Human Pincushions & Alligator Skin People

 

Bea Griffin had worked on a show in the forties with my late partner Harry Leonard, so it was for old times sake when she worked her hometown fair with us. She had been a teacher and housewife.
 
I have known numerous people able to penetrate their flesh with sharp pointed objects, feeling little or no pain. However, I have only known two who can stick numerous pins in themselves repeatedly for ten or more shows a day.  Besides Carl, the other was the late Bill Fitch. The first year Bill worked with us he was on the wagon, he was well aware of my rule of no drinking on the show.
 
It was Thursday night in Savannah, Georgia. The season would end on Sunday. As Bill came to work he had a bottle. When I asked him to refrain from opening it since he had only four days to stay sober. During Thursday's first performance the stage manager came to my office trailer to report Bill was on stage drunk and two State Police Officers were in the audience. He didn't want Bill arrested. What I saw as I immediately went into the tent, there were not two police officers in the audience, Bill had one on the stage challenging him to "don't be chicken, just stick the phi in your arm like this". I made my way to the front of the stage and softly said, "Bill, cut your act short, go to the office to collect your pay. You just disqualified yourself'. Bill unkindly saluted me with a finger as the policeman laughed.
 
Bill was back on our show many seasons after that, but he had solved his drinking problem.
 
Christine Holley and her brother were born with ichthyosis, which caused them to be the Alligator Skin Twins. They were discovered in their hometown in North Carolina and introduced to the public.
 
Later Christine was with a circus where she met Phil Doto, the bandleader and trumpet virtuoso. After they married they divided their time between circus, where Phil played in the band, and the carnival, where he worked with Christine in the sideshow, as a lecturer. They went from our show into retirement in Park City, Kentucky.
 
Another similar husband and wife team was Blue Osanbaugh, who was a dynamic sideshow talker and his wife, Mona, the Alligator Girl. When they were on Royal American Shows, Blue would exhibit Mona in the blade box illusion. For an extra admission of twenty-five cents, the public was allowed to come onto the stage, peer into the box seeing the illusion exposed while also seeing the Alligator Skin Girl. Blue was ethically honest, so he was annoyed by the lack of trust the sideshow owner's wife displayed by coming into the tent and counting the customers who peaked into the box. He reached his breaking point at one performance when he announced "At this performance, there will be no set price, just a
donation". Looking directly at the owner's wife he continued, "Now let me see you count that, you old bat"!
Ward Hall

 


 

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