Frozen Alive

By Walt Hudson

 

/cy! She's frozen alive! How can she breathe? Will she survive? No air! No life! How long can she take it? Real or Fake? Alive or Dead?

"Frozen Alive" was one of the most unusual free acts I have ever seen. It was booked at Woodside Amusement Park near Philadelphia, where I was ap­pearing in the park's side show

Usually the free show was a circus-type high act, presented two or three times a day. The last performance was usually late at night, shortly before the park closed. It was presented late in order to encourage the crowd to hang around and, of course, to spend more money. "The Girl Frozen in a Cake of Ice" was a continuous free attraction that was open and on view the entire time the park was in operation, seven days a week.

About a half hour before closing time, the loud speaker invited the marks to "Come over and watch us hack the Sleeping Beauty from her icy entombment!"

Hundreds of suckers rushed over from all directions on the midway and crowded around the truck that held the huge cake of ice. They watched as the girl was chopped out. Icy would stand, smile, and shiver for the applauding crowd.

Although booked and presented as a free act, the exhibit made lots of money for the owner and operator, who called himself Jack Frost. He had no trouble booking his attraction because it was so different from the usual free acts. He was paid by the park manage­ment and also received money from several other sources. Although it cost the marks nothing to walk up onto the flatbed truck to see Icy, they were asked to place a donation in a box on a small table. Frost also pitched postcard photos of the girl frozen in ice, and he sold several hundred during the 12-hour day, at a dime apiece. He also collected money or goods from local merchants.

Frost borrowed the flatbed truck and had the ice donated by a local firm in return for advertisements. A huge banner was wrapped around the lower part of the flatbed, like a skirt, and covered the wheels. The banner read: "Icy is being presented on a Ford track from Smith Motors." Another banner covered the back of the truck's cab: "Ice supplied by Watson's Ice Company." Smaller signs told who had supplied ley's bathing suit, her makeup, her hairstyle, etc.

Each day, before the park opened, the ice company delivered 1,600 pounds of ice, which Jack Frost prepared for the girl who would be "frozen alive." J was never around to see how he did this, so I was just as baffled as the marks.

The girl appeared to be asleep, frozen in the cen­ter of the huge cake of ice. She was completely sur­rounded by ice; I could see all around her body. The ice melted very slowly during the day, and each night they had to chop her out.

Several local newspapers published feature stories on the attraction, and it was covered by the local radio stations. A reporter did a photo story for Look magazine, and one of the movie newsreel companies did a film story, which appeared in theaters nationally.

After describing "The Girl Frozen in Ice" in Circus Report a few years ago, I received a letter from Henry Valley, of Boise, Idaho. He wrote:

"In August 1936, we had a wedding with a couple, each frozen alive in two separate cakes of ice in front of a grandstand at the San Joaquin County Fair in Stockton, California.

"It was a weeklong promotion wherein the local merchants donated everything from clothes, a stove, furniture, etc. They actually got to keep all of the goodies as wedding presents.

"First of all the fair promoter had to get a couple who would be willing to be frozen alive—and who would actually get married'. Nothing fake about this. Each day for a week the local papers would print that so-and-so had donated this or that, and that the Frozen Wedding would take place on Saturday night—the last night of the fair. We finally found a young Mexican couple who agreed to do it. It made the Universal Newsreel and got nationwide coverage.

"We put her in one cake of ice and him in another. We had a microphone frozen into each cake of ice so they could talk to the minister and speak their vows.

"Everything went over very well and, needless to say, garnered one hell of a lot of publicity for the fair (who paid us well for setting everything up)."

Icy—a bizarre chapter in grind-show entertainment.

 

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