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Oldest Conjoined Twins in History, Ronnie and Donnie Galyon of Dayton

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

The mall at Beavercreek OH, where Ronnie and Donnie live.

The mall at Beavercreek OH, where Ronnie and Donnie live.

The oldest living set of conjoined twins was also the only set of male conjoined twins alive in the 21st century. In 2020, they were 68 years old and still active until their death from natural causes while in hospice in July. They lived in their own home, purchased with earnings from their 30 years performing in sideshows in the Beavercreek suburb of historic Dayton, Ohio.

They experienced a threat to their lives in 2009 when a virus infected them both. However, with their young brother Jim keeping a vigil over their lives, they recovered and a received a new specially made bed to accommodate their body structures. They both finally could lie down peacefully at once.

Originally from a large household of nine children, they always had a difficult time sleeping. Finally, they moved in with Jim and his wife Mary, with specially adapted quarters in their own housing wing.

Space Age Twins

These gentlemen are Ronnie and Donnie Galyon, born in Dayton, Ohio on October 28, 1951. They remained conjoined and retired from active employment together in 1991.

In the 2000s, they enjoyed life around the Greater Dayton Ohio Area and Beavercreek, watching the changes brought by local development and the institution of the Ohio Space Corridor between Dayton and Cincinnati.

The twins witnessed the Mercury and Apollo Programs, the first Moonwalk in 1969, the beginning and ending of the US Space Shuttle Program, and much more aerospace and Ohio history.

For nearly 40 years, Ronnie and Donnie worked as the "Siamese Twins" act in circus sideshows, carnivals, and other types of traveling shows. Overall, they have reported pleasant memories of their work experiences.

Retired happily since 1991, the brothers had been offered surgical separation and declined it. Joined at the sternum and abdomen, they stated that they were happy living in this manner.

The textbook Psychological Profiles of Conjoined Twins by J. David Smith discussed Ronnie and Donnie in its pages, explaining some of the issues surrounding anger in their early teens. It was more difficult to assert individual independence as a teenager when joined physically to a counterpart. In adulthood, those issues were handled and passed away for the most part.

Tabloid editors billed the twins as The Battling Galyons.

Twins in the Tabloids

The old World New Weekly with their iconic Bat Boy did a story on Ronnie and Donnie before they went out of business.

Editors billed the twins as The Battling Galyons, because of some argument the two had and pictured them with rifles, suggesting the twins might shoot each other. That was likely a joke of sorts, but one brother really did blacken the eye of the other in a fight once over food.

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Ronnie and Donnie in a Book

These twins are highlighted in a Ripley's Believe It or Not book that I have enjoyed many times: Unlock the Weird! The articles state that the men were most unusual for surviving in a conjoined state for 66 years as of October 2017.

Most conjoined sets die soon before reaching their senior years. Any twin set conjoined and so long-lived was thought to be a magnificent rarity. The book is fun in that is spotlights my home state.

The Dayton Daily News keeps an archive of their lives in photos on their newspaper website.

Ronnie and Donnie's Stomping Grounds

Moving Back Home

Ronnie and Donnie live in Ohio once more, in their own house at Beavercreek, paid for with their sideshow earnings. When they began to age and suffer from arthritis, a Christian Youth Group built a large addition for the twins, attached to another brother's house.

When they traveled outside America, they had one passport between them, purchased two airline seats. Having three additional brothers and three sisters, they invited one of their brothers to live with them in their house to help them remain more independent throughout their retirement.

The Discovery Health Channel has hosted a television program about the brothers, showing them relaxing at home and going about their daily activities. They used the two strongest of their four legs in order to walk. Between them they had one navel, one bladder, and one set of male genitalia and could not be separated surgically without the imminent death of one or the other.

Apparently, the twins have also been guests on the Jerry Springer Show.

In the twins' native Ohio, the town of Twinsburg holds a famous Twins Festival yearly. This event is called "Twins Days" and occurs during the first full weekend of each August.

The Ohio Double Babe

A set of female conjoined twins from Morrow County, Ohio, Mina & Minnie Finley also worked in show business and were billed as "The Ohio Double Babe" or "The Double Child."

The sisters were born in October 1870, two months after my grandfather was born in Guernsey County. He never saw them, because while they were immediately exhibited, they traveled to Delaware, Columbus, and Zanesville, Ohio as well as other towns and cities. They died at the age of nine months. They had been two separate baby girls from the head, down, until you reached the navel where they became one body with one set of legs.

Closer to Home

Another Ohioan, my father, was supposed to be an identical twin. His twin died in utero and he and his doctor and dentist later discovered that he had extra tissues attached to one lung, attached to his stomach, and manifested in the jaw as several extra molars on one side. The extra teeth were extracted, and the other tissues caused no medical problems.

Interestingly, while my father never saw Ronnie and Donnie on the stage, he had seen The Ohio Double Babe when he helped set up circus tents and tended elephants when the circus train came to town in his youth!

Sources About Twins and Twinsburg, Ohio

  • Twins Days Festival, near Cleveland
  • Twins Days Insider Information
  • Twin Studies Research -- Findings suggest the need for a national twins registry and further inquiry into genetic anomalies in order to better health and longevity, particularly in artificial reproduction. See the International Society For Twin Studies at Retreived May 14, 2016.

Twins Days Parade

Original "Siamese" Twins

The famous Chang and Eng were Siamese (now Thai) conjoined twins that traveled with side shows. The name "Siamese Twins" has been placed on conjoined twins by the public ever since Chang and Eng became popular.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2008 Patty Inglish MS


Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 04, 2018:

@Josh - How about that! Your childhood was one in a million. You must have some great stories.

Josh on December 31, 2017:

I grew up next door to them in Dayton! Occasionally, I’ll see old footage of them from the 80’s and see my old house. Jim is truly a great brother!

Debbie on November 07, 2017:

So wonderful to read about my cousins, they are definitely an inspiration to all.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 19, 2008:

Ivan!~ - thanks for giving us that story. Good to hear that they were smiling and happy.

Best regards to you and the nation of Mexico!

Ivan on October 18, 2008:

I saw Ronnie and Donnie LIVE in my country back in 1984 or so, I don't really remember. My dad asked me if I wanted a photo with them and I refused. I wish I had that piece with me right now so I could show you. But let me tell you something: They did look happy and enjoying what they were doing. I loved the show but I was just scared of them. By the way, I was 7 back then. They were walking like a crab and waving at people and smiling in their black overalls, wearing glasses and... always smiling. Peace. Ivan from Mexico.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 23, 2008:

Thats interesting. Identical twins often feel strange without the presence of the other. How much more so in two that are joined? I wonder if Elvis missed his deceased twin.

lisatener from Rhode Island on February 23, 2008:

Fascinating. Thanks, Patty. I can see why your hubs are so popular. I commented on the article to my husband and he mentioned that we look at the conjoined twin situation from our perspective, but from theirs it probably feels natural. Why would they necessarily want to be separated? I thought it was an interesting question.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 23, 2008:

Thanks Maddie! They live within 60 miles of me and I cannot find them yet. Not that I would bother them, though. I'd send them a present.

dinamars! - I hope someone does a Hub for Maddie on the new twins!

dinamars from France on February 23, 2008:

wow J.Lo has twin babies! a boy and a girl, how lovely indeed :).

Maddie Ruud from Oakland, CA on February 22, 2008:

I was waiting for it ;)

Great hub. I had no idea about Ronnie and Donnie! Thanks for answering my request, and doing it so well.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 22, 2008:

<just remembered the comment capsule. lol>

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