Secrets of the Sideshows

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University Press of Kentucky, Sep 9, 2005 - Performing Arts - 424 pages
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The carnival sideshows of the past have left behind a fascinating legacy of mystery and intrigue. The secrets behind such daring feats as fire-eating and sword swallowing and bizarre exhibitions of human oddities as "Alligator Boys" and "Gorilla Girls" still remain, only grudgingly if ever given up by performers and carnival professionals. Working alongside the performers, Joe Nickell blows the lid off these mysteries of the midway. The author reveals the structure of the shows, specific methods behind the performances, and the showmen's tactics for recruiting performers and attracting crowds. He also traces the history of such spectacles, from ancient Egyptian magic and street fairs to the golden age of P.T. Barnum's sideshows. With revealing insight into the personal lives of the men and women billed as freaks, Nickell unfolds the captivating story of the midway show.

 

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Contents

Other Made Oddities
189
Gaffed Oddities
194
Gaffed Acts
201
WORKING ACTS
209
Sword Swallowers
220
Phenomenal Ingesters
225
Human Pincushions
233
Blockheads
238

Games
34
Rides and Amusements
40
Sideshows
48
THE TENINONE
52
The Banner Line
53
The Bally Platform
62
On the Inside
68
The Blowoff
76
HUMAN ODDITIES LARGE AND SMALL
80
Giants
81
Fat People
92
Living Skeletons
101
Dwarfs
105
Midgets
111
HUMAN ODDITIES BETWEEN A HALF AND TWO
120
OneandaHalfs
128
Armless and Legless Wonders
133
OTHER HUMAN ODDITIES
141
Hirsute Womenand Men
150
And More
158
ANATOMICAL WONDERS
165
IndiaRubber People
168
SpecialEffects Performers
171
Mr Anatomical Wonder
175
CHEATED ODDITIES
178
Pierced Ones
184
Other Torture Acts
240
Electric Marvels
247
Snake Charmers
250
Knife Throwers
254
ILLUSIONS
260
Psychic Marvels
264
Torture Box Illusions
271
Living Heads
275
Headless People
282
Floating Lady
285
Gorilla Girl
288
Girl in the Goldfish Bowl
291
Other Illusions
293
ANIMAL SHOWS
299
SingleAnimal Acts and Exotics
303
Freak Animal Exhibits
309
Flea Circuses
314
CURIOS
322
Other Preserved Exhibits
328
Bogus Creatures
333
Other Curios
341
THE EGRESS
345
References
353
Index
361
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