William “Bill” Durks was born on April 17, 1913, in Jasper, Alabama to normal parents, and had four normal siblings. As Ward Hall wrote in My Very Unusual Friends (1991), Bill “looked like he had been hit in the face with an axe”. He suffered from frontonasal dysplasia, a birth defect that occurs when the two halves of an embryo’s face fail to come together completely. He had a deeply cleft lip and palate and a bifid, or double, nose - each half having only one nostril. In addition, he was born with both eyes sealed shut and had them surgically opened when he was a small boy, and most accounts indicate that he was blind in one eye.
Bill didn’t join the freak show until he was in his forties. A struggling sharecropper in rural Alabama, Bill was discovered at a local carnival in his hometown and invited to go on tour. He left behind his dismal life for one of fame and fortune, and became the “Man with Three Eyes”, using stage makeup to paint a third eye between the bridges of his two noses. Photographs show that Bill’s third eye was an obvious fake, but he seems to have fooled a generation of carnival-goers and was a huge success. He worked with Kelly-Sutton Shows, James E. Strates Shows and Hubert’s Museum, making up to $100 a week - a modest sum by today’s standards, but a far better living than he had made growing cotton. He even experienced Hollywood in 1973, playing a sanitorium inhabitant in Brian DePalma’s Sisters
By all accounts, Bill was a shy and introverted man, his unusual appearance having made it difficult for him to interact with people for the first forty years of his life. He usually hid his strange face under a wide-brimmed hat when on tour. He was illiterate and had a hard time talking due to the profound deformity of his lip and palate. Despite all this, however, Bill would find love in the freak show, when the “Anatomical Wonder” Melvin Burkhart introduced him to Mildred “Milly” Durks, the alligator-skinned woman.
Milly was older than Bill, having been born November 22, 1901, in New Jersey. The two were married and enjoyed many years together as the World’s Strangest Married Couple, before Milly passed away in June of 1968 in her hometown of Somerset. Bill kept right on performing for several more years before retiring to Gibsonton, where he died on May 7, 1975.