Krooner and his Canadian wife Georgianna had three children:
Ralph, Lillian, and Edward. Of these three, only Ralph Albert,
the eldest (b. July 2, 1888, in Montpelier, Vermont), was
afflicted with a strange skin condition. Instead of the lamellar
ichthyosis displayed by most "elephant-skinned" people, Ralph
had hyperkeratosis of the feet, hands and knees. It was most
severe on his feet, where the skin grew so thick and crusty that
his toes were almost indistinguishable. One patch of
hyperkeratotic skin on his knee bore a resemblance to an
elephant’s head with its trunk extending down his shin.
claimed in his autobiography that he'd spent most of his
childhood in the hospital. "I have tried such things as X-ray,
Radium, Grafting and Acids. The growth has been taken off, but
cannot be kept off, a birthmark, caused by a fright my Mother
received while witnessing a parade at a circus. The Elephants in
that parade Stampeded, killing five people and injuring
twenty-one people," Ralph wrote. Records show, however, that
Ralph attended school at least until the age of 12, so his
hospital visits couldn’t have taken up too much of his time.
Ralph worked for Wortham & Allen shows in the 1910s, where he
invited doctors to examine him and debate the cause of his
condition (most doubted his elephant-scare story). "His hands
feel like a piece of wood," commented one doctor in 1912. He was
married and earned $25 a week (about $530) plus whatever he
could make selling pitch cards.
When Ralph appeared in Sheboygan in 1922, he was the center of a
controversy, just as moral watchdogs were considering whether or
not to ban the carnival from the city altogether. One of the
chief complaints was that Ralph, himself an alleged victim of
maternal impression, could "mark" the babies of pregnant mothers
in the crowd. The suspiciously-named Dr. Elfers stepped in to
clear up the matter: "There is no such thing as fright or fear
or seeing things causing marked children or deformities, but
this is not meant to encourage [pregnant women] to be too bold,
as a calm and restful mind during this period has proven best."
Nevertheless, complaints to the health department forced Ralph
and his management to purge his show of any mention of maternal
Ralph seemed to attract trouble. In 1936 he was arrested for
stealing a car from the airport in his hometown of Montpelier.
Just a few days earlier, he had gone to police claiming to have
been hit by a car in Michigan City.
died in Tampa in 1952.
courtesy of Elizabeth Anderson
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