The history of full-body tattoos in Western culture straddles the lines between circus sideshows and the lifestyles of the eccentric and individualistic. Sometimes the tattooed transformation is accompanied by tales of wild fantasy and sometimes they are explained as simply the actions of someone just trying to be their true self.
One of the first full-bodied tattooed people was The Great Omi. Originally, The Great Omi was a regular British citizen named Horace Ridler. After serving in the British Army during World War I, Ridler decided to make his living in show business. He opted to become what came to be called a “made” freak, and had himself tattooed all over to become a sideshow attraction. This was around 1922, and apparently Ridler’s plan worked somewhat. After a few years he sought out London tattooist George Burchett, one of the greatest tattooists of that era. A redesign of Ridler’s skin art was commissioned, and Burchett tattooed Ridler all over with wide black stripes. These not only patterned Ridler’s entire skin surface evenly like an animal marking, but it covered up the earlier, crude tattooing. It was at this time that Ridler began using the title The Great Omi and achieved true success.
There are several notable people who have worked to achieve full body art transformation in the present day. Tom Leppard is a man who has his entire body tattooed with leopard spots, enough that he is listed in the Guinness Books of World Records as the World’s Most Tattooed Man. Stalking Cat of Washington State is known for his feline split upper lip and facial whiskers, which are really long pieces of jewelry worn in multiple cheek piercings. These compliment his tattoos of cat-like markings and cat eye contact lenses very well in his quest to tranform himself into his totem animal.
The Lizard Man has been working on himself for more than a decade. He has full body tattooing of combining tribal patterns and scales, and bumpy implants in his forehead. He also had his tongue split and has his teeth filed to points. He travels and performs as a sideshow one man ten-in-one, including such acts as sword swallowing and fire eating alongside more modern feats such as swinging weights off of body piercings and gavage.
Sideshow performer The Enigma is a man tattooed to look like a living blue puzzle. He came up with this concept after a few years of being a geek in a traveling modern freak show. In addition to his tattoos, the Enigma also has large lip and ear piercings, body piercings and horn implants on his forehead. Helping him with this transformation is his tattooist wife Katzen. She put the outline of the puzzle pieces on him initially. Both she and other artists have been doing the fill work over the years. At the Amsterdam Tattoo Convention in 1995, the Enigma set a world record by having 22 different tattoo artist work on him simultaneously. Now THAT’S endurance.... Katzen herself has full body tattoos of stylized tiger stripes and performs with her husband as well as her tattoo artist work.
Take a look on the web for more colorful details about these transformed humans.
- See the Lizard Man at www.thelizardman.com
- Enigma and Katzen can be found at www.humanmarvels.com
- Stalking Cat's lair is www.stalkingcat.net