They were born to a single barmaid named Kate Skinner. Kate believed their condition was God’s punishment on her for adultery. She was so horrified by them that she willingly gave them to her employer, Mary Hilton, who saw commercial potential in the girls. Their violet hilton was interesting, to say the least, but not pleasant. Hilton strictly controlled the girls using threats and physical abuse.
There were taught to sing and dance and were on display from birth. At the age of three they began touring: first England, where they were born, and then Germany, Australia, and finally the USA. Hilton had a daughter, Edith, and acquired a husband in Australia. When she died in the 1920s she «willed» the girls to her husband and daughter. They left the sideshow world, became American citizens, and moved to vaudeville.
Daisy dyed her hair blond and they began to wear different outfits. When Violet became engaged, they travelled all over the US to try to find a clerk who would grant them a marriage license: they were denied on the grounds that, because Daisy was not also engaged, it would be immoral. Eventually Daisy found a husband as well and both twins married. In the 1950s they opened a snack bar in Miami, but it didn’t survive. They continued to make public appearances and it was during one of these in 1962 that their agent abandoned them with absolutely no money in Charlotte, North Carolina. A grocery store manager hired them to work as clerks, and they settled in to life in Charlotte very comfortably, working in the store until their death, and renting a house across from the church they attended.
In the winter of 1968 Violet caught the Hong Kong flu, a virulent strain that infected an estimated half million people that season. Just as she got better, Daisy caught it. They were off work, but their boss called every day to check on them. One day they didn’t answer, and he and his wife went over to their house to check on them. Police were called to pry the door open and the twins, now 60, were found dead inside. They were lying on a heating grate on the hall floor. You can see a clip from a documentary about present-day conjoined twins, Abby and Brittany Hensel, here.
Abby and Brittany are 16, and dicephalic, meaning they have two heads, share many major organs, and each have one leg and one arm. The girls are quite sweet and the life they lead, thanks to a sensible and supportive family and community, quite normal. Death can come at any time, in any way. No amount of power, money, or special abilities can prevent it. Hold me, Captain, I’m Jonah Jarvis, come to a bad end, very enjoyable. I remember realizing one day, as a bored, depressed 21-year-old, that in the instant before my death I would give anything to have this same horrible moment back again.
The twins referred to Hilton as «Auntie, it was feared separating them would cause one or both to die. No amount of power — premiered at the WPA Theatre and ran for 35 performances. They spent most of 1933 in the UK, ‘Side Show’ Is Closing Jan. Violet died within two to four days. And with no means of transportation or income, treated and kept in a state of poverty until they arranged a private meeting with a lawyer at the age of 23.
The insight struck me with such depth and force that the experience of boredom was virtually banished from my life. It’s hard to grasp the fact of death our psyches are deeply conditioned to deny it. Hearing stories of the deaths of others can help wear away some of this conditioning. English entertainers, who were conjoined twins. The twins were born at 18 Riley Road, Brighton, England, on 5 February 1908. Their mother was Kate Skinner, an unmarried barmaid. A medical account of the birth and a description of the twins was provided for the British Medical Journal by physician, James Augustus Rooth, who helped deliver them.
Kate Skinner’s employer, Mary Hilton, who helped in childbirth, apparently saw commercial prospects in them, and effectively bought them from their mother and took them under her care. The girls first stayed above the Queen’s Arms pub in Brighton where they were exhibited. Daisy and Violet Hilton with the Meyers c. Mary Hilton took them on to a tour through Germany, then to Australia, then in 1916 to the US. In true sideshow manner, their performance was accompanied by an imaginative «history». Their controllers kept all the money the sisters earned.
In 1926, Bob Hope formed an act called the Dancemedians with the sisters, who had a tap-dancing routine. The couple took over management of the twins. Held mostly captive, the girls were beaten if they did not do as the Meyers wished. They kept the twins from public view for a while and trained them in jazz music. Violet was a skilled saxophonist and Daisy a violinist. They lived in a mansion in San Antonio, Texas.
They went into vaudeville as «The Hilton Sisters’ Revue». Daisy dyed her hair blonde and they began to wear different outfits so as to be distinguishable. Shortly after gaining independence from the Meyers, the Hiltons sailed to the UK on the Berengaria in December 1932. They spent most of 1933 in the UK, and returned to the US in October 1933. Violet began a relationship with musician Maurice Lambert, and they applied in 21 states for a marriage license, but it was always refused. In 1932, the twins appeared in the film Freaks.
Afterwards their popularity faded, and they struggled to make a living in show business. In 1936 Violet married gay actor James Moore as a publicity stunt. The marriage lasted ten years on paper, but it was eventually annulled. In 1941 Daisy married Harold Estep, better known as dancer Buddy Sawyer, who was also gay. The Hiltons’ last public appearance was at a drive-in in 1961 in Charlotte, North Carolina. Their tour manager abandoned them there, and with no means of transportation or income, they were forced to take a job in a nearby grocery store, where they worked for the rest of their lives. On January 4, 1969, after they failed to report to work, their boss called the police. The twins were found dead in their home, victims of the Hong Kong flu. Violet died between two and four days later. They were buried in Forest Lawn West Cemetery in Charlotte.
708 has been named in their honour. In 1989 a musical based on the twins, Twenty Fingers Twenty Toes, with book by Michael Dansicker and Bob Nigro and music and lyrics by Michael Dansicker, premiered at the WPA Theatre and ran for 35 performances. The script can be found in the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. It began as an accurate portrayal of the twins’ early life, but then included a wholly fictitious plot by their keepers to have them surgically separated as adults. In 2012, Leslie Zemeckis filmed a documentary, Bound by Flesh, about the sisters’ lives. The Hollywood Reporter called it «scrupulously researched» and a «masterful film». In May, 2018, it was announced that Brighton and Hove City Council and the current owner of the house in which the twins were born had agreed that a commemorative blue plaque could be erected at the property. Bid to honour Brighton’s ‘forgotten’ conjoined Hilton twins». Hilton twins lived for celebrity, longed for normalcy».