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Secrets of the Sideshows

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Overview

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 ...

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Using history, real carny language, stories from former sideshow workers and owners, and from Nickell's own archives, Secrets of the Sideshows is a wealth of information for circus fans or anyone who's wondered how those seemingly-impossible illusions are created." " — Algona Upper Desmoines (IA), Brookings (SD) Register, Lake Country (WI), Marco I

"Using history, real carny language, stories from former sideshow workers and owners, and from Nickell's own archives, Secrets of the Sideshows is a wealth of information for circus fans or anyone who's wondered how those seemingly-impossible illusions are created." — Brookings (SD) Register

"Nickell offers first a history of sideshows... then presents a comprehensive analysis of sideshow performers, skills, and illusions.... Recommended." " — Choice

"An illustrated book for large popular-culture collections. Recommended for all levels." — Choice

"To find out how it's done, and other carnival minutiae, browse Nickell's comprehensive Secrets of the Sideshows." " — Entertainment Weekly

"A widely researched and splendidly illustrated history of the bizarre world of the exhibited abnormal and the demonstrated impossible." " — Foreword Magazine

"If there's a more incredibly thorough ­or more thoroughly incredible bookout there on the past, present and future of the midway, I don't know it. Blessed are all we rubes that Joe Nickell's Secrets of the Sideshows is outin the world." — James Taylor, author of James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed: On & Off theMidw

"A book that gives you the straight lowdown on the acts and the people behindthem. A clear-eyed look into a vanishing bit of Americana. Intriguing andunique." — Joe R. Lansdale, Edgar Award winning author of The Bottoms and Freezer Burn

"The author, lifting up the back flap of the tent show, reveals, informs, and presents a range of human oddities from the 'real' to the 'created.'" — Linking Ring

"Ever since I saw Penn and Teller 'eat' fire and pontificate on the circus sideshow, I have been curious to learn more about it, not only the history and culture of the sideshow, but the secrets themselves! Nickell delivers brilliantly." — Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things

"Simultaneously provides an insider's glimpse of that world on the skirts of the main event and an excursion into a vanishing feature of North American life." — PsycCritiques

"An enjoyable read.... Nickell has encyclopedic knowledge of sideshow history" — Roanoke (VA) Times

"Nickell takes us inside the world of fire-eaters, sword-swallowers, jugglers, snake-handlers, and magicians to explain the illusions and oddities we may have puzzled over but never fully understood." — Robert A. Baker, author of They Call It Hypnosis

"To be sure, he gives plenty of secrets away here, most of them open secrets, but the book works best as a tribute to the imagination of the performers and organizers of the exhibits which were meant to provoke and satisfy that admirable old human characteristic, curiosity.... If you want the lowdown on sideshows, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, Joe Nickell presents the best show on the midway." — Times of Acadiana

"An exciting experience of the mostly American phenomenon of carnys, sideshows, freaks, and carnivals." — UFO Aktuellt

"For an entertaining book on a rapidly fading culture that was once a thriving part of old America, be sure and pick up "The Secret of the Sideshows." — Jarrid Deaton, The Floyd County Times

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780813191959
  • Publisher: University Press of Kentucky
  • Publication date: 9/26/2008
  • Series: None Ser.
  • Edition number: 4
  • Pages: 424
  • Sales rank: 560,955
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Table of Contents

1 Origins of the sideshow 1
2 On the midway 25
3 The ten-in-one 52
4 Human oddities : large and small 80
5 Human oddities : between a half and two 120
6 Other human oddities 141
7 Anatomical wonders 165
8 Created oddities 178
9 Working acts 209
10 Illusions 260
11 Animal shows 299
12 Curios 322
13 The egress 345
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