All posts tagged Sideshow

By: Kim Wall and Caterina Clerici of The Guardian

For those who didn’t quite fit elsewhere, Gibtown was a utopia. Its first settlers, the Giant, and his wife, the Half-Woman, ran a campsite, a bakeshop and the fire department. The post office catered to little people with extra-low counters, and the beer hall had custom-built chairs for the Fat Ladies and the Tallest Man. Special zoning regulations allowed residents to keep and train exotic animals in their gardens. Siamese-twin sisters ran a fruit stand. Three factories manufactured Ferris wheels and carousels.

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Source: By Peggy Ussery – Dothon Eagle

Step right up, folks, and take in the sights of Black Jack the Giant Steer and Hercules the Giant Horse. Or, sneak a peek at the World’s Smallest Horse, but don’t touch — he bites.

You can see it all for only a couple of dollars.

It just wouldn’t be a carnival without the oddities of the world on hand. And the 66th National Peanut Festival certainly has it’s share of the unusual. The festival continues through Sunday.

“I would say he’s at least 1,500 to 2,000 pounds heavier than he should be,” owner Rebecca Smith said of Black Jack, a Holstein-Chianina mixed steer who weighs 3,250 pounds and stands 6-foot, 4-inches tall.

Next door is Hercules, a Belgian horse that weighs about 2,800 pounds and stands 6-foot, 6-inches tall. Born in Wisconsin, the 10-year-old horse eats a bale of hay, 25 pounds of grain a day and drinks 25 gallons of water.

Along the midway, carnival worker Ray Ledetter mans a booth for Oreo — billed as the World’s Smallest Horse, smaller even than a dog. The miniature filipina may be smaller than some large dogs, but he still overshadows a chihuahua.

A sign over Oreo’s enclosure provides a warning — “I Bite.”

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By Amy Bickel – The Hutchinson News

Operator calls it the last traveling one in the nation as venue’s past its heyday.

Pete “Poobah” Terhurne eats fire outside of the “World of Wonders” sideshow at the Kansas State Fair on Friday afternoon.

Pete “Poobah” Terhurne eats fire outside of the “World of Wonders” sideshow at the Kansas State Fair on Friday afternoon.

When Ward Hall ran away from his family’s Nebraska home to join the circus as a flame eater at the age of 15, his father told him he’d be back in just two weeks.

But that was nearly 65 years ago, the 79-year-old Hall says with a smile as he stood outside his “World of Wonders” sideshow. He’s known nothing but this nomadic life since 1946, and he couldn’t imagine doing anything else.

Yet, he says with a sense of dismay, the American sideshow isn’t what it used to be.

What once was a mainstay at fairs across the nation has slowly faded off the map, he said. He opened his own sideshow in 1951. Now he’s the only one left.

“There’s a permanent one on Coney Island,” Hall said before his 2 p.m. show at the Kansas State Fair. “But we’re the last traveling sideshow in America.”

One by one, they went out of business as employees quit, retired and died, he said.

At one time, when there were more than 100 sideshows in the country, fairgoers would goggle at what some called “freaks.” Hall said it’s not necessarily a more politically correct society that has run the sideshows out of business. He blames a fast-paced life that includes television.

Yet Hall keeps going. He tried to retire in 2003 to his home in Gibsonton, Fla. – a community that has long been a retirement and winter spot for carnival workers and sideshow performers.

The heat of summer, however, was just too unbearable, he said.

He went back on the road.

The group does 50 shows each year during the fair season, said 28-year-old Marcus Epsilon, who has mastered the skill of putting his arms, tongue and other body parts in traps with ease.


“It takes skill,” he said with a smile.

Epsilon is part of a lineup of 12 acts that include a man who swallows swords, a woman who seemingly turns into a snake, a human blockhead and Pete “Poobah” Terhurne, a 3-foot-tall, 79-year-old fire eater who has been at Hall’s side for 55 years.

Moreover, unlike sideshows of the past that featured the fat man, a bearded lady and a lobster boy, these shows are more illusions instead of human or animal oddities.

Hall, however, is hopeful for a good fair. Off the fairgrounds main path, past the carnival rides in the northeast corner of the fairgrounds, his exhibit sits, awaiting anyone who will walk by with a few dollars. They perform every 30 minutes.

When the carnival rides start moving, they’ll open their show about an hour later, he said.

“And when the last drunk staggers out the gate, then we’ll shut down,” Hall said.

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Display Brings Back Carnival Sideshow Items

Watch the News Clip Here
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. — The days of the carnival sideshow are being brought back to life at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum in Leavenworth.
The oddities that used to lure people into sideshows in the late 1800s through the 1950s, such as the two-headed creature, the mermaid and the sword swallower, are now on display.

“This is a freak show — things you don’t normally see anymore,” museum director Jerry Reinhardt told KMBC’s Maria Antonia. “If they were born today, they’d get medical attention to take care of deformities, but they had to exhibit themselves to the public.”

The display includes a two-headed duck and shrunken heads.

“There may have been some real ones, I don’t know that these are. Nobody knows for sure,” Reinhardt said.

It was the world of C. W. Parker, who was known for carousels and traveling carnivals.

The carnival exhibit opened a few days ago. For more information, visit

A headless lady, a moving mummy and a girl in a goldfish bowl are among the spectacles brought to life as part of a new exhibition charting Britain’s seaside sideshows.

By Alastair Jamieson –

Cleo, the girl in the goldfish bowl

"Cleo", the girl in the goldfish bowl

The illusions, once a common feature of piers and promenades, have been recreated for the first time since falling out of fashion in the 1960s.

The eccentric performances will be shown alongside never-before-seen colour photographs of post-war British fairground entertainment and a waxwork model of ‘professional freak’ Horace Ridler whose extensive tattoos earned him a living as The Zebra Man.

The disquieting creations are part of Showzam, a 10-day festival of variety performances taking place in Blackpool next month.

The festival’s main attraction is the Circus of Wonders exhibition of sideshows and images curated by Professor Vanessa Toulmin, the niece of a professional contortionist who is now research director of the National Fairground Archive at Sheffield University.

“They were the popular entertainment of their age,” she explained. “Before everyone could afford cars or foreign holidays they were at the seaside and wanted to be entertained. This is part of our history.

“These were very tricky live performances yet cheap to watch – sometimes only a penny – so they were affordable and open to the whole family. There has been a return to live performances as people recognise the skill that goes into them.”

She said the colour photographs, taken by fairground enthusiast Lionel Bathe, demonstrated the popularity of steam shows and events such as the Festival of Britain.

“These pictures have never been on public display and their rare colour makes them very special,” she said.

Five “magic” sideshows dating from as early as 1937 will be used in public for the first time since being restored by enthusiasts.

They include Cleo: The Girl in the Goldfish Bowl, Gloria: The Living Half-Lady and The Mummy in which a woman appears to turn into a walking corpse.

They have been recreated by touring theatre company Sideshow Illusions with original equipment used by 1930s and 1940s Blackpool fire-eater showman Jon Gresham.

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