Exhibited as a Wild Man

I've never been able to find any further details about the strange tale of William Lacey beyond the short article below from a 1901 newspaper (The Fort Wayne News, Nov 9, 1901). However, Lacey wasn't the only person during this period who was exhibited as a "wild man." Ota Benga is probably the most famous example of the phenomenon.

BERLIN. Nov. 9 -- After seven months of captivity as a wild man from Borneo, during which time he was hauled all over Europe in an iron cage with a ring in his nose, William Lacey, a Virginia negro, 30 years of age, visited the American consulate in Berlin yesterday and told a remarkable tale of alleged brutality and suffering. Lacey says that he came to Germany on a tramp steamer last March and became stranded in Hamburg. There a bogus circus manager offered him 10 marks a month to impersonate a wild man with a traveling show. He took the job and discovered a few days afterward that he constituted the entire circus and menagerie. He was compelled to live in a cage, bedded in straw, and take his food through the iron bars. During exhibition hours attendants prodded him with pitchforks to make him execute weird dances to the accompaniment of ghoulish yells. A fortnight ago the proprietor of the show died and the negro awoke one morning to find himself deserted and the cage door unlocked. The consulate provided Lacey with transportation to Hamburg.

     Posted By: Alex - Tue Jul 17, 2012
     Category: Racism

That story sounds plausible. Back then they were still selling snake oil and electro-shock cures.

Hurry, hurry, hurry! For one thin dime, a tenth of a dollar see the collection of the strangest people on earth.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 07/17/12 at 08:20 AM
Snake oil and electro-shock cures are still sold in the 21st century!

Talk about a European tour gone bad. Mr. Lacey's fate could have been much worse after the promoter's death. Someone thought enough to unlock the cage.
Posted by KDP on 07/17/12 at 10:39 AM
Yes but the snake oil is certified to have been squeezed only from biodegradable and ecologically neutral snakes that had signed wavers in front of PETA officers and the EPA has approved the electricity that is used in today's machines.
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 07/17/12 at 10:44 AM
Heh! And now I've got "The Wild Man of Borneo" by Michael Longcor stuck in my head. There's a weird musician for you! Too bad I can't find a suitable video to inflict it on the rest of you.

So instead, I offer "The Ballad of James A. Moon" as a suitable substitute. http://ohmytracks.com/#/index.php/music/Michael+Longcor
Posted by Anoxos on 07/17/12 at 11:51 AM
That was some serious bad luck for a black man from the US to find himself enslaved elsewhere just 31 years after slavery officially ended here.
Posted by Patty in Ohio, USA on 07/17/12 at 08:20 PM
And here he is!

Posted by Mark in Boston on 07/17/12 at 09:14 PM
I remember that one! (Now you know what the 47 stands for!)
Posted by Expat47 in Athens, Greece on 07/17/12 at 09:27 PM
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