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Top 5 Facts about Conjoined Twins

VO: Chris Masson
Script written by Max Lett Ever look at yourself and think I could sure use another one of me attached somewhere on my body? Well here are a few facts about people who have never thought that in their lives and who probably think you're pretty insensitive. Welcome to WatchMojo's Top 5 Facts. In today's instalment, we're counting down the five most interesting facts that you probably didn't know about conjoined twins. Special thanks to our user IrisFan FanIris for submitting the idea using our interactive suggestion tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by Max Lett

Top 5 Facts About Conjoined Twins

Ever look at yourself and think “I could sure use another one of me attached somewhere on my body”? Well here are a few facts about people who have never thought that in their lives and who probably think you’re pretty insensitive. Welcome to WatchMojo’s Top 5 Facts. In today’s instalment, we’re counting down the five most interesting facts that you probably didn’t know about conjoined twins.

#5: Twins Are Conjoined in Many Ways

The classic idea of conjoined twins in popular media is usually two identical siblings joined at the hip or torso. In reality there are almost a dozen different types of conjoined twins. Siblings joined at the chest, or thoracopagus twins, make up almost 40 percent of all cases. They share a heart which makes separation surgery almost universally fatal to at least one of them. Omphalopagus twins are joined from the breastbone to the waist and can share a liver as well as gastrointestinal and genitourinary functions. Craniopagus twins are joined at the cranium but this category is extremely rare and occurs only about 2 percent of the time.

#4: Conjoined Twins Are Icons in Biddenden, England

Local folklore has it that in Biddenden, twins Mary and Eliza Chulkhurst were born joined at the hip and possibly the shoulder in the year 1100. They lived to the ripe old age of 34, which I imagine is actually pretty good for those days. They left a generous amount of money and land to the church after their deaths, apparently making them local icons of charity. It became a tradition to prepare baked goods shaped like them and distribute them to the less fortunate. Historical evidence is spotty though, and many believe that it was a colorful legend invented by the town. There is some evidence of such a pair of Biddenden twins existing in the 17th century though. Regardless, the charitable distributions that Mary and Eliza supposedly enabled, along with the cakes they inspired, continue to this day.

#3: Separating Twins is Risky

Since the 1950’s, one twin out of every conjoined pair has survived separation only around 75 percent of the time. Although there is a 68 percent chance of successful separation in twins joined at the base of the spine, there are currently no survivors of separation surgery for siblings who share a heart. Ben Carson, the American surgeon who recently ran for leadership of the Republican party, first made his mark in a groundbreaking 1987 operation that separated infant twins joined at the back of the head. Though it was widely declared a success as both twins lived, the two boys had major neurological damage and have required constant care for their entire lives. Even with gifted surgeons performing the operation, there are no guarantees to these procedures.

#2: Conjoined Twins Are Even Rarer Than You Think

If you’re wondering why you’re not friends with more conjoined twins then it might because you’re still calling them Siamese twins but probably it’s because they’re so rare. In fact, only 1 in every 200,000 live births will result in conjoined twins, about 70% of which are female. If a person has a 1 in 3000 chance of getting struck by lightning in his or her life, then by using some fancy but dubious math that I’m totally guessing about, this means that you’re sixty six times more likely to be fried by electricity shot from the sky than you are to be born a conjoined twin. Have conjoined twins ever been struck by lightning? We couldn’t find any case of that happening, and the odds are approximately infinity to one, I’m guessing.

#1: The Term “Siamese Twins” Came From Twins From Siam

So, if you’re still saying “Siamese Twins” then you’re inaccurate and archaic. But at least there’s a historical basis for the term. Eng and Chang Bunker were born joined at the lower chest in Thailand, which was known as Siam at the time, in 1811. They gained celebrity in touring circus shows and eventually ended up in the United States. There they bought a farm, found two very open-minded sisters with which to start an unconventional but happy family. But, how did they… with their wives, I mean, would they... Yup! They had 21 children between them. Anyway, because of their origin, people just got used to calling them the Siamese twins but the term eventually stuck and began applying to anyone who was born conjoined.

So, what do you think it would be like being a conjoined twin? Would you even want to be separated? For more miraculous top 10s and different-but-normal top 5s, be sure to subscribe to


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