Thailand at Random

Tuesday 8th January 2013 by Lindsay

Every day this week we will be featuring a little known fact about Thailand from EDM's book, Thailand at Random. See if you learn something new.


The Original Siamese Twins

The conjoined twins Eng and Chan were born in 1811 in Samut Songkram province. In 1824, Robert Hunter, an English trader saw them swimming in a river. Famous American missionary, Dr Dan Beach Bradley, gave the following account of that first encounter: "It was a creature that appeared to have two heads, four arms, and four legs, all of which were moving in perfect harmony. As Mr Hunter watched, the object climbed into a nearby boat, and to his amazement he realised he had been looking at two small boys who were joined together at the chest." The twins were born with their livers fused but a later study found that they both functioned independently. Modern technology would have easily separated them.

Hunter took the two boys in 1829 to perform in P.T. Barnum's circus in the United States and Europe as the "Siamese twins". (In Siam, they had been called the "Chinese twins" due to their Chinese heritage.) In 1839, they settled in North Carolina with the intention of living normal lives; they bought slaves and successfully managed a tobacco plantation. They adopted the last name "Bunker" and became American citizens. They married the Yates sisters, Sarah and Adelaide. After sharing the same bed for a time, the two women eventually lived in separate houses and the twins split their time between the two. Eng and Sarah had 11 children. Chan and Adelaide had 10.

In 1874, Chan contracted pneumonia and died. Waking up to find his dead brother, Eng refused any attempt to save his life and died a couple of hours later. Their fused livers are kept at Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. In 2011, more than 200 of their descendants reunited in North Carolina for the 200th birthday of the twins.


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