Possibly the smallest person in recorded history, Caroline Crachami lived a sad life. Born somewhere around 1820, at her tallest she measured only 19.5 inches. Posthumously diagnosed with Seckel Syndrome, Caroline lived the first years of her life in rural Italy. When her health began to fail, she was taken to a doctor in England…and he promptly toured her around England under the name “The Sicilian Fairy” and claimed to be her father. A side effect of Seckel Syndrome, Caroline may have had an almost birdlike face, and delicate demeanor adding to the otherworldly effect of her small stature.
On June 4th, 1824 Caroline died - reportedly in front of over 200 spectators. She was hypothesized to be about nine years old. Frantic, the doctor tried to sell her body to the highest bidder. When people were understandably perturbed by this offer, he donated her body to be autopsied at the Royal College of Surgeons.
Upon hearing of Caroline’s death, her distraught father made his way to England only to find that his daughter had already be autopsied, or was being autopsied (stories differ depending on the source, but more likely she had already been autopsied several days before) and he left empty-handed and brokenhearted.
Further posthumous examination suggests that Caroline died of tuberculosis. Dental records from 1998 confirm that Caroline was much younger than the suggested nine years, and probably was only three or four when she died. Because her age was much younger than initially thought, some believe she is not the world’s smallest person. Other records exist, however, of her cognitive function being much higher than someone with her condition would be expected to be at ages three or four. It is unlikely the mystery of Caroline Crachami will ever be solved.
Note: For those of you who have seen the 1932 film ‘Freaks’, a girl with the same condition appears under the name Koo-Koo the Bird Girl and is present in many scenes.