corbin had started showing her to the neighbours and other people around from the time she was 1 month old, and eventually he started placing newspaper ads that would allow for some national publicity, and this happened when the ads attracted World Famous P. T. Barnum.

After this, from the age of 14 Myrtle Corbin was signed up for Barnum & London Tours and she was a popular attraction with P. T. Barnum. At a later point she started working with Ringling Bros. and Coney Island.  

Myrtle Corbin Family life

Myrtle Corbin was born in a family of 10 other children, and she was raised by both her parents. Later, she married a doctor when she was 19, and his name was James Clinton Bicknell.

James and Myrtle Corbin had four daughters and a son, out of which 3 children were born out of one body and the other two out of another.


In this brief guide, we looked at who Myrtle Corbin was, and other details of her life.

There was renewed interest in Myrtle Corbin happened around the time the movie “The Greatest Showman” came around, as she was a part of PT Barnum’s circus troupe. 

If you have any more questions or comments about Myrtle Corbin, please feel free to reach out to us at any time.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Myrtle Corbin

How did Myrtle Corbin give birth?

Myrtle Corbin gave birth through her two different bodies, and 3 of her children were born from one body and one vagina, and the other 2 children were born from the other vagina.
Myrtle Corbin suffered from a physical deformity but this still included a healthy reproductive system and this included two vaginas, which was due to the dipygus twin.

How old was Myrtle Corbin when she died?

Myrtle Corbin was 59 years old when she died. Myrtle Crobin was born in 1868, and she died in 1928.

What is a Dipygus?

A Dipygus is a type of deformity which is considered to be a severe and extreme form of caudal duplication. In the Dipygus deformity, the person has a body where the body axis completely duplicates at the caudal end. 

Dipygus is a condition that comes about possibly as a result of genetic, environmental or teratogenic factors, and it is thought that intrauterine life possibly affects the embryonic cloaca and notochord derivatives.

Was there a woman with 4 legs?

Yes, there was a woman with 4 legs, and this was the case because she suffered from a genetic condition that caused her to develop into a twin sister that was never born.

The name of the woman with 4 legs was Josephine Myrtle Corbin, and she was born on the12th of May, 1886, in Lincoln County, Tennessee as a dipygus.




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