The Long Shadows: Story of Jack Earle

Read the fascinating story of Jack Earle (real name, Jake Erlich), whose 8-foot-6-inch frame supported a uniquely courageous soul that proved to be giant in more ways than one.

| September 2012

  • The Long Shadow of Jack Earle
    Based on ten years of research, “The Long Shadows” by Andrew Erlich is the loving story of Jake Erlich’s lifelong challenge of being 8-feet-6-inches tall.
    Cover Courtesy Multicultural Publications
  • Jack Earle
    Andrew Erlich tells the inspiring story of his 8-foot-6-inch-tall Uncle, Jake Erlich, better known by his stage name, Jack Earle.
    Photo Courtesy Multicultural Publications

  • The Long Shadow of Jack Earle
  • Jack Earle

In The Long Shadows (Multicultural Publications, 2012), author Andrew Erlich tells the inspiring story of his uncle Jake Erlich, better known by his stage name Jack Earle. Read the story of Jake’s exceptional life overcoming crippling shyness, depression, temporary blindness and the physical challenges of an 8-foot-6-inch frame. Follow his lifetime of 46 years, and uncover the story of how Jake earned widespread acclaim for his multi-faceted artistry as a silent film star, sideshow performer with the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, dancer, musician, painter, poet, photographer and sculptor whose work is in a permanent collection in the Museum of Natural History in New York. The following excerpt on Jake's first encounter with a Eugenics rally is taken from Chapter 18, “Major General George Moseley, U.S. Army, Retired.” 

I have always been somewhat of a worrier. That Sunday morning waiting for Val and Scotty to show up in the parking lot was no different. I worried about what might and what might not happen. I worried about my parents, about morals, about being alone again with Val, or never seeing her again. I even worried that I had gotten confused about the day and time she said she would pick me up. I had walked back and forth so many times I must have worn a path in the freight yard’s cracked asphalt.

But there were so many other things on my mind. Not the least of which was having asked Ingalls if I could skip the matinee that Sunday. Getting the time off was actually easier than I thought. You see, despite how demanding he was about me signing my contract, I think he really wanted and needed me back in the show for next season. So he let it pass as a sign of goodwill. After all that had happened, I still can’t believe I had the balls to ask him.

As I paced, I worried. What if that day I stole a kiss or what if Val slapped my face?  What if we argued about art school? What if I told her I had decided to leave the sideshow, and in her anger she took back her offer and said she never wanted to see me again? I imagined one scenario after the other, wrestling with the unknown and trying to control it. None of my what-ifs brought me any peace. My head felt like it was ready to explode.



Honestly, I’d been fretting for hours. I was so uneasy that I got dressed and ready to go before dawn, hours before Val asked me to be ready. I was so nervous I changed my clothes three times until I decided on the denim pants, powder-blue linen shirt, and navy cardigan I wore. I’m sure you understand; I wanted to look my best for the occasion. At eight a.m., when Scotty finally pulled the shiny black Pierce-Arrow into the lot, I thought I would be relieved. But that scene created its own distress. As I approached the car, Harry, Daisy, and Lya strolled by, coming back from their morning constitutional.

“Pretty swanky, Mr. Erlich,” Harry said as he moved toward me. “I will have your bath drawn at quarter past three, my lord,” he added, mimicking a Boston Brahmin’s butler. His thin yet powerful voice, loud enough to be heard all the way to Westchester, drew attention from anybody in earshot and embarrassed the hell out of me.