minnie-woolsey

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Koo Koo The Bird Girl 

Her early life is obscure, but we know that she was placed in a mental asylum until she was taken from the institution to the stage by an enterprising showman. Minnie was known by many different names on stage, including Minnie Ha Ha, Koo Koo the Bird Girl, and Koo Koo the Blind Girl from Mars! Her stage act involved dressing in feathered or fake ‘Native American’ costumes and speaking her own stream of non-standard words.

Minnie Woolsey had Virchow-Seckel syndrome, which affected her skeletal growth, resulting in her unconventionally shaped small head. It also left her almost totally blind and mentally impaired. Minnie Woolsey was born in 1880, Rabun County.

One of the best examples of the exploitation of the (mentally and physically) handicapped of the early 1900’s is the case of Minnie Woolsey, a Georgian woman with a severe form of dwarfism, which, paired with her lack of teeth, bird-like face, odd shaped head and lack of hair gave her the appearance of a bird. She was reportedly taken from an insane asylum, and despite her avian features, began her career as “Minnie Ha-Ha,” and dressed as a mock-American Indian, speaking jibberish to the audience for their entertainment.

The name she’s known as, however, was already attributed to a well-known performer: Betty Green. She was given a role in the 1932 film Freaks, the managers of which dressed her in a costume akin to Big Bird’s. Her speechless role in the film stunned moviegoers, and she was soon known as Koo Koo (the name conflict did cause several problems between her and Green, however.)

She worked at Coney Island for most of her career, and is thought to have lived until 1960, where witnesses claim to have seen her nearly run over by a car, making her at least 80 years old.

Minnie Woolsey was born in Georgia in 1880 and a wide variety of stories exist in regards to her physical condition. It is generally believed that Minnie was born with Virchow-Seckel syndrome, a condition also known as bird-headed dwarfism. The syndrome is quite rare and is characterized by a small head, stunted growth, beak-like nose, receding jaw as well as some mental limitations.  In addition, the syndrome also left Minnie almost completely bald and blind.  Toothless, odd and sporting glasses as thick as her thumb Minnie spent the majority of her formative years in a Georgia Asylum until, as legend states, she was rescued by a showman who thought her oddball looks we just odd enough to cash in on.