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His performance included sleight-of-hand and acrobatic feats including his famous one-armed handstand. "Magic's Most Unusual Illusion", David Charvet.

Although Eck capitalized on the resemblance between himself and Robert, the twins were fraternal. In 1991, John died of a heart attack in his sleep at the age of 79. His brother Robert Eckhardt was also a performer and he had an older sister named Caroline Laura Eckhardt. [13] The illusion would end with stage hands plucking up Eck and setting him atop his legs and then twirling him off-stage to be replaced by his twin Robert, who would then loudly threaten to sue Raboid and storm out of the theater.

Eck is interviewed about the craft in the 1989 documentary film The Screen Painters. They are buried under one headstone in Green Mount Cemetery, Baltimore.

Though Eck would sometimes describe himself as "snapped off at the waist", he had unusable, underdeveloped legs and feet that he would hide under custom-made clothing. Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair. He and his brother often performed Punch and Judy shows for the children who would come to visit.

They were both home-schooled by their older sister Caroline and able to read by the age of four. Eck often performed in a tuxedo jacket while perched upon a tasseled stool.

He was known for his impressive acrobatics, including his famous one-armed handstand, but he also juggled and trained animals. He challenged those who had legs by asking, “What can you do that I can’t, except tread water?”. [3] The twins had an older sister named Caroline who educated Eck at home until he and his brother enrolled in public school at age seven. He accepted the offer as soon as McAslan accepted his one – to employ Robert too. As his roles in movies were limited and the interest for sideshows declined, Johnny and Robert decided to retire and go back to their parents’ house where they lived for the rest of their lives. [citation needed], After Freaks, Eck was featured as a bird creature or "Gooney Bird" in three Tarzan movies: Tarzan the Ape Man (1932), Tarzan Escapes (1936) and Tarzan's Secret Treasure (1941). In order to create the bird costume used by Eck for the Tarzan films, footage which was filmed during the production of Freaks in 1931, a full body cast was taken of him. Learn more, or test what you already know. In 1923, the brothers attended John McAslan’s stage magic performance.
[10] After being sawed in half, the legs would suddenly get up and start running away, prompting Eck to jump off the table and start chasing his legs around the stage, screaming, "Come back!" He and his brother opened a little amusement park featuring a tiny train, on which Johnny acted as conductor.

As Johnny grew older, his agility and independence amazed family and friends. "[7] When Pete Robinson had difficulty lying on a blanket in one scene, Eck made the comment that if he had legs, he would have lain on a fakir's bed of nails. He was never ashamed by his appearance and overcame the handicapped label that was pinned on him at birth.

John Eckhardt, Jr. was born in 1911 and was one of the most famous freak show performers in the States.

"I would climb atop of a small box and preach against drinking beer and damning sin and the devil," Eck recalled in an autobiographical fragment. Despite that bit of dishonestly, the brothers enjoyed their time in the magic game. During the illusion, Robert would be placed in a box and be discreetly switched with Johnny and a dwarf wearing trousers hiked over his head. Eck continued his love of drawing and painting, early on choosing such subjects as pretty girls, ships and himself. Besides being a sideshow performer and actor, the multi-talented Eck was also an artist, musician, photographer, illusionist, penny arcade owner, Punch and Judy operator, and expert model-maker. [15] In Baltimore they bought and ran a penny arcade until a business tax forced them out of business. He was often billed as the amazing "Half-Boy" and "King of the Freaks". When McAslan asked for volunteers for his act, 12-year-old Eck bounded onto the stage on his hands to the surprise of the magician.

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