I have got my hand’s on a rather curious piece of carnival memorabilia which is often referred to as the Brainchild.
This was a sideshow attraction from the 1920s, which featured a young woman’s decapitated head inside a glass display case. The top of her head was removed to reveal that inside, she did not have a brain, but an unborn baby girl. This exhibit was called ‘Rachel & Baby Rosie’.
The american carnival audiences were familiar with Siamese twins, but they were also familiar with curiosities constructed from animal parts and papier-mâché. Consequently they were entertained by the story, and happy to consider it a sham.
Almost a century later, I purchased an auction lot of assorted pieces from the Blackwell Brothers fair, which included this exhibit. It took months for them to be shipped from the States in a container, and the day they were due to arrive I received a phone call. UK Customs were retaining one of the pieces on the grounds that i hadn’t supplied the appropriate paperwork. The offending article? The brainchild, of course.
The sniffer dogs at the docks had picked out my cargo. Although they had been checking for drugs, it seems that these dogs can also locate dead human remains at fifty paces!
Apparently the head of Rachel had once belonged to a real living girl…
Through research and scientific investigation I have pieced together a history of the exhibit – central to which is the girl know as Rachel.
I am currently organising a small exhibition, which will feature the mortal remains of Rachel & Baby Rosie as a central feature. Alongside this will be other documentation and media which aid in telling the complete story.
The Brainchild exhibition is currently scheduled for the 22nd/23rd of May 2012 in Liverpool. I will confirm location in the coming weeks.