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TWO-HEADED NIGHTINGALE


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Conjoined twins Millie and Christine McCoy were born slaves, but the sisters became such successful entertainers that they bought the plantation where they were born!

Joined at the base of their spine, the twins weighed a total of 17 pounds when they were born in Columbus County, NC in 1851.

As children Millie and Christine were sold several times. At the age of 10, they became the property of J.P. Smith of Wadesboro and he started exhibiting the twins in traveling shows. He and his wife provided the twins with an education and taught them to dance, play music and sing, and even speak five languages.

The McCoy twins, who thought of themselves as one woman with two heads, were kidnapped during a show in New Orleans and spirited off to England. But the kidnapper’s plans became complicated when the United Kingdom banned slavery, and Smith and the girls’ mother soon found them.

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After the Civil War their career took off. They went by the stage names “The Two-Headed Nightingale” and “The Eighth Wonder of the World”, and often appeared with the famous Barnum circus.

The McCoy twins performed their song-and-dance act before Queen Victoria and retired rich in 1892. They bought the plantation where they were born and built several houses for their relatives. They also built a church and a school for black children.

“Millie was more quiet and shy,” said Lloyd Inman, the twins’ great-great nephew. “She liked to crochet and do embroidery. She also did all the decorating for the 10-room Victorian house they buily as a retirement home.

“And they were amazingly close,” Inman continued. “If Christine was talking to you, Millie could be talking to someone else and then pick up the conversation Christine was having in mid-sentence.”

Millied died of tuberculosis on October 8, 1912, and doctors said that even then it was impossible to separate the twins.

Christine lay in bed beside her dead twin sister, singing hymns and praying that she would die quickly. Seventeen hours later she was dead.

Their tombstone reads: “A soul with two thoughts. Two hearts that beat as one.”