CHAPTER THREE
 

Pt 3

Ward Hall


No discussion of Side Show entrepreneurs can commence without the name Ward Hall cropping up almost immediately. For ages Hall has been the dean of Show operators and one of the most visible of all showmen. In his time Hall has ruled over a massive Side Show and Grind Show empire that at one time featured no less than four complete Ten-In-Ones on the road in addition to an incredible eighteen Grind Shows!


Hall entered the business through the circus as a property man and had worked in various capacities in almost every phase of the carnival and entertainment business. He has appeared in numerous motion pictures (mostly for the late K. Gordon Murray -exploitationeer extraodinaire), and even produced his own Broadway-style theatrical musicals (MILLION DOLLAR DOLL).


He has worked with all of the great side show attractions like the married odd-couple, Percilla the Monkey Girl (whom I had the pleasure of lunching with in Gibtown) and her spouse, Emmett the Alligator Skinned Man (they eloped one night after a show!). For many years Hall was partnered with knife-thrower Harry Leonard until Leonard's death in 1965. Shortly after this, Hall connected with a young man named Chris Christ and a new Side Show dynasty was born. Hall and Christ Shows literally ruled the Midways.


With Hall's midget buddy, Pete Terhune (whom I have had the honor of watching work), they framed dozens of different themed shows, including the infamous Pygmy Village Show with little Pete as their only pygmy!


"In early September (1965), we jumped from Canton, Ohio to Abilene, Texas," Hall once remembered. "Some (automotive) breakdowns caused a late arrival at 3 p.m. opening day. We rushed up the Baby and Fat Shows, then after working on the sideshow for a couple of hours I went to check the Grind Shows. Billy Judd on the Baby Show ticket box reported good business but he said, "When people come out they give me some strange looks. They sure aren't happy. You'd better look to see what's wrong." Moments later I came out holding my sides with laughter. No wonder the customers came out with dirty looks. In our rush to open, we neglected to put the wax babies in the jars. All the people had seen were containers of water. "Hall framed many a Grind Show in his career including Barbara Schaffer's "World's Smallest Mother" show, which is the one I bought from her. In fact, Hall and Christ's signatures were still on the trailer registration when I got it! Other amazing shows included a Snake Girl illusion, which is similar to the Spidora, many Baby shows, Torture shows, and a Mummified Giant show.


In July of 1977 while at the Gray's Lake Fair in Illinois, police cars roared onto the Midway and the show was was shut down. Chris Christ was jailed for illegally operating a "World's Strangest Babies" Show in that it violated the "possession and transportation of a corpse without a license" law mentioned elsewhere. The exhibits were seized (only a few of which were real) and Christ steadfastly stood his ground, preferring to go on trial rather than pleading guilty and paying a $100 fine. He returned to Illinois in October and was acquitted, but the news service wires had eaten up the story and Hall & Christ were asked to drop the Baby Show from their future engagements

 

                                               Pete Hennen


Pete Hennen started out in the late 1960's with partner James Dinsmoore. Together they owned and operated their Ten In One show, MIDWAY MARVELS. Dinsmoore soon discovered that the carnival life was not to his liking and Hennen went on alone, later becoming one of the biggest showmen in the late 60's and early 70's. Labeled by Jeff Murray as a "veritable genius" Hennen framed many a Grind Show such as "The Last of the Tree People" (a family of boa constrictors, although the trailer front depicted some kind of human pygmies), Monica Rand - The Body Beautiful (a Headless show), a Barnum Museum, The Strange Sisters - an incredible exhibit that featured a gigantic 50 foot bannerline to show off two pickled punks, and one of the best Girl to Gorilla illusion ever. He did, in fact, build the Gorilla illusion that was featured at Circus, Circus in Las Vegas and featured in the James Bond movie, DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER.


Pete operated live shows on and off as well, including the Hells Belles Ten-In-One, which featured an all female show (made up of women and drag queens!).


For years he provided services to other showmen, building illusions like the Gorilla Show, selling punks for $50-75 a piece, and even repainting rides and shows out of his Kissimmee, Florida headquarters. He is now retired in Georgia.
 

Dean Potter's FREAKS FROM THE FARM show (1960s).

 


Pete Hennen's THALIDOMIDE BABY Show

4 THE STRUGGLES AND TRIUMPHS OF A MODERN DAY SHOWMAN, Ward   Hall,   1981,   Carnival   Publishers

 

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