Before the days of the institutionalized circus sideshow with its legally-binding contracts, showmen knew the best way to secure a female freak was to marry her. Such was the case with Augusta Barbara Ursler (or Urslerin), born in Kempten, in the south of Bavaria, February 18, 1629, to Anna and Balthasar Ursler. A beautiful example of hypertrichosis lanuginosa, Barbara was covered in soft, blonde or light-brown silken hair that grew longest and thickest on her face. Notably, she was the only one in her immediate family born with this condition.

Barbara was first exhibited throughout Europe by her parents as early as age eight, when she was seen in London by the English diarist John Evelyn. Learned medical men of the age were eager to examine her and posit their own hypotheses about her strange appearance. One even suggested that she was a hybrid between a human woman and a male ape. Thomas Bartholin, the Danish anatomist, examined her in Copenhagen in 1839 and wrote a detailed description of "Barba, the Female Esau".

When Barbara was about twenty years old, she married a German impresario named Johann Michael van Beck, and after about a year of marriage, Barbara gave birth to a baby, which, remarkably, was not hairy. The most famous description of the hairy bride comes again from John Evelyn, who saw her a second time in London on September 15, 1651: "I saw the hairy woman, twenty years old, whom I had seen before when a child. She was born at Augsburg in Germany. Her very eyebrows were combed upwards and all her forehead as thick and even as growes on any woman's head, neatly dressed. A very long lock of hair out of each eare. She also had a most prolix beard and mustachios, with long locks growing on ye middle of the nose, like an Iceland dog exactly, the color of a bright browne, fine as well-dressed flax. She is now married and told me she had one child and it was not hairy nor were any of her relations. She was very well-shaped and plaied well on ye harpsichord" (from C.J.S. Thompson's The Mystery and Lore of Monsters).

Under her new husband's showmanship she became "Barbara, the Human Beare". A 1655 promotional pamphlet, titled "A True Relation of a Woman as Haire as Any Annimile", which was likely written at least in part by van Beck, gives this description: "Her whole bodie, even to her face, is covered with curled yellowish haire, verrie soft like woole. She has besides a thicke heavie beard that reaches to her girdle and from her ears hang long tufts of the same yellow colour." Van Beck's exploits as the hairy woman's spouse-manager are not well-documented, but it is believed he was every bit as ruthless a promoter as Julia Pastrana's Theodore Lent. According to Dr. Bondeson in The Two-Headed Boy, so lurid were the "medical" descriptions that issued from Barbara's "meetings" with men of science that van Beck was even accused of whoring her.

Descriptions of Barbara's travels abruptly cease after 1668, and Bondeson theorizes that she died around this time.

Created 2.8.09.