World of Strange but True:
Minnesota’s Abby and Brittany Hensel, conjoined twins
You hear a lot of mixed emotions from the stars of these shows—none of whom, by the way, is paid to appear. Abby and Brittany Hensel allowed the world to watch them take their driving test, even while the conjoined twins—they have two heads but one set of arms and legs—decided who would control the gas (Abby) or the blinker (Brittany). “Abby and Brittany Turn 16” is handled with great care, the girls are given plenty of time to talk about their anatomy in nonsensational ways. They explain that they made the film “so people wouldn’t have to always stare and take pictures. Cause we don’t like it when they take pictures … so they just know who we are and stuff.” But as the film progresses, you see that any time the twins leave their Minnesota town, people blatantly photograph them, leaving the girls feeling “violated,” according to their mother, Patty. She gets teary in the documentary when she explains how she doesn’t want her girls to grow up like circus performers, and she hasn’t let the girls speak to the media since the movie debuted two years ago. Watch the movie now—it’s still in heavy rotation on the Discovery Health network—and you can see why they’d shun the spotlight. It’s hard to shake the creepy, voyeuristic feeling you get when you watch the girls make pottery or brush each other’s hair. The narrator explains that they are, “in nearly every sense, perfectly normal teenagers.” But we know we’re watching precisely because they’re not.
According to this Wikipedia entry, the Hensel twins first came to the world’s attention in 1996. Two years later, the Carver County, Minnesota, twins were featured on the cover of Life under the caption “One Body, Two Souls.”
The Hensel twins appeared in a followup documentary on the Learning Channel in December 2006, when they were 16. The most amazing part of the story was when the twins passed their drivers license exam, which is described in the Wikipedia article:
They had to take the tests twice, once for each twin. Both control the steering wheel, Abby controls the pedals, transmission, radio, heat, defogger etc. , and Brittany controls the turn signal and lights.
These two young women have remarkable spirit and their story should serve as an inspiration to anyone tempted to think his or her life is too challenging.