Chang and Eng's Grave
White Plains, North Carolina
Chang and Eng Bunker, the original Siamese Twins, are an American success story. Sure, they became famous as sideshow sensations, appearing in P.T. Barnum's show and traveling widely. But they also married, sired 21 children, and retired as rich tobacco farmers and slave owners to North Carolina.
They were A-list celebrities of the 19th century, and proved that even freaks of nature can cultivate a career path and a lasting legacy.
The brothers were born May 11, 1811, in Bangkok, attached by the lower chest to each other. Their names, Chang and Eng, mean "left" and "right." The story goes that the captain of an American ship saw the boys swimming. Captain Coffin purchased Chang and Eng from their mother, and in 1829 the Siamese Twins hit American shores and started a four decade career as popular entertainers.
In 1839, the twins became American citizens, and added the last name Bunker. In 1844, they married Adelaide ("Addie") and Sarah Ann Yates, daughters of a Baptist minister.
In 1854, they bought 1,000 acres of land in Surry County, and built houses one mile apart. The Siamese Twins would spend three days (and conjugal nights) at one brother's house, then three at the other, for some 31 years. Eng had eleven children, and Chang had ten. The Bunkers helped to build the Baptist church in White Plains.
According to today's experts, medical separation during life using techniques and technology available in the 19th century probably would have been fatal for Chang and Eng.
Chang's alcoholism had no effect on Eng. The old asparagus urine test revealed that they didn't share urinary systems. But when Chang died one night, January 17, 1874, Eng -- who was healthy -- soon followed.
Concerning the brothers' demise, Paul D. Morte and E. Wayne Massey, neurologists, wrote in "Stroke in Siamese Twins":
"Chang's symptoms were more consistent with heart failure and pulmonary edema. It was postulated that Eng died of syncope brought on by fright, a speculation based on the peculiar observations that his right testicle was retracted and his bladder distended with urine. However, Eng's severe muscle cramping suggest acrocyanosis from induced vasospasm and microthrombi due to disseminated intravascular coagulation, the tissue factor released from necrotic tissue and the endotoxin from sepsis activating coagulation cascade."
Good -- now we know.
The twins were originally buried in the basement of Chang's house to discourage ghoulish souvenir collectors. After only a couple of days, however, they were dug up and shipped to The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, where ghoulish doctor souvenir collectors made a plaster cast of their body and cut out their liver (still on display today at the Mutter Museum. The Bunkers were then shipped back to North Carolina and buried in Chang's front yard.
Finally, after the last of the sisters died in 1917, the twins and Adelaide were moved to the burial ground of the White Plains Baptist Church. They lie under a single tombstone (Just a few rows away, you can find the tombstone of Andy Griffith's grandparents.). Sarah Yates, who died in 1892, was buried on Eng's farm in grave in the woods (Patrick Boyles advises us the grave is hard to find today).
Over 1,000 Bunker descendants still live in Mt. Airy, NC.