Prince Randian of Guyana

Prince Randian of Guyana

by Peter Halder

Guyanese men and women have distinguished themselves in many fields of human endeavour, at home and overseas. The performing arts is no exception. Guyanese have been in films, on TV shows and on the stage. One has even been a feature attraction in the Barnum and Bailey Circus in the United States. And the amazing Guyanese had no arms or legs. He was known as Prince Randian.

The young man, born to Hindu parents in 1871 with neither arms nor legs, was 18 years old at the time. He was discovered by P.T. Barnum who transported him from the “Demerara district” and exhibited him as a human “oddity” or “freak” – a practice common in those days. Exactly how Barnum learned about the usual young man is unknown but he did. He arranged, in 1889 to bring the young man to New York. And hundreds of thousands of spectators paid to see him.    

He was named “Prince Randian” and was billed as “The Caterpillar Man”, The Armless and Legless Wonder”, “The Human Torso”, even “The Human Worm” and for 45 years entertained audiences primarily at Coney Island in Brooklyn, New York but also in other parts of the United States – in circuses, carnivals and museums. He drew large crowds who watched him perform tasks using only his lips and teeth where one would only use one’s hands.

He was often introduced as the ‘Human Caterpillar who crawls on his belly like a reptile.’ This was because he moved from one place to another by wiggling his shoulders and hips. In his performances, he wore a woolen garment of one piece that covered him like a sack. At one end was a busy head. The rest was a torso.

One of his so-called “tricks” was rolling cigarettes which was really making cigarettes out of raw tobacco leaf and paper. His other activities  included writing with a pen or pencil, painting with brushes and shaving with a razor fixed in a wooden block – all done by the skillful use  of his lips and teeth.

Randian claimed that the box in which he kept his smoking material and other paraphanalia  for his act, had been made by him using a saw, knife and hammer. He also said he had painted it holding the brush with his teeth and that it was he who fitted it with a lock.

“Some day,” he used to say, “ I’ll build myself a house.”

Randian also did some acting. When Todd Browning made his famous movie “Freaks” in 1932, Prince Randian was featured rolling a cigarette.

Prince Randian spoke English, German and French. He also raised a family. The “Prince” had a wife, “Princess” Sarah, four sons and a daughter. Their home was in Patterson, New Jersey.

He died at the age of 63, shortly after a performance at Sam Wagner’s 14th Street Museum in New York City on 19 December 1934.

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  • Rosaliene Bacchus  On July 28, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    It’s amazing what we can achieve with determination and persistence. I was saddened to learn that Prince Randian became a freak show attraction. Regardless, he used the opportunity to progress in his life.

  • Deen  On July 28, 2013 at 10:02 pm

    Prince Randian was an extraordinary performer. He would have been an inspiration even today based on what he was able to do and achieve without arms and legs.
    Another great Guyanese.

  • Deen  On July 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    Peter. thanks for sharing this historical piece.

  • Peter Halder  On July 28, 2013 at 10:22 pm

    You’re welcome.

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