Sunday, February 7, 2010

Siah Khan

Siah Khan Bushehri (سیاه خان بوشهری) , also know as Kashmir Khan was known as a deformed giant and Iran’s version of the Elephant Man. Born in 1912 in Fars Province, Siah Khan was reported to be almost 12 feet tall by age 18. Other heights attributed to him were reported as 11'3" and 10'6". His arms were supposedly so long that he had to wrap an arm once around his head to be able to put food in his mouth. Such dimensions would easily make him the tallest man that has ever lived. However, when he was admitted to a hospital in 1933 he turned out to be only 7'2" tall, making him the most exaggerated giant in history.  

Siah Khan was the third child in his family and there had been no health problems with his elder siblings. He clearly had a variety of medical conditions (perhaps one or more of neurofibromatosis, proteus syndrome or elephantiasis) in addition to acromegaly contributing to his physical and mental state. His hands were 117 centimeters long and his legs were 125 centimeters. Siah Khan’s skull weighed 5.7 kilograms but only had a capacity of 1,470 cubic centimeters. As a result of his complicated growth, there was no space in between the vertebrae in his vertebral column. 

Siah Khan had a normal growth pattern up until age 6 at which point he began displaying accelerated growth. By age 9 he resembled a 20 year old. As a result of the costs associated with his health issues, his family moved to Shiraz and using their young son as a human oddity attempted to exploit this extra source of income. Due to his abnormal weight he was unable to walk and when transported needed the assistance of 3-4 men and this was in spite of Siah Khan being too skinny for his height. His forehead initially expanded forward and gradually also extended downwards partially covering his eyes. His chin also protruded forward in a sharp manner. From a mental standpoint Siah Khan had the personality of a child and in all likelihood suffered from retardation. He showed strong sexual feelings with no control or shame. Some of this mental state can be attributed to the expanding skull which placed more pressure on the brain. During fits on anger he would curse, scream and cry although his crying would occasionally be in a high pitched town similar to a child’s. The weight of his head and skull caused him to slouch like a hunchback (without the slouching his height would have been even more). Siah Khan had an appetite of 3-4 healthy adults. In 1931, Siah Khan was contracted to a man named Khashour Khan for 6,000 tomans and subsequently taken to Tehran for display. He was tracked down by Dr. Ghorban. Founder of Shiraz’s Medical School, and put under his care for tests and treatment. Siah Khan spent the rest of his life in hospitals and finally passed away due to pneumonia and syphilis.  

 His skeletal remains are now on pubic display in a glass case at Shiraz’s Medical School.


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