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Martin Laurello

Martin Laurello, The Backwards Man

Martin Laurello
postcard, 5.5 x 3.5 inches, circa 1938; signed on reverse in blue ink “M. Laurello”
photographer: unknown

Martin Laurello was known for his unusual ability to turn his head nearly 360 degrees. He was described here as:
Only MAN in the WORLD who can TURN his HEAD from the FRONT to the BACK.
Like Betty Lou Williams and Frieda Pushnik, Martin Laurello — born Martin Emmerling in Nuremberg, Germany circa 1885 — was among the attractions at Robert Ripley's very first Believe-It-Or-Not Odditorium at the 1933-34 Chicago World's Fair. Though Laurello may have been a bit of one-trick-pony (but what a trick!), Ripley enthusiastically hyped Laurello's act, saying he “Turns His Head Completely Backward on His Shoulders.” If nothing else, it certainly unsettled his audience.

Despite whatever respect they may have had for his performance skills, fellow troupers were not always eager to spend time with Martin Laurello. Most notably, Percilla "the Monkey-Girl" Bejano once described Laurello as a “Nazi” and an extremely unpleasant man.

Laurello continued to work with Ripley for many years. He also appeared with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus's “Congress of Freaks” and Royal American Shows for many seasons. He began performing in Europe as a young man, but made his American debut with several other German sideshow performers at Coney Island's Dreamland in the early 1920s. He died in 1955.

signature of Martin Laurello

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All Images and Text James G. Mundie 2004 - 2011