5 People Who Became Unwitting Tourist Attractions
Do you want to be famous? Shut up, no you don't. What you really want is the money and respect you mistakenly assume all celebrities get, because without those things, fame means little more than taking a full-time job as a depressing sideshow freak. Just ask some of the people who had the misfortune to become human tourist attractions, like ...
The Canadian Quintuplets Who Lived in a Zoo
In 1934, Elzire Dionne of Ontario, Canada, gave birth to healthy identical quintuplet girls, the first such birth in recorded history. The joy of the occasion was sadly undermined when Dionne realized that even if her husband miraculously grew a pair of functional breasts then and there, the low-income couple would still be unable to provide for their family, which already included five other children.
"Hey, do you mind popping out a few more? Ten is an unlucky number for me."
The Dionnes were so poor, they didn't even have electricity in their house, so the Canadian government decided to take the girls away from their parents and appointed a new guardian to raise them properly.
That job went to Allan Dafoe (the doctor that delivered the quintuplets), who immediately displayed his triple-A parenting skills by putting the sisters in a public building and charging strangers to watch them play. If that's not some sort of sex crime already, somebody needs to start lobbying.
Those are what we call "villain eyebrows."
While raising the girls in the Dafoe Hospital and Nursery, also known as Quintland, Dafoe would routinely send them out to play in an outside pavilion, where he would allow the paying public to watch them through one-way screens.
Some 6,000 people came to watch the Dionne quintuplets per day, including the likes of Amelia Earhart and even the Queen of England. The good doctor also used the girls to score himself endorsement deals for toothpaste and soap, and, since he owned their image, he didn't even allow the girls' parents to take pictures of them during their rare visits. Hugs cost $20, and meaningful glances were $5 bucks a pop.
They were the biggest attraction in all of Canada, which would be a hilarious joke, but no, it's true.
When the girls turned 10, their father finally managed to regain custody of them. Unfortunately, the whole "trapped in a human zoo" thing left the girls so sheltered that, even at 19, one of them still wasn't able to tell the difference between nickels, dimes, and quarters. But who needs that nickel and dime stuff when Ontario's government awards you $2.8 million as compensation? To say nothing of all the royalties they must have gotten for inspiring that one Simpsons episode where Apu learned the dangers of selling his children to a zoo. It seemed like an odd lesson to teach at the time, but apparently it was not common knowledge to the Canadian government.
The Innkeeper's Daughter Who Was Advertised in Travel Books
Today you can click-zoom a few times and instantly get the street view of a local cafe in the south of France that is so clear, you can actually make out the waiter's derision. But back in the old days, the only way to know what was happening in the next town was boring old guidebooks that, to be fair, did have one thing over Google Maps: They let you know where to find local hot girls.
"She's just aching to chat with you ... probably. It's the 18th century, everyone's pretty bored."
Case in point: In 1792, Joseph Palmer wrote a guide to England's Lake District called A Fortnight's Ramble to the Lakes in Westmoreland, Lancashire, and Cumberland, which told readers of the lakes, pubs, and castles he'd visited. It also spent quite a bit of time describing people that he'd run into, like the daughter of the innkeeper at the Fish Inn. "Her hair was thick and long," he wrote, "with full eyes and lips as red as vermilion; her cheeks had more lily than the rose (...) the fair Sally of Buttermere."
One little problem: She was 14 years old at the time.
"But she could be 15 by the time you reach here, so visit now!"
Palmer didn't give her real name (Mary Harrison), but that didn't matter; dudes weren't too interested in what to call her. After all, who needs to call when you have her real address? Have you ever had one of those Facebook privacy leaks make one of your supposedly private posts public? Imagine that it was a bikini pic, and that Facebook auto-published it to Yelp.
Less-than-reputable men flocked to the inn as fast as their horse-drawn carriages could carry them, all because a book told them that an underage waitress there was kinda attractive. We guess it had to be good for the inn's business, but Mary -- surprise! -- didn't like it at all. When Palmer got wind of what was happening, he tried to undo his misdeeds by writing a follow-up to his guide, explaining that Mary was actually very plain and getting all chubby.
Jesus, dude. Stop helping.
"All that butter's starting to go to her mere, amiright, travelers?"
Publicly insulting her didn't even help. The horny tourists kept coming until Mary finally agreed to marry one of them: the honorable Alexander Hope, MP. Except it later turned out that the man was really John Hatfield, a conman and a forger who had no money, but already had a wife. He was later arrested on charges of bigamy and impersonating nobility and was hanged. Mary was likely sentenced to a lifetime of cheesy pickup lines from skeevy travel writers. Although the profession would later get its comeuppance ...
