The world’s oldest conjoined twins – who spent their whole lives face-to-face and worked on the carnival circuit to support their family – have died aged 68.
Record-breakers Ronnie and Donnie Gaylon passed away in a hospice in their hometown of Dayton, Ohio on July 4.
Born on October 28, 1951, Ronnie and Donnie – who are joined at the sternum and the abdomen, with one set of lower digestive organs – spent the first two years of their lives in hospital.
Parents Eileen and Wesley Gaylon had refused to allow doctors to attempt to separate the brothers after they could not provide a guarantee they would both survive.
Ronnie and Donnie Gaylon maintained they were best friends their whole lives.
At three, they joined King of the Sideshow Ward Hall’s infamous ‘World of Wonders’ carnival tour, billed as ‘Gaylon Siamese twins’ as a way of helping support their parents’ nine kids and paying off medical bills.
They remained on the circuit until 1991 – with their act largely consisting of sitting around in a trailer and watching TV while customers paid to watch from the window.
Their whole lives in sync, they had to work together to complete everyday tasks, initially being trained by occupational therapists.
The pair began working in carnivals as a sideshow act from the age of three (Image: Bettmann Archive)
However, the twins did not receive any formal education, with local schools deeming them too much of a distraction for the other children.
According to some reports, their mother Eileen never accepted them, but they found a close community among the other sideshow performers.
As times changed in the US into the 1970s, carnival acts were shifted to the wayside and the twins instead moved to Central and South America where they became “like rock stars”.
They never married and always maintained they had remained best friends throughout – despite many physical fights during their teens.
In 2009 Ronnie was diagnosed with blood clots in his lungs due to a viral infection, which also infected Donnie, leaving the brothers weak.
They also suffered from debilitating arthritis.
Younger brother Jim became their full-time carer in their later years, with the community of Dayton even concocting them a specialised home.
In 2014, they became the oldest living conjoined twins in the Guinness Book of World Records, overtaking Chinese brothers Chang and Eng Bunker who died at 62.