The Astonishing Story Of The Conjoined Hilton Twins

By: Calla Conway | Last updated: Sep 07, 2022

Daisy and Violet Hilton were born on February 19, 1908, in North Carolina. The twins were different from other conjoined twins in that they had their own internal organs, only sharing their blood circulation.

They became one of the best-known conjoined twins in the world during their lifetime and remain well-known today thanks to their appearances in the throughout the early 20th century and beyond. Here’s a brief overview of Daisy and Violet Hilton’s tragic life story from beginnings to death.

Kate Skinner Referred to Them as Monsters

Their mother, Kate Skinner, was not married at their birth. Skinner claimed that she had earned this punishment for her past wrongdoings, and therefore she sold them to Mary Hilton.

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Daisy and Violet referred to Mary as ‘Auntie.’ After a while, Mary realized that she could make some money from the arrangement. As for the twins’ birth mother, Skinner, she went on to have two more children who were born healthy and average.

Display in a British Pub's Back Room

Whereas others may have negatively seen the conjoined twin as an issue, Mary Hilton found an opportunity and decided to display them in a British pub’s back room. At first, they watched the twins in disbelief. Some people used to look underneath the girl’s shirts to see if they really were conjoined twins.

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The poor twins were subject to the whims of their Aunt’s many boyfriends. They were victimized and abused by their aunt and those she was dating. They wrote this in their memoir of their aunt: “She used the metal buckle end of her belt to beat our backs and shoulders when we angered her.”

Denied Entry Into the United States on Being "Medically Unfit"

Their aunt had taken the girls to Germany and Australia by the time they were three years old. However, she wanted more, so she set her sights on the United States.

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In 1915, the girls and their aunt headed to San Francisco. The girls had turned eight. When they first attempted to register, the twins turned away due to being medically unfit. Their aunt decided to involve the local media, and as a result, the relevant authorities permitted them to enter America.

Get Institutionalized or Practice the Vaudeville

The Siamese twins were coerced to perform their vaudeville show, which consisted of playing the violin and saxophone for a lengthy period. They performed under duress and threat of being sent away.

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In some cases, they were tortured if they didn’t obey. They were often threatened that they would be sent somewhere worse than prison if they did not listen and perform as they were told.

The Girls Never Received a Dime for Their Efforts

Once the twins reached their teenage years, they started making good money as they would work alongside legends like Charlie Chaplin and Bob Hope. They used to, earn more than $50 a week, which was a large sum back then.

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But they never saw a dime of it. The Myers family who they performed under took all the money, and the twins were forbidden from coming into any money they may have earned themselves.

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Harry Houdini's The Illusionist Changed Their Lives

Harry Houdini, the famous illusionist, became interested in helping the girls and taught them how to understand their situation better and who they were. They did not realize how popular they were.

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On Houdini’s advice, they hired a lawyer, Martin Arnold, who helped the twins gain their freedom from the Meyers and their aunt. Daisy and Violet were awarded $100,000 in 1931.

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No Marriage Certificates for the Twins

Given the Emancipation Proclamation’s introduction of equality, the world of possibilities became a viable option for the twins, opening up the chance of finding love. If one sister happened to take a lover, the other sister also would be by her side– even though that could have been rather awkward.

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The two sisters took significantly different paths to pick their respective spouses despite getting married eventually. When Violet wanted to marry a musician Maurice Lambert, she wasn’t allowed in twenty one states. The Hilton sisters were considered one person. In the end, they did get married anyway, though their marriages didn’t last.

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The Film "Freaks" and the Autobiography

Tod Browning’s 1932 film Freaks featured the twin actresses, and the film boosted their popularity.

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In 1942, they published their autobiography, “An Authentic Account of the Lives and Romances of the Hilton Sisters.”

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Battle against Poverty

With the twins aging, they battled against poverty and struggled with finances. In 1951, they starred in a film documenting their life called “Chained for Life.” After a few years, they opened a hot dog stand. However, the twins were unsuccessful in the business.

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In 1961, their tour manager quit because the rock stars slowly became less and less popular. As a result, they began working in a grocery store as cashiers. The store owner, eager to see them working together, redesigned the store’s front so that he could work the counter side-by-side with her.

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Daisy Died Days Before Violet

Despite the odds, the twins made it through an eventful life until the day when they both went on the missing list. The authorities visited their home in Charlotte, North Carolina, to ensure the duo was safe.

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Upon investigation, the twins were found dead. Daisy died first, followed by Violet, who died of the flu. The doctors believed Violet was too sick to contact them for help, so she and her twins passed away at the age of sixty years. The plot at Forest Lawn in Charlotte, West Cemetery is marked as their final resting place.

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