Los Angeles Herald, November 19, 1905. Americans in the 19th and early 20th century were nuts about “wild men,” which is why circus geeks were a popular attraction: It was like a chance to see Bigfoot in captivity. Everybody knew wild men were out there in the wilderness: Newspapers at this time would report rural sightings of supposed wild men (or women) all the time. They were always described as being “as fleet as a deer,” many could jump 15 feet or more in a single bound (!), and they all lived on raw meat of some sort (cattle, snakes, whatever).
Your typical showbiz wild man was probably just a hobo in a fright wig with just enough teeth left to bite the head off a live chicken. But as this story shows, some enterprising carnies were willing to go that extra mile to impress the marks.