Half Man Half Tree on TLC the Real Life X-Men

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In the X-Men comics mutants are called Homo Superior. In real life we call people born with visible genetic disruptions sufferers of birth defects. Well tonight, for the first time in my life, I watched a program with a guy who had a severe skin condition and thought “that looks like an actual mutant.” The thing about comic book mutants is sometimes they have powers and sometimes they look strange, but when they DO have a strange look-it looks authentic. And tonight on TLC/Discovery the so called “half man half tree” looked like the real damn deal! It was shocking in the way this guys hands and feet DO look like actual tree roots (that link has good photos and VIDEO). This guy legitimately had parts of his body that did NOT look human-at all. Not even a little! I didn’t get the idea to start taking screen captures until halfway through the show, but here’s a sample of his flesh.

Tree Flesh

The guy’s name is Dede and he lives in Indonesia. God bless the woman who at least married him and gave him 2 kids before she left him. He has that at least (and there’s some good news at the end of the show too).

Dede aka The Elm!

But take a look at these feet!


There is an article that gives a little info. But on the show they also had a medical team look at a Romanian guy named Ion. With a similar, but just as incapacitating skin condition.

The Powerful Ion.jpg

And his feet.

Ion's Feet

Well as I said this story takes place in Indonesia and here in the states we’ve mostly “grown” past the practice of parading people around who look…different. But we didn’t ALWAYS subscribe to that practice. For anybody who has ever seen Ted Browning’s movie Freaks , or even John Hurt in the Elephant Man you know we have a long history or taking unusual looking people and putting them on display. There used to be thousands of these circuses, sideshows, carnivals and tours of oddities that made their way across this country. And this practice has been around really for as long as we’ve had civilizations. You can find it everywhere and everyWHEN throughout history. In fact I believe about a year or two back TLC had a show about a “Lobster Boy ” who spent part of his life working in one of these shows. Because, yes, we still have them here in America-just not as numerously as the old days. But this guy Dede is part of a “clan” in Indonesia of about 4 other guys and a woman run by a man named Hani and his assistant “Boy.”


But what about the X-Men part? Well, when you see the rest of the group you see that they’re a whole team of skin condition sufferers. And their handlers say it’s for their benefits, since most of these guys can’t work and make money. This, he and Boy say, allows these people to make money. But this has been the argument for the last hundred years in this line of work: are the people exploited or is this all they have in life? Is this an opportunity for them to have friends-in-arms, travel, and earn a living? Like I said it’s an old argument because throughout the years different performers have had different answers. When I worked in a circus the people I knew doing this type of work were happy for the travel and money, but I could ALSO see it took a toll on their spirit. Just look at Dede’s face in my pictures. Anyway here’s some photos of the other “clan” members.

The Mysterious Miss Misfigure The TigerShark The Fantastic Elastic Bubbleman Jimmy

It’s a tough life, but as you can see from this man who’s brushing his teeth, people do carry on. And at the end of the program they say that Dede refused treatment, even though the whole way through the program he says he wants help. But THE REASON might be something he doesn’t have control over-turns out Indonesia has a health minister famous for making odd decisions that affect Indonesian people. Like they say; if it wasn’t for bad luck…

You might want to check out a book where they go into detail about these conditions

Andrew's Skin

This last guy has nothing to do with the Indonesia group, but I ran across it and decided “what the hell, might as well throw that in there too.” It’s a guy with facial tumors. The photo’s link takes you to his story.


I also have a story about the woman with Giant legs, with a little info about giant hands…

Thanks for visiting the blog. Leave a comment, Digg me, check out my other stories (especially the TLC No Face Guy piece), and of course my shirts !

Breaking News! Breaking News! Today is April 15 2008

Breaking News! Breaking News! Today is April 15, 2008.
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I just found out that Dede Koswara had the surgery. And you can go to Huffington Post to read about him (or American politics). It’s not MUCH of an improvement, but he feels better about it, so that’s all that matters .

Ok and here we are below at Dede’s NINTH series of surgeries in 2009. Those tree limbs KEEP growing back.


Update Update Update

You’re not going to believe this. But even after all those operations in 2009 THE TREES GREW BACK!! Man, this guy just can’t catch a break. Look at how happy he was during his operations and then these most recent pictures. He’s basically saying “Well, this my life. This is the way it’s gonna be.”

18 thoughts on “Half Man Half Tree on TLC the Real Life X-Men

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  2. I watched this show last night and was very intrigued by it. It was very interesting, and also heart wrenching to watch these people suffer with their diseases. Ion seems to be funtioning well after his first hand surgery. I hope the doctor can heal/cure Dede as well.

  3. i feel deeply sorry for these people. all i can do is pray for them as much as i can and believe that God can change their situations around… i would like to help by sending some helpful packages to these people over there.. does anyone know how i can contact them, or send money or anything directly to them???

  4. Hi Pat
    Thanks for the visit.
    Well, I can repeat the link that I mention in my story, but it’s to the Discovery channel UK, and they have a forum and a link to the Doctor’s site. But quite honestly I think the Indonesian Health Minister, Siti Fadillah Supari, might be the biggest barrier. But you can also try this Portal to Indonesia, as you are probably aware, there has been strong relief effort ever since the earthquake and Tsunami.

  5. I watched the programme too but i think its unfair we never get to know what kind of help these people get and where it all actually ends, for all we know nothing happens as soon as the programme is finished and someone gets paid for it. Is there anyway of finding out what happens to these people afterwards…

  6. Hi Lulu
    Sounds like you’ve got a big heart!
    I think I’ve got a few links throughout this story and the comments that might help you see how things have gone since the show was filmed.

    Or maybe I’ll need to do a “part 2” since it looks like the show just aired in the UK again

  7. i saw it i was totally pisse whn he didnt take the medicen itzz killing me inside i hole doco 4 nothing
    in the end

  8. i’ve been in Indonesia the last few weeks and I saw so many people with strange ailments begging on the way up the mountains.. they are sitting in the middle of the road asking for money and portraying themselves as a freak show. Its very sad indeed.. I saw the man the locals call “bubble man” sitting in the middle too.. theres no help or support from the Indonesian goverment for these people. .

    • Wow Sarah,

      Thanks for this personal insight into what’s going on over there. That is really sad to hear. I myself was initially conflicted about writing this piece and the other ones about TLC shows that border on exploiting. So it becomes for me at least a matter of getting the word out there.

      Does make you wonder what’s going on with the health of people in Indonesia (and China) where a lot of weird conditions keep popping up…

    • It’s been a few YEARS since watched the program but it is a skin condition. That’s why they brought in a dermatologist, but somewhere in the program I seem to recall them saying he became infected. But obviously his genetics had to have had a LOT to do with how this condition has manifested and persisted.

  9. i pray god …………………please god don,t make this kind of humanbeing………………………………..

    • Well Omar

      This is the way life works.

      In fact I feel I can safely say there’s less of this now with modern medicine both preventing and operations if somebody is born like this. But no matter how much we “correct” things its in the blueprint of life.

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