Meet Schlitzie, The Inspiration Behind American Horror Story’s Pepper
We love American Horror Story and all its crazy kooky characters. One of them being the beloved good-natured microcephalic, Pepper.
Pepper is loosely based on the real life microcephalic, someone who’s head is significantly smaller than the rest of their body, named Simon “Schlitzie” Metz. Schlitzie was born in 1901 and became part of the Freak Show and circus circuit at an early age, including Clyde Beatty Circus, Foley & Burke Carnival, Ringling Bros., and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He was often portrayed as a woman, wearing muumuus and other female attire.
Schlitzie has been given different names through out the years such as ‘The Last Aztec’, ‘The Monkey Girl’, ‘The Missing Link,’ ‘The Pinhead,’ and even ‘What is it?’ He made his first acting debut in Tod Browning’s 1932 classic Freaks, in a role playing himself. The film was wildly controversial at the time and was banned in the U.K. for 30 years before acquiring its current cult status.
In 1935, Schlitzie was adopted by George Surtees, a chimpanzee trainer for the Tom Mix Circus, and was legally named Schlitzie Surtees. When George Surtees died in 1965, Schlitzie was placed in an LA hospital until he was released by sword-swaller Bill Unks.
Schlitzie died at the grand old age of 70, and a fan collection was set up to buy him a commemorative headstone in Rowland Heights, LA.