Home Grown Freak Show
Chesterfield Virginia, Twin Brothers Jay and John O'Baker own and operate the Appomattox Renovation Service, a construction firm which specializes in renovating and saving old homes and businesses. In July of 1999, their mother, Agnes passed away and after everything was taken care of the question of what to do with their childhood home remained. The brothers decided to move the town from a rather run-down area of town to a new location. Preparations were made, permits issued and in October the brothers begin the hard process of preparing the house for removal.
On October 27th, Jay was digging out along the side of the house to expose the substructure when his tilling machine hit a metal object.
Brothers find evidence that they were Siamese twins in Mom's basement.
"When I heard it clang off something I thought at first there was a pipe we had missed." Jay told me. "But I dug the tiller out and got a shovel and found a locked metal box, about a foot long and 6 inches wide. Mom didn't have a huge trust in banks so I brought it over to John and told him that we'd found our inheritance."
Jay now believes he was more correct than he realized. The men, cut the lock off and opened the box to reveal a mummified length of flesh about 8 inches long.
"It was wrapped up in some old cloth and I didn't know what in the hell it was. Maybe somebody had buried a pet by our house and forgot about it but then John looked up at me and said he knew what it was. He lifted up the side of his shirt and touched his mole. Then I knew he was right. It was evidence of something we had known about for years. That me and John were Siamese twins when we were born"
The brothers often thought this was the case when they were young boys. Both have a small mole or nodule of flesh visible on their side (Jay's on the left, John on the right) which their mother told them was a shared birthmark. They were born in 1964 and were delivered by midwife at home. Their father, who died in Vietnam, was not at the birth being in the Navy and at sea. The midwife, Jennifer Taylor, is dead but her husband says he never told her anything about helping a birth of Siamese twins. Jay and John believe that they were joined at the waist by the strip of flesh they found and their mother had it removed shortly after birth.
Siamese or co-joined twins are exceedingly rare. While research shows that identical twins have a ratio of 3 for every thousand births. Co-joined twins are more along the lines of 1 set for every 800,000 twin births. (that's 1 chance of co-joined twins for every 240 million regular births for those of you keeping track at home) It's important to note that the O'Baker's are mirror image twins which occur only about 25 percent of the time in twin births. Jay is right handed, John left handed and they have opposite hair whorl patterns. More interesting is the fact that John has a rare medical condition which causes his internal organs to be reversed from the normal position in most humans. This is exceeding rare and occurs only in about 1 in every 50 million births. Medical records on co-joined twins have shown that is a common occurrence for the organs to be reversed in one twin.
So what's the next step for Jay and John? Well they are still concentrating on moving the house but now they are planning to have the mummified flesh DNA tested to see if it matches themselves. "I know Mom cut us apart when we were babies." says Jay. "I always felt that way. She was just too ashamed to tell anyone and buried the evidence. Now finally we'll know for certain."
phone interview with Jay O'Baker, November 17th, 1999
phone interview with Samuel Taylor, November 18th, 1999
"Human Behavior and Associated Studies" Dr. Mark Warnoski, Penniscot Press, 1993
"Twins Make Bizarre Find" Chesterfield Star-News, November 8th, 1999
"Freaks: A History of the Sideshow" David Noldham, Troubadour Printers, 1981
photo courtesy of the Chesterfield Star-News