Friday, July 22, 2016

The Creepy Side of Carnivals and Sideshows

Carnivals have weird music, bright lights, strange sounds, clowns, funhouses and sideshows. They are run by what we equate with traveling gypsies who have no connection to our community and who are often times antisocial folks who are seen as "freaks."

So, why do we find a roadside carnival setting up as a sign of mischief and fun?

Screams and thrills never have a season. There is something about being where everything is happening at once that draws people; just look at Las Vegas. There are thrills on rides, trying to win prizes, in a funhouse, and most definitely at sideshow displays.

Can it get any creepier than a funhouse having a REAL display and not a paper maiche one? Here's the story -

In 1976, the show "Six Million Dollar Man" was filming an episode at a haunted house in an amusement park in Long Beach, CA.  They were moving around a prop of a hanging man and the arm broke off, exposing human bones. The body was that of Elmer McCurdy, who was killed in a train robbery shoot out in 1911. The local mortician embalmed him and set him upright in his shop's corner.

The mortician charged folks 5 cents to view the body and they paid by putting the nickle in the dead man's mouth. Eventually, some men showed up years later and claimed him as their brother. They were actually sideshow promoters. They took the body on the road.  And, as the story gets even weirder (the theme here), the body was finally buried in Oklahoma and concrete poured atop the casket to keep him from touring anymore.


Many sideshows are plagued with "rogue taxidermy" and perhaps the most infamous is the supposed Fiji mermaid, but here are some entertaining quilt work of the animal world paraded as aberrations.

Of course, sideshow performers are the things of nightmares. We watch, but we don't want to, but we can't stop.  Folks swallow swords, toss knives, and pound nails into their skulls.

For those of us who love urban exploration - an abandoned funhouse is pretty cool -

Suggested book "Step Right Up: Stories of Carnivals, Sideshows and the Circus"


Getting in the mood


The Funhouse
Carnival of Souls
Something Wicked This Way Comes 
Killer Clowns From Outer Space
Carnival of Blood
Dark Ride


  1. I would put the Elephant Man on that list - one of the few movies where I cried most of the way through. The real dark side of carnival freak shows is the anguish of total physical alienation from the rest of humanity due to some ailment.

  2. ;~)°