Daisy and Violet Hilton endured years of exploitation before their death

Harrowing case of conjoined twin who had to live with dead sister attached to her

A set of Brighton-born conjoined twins met a tragic end after one was forced to live for days with her dead sister next to her.

Approximately one in 200,000 live births result in conjoined twins, which is when twins have been born physically attached to one another.

The rare situation results in several complications before, during and after pregnancy, though modern medicine has advanced enough to open the possibility of separating the twins in some cases.

Conjoined twins are when one fertilised egg splits into two embryos, but doesn’t fully separate.

Half of conjoined twin pregnancies unfortunately result in miscarriage or stillbirth, with many dying after birth too.

They can be joined at the chest, abdomen, lower back, pelvis or head, and the twins may also share certain organs depending on where they are joined.

All of this makes it all the more impressive when conjoined twins were born at a time where the world of medicine couldn’t do much to help if things went wrong.

Daisy and Violet Hilton are one of those twins who defied the odds by carving out a successful career and life for themselves.

The sisters were born in Brighton, Sussex in 1908 and were joined at the hip.

The pair were born in Brighton. (Bettmann/Contributor)

The pair were born in Brighton. (Bettmann/Contributor)

The twins were best known for starring in the 1952 film Chained for Life, which portrayed aspects of their lives and featured other vaudeville acts.

Tragic beginnings

While their lives were portrayed to be light-hearted and funny in some parts in the film, they actually went through a lot together, starting from the beginning, when their own mother sold them to another woman named Mary Hilton.

Daisy and Violet became a freak exhibit at the time, and were controlled by violence, moulded into becoming talented musicians.

The twins pictured in 1924. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The twins pictured in 1924. (Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In an attempt to make as much money as possible off the girls, Mary flogged pictures of them from behind the bar she ran and parading them on tours aged just three.

When Mary died, the conjoined twins were willed – yes – like property – to her daughter Edith, but luckily they eventually managed to get out of the ‘contract’.

Taking back control

Living as performers for the remainder of their lives, their musical talents were sought-after, until vaudeville ended and their manager abandoned them without a penny to their names in 1961.

The pair were talented musicians. (Visual Studies Workshop/Getty Images)

The pair were talented musicians. (Visual Studies Workshop/Getty Images)

Their last public appearance is believed to have been at a drive-in in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Daisy and Violet went on to get a job working at local shop, where they made a living for over seven years.

A chilling death and lasting legacy

Sadly the sisters ended up passing away around new year’s in 1969.

But here’s the chilling part.

Conjoined twins can feel a lot of each other’s pain when alive, and often, when one falls terminally ill, it can spread to the other if they are not separated.

Both of the twins were suffering from the flu, which got to Daisy first, as she passed away from symptoms.

The pair passed away within days of eachother. (Bettmann/Contributor)

The pair passed away within days of eachother. (Bettmann/Contributor)

Violet wasn’t as ill, and so stayed alive for two to four days until the flu symptoms got to her and she died, which means that Violet spent this time attached to the rotting corpse of her sister before she herself passed away.

It’s truly disturbing stuff, but nowadays if this were to happen, conjoined twins can be separated if one falls terminally ill, if they agree to undergo the surgery.

This could potentially save a life, but back in the early to mid-20th century, medicine wasn’t advanced enough.

The twins have since been featured in the 100 Pioneering Women of Sussex blog series.

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