Francesco Lentini: The Three-Legged Wonder Man With Four Feet And 16 Toes Who Became A Celebrity
– When Francesco Lentini was born in 1889, in Rosolini, in the vicinity of Syracuse, Sicily he had no knowledge that he would one day become a celebrity. On the contrary in fact, his early childhood was far from easy and amusing. His parents who had 11 children refused to recognize him and he was sent to be raised by his aunt.
Francesco Lentini was born with three legs, four feet, 16 toes and two sets of genitals. His physical abnormality was caused by a parasitic twin.
When doctors examined Lentini, they concluded that his third leg was actually part of an undeveloped body, or incomplete twin, which was attached to his body at the base of the spine. Experts determined that the separation of the parasitic twin would be too risky and could end in paralysis Francis.
So, Lentini had no other option than to live with his unusual physical abnormality.
When Lentini was 6-year-old his normal legs were slightly different in length. One was 39 inches, the other 38 inches, but the third leg was only 36 inches and the foot on it was clubbed.
His aunt sent him to a special clinic for people with disabilities. The experiences young Lentini made there changed his life. There, he met blind and deaf children and other youngsters who suffered from much more serious physical conditions than he did. He began to accept his third leg, which he had hated until now.
He learned not only walking, but running, jumping rope, cycling and even ice skating. His experience at clinic was crucial in providing the motivation to fight and live, as he said later. “From that time to this,” Lentini said later, recalling that visit, “I’ve never complained. I think life is beautiful and I enjoy living it.”
At the age of nine, Lentini emigrated to the United States, where he began his brilliant career as The Great Lentini, joining the Ringling Brothers Circus act. He quickly became very popular and successful. His performances fascinated the public. He gained US citizenship at the age of 30.
His career spanned over 40 years and he worked with every major circus and sideshow including Barnum and Bailey and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show. Lentini was so respected among his peers that he was often called “The King”.
Lentini had incredible control over the third leg which he often used to kick a football across the stage. This performance gave him the show name, the Three-Legged Football Player.
His charming personality and humor made him well-liked among many people. He married a young girl, Theresa Murray with whom he had four perfectly healthy children.
Francesco Lentini who became known as the three-legged wonder died on 22 September 1966 at an age of 77. He was the longest living man with three legs in history.