Freaks a Vanishing Breed!

 

A half man, half ogre slipped out from a tiny cubicle beneath the stage, startling the intruder.

"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 curiosities.

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 household words.

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 Saudi Arabia."

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."

Hall 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 said.

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."

 

Article

Milwaukee Sentinel July 8, 1977 by Dean Jensen

 

Images

1- Emmett Blackwelder - Ward Hall - by Nick DeWolf

2- Francis Cook - Giant Lady - by Nick DeWolf

3-  Artoria - Tattooed Lady - Ward Hall

 


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