The Famous Author Whose Fans Kept Breaking into His House
When Peter Mayle moved to France from the U.K. in the '80s to write his novel, he kept things simple: he penned a few meandering passages about the weather, the food, the people he bumped into -- more journaling than writing, really. The result of live-blogging his peaceful constitutionals was a book titled A Year in Provence, which went on to become one of the most successful travelogues of all time, selling millions of copies and getting translated into 30 languages.
That kind of popularity does not come without a price: One day Mayle came back home to discover that two Italian tourists had broken into his house. He found them swimming in his pool, excited to be peeing in the same water that's touched the Peter Mayle.
To his horror, Mayle soon realized that what his readers were really interested in wasn't just the picturesque town of Menerbes, where he lived, but rather Mayle himself. One European newspaper, without permission, told its readers to visit Mayle in his Provence home. Another included a handy guide for how to get there, presumably accompanied by a quick tutorial on lock-picking and knot-tying.
This is why real celebs choose gated mansions over quaint villas every time.
Before he knew what was happening, scores of travelers made the author's home their primary tourist destination, coming in without knocking, touching his stuff, and being completely baffled when he threw them out. On one occasion, Mayle found a photographer from a British tabloid hiding in the bushes, hoping to get some naked photos of the semi-famous travel writer in his 50s, because the British tabloids are severely misinformed about what constitutes "the people's interest."
Another time, some 20 Japanese women tried to enter the author's home because a travel agent said the building was open for tours. The continuous home invasions finally became too much for Mayle, and he went into exile in the Hamptons. A few years later, he once again relocated to France in a different home that he now protects with a pump-action shotgun. Word is it's a very tastefully appointed shotgun full of Old World charm. Come see it today!
The Carny Who Kept Performing From Beyond the Grave
Cancetto Farmica was a musician for a traveling carnival until he was killed in a fight in North Carolina in 1911. Unfortunately, after Farmica's body was embalmed, it became clear that his family didn't have enough money to send his remains back home to Italy. So, the proprietor of the McDougald Funeral Home, where the body was located, decided to store the corpse in the most respectful way he could think of: by tying a rope around it and hanging it up on the wall. Eventually, the body dried out and naturally mummified. At this point McDougald, presumably wanting to see if only Egyptian mummies could curse their defilers, stuck the Italian's body in a display case and started charging folks to see it.
With a loincloth, of course, because McDougald cared about the man's dignity.
Word spread, and in no time people from all over the world were stopping by just to gawk at the abused corpse of some random immigrant. This wasn't a pharaoh, a king, or even a celebrity -- this was just "some dude." We're not even completely sure what his name was: Various sources have called him "Concetto Farmica," "Forenzio Concippo," "Frezzo Consceppo," or "Formico Cansetto." Of course, this being turn-of-the-century America, casual racism triumphed over all, and most visitors just called him Spaghetti. No, seriously -- they really called him that. The fact that there isn't some sort of mysterious plague wiping out their descendants right now is perhaps the most definitive proof that the supernatural does not exist.
Spaghetti stayed on display for more than 60 years until the Funeral Directors Association decided to give Cancetto a proper burial. The McDougald heir put him in a bronze coffin and, for some reason, poured two tons of cement on it. Hey, we know we just proved that ghosts aren't real, but you treat a dude's body like that for six decades and you hedge your bets a little, you know?
Stay dead, Spaghetti. Non-zombified carnies are scary enough.
The Lovesick Airport Hobo
Hiroshi Nohara landed in Mexico City's international airport in 2008, plopped his ass down in a chair, and refused to leave for the next four months.
Why? We wish we could tell you. When asked, he simply replied, "I have no reason." He was totally allowed to leave -- his visa let him roam free in Mexico for up to six months. He also had an open ticket letting him return to Tokyo at any time. Employees who got to speak with Nohara at length said that he'd been having "love problems," and if there's one thing we humans love, it's cynically exploiting the drama of strangers.
It was exactly like that Tom Hanks film, Apollo 13.
In a short time, Nohara became a local tourist draw. People came up to him to take pictures, have a chat, or buy him a hot meal. All this despite the fact that it's unlikely Nohara had showered once since settling at the airport.
Hmm, we wonder why he had all those "love problems" in the first place?
"Cool, now get one of us peeing on him. He won't mind!"
Nohara's fame as an international hobo of merit grew until a Japanese woman named Oyuki invited him to visit her in her Mexico City apartment. Nohara left the airport immediately and never went back, although we do want to point out that Oyuki already had a husband at the time, so there probably wasn't a happy ending for everybody. Then again, who knows? If Oyuki had two hands and her husband had an open mind ...
Related Reading: Down for more messed up tourist attractions? Check out this statue of turtle bestiality on display in a normal-ass town. If you're more a fan of XXX tourist attractions, we've got a list of those, too, but it is not safe for work. Rather plan your next vacation around badassery? We're happy to help.