Martin Joe Laurello
|Known for||Could turn his head 180 degrees|
Martin Joe Laurello (born Martin Emmerling, 1885-1955), also known by the stage names Human Owl and Bobby the Boy with the Revolving Head, was a German-American sideshow performer and biological rarity who could turn his head 180 degrees. He performed with groups such as Ripley's Believe it or Not, Ringling Brothers, and Barnum & Bailey. He also trained animals to do things such as acrobatics.
Early life and career
Laurello was born Martin Emmerling in Germany circa 1886. In 1921, together with a handful of other people with biological rarities from Europe, Laurello arrived in the United States. Laurello could turn his head 180 degrees. In the words of fellow sideshow performer Percilla Berjano, known as the "Monkey Girl", "[Laurello] could put his head all the way around". To accomplish this feat, he reportedly practised rotating his head for three years and also had to "dislocate various vertebrae". Being born with a slightly bent spine might have also aided Laurello in pulling off his act of flexibility.
For a period of time, Laurello was billed at the Bailey Circus as "Bobby the Boy with the Revolving Head". Laurello also worked at the New York City-based Hubert's Museum, mostly during the winter, as well as Ringling Brothers and Coney Island. During his stint at the Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums in the 1930s, Laurello managed to attract massive crowds. When performing, Laurello preferred to don a white shirt. He also trained dogs and cats to do acrobatic tricks.
There is not much documented about Laurello's personal life. Berjano described Laurello as "a Nazi" who "didn't like the American flag". In April 1931, Laurello was arrested by Baltimore police for abandoning his spouse, after she lodged a complaint via telegram.
- Ripley's Believe it or Not! – Strange but True. Ripley Publishing. 2009. pp. 21–. ISBN 9781422225738.
- Joe Nickell (9 September 2005). Secrets of the Sideshows. University Press of Kentucky. pp. 292–293. ISBN 978-0-8131-3737-7.
- Eric Gryzymokowski (18 April 2011). Attack of the Killer Facts!: 1,001 Terrifying Truths about the Little Green Men, Government Mind-Control, Flesh-Eating Bacteria, and Goat-Sucking Vampires. Adams Media. pp. 78–. ISBN 978-1-4405-2539-1.
- Mary Packard (1 January 2004). Ripley's Believe It Or Not!: Bizarre Collection. Scholastic. ISBN 978-0-681-02479-3.
- Nielsen Business Media, Inc. (29 May 1948). Billboard. Nielsen Business Media, Inc. pp. 57–. ISSN 0006-2510.
- "'Rotating Head' Leads to Arrest of Man for Abandoning Wife". The New York Times. 1 May 1931.