Today, 70 years later and countless circus and side show, vaudeville and burlesque house performances under his belt, Ward Hall is still in the business.
Ward has worked with a monkey girl, a half-lady/half man, numerous fat men, countless sword swallowers, fire eaters, several giants, big snakes, big rats and little horses. He has mastered juggling, ventriloquism and the art of enticing thousands of curious onlookers to part with their money and go inside the tent of his world-famous sideshows.
Ward has owned and operated sideshows, animal shows, magic shows, and illusion shows with such fashionable names as Magic on Parade; Wondercade: Aquarama water circus; Gladiators vs. Mankillers wild animal show; World Attractions; Sky High Circus; the Wonder Circus; the Pygmy Village; and the World of Wonders. He has exhibited the World's smallest woman, the World's tallest giant, and employed Pete Terhune, the mighty fire-eating dwarf for 55 years.
In addition to owning or co-owning sideshows and circuses during his career, Ward has written four books, four musical stage productions, been in seven movies and more than 100 videos and TV specials, performed at Madison Square Garden and the Lincoln Center in New York City and has sung at Carnegie Hall.
He is in the Hall of Fame of both the Outdoor Amusement Business Assoc. and the International Independent Showmen's Assoc. and is a member of the prestigious Circus Ring of Fame in Sarasota, Fla. Ward is the only person in all three of those halls of honor.
Ward has operated the sideshow for many big time circuses, including: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the Toby Tyler Circus, the Al G. Miller Circus, Circus Vargas (where he was part owner of the circus for a while), Beatty Cole, and the E.K. Fernandez Circus.
Ward Hall's title of King of the Sideshows is not a new or recent act of coronation, and as the ruler of his own little world of misfits and human anomalies, Ward's title isn't self-awarded, but is a judgment rendered by his peers. The year 2014 is the King's 70th year anniversary in show business.
This is his story.
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About the Author
As an industry specialist, Tim has had more than 5,000 articles, more than 3,000 photos, and 13 books published. He has visited more than 500 amusement parks and attractions in 27 countries and has ridden more than 500 different roller coasters. He has appeared in more than a dozen theme park documentaries on the Travel Channel, The Discovery Channel and National Public Television.
A graduate of The Ohio State University with a master's degree in journalism/film production, Tim is an accomplished photographer and public speaker, having lectured extensively at industry seminars, schools, libraries, and various civic groups.
Tim's published books include: Ripley's Believe It or Not! Frog Oddities & Trivia; Baseball Oddities & Trivia; Amusement Park Oddities & Trivia; Legends: Pioneers of the Amusement Park Industry; Ripley's Believe It or Not! 2005 Baseball Media Guide; The Wave Maker The Story of Theme Park Pioneer George Millay; TP on AB The Life & Times of Industry Journalist Tom Powell; The Amusement Park Guide; Tennessee Off The Beaten Path; Where the Animals Are; Fun with the Family in Tennessee; and he penned The Essential Guide to Six Flags Theme Parks with his daughter, Carrie.
In May 2014, Ward Hall King of the Sideshow,the official biography of sideshow impresario Ward Hall was published in celebration of the sideshow king's 70th year in show business.
Where did Tim get his bent for the weird and unusual? Blame it on Ripley's Believe It or Not! For 10 years, Tim served as the national corporate spokesperson for Ripley and had the privilege of showing off the company's 90-plus attractions throughout the world, and in doing so has been widely published and quoted.
He was responsible for the promotion and public relations of Ripley Corporate as well as all Ripley brands and attractions worldwide and served as editor of the venerable Ripley's Believe It or Not! cartoon, established in 1918.
Tim provided most of the talent booking for the various Believe It or Not! Odditoriums around the world, and the list of talented performers he brought to Ripley's front door includes the best in the industry including wire walking Nik Wallenda, showman Todd Robbins, the green skinned Lizardman, and Dan Meyer, the world's foremost sword swallower.
In September 2009 he was instrumental in bringing Ripley's Believe It or Not! back to the radio, after a 62 year absence, when he launched Ripley Radio An On-Demand Oddcast. He was producer and co-host of the popular weekly show which ran five years and 200 episodes before ceasing production in 2014.
Prior to his position with Ripley Entertainment, Tim served as senior editor of Amusement Business, the world's leading business trade magazine for the amusement park, fair, carnival, and circus industries. During his 18 years with the magazine, O'Brien traveled the world reporting the news and the history of the outdoor entertainment industry.
Tim currently serveson the National Advisory Council of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Ct.; on the board of governors of the Applause Award which recognizes the world's top theme park; and is the former chairman of the Hall of Fame Committee of the International Assoc. of Amusement Parks & Attractions, of which he remains a member.
He is also a member of: the Outdoor Amusement Business Assoc.; the Showmen's League of America; the Amusement Park Historical Assoc.; the Circus Historical Society; the American Coaster Enthusiasts; and the Darkride and Funhouse Enthusiasts.
When not traveling, he lives in Nashville, Tenn. with his wife, Kathleen and their two cats, George Harrison and Petula Clark, and 11-year old Beatrice, the largest and friendliest Koi in his pond. When not writing, the Tennessee Master Gardener can usually be found in his backyard which has been named a Certified Wildlife Habitat by the National Wildlife Federation.