One of Us...One of Us
A Collection of Freaks
What is it about Freaks that arouses interest? Anomalies in general - weird news, strange events, a crippled guy comes into your work, the oddest thing happened today, always pique our curiosity. The out-of-the-ordinary is compelling, and it's about time I had a page devoted to them.
HUMBUG - a
carnie term for a fake exhibit. Example - You see a BIG sign,
200 Pound MAN EATING CHICKEN INSIDE - BEWARE
Inside the tent, however, the people find they paid 50 cents or a buck or two to walk through to see a man, who happens to weigh 200 pounds, eating some Kentucky Fried.
Art To Get You In The Door...
Circus/Carnival art is it's own sub-genre in art. Almost as fun as the shows themselves.
Movies About Freaks
Tod Brownings Masterpiece - FREAKS - British Quad Poster, and The Director With His Company
alone as one of the most grotesque and the most controversial.
Rarely seen since its 1932 release, and banned in Britain for thirty
years, it has achieved cult status as the masterpiece of the
The film features a cast of actual sideshow freaks, human-beings of every conceivable physical aberration. yet the film soon reveals that the normal members of the traveling carnival are the true monsters; pitiless, conniving and murderous! When one beautiful trapeze artist discovers one of the freaks has a small fortune, she lures him into marriage. But when she and her strongman lover plot to kill him after the wedding, the enraged freaks defend their friend and take revenge on their betrayers, transforming the aerialist into the most hideous side-show attractions of all.
From the acclaimed director of the original DRACULA, Tod Browning, FREAKS is a fascinating drama of prejudice and injustice with a provactive and timeless moral.
On the documentary side, there is the Ari M. Roussimoff's classic FREAKS UNCENSORED. I have it on DVD if someone is interested, let me know. In depth and frank interviews with freaks and industry insiders, plus tons of amazing archival footage - a real eye opener.
The Murder of Grady
Grady Stiles Being Grady, Advertised as HOWARD, with his daughter, and far right a lobster GIRL
Stiles was known as "Lobster Boy" for his deformed hands that looked like claws.
He had 4 children, 1 boy and 1 girl had the same deformity that he had.
His circus show was famous throughout the world. He married three times to two different women and was very abusive towards his family. When his oldest Daughter was engaged, Grady became so enraged that he shot the groom the day before the wedding. Even though he was found guilty of murder, they did not send him to prison on the basis that the prison system did not have the neccesary capabilities to handle his condition. He was given 15 years probation for his crime.
In November of 1992, after many years of abuse, his wife, Mary Teresa, went to their son-in-law, and pleaded with him to help her get away from her husband. He came up with a solution. With the help of a neighbor, Grady Stiles was shot 3 times in the head while he was watching T.V. in his trailer in the carnie mecca of Gibsonton, Florida. The son-in-law was given a life system, his wife, Mary, was sentenced to 12 years in prison, she maintains to this very day that she did what she had to do to save her family and to protect them.
Zip The Pinhead
Pics of Zip and Other Pinheads
Zip the Pinhead, born William Henry Johnson, (1857 Liberty Corners, New Jersey -
April 28, 1926 New York, New York) was an American freak show performer famous
for his oddly tapered head.
William Henry Johnson was born to a very poor African-American family. His parents were William and Mahalia Johnson, former slaves. As he grew his body developed normally but his head remained small. His tapering cranium and heavy jaw made him attractive to agents from Van Emburgh's Circus in Somerville, NJ. His unusual appearance caused many to believe that he was a "pinhead", or microcephalic. Microcephalics are characterized by a small, tapering cranium and impaired mental faculty. It is clear, however, that William Henry was not mentally deficient. William Henry's parents agreed to allow the circus to display him in return for money. He was billed as a "wild negro boy" supposedly caught in Africa and displayed in a cage. He was a popular draw and his success lead young William Henry's agent to show his charge to P.T. Barnum. Barnum purchased the right to display William Henry Johnson from the circus and gave him a new look. A furry suit was made to fit him, and his afro was shaped to a tiny point that further accented his sloping brow. Finally, he was given the name, "Zip the Pinhead," the "What-Is-It?"
