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Traveler rating. Excellent Very good 9. The billed performer's act consisted of a single geek, who stood in center ring to chase live chickens. It ended with the performer biting the chickens' heads off and swallowing them.
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It was a matter of pride among circus and carnival professionals not to have traveled with a troupe that included geeks. Geeks were often alcoholics or drug addicts, and paid with liquor — especially during Prohibition — or with narcotics. The Online Etymology Dictionary gives the following for " geek ":. In modern usage, the term "geek show" is often applied to situations where an audience is drawn to a performance or show where the performance consists of a horrific act that is found distasteful but ultimately entertaining by masses.
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It may also be used by a single person in reference to an experience which he or she found humiliating but others found entertaining. It is used in derision. Freaks is a horror film with a long history of controversy because it used real carnival performers. In its original release, it became the only M-G-M film ever to be pulled from cinemas before completing its domestic engagements. In the film noir classic Nightmare Alley , based on the novel by William Lindsay Gresham , Tyrone Power plays a sideshow barker in a seedy carnival which includes a geek biting the heads off live chickens.
Power's character later succeeds as a charlatan mentalist , but then descends into alcoholism and is reduced to falsely portraying a geek as a means of survival in another sideshow. In one of Gresham's non-fiction books, Monster Midway, he details the process of making an alcoholic or a drug addict perform a geek act in exchange for a fix.
In the television show Starsky and Hutch , Huggy tells Starsky and Hutch that the guy they are looking for, Monty Voorhees, used to be a geek. Starsky explains geeks to Hutch.
He also claims that the geeks formed a union in , which he then admits he made up. The artist Joe Coleman bit the heads off white rats as part of his stage act as Doctor Momboozo  in the s. He primarily did a 'Human Bomb' show, self-detonating at the end, but also performed with the rodents for his turn as a geek. I'll be sharing these these experiences, including the ones that follow, at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn this Friday night, November 20th. A trip to Gibsonton, Florida was a must. Gibsonton, or Gibtown as it's better known, was the winter home for many sideshow personalities in the mid-twentieth century.
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Today, only a few are left, but among them are showmen Ward Hall and Chris Christ. Hall, now in his early eighties has been in the business since the age of fifteen and currently runs the World of Wonders sideshow with Christ, his partner since We were joined by Pete Terhurne, a dwarf who had been performing with Hall for nearly 50 years. Sadly, Terhurne has since passed.
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On the other coast, in Fillmore, California, showman Bobby Reynolds shared his many tales in a room with walls covered in circus and sideshow posters and decorated with various memorabilia, including a two-headed baby in jar. I was joined at Reynolds' home by George "The Giant" McArthur, who learned to swallow swords from the legendary impresario and is now the world's tallest sword swallower.
Back at my own home, I welcomed Harley Newman to learn more about his history and amazing abilities.
My wife, Liz Steger-Hartzman, photographed him performing numerous stunts, such as blowing fireballs in our driveway. The neighbors didn't seem to notice. Years later, Newman taught me how to be a human blockhead -- a stunt in which a nail, or in my case, a plastic cocktail sword, is inserted through the nose and into the head.
Old articles, books and various pieces of ephemera offered information about past performers, including one of my favorites, Laloo. Born with a parasitic twin, he had a malformed brother attached to his torso which proved to be a spectacular attraction. Though, as an old illustrated advertisement for one of his appearances demonstrated, at least one showman heightened the drama by billing the twin as a sister.
Just to make the sight a little more curious.
The Hilton Sisters, on the other hand, were fully formed conjoined twins who enjoyed a successful career in vaudeville for many years, but suffered through great turmoil behind the scenes and eventually left the business with barely a dime. Their story was recently brought back into the spotlight on Broadway, with a second run of the musical, Sideshow. The program for one of the Hiltons' shows, below, offers a fascinating photographic glimpse into their lives. One contained the skeleton of a pig, while the other held the remains of a dog.
These antique items indicated that the Guangfulin ancestors migrated from the north. They tramped over mountains, waded across rivers and finally settled in the city. To some extent, they were the first migrants of the melting pot of Shanghai. In the farmland zone, rice, corn, sunflowers, pears and peaches are cultivated. Located on the banks of the Shenjing River, Guangfulin was a traffic hub in days gone by.
The cultural zone is the highlight of the park, with more than 10 themed museum areas and memorial halls.
Each building in the park is constructed of old bricks, tiles and wooden posts collected from nearby villages. All the materials are more than years old.
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The site has cobblestone streets and buildings with whitewashed walls and gray tiles in the architectural style of old Anhui Province. The relics park, including the Zhiye Buddhism, Chenghuang and Guandi temples, is partially opened to the public now.
Many shops are setting up in the park. Several coffee bars, goat meat restaurants and teahouses have already opened. The Duoyun Bookstore, in the style of old Anhui architecture, offers a quiet place for visitors to have a moment of peace with books and tea or coffee. Surrounded by bustling streets and shopping malls sits Xilin Temple, a Buddhist shrine with a history dating back more than years.
Four stone lions guard a stately front door of brick, stone and wood. Near the door is a central square paved with cobblestones and decorated with neatly trimmed pine bonsai. Doves stroll casually around fed by pious Buddhism followers passing by. No one speaks. Everything is quiet, as monks and visitors enjoy the precious peace and tranquility of the temple. Only sunrise bells and sunset drums break the silence. In the center of the square is a bronze lamp carved with Buddhism scriptures on its eight facades.