News / USA

Psychologist Tells Inspiring Story of His Giant Uncle

Greg Flakus
Millions of people seek help from psychologists in part because they feel different from others. But Phoenix-based psychologist Andrew Erlich says everyone is a freak in some way. Erlich argues for acceptance of differences in a book about an uncle who overcame prejudice and pain caused by his extreme height.

In more than 50 silent movies in the 1920s, Jake Erlich amazed audiences by towering over every actor in a scene.

On stage, he was known as Jack Earle, The Texas Giant. To his show business friends, he was a gentle and considerate man. Among his friends were some of the smallest people.

This son of Jewish immigrants had a tumor on his pituitary gland that caused his unusual growth. Growing up... and up, in El Paso, Texas, Earle often was the object of derision.

"Having to dodge rocks that were thrown at me when I was a kid would become all too common," said Erlich, reading Earle's comments from his book.

Andrew Erlich is Jack Earle's nephew. His book, The Long Shadows, tells how Jack, or Jake, overcame his challenges, including depression.

"Most of us have something that we are embarrassed about. It is like an invisible clubfoot. But for Jake, it was present. Everybody saw it," said Erlich.

As a clinical psychologist, Andrew Erlich helps patients who see themselves as freaks. First, he tells them about his uncle.  

"Here is a man that overcomes the stereotypes, and he does it not by avoiding who he is, but by embracing who he is and expressing it in the visual arts and in his performances," he said.

Erlich's book tells about how Jake toured with the circus and then, after suffering temporary blindness, took up sculpture and painting.

"He found freedom through creativity. I am very interested in the creative process in the people that I see, and I use Jake as an example, and I show them his paintings," said Erlich.

Jake's paintings depict circus events, scenic vistas and the lives of common people he met traveling the country.

"Jake really wanted to do something that was not photographic. You see a scene and your emotions come through as you see it, and you paint it from different perspectives," said Erlich.

Today, advances in medicine can prevent the gigantism that afflicted Jake Erlich. He died at the age of 46 in 1952. But Andrew Erlich said openness to diversity is progress compared to Jake's era.

"People were very frightened of human differences, and they would build walls to protect themselves from those differences and those walls that separate us are very dangerous," he said.

Erlich hopes that his uncle's story will help readers accept themselves and fulfill their dreams.

You May Like

Changing Under Pressure, IS ‘Potent’ as Ever

US intel officials describe Ramadi's fall as concerning, but say it isn't emblematic of larger effort to degrade IS capabilities More

Nigeria Fuel Shortage Shows Fragility of Africa’s Oil Giant

Although it is the largest oil producer in Africa, country has nearly ran out of fuel it needs to power its generators, cars and airplanes over the past week More

Arrested Football Officials Come Mainly From the Americas

US Justice Department alleges defendants participated in 24-year scheme to enrich themselves through corruption of international soccer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Cari
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
May 27, 2015 9:31 PM
Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video 3D Printer Makes Replica of Iconic Sports Car

Cars with parts made by 3D printers are already on the road, but engineers are still learning about this new technology. While testing the possibility of printing an entire car, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy recently created an electric-powered replica of an iconic sports roadster. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video US Voters Seek Answers From Presidential Candidates on IS Gains

The growth of the Islamic State militant group in Iraq and Syria comes as the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign kicks off in the Midwest state of Iowa.   As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, voters want to know how the candidates would handle recent militant gains in the Middle East.
Video

Video A Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts Provides Relief From Security Tensions

When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul. Ayesha Tanzeem visited and talked with people about the precious oasis.
Video

Video Film Festival Looks at Indigenous Peoples, Culture Conflict

A recent Los Angeles film festival highlighted the plight of people caught between two cultures. Mike O'Sullivan has more on the the Garifuna International Film Festival, a Los Angeles forum created by a woman from Central America who wants the world to know more about her culture.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.

VOA Blogs