As Zip the Pinhead
Zip's early performances were set against a background story. It was told to the audience that a tribe of "missing links" had been discovered in Africa, and that Zip was one of these. It was further explained that the "wild man", the "What-Is-It", subsisted on raw meat, nuts, and fruit, but was learning to eat more civilized fare such as bread and cake. Zip would then be revealed in a cage where he could rattle the bars and screech. This act was tremendously successful for Barnum, and Zip was as big a draw to his American Museum as the famous Siamese twins, Chang and Eng Bunker. In later years Zip became more "civilized" in his act. He shared the stage with other prodigies, including his friends Jim Tarver, the Texas Giant; Jack Earle, the Tallest Man in the World; and many others. Zip also traveled extensively with the Ringling Brothers circus.
Zip drew the attention of important figures of the time. In 1860 he was visited at the Museum by the Prince of Wales; his photo (the one pictured above) was taken by famed Civil War photographer Matthew Brady. Throughout this period Zip's best friend and manager was Captain O.K. White. White conscientiously looked after Zip's interests. He also gave Zip one of his prized possessions, a tuxedo. He would wear the tuxedo on special occasions such as birthdays. One of his other possessions was a fiddle. It was said that he purchased the fiddle in Kentucky and that it had once belonged to Daniel Boone. Zip was unskillful with the instrument to say the least, but it is reported that audiences loved seeing Zip play his fiddle and dance about with it.
In his later years Zip eschewed traveling in favor of displaying himself at Coney Island. One Sunday afternoon in 1925, during one of his strolls on the boardwalk, Zip heard a little girl cry for help. He noticed the girl waving her arms in the ocean and swam out to rescue her. He instantly became a hero, being cheered by all who witnessed, but shyly ran away from the attention of being a good samaritan. He took seriously ill in early 1926. He had bronchitis and despite the wishes of his doctor and Captain White he continued to perform in a stage play in which he had a part. Upon the closing of the play he returned to his home in Bound Brook, NJ, where he was cared for by his doctor, Captain White, and his sister. When his condition worsened he was moved to Bellevue Hospital in New York City where he passed away. It is estimated that during his astonishing 67 years in show business, Zip entertained more than one hundred million people. He was termed "The Dean of Freaks". His funeral was attended by the greatest side show acts of the days, including Madame Olga, the Bearded Lady; Frank Graf, the tattooed man; and many more. During the ceremonies the distraught Capt. White collapsed. He died three days later. Zip the Pinhead, William Henry Johnson, was buried in Plot 399 of the Bound Brook Cemetery. A small gravestone bearing the inscription "William H. Johnson, 1857-1926" marks his resting place.
How Smart was Zip?
William Henry Johnson was not a true microcephalic; he merely had an oddly-shaped head. He therefore did not suffer the mental retardation that a microcephalic suffers. There has been interest in ascertaining Zip's actual mental capacity, however. William Henry's sister, Sarah Van Duyne, claimed in a 1926 interview that her brother would "converse like the average person, and with fair reasoning power," when he came to visit her. Zip had picked up the habit of smoking cigars from John Ringling North, proprietor of the circus. However, his cigars had to be the same expensive brand that North smoked, or Zip wouldn't perform. Zip's fiddle-playing was so awful that his fellow performers and some audience members would pay him not to play. In this way, it is believed that Zip earned $14,000 in only six years. Could Zip have purposefully annoyed his fellow prodigies and unappreciative audience members to earn extra cash? (Zip's money was invested by Capt. White in several ventures, including a chicken farm in Nutley, NJ.) Finally, Zip's last words were to his sister, Mrs. Van Duyne. He is quoted as saying, "Well, we fooled 'em for a long time!"
- Pitch Vs. Reality
Left To Right - Popeye the Bug Eyed Man, The Spotted Girl, Headless Fifi, and the IT-Girl From India
Above are examples of the banner a carnival or circus would display next to the actual person (exhibit). Some humbug, some true, all fascinating.
END OF FREAKS
News Monster Archive
The Frances Farmers Revenge Web Portal
News Monster Archive