When people get into the business of the strange, the bizarre and the downright insane

What drives human beings to swing dangerously on a trapeze with no security net, or to nail sharp objects into their body? What does a magician who locks himself up in a box full of water,  a person lying on a bed of nails, or a fire-eating entertainer have in common? They are in the business of…you guessed it, the bizarre.

While ventriloquism, comedy shows, clowns, juggling, and buffoonery give us all a laugh, everyone wants to have, what I call, a heart attack experience.   Humans naturally have a certain thirst for blood, for action, for risk, and for interesting creatures doing intelligent things. This is the stuff that makes us do a double-take. 

Circuses have had many acts over the years that filled all the seats in the venue. Some more bizarre than others. Who would have thought about shoving a sword down their throat for the sake of entertainment?  Somebody sure did. Once people figured out that human beings will pay for this kind of entertainment, all sorts of bizarre ideas emerged. 

Impalement art

The art of impalement, or should we say, near impalement, dates back to at least the 19th century and it goes something like this: 

Imagine going to work where your job consists of being tied to a piece of wood and having a person throw knives at you! Sounds like fun? 

The impalement art consists of a sharp object thrower who will target a human being, often a half-naked woman (because what else could possibly make this more exciting!) with the goal of landing the knife or ax as close to her as possible. Sometimes the target is placed on a spinning wheel that is set in motion while the knife thrower aims and throws.  Clearly, the pair cannot have any trust issues! 

Sig G. Acaris was a famous knife thrower around the 20th century. 

Sword Swallowing

In this art form, a person shoves a knife or sword down their throat, all the way down till the hilt. The artist needs to maintain relaxation in order for his esophagus to open all the way down to the stomach. This entertainment form remains very dangerous and can kill a person who makes even the slightest mistake. In 2009, the Guinness World Record for longest sword swallowed was achieved by Natasha Veruschka with a 58 cm (22.83 in) long sword.

Human wonders

Before television, and the modern advancements of medicine we have today, circuses used to display human beings that had certain deformities. People would flock over just to see a glimpse of these strange, grotesque and surreal human beings.

Among them was Grady Stiles, a boy born with deformed hands in the shape of pinchers. He was nicknamed lobster boy.

Chang and Eng Bunker, the first conjoined twins

Ella Harper, born with her knees turned backward.

 Flea circus

In 1820, Mr. Louis Bertolotto, an Italian impresario, began the first flea circus ever recorded. A flea circus is a tiny little circus on which fleas are attached to different items such as Ferris wheels little cars and carts and are trained to move around, thus moving the objects as well. The handler would wrap a thin little rope around their necks and the fleas stayed in it for the rest of their little lives. How adorable…? I guess?

Snake charming

In this practice, a cobra is being hypnotized through the act of playing a flute-like instrument called a pungi. In fact, snakes don’t hear very well and reacted to the movement of the instrument in the same way that they would react when faced with a predator. The snake charmer needed some serious snake psychology knowledge in order to get them to behave the way he wanted them to. Snake charmers are wanderers, usually going from town to town performing in festivals, on the streets, and in markets. 

Snake charming is said to begin in Ancient Egypt where the charmers were also considered healers. They were trained to deal with snake bites and were hired as snake removal experts. 

Professional regurgitation

This might be a great skill that would come in handy the next time that you have a tad too much to drink. Professional regurgitation is the act of regurgitating in a controlled and professional matter.  People have been known to swallow various crazy things such as live animals, light bulbs, mice, and kerosene. Yummy!

A famous professional regurgitator from the 1920s known as the great Waldo was known to swallow frogs fish and rats. He also swallowed razors, pocket watches, and lemons.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dagmar_Rothman

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circus

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_charming

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grady_Stiles

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ella_Harper

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chang_and_Eng_Bunker

The powerful lady-pharaoh that ruled over ancient Egypt.

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