Freaks a Vanishing
A half man, half ogre
slipped out from a tiny cubicle beneath the stage, startling the
"Are you looking for somebody?" this creature with misshapen limbs
asked the visitor to the weedy backlot of the Goodings Million
Dollar Midway at Summerfest Thursday.
It was Emmet the Turtleman - the same guy who pictured with
artistic liberties on one of the garish banners at the entrance of
Circus Unique, a sideshow.
The visitor asked for Ward Hall, impresario of the freak show,
Emmet pointed to a trailer.
Hall, 47, is a modern day equivalent of P.T. Barnum, one of the
last of a breed of showmen who make a living exhibiting human
Besides Emmet, the show features such attractions as Frances Cook,
a seven and a half foot giantess, and Barbara Benton, "the world's
smallest mother, who is 36 inches tall.
Hall's show also
boasts Artoria. Back in the 1920s she was a feature of the
Ringling sideshow. She has "George Washington" tattooed on her
chest, "The Last Supper" on her back and icons in blue and red ink
completely covering her legs.
Hall is a guy who exhales a cloud of cigar smoke with every stream
of words. He was lamenting the fact that today there is a
scarcity of freaks with superstar status compared with Barnum's
day when such attraction as the Siamese Twins and Tom Thumb were
He said he had to continually scour the land to search for new
attractions and frequently was sent on wild goose chases.
"When I was in Texas I had heard from some Arabs working in the
oil fields there that there was a giant living in a village in
He said after making further checks to corroborate the story, he
traveled to the country to try to find the giant and persuade him
to come to America.
"He was a giant, all
right but only by the standards of the Arabs," Hall said.
"He wouldn't have made a good center on a Wisconsin basketball
team. He was only 6 feet 10."
said he also struck out in his attempt to import a 15 year old
Brazil girl with two heads.
"A doctor adopted her and he said he wouldn't allow it," Hall
Because of improvements in prenatal care, far fewer persons are
being brought into the world with anomalies than even 34 years
ago, when he first joined a circus as a property boy, Hall said.
In addition, he said, doctor today are able to correct many
congenital deformities that once were fairly common, he said.
While there are some
who say that sideshow proprietors trade on human misery, Hall said
all of his performers are happy in their work.
"These are people who could get other jobs, but they have show
business in their blood," he said. "Naturally, they couldn't be
actors or rock musicians so they joined the carnival."
Hall also said that for all of the criticism directed at freak
shows, they are still popular with carnival goers.
He pointed to the crowd of 40 or 50 rubes gathered before the
bally platform as a barker (Talker) cried out: :they're all
real...They're all people. Normally, we charge $2 to see our
show, but today we're going to make everybody here a child and let
him in for our kiddie ticket fee of 75 cents."
Sentinel July 8, 1977 by Dean Jensen
Emmett Blackwelder -
Ward Hall -
by Nick DeWolf
Francis Cook - Giant
by Nick DeWolf
- Tattooed Lady - Ward Hall
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