The incredible story of Martin Laurello, the man who could turn his head 180 degrees

There are those who are distinguished by their intelligence, their ability in sports, or their artistic abilities. But also, there are those who stand out for having physical qualities a little individuals. And they even go down in history for it.

In this case, Martin Joe Laurello remained in popular memory for being the man who could turn head 180 degrees. And although his case was a great bewilderment to the scientific world, he made a living with his extraordinary physical gifts at the fairs and traveling circuses in the United States.

He was born in Nuremberg, Germany, in 1885. And he became popular for having an uncanny ability, turning his head back until you can look at your back, as if it were a owl or one owl. He quickly began to work in his country, in companies of the time that presented human oddities throughout Europe.


He could turn his head 180 degrees. Also his hip and his right foot.

«The human owl»

In time, Martin Emmerling (that was his real name) crossed the Atlantic to try his luck in the United States, which by the early 1900s had a particularly thriving industry in the world of «freaks.» And of course, it didn’t take long to get the attention of North American producers.

He joined the staff of the traveling circuses from Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey’s. It became very popular in the shows of the time and was the main attraction of the stages. Everyone wanted to have «The human owl«.

They also used to call him «Bobby, the boy with the spinning head.» His tour of America began in 1921 and apparently he had to practice for three years in a row to be able to spin back all your head. It is believed that he also had to dislocate some vertebrae and what to have certain deviation in its column it could have helped.

At the time he performed this act he could drink a glass of beer.

At the time he performed this act he could drink a glass of beer.

Also the waist and the foot

But this was not the only thing that managed to turn 180 degrees, he could also do it with other parts of his body, for example, with his waist and his right foot. Martin was quite a circus man. But he had other capabilities. It was ventriloquist and furthermore, he had a trained dog capable of performing stunts dazzling named Frisco.

In his adventure through the United States his popularity increased year after year. He was very successful in traveling circuses and made television appearances on high-end shows. In addition to working at Ringling Brothers, he also worked at the Hubert Museum in New York, Coney Island, and Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Of course, Laurello’s abilities are extraordinary and should not be imitated by common society as it could bring serious consequences for the Health If someone does. A bad movement could dislocate a vertebra in the neck, cause suffocation or even damage the spinal cord generating irreparable damage.

Martin Laurello in a "Ripley

Martin Laurello in a «Ripley’s Believe It or Not!» Brochure.

Nazi ideology?

However, his story continues to attract attention despite the passage of time. And his abilities continue to amaze us. This man could spin the neck 180 degrees And till drink a glass of beer. But I cant breathe at that moment. Several scientists wanted to know what was happening in his body, but there is no record of studies that have been done at the time he performed.

The only medical record in this regard is the opinion of Nasher, an American professor who reported in the New York American: “It is a remarkable acrobatic or contortionist feat. Remarkable for its novelty as well as for the persistent training required to achieve it. ”According to him, the training was key for Martin, beyond speculation about a spinal injury.

During your work at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! OdditoriumIn the 1930s, he was advertised as «the only one in the world who can walk a straight line and look back.» But his personal life was not as spectacular as his work on stage. He married Laura Precht, with whom he had a son named Alexander, and they divorced to start another failed marriage.

The origin of his extraordinary ability could never be known.

The origin of his extraordinary ability could never be known.

His second wife was Emilie Wittl and he had two children with her. Incredibly it all ended with a police report for marital abandonment and a arrest in full action on April 30, 1931.

According to the newspaper The New York Times, Martin was standing on a platform with his back to the crowd, looking up at his audience. He winked at the officers. They gave it back to him and then they arrested with a $ 500 bond. On the other hand, one of the strongest questions that weighed on him was that of being a sympathizer of the Nazism. This was stated by his former colleague Percilla Bejano.

Not having x-rays of the time, it is impossible to finally know if Martin’s skill was pure training, as he affirmed, if it was a question of «dislocated» vertebrae, or of having been born with a «crooked» spine, as other versions stated. The mystery will remain open forever. Martin Joe Laurello passed away in 1955, at age 70, from a heart attack.