Fact Check: She Did Have 4 Legs, But Josephine Myrtle Corbin Is NOT The Woman Pictured

Fact Check

  • by: Sarah Thompson
Fact Check: She Did Have 4 Legs, But Josephine Myrtle Corbin Is NOT The Woman Pictured Misidentified

Did Josephine Myrtle Corbin have four legs, raise a family and die at 60? Yes, most of these facts about her in a post are fairly accurate -- she was a real person who lived from 1868 to 1928 and she died just a week before her 60th birthday of an infection -- but the photos paired with the caption do not depict Corbin. The fabricated photos show a fictional four-legged woman named Ashley Braistle who was a popular recurring character in 1990s editions of a mostly fictional tabloid newspaper, the Weekly World News. Many photographs and artist's renderings of the real Corbin exist. She was a popular and highly paid sideshow attraction.

Social media posts that combine the hoax photos of the fictional Braistle with the name and life story of the real Josephine Corbin (sometimes spelled Josephene in the posts) appear on Facebook as far back as 2012. These early posts usually include at least one photo of the real Corbin. A recent Facebook post by the page Newz.com on January 6, 2022, has only the hoax photos associated with Corbin's story. It opened:

Josephene Myrtle Corbin
The 4-legged woman who lived 60 years with such a mutation.
This congenital anomaly originated in utero. (She was Siamese!) but her sister eventually did not fully develop, her body was left with a second pelvis that did not belong to her. She had 7 siblings, but none became as famous as she. Myrtle Corbin went to theaters and fairs to show people her anomaly!
'Teratology', that's what the experts of the time called this genetic anomaly.

This is how the post appeared at the time of writing:

Josephinepost.JPG

(Image source: Facebook screenshot taken on Tue Jan 11 22:11:09 2022 UTC)

The post continues:

Myrtle did not stop and was able to live her life and even married her specialist, Dr. Bicknell, with whom she had 5 children without complications in childbirth!
Another curious fact is that since she had two pelvises, she could get pregnant in each of them, she had duplicated organs and 3 of the 5 deliveries were on the right side and the other 2 on the left, each pregnancy endangered her life and she still had them!
After being in fairs, circuses, theaters during her youth at the age of 60 after raising a large family, she gets died by an infection in one of her legs!

The photos illustrating this post of a four-legged bride are retouched hoax photos that appeared in the August 23, 1994, edition of the tabloid newspaper the Weekly World News. Reporting the "most bizarre wedding of the year" they wrote about "Ashley Braistle":

The beautiful brunette found her man after she told the NEWS readers in our April 19 issue that she was looking for a husband. An incredible 8,561 men wrote her, care of this paper -- all of them wanting to marry her.

The June 4, 1996, edition the Weekly World News reported that the fictional four-legged woman had died in a skiing accident, a story they had to retract when they revived Braistle's character in the October 2, 2001, edition to say, "I don't know where they got that story from" and add that she had opened a dance studio.

The true-life four-legged woman, Josephine Myrtle Corbin, was born in Lincoln County, Tennessee, on May 12, 1868. When she was just 5 weeks old, she was examined by two physicians from the University of Nashville who described the way her body was formed in great detail in a report. She was also photographed as an infant. These photos were then redrawn by an engraver for publication.

Corbin was exhibited to the public by her parents at a very young age. A broadside advertising a one day only appearance of the "4-Legged Child" explains:

The parents are traveling with the child, who are worthy and respectable citizens of Alabama, and their only object in the exhibition is to gain means to give the child a thorough education, and if possible a competency for life.

Below is an 1882 photo showing Corbin when she would have been about 14 years old. This is the period when her father negotiated for her to tour with P.T. Barnum. On page 340 of the January 9, 1886, edition of Tid-Bits it was reported that she was paid $450 a week.

Myrtle_Corbin.jpg

(Image source: Photo by Charles Eisenmann, 1882, from Wikimedia commons public domain)

On June 12, 1886, at the age of 19, Corbin married James Clinton Bicknell in Blount County, Alabama. Reports of the exact number of children they had vary. Findagrave.com shows that the Bicknells raised at least three daughters and a son who all lived to old age. The first of the Bicknell children is listed as Infant Bicknell, dated 1887-1887.

In the book, "Tales of Old Blount County, Alabama" on page 200 is the story of the first pregnancy one year into their marriage (this would align with the 1887 date), which was a troubled pregnancy. Several weeks after a doctor from Birmingham, Alabama initially examined her and found she was pregnant on the left side, local doctors recommended that an abortion be preformed because Corbin's life was endangered. This Blount County account goes on to say seven more children were born to the couple, but only four survived infancy. Lead Stories could not verify specific details about the births as they were relayed in this social media post.


  Sarah Thompson

Sarah Thompson lives with her family and pets on a small farm in Indiana. She founded a Facebook page and a blog called “Exploiting the Niche” in 2017 to help others learn about manipulative tactics and avoid scams on social media. Since then she has collaborated with journalists in the USA, Canada and Australia and since December 2019 she works as a Social Media Authenticity Analyst at Lead Stories.


 

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