Within the hallowed grounds of Warwick’s Brayton Cemetery lie the bones of a man once known as a living skeleton.
Orrin Henry Perry was born March 22, 1851, in South Kingstown. The son of John Rolland Perry and Lucy Ann (Tefft), Orrin didn’t thrive in the way that most young men did. As an adult, he stood at over 6 feet tall and weighed a mere 80 pounds.
Deciding to use his abnormality to his advantage, Orrin changed his name to Eugene Ferralto and became a circus showman. For 16 years, he exhibited himself as “The Living Skeleton” for Barnum & Bailey and the Forepaugh-Sells Circus in Pennsylvania, where he worked alongside Eva Agnes, the “$10,000 Beauty.”
In 1882, the pair married. For the next two years, he and Eva worked together for the Barret Show, where she performed magic tricks. Three years later, the couple founded their own circus and museum at Crescent Park.
Supposedly, Orrin had developed a drinking habit when Eva left him in 1887 and went on the road alone. By 1888, Orrin was performing in the Pavilion Show in Providence. The following year, while running a variety show at a theater she purchased in Massachusetts, Eva met famous vaudeville performer and banjo player Al Reeves. Later that year, she secured a divorce from Orrin and married Reeves.
In 1890, Orrin was billed as one of the “Latest Living Wonders” at the St. Paul Museum, along with “Big Lizzie: the biggest woman on earth; a ton of fair female flesh.” Orrin’s billing at the museum described him as “six feet of naked bone; he is a man without flesh, nothing but bone, sinew and nerve.”
During that time, he was also running his own show, Perry’s Dime Museum, a traveling exhibit of human and non-human curiosities. In 1892, he partnered with another man to found Hunt’s Circus in New York. Despite his size, Orrin had incredible strength and could lift a water barrel with has teeth. The skeleton was now billed as the “Strongman.”
Toward the end of the 19th century, Orrin’s health began to fail. Unable to work, he became destitute and retired to East Providence, where he lived the life of a hermit.
In December of 1907, 56-year-old Orrin had been ill for several weeks before he was found deceased on the outskirts of the city. His cause of death was determined to be fatty degeneration of the heart.
The “bone, sinew and nerve” that had once made him a sight people paid to see was committed to the ground, his last billing carved in stone.