Woodside Amusement Park
by Walt Hudson
liked Virginia Dakota from the first time I met her. She
was an attractive, outgoing gal in her early thirties.
She worked in carnival sideshows during the summer
months by choice and taught school during the winter
months by necessity.
The working act she presented was as unusual as her
name. She was known as "The Woman Who Smoked Cigarettes
Through Her Eyes!" And she did just that!
Virginia's act consisted of three parts. First, she
would light up a cigarette, inhale the smoke and then
blow the smoke out of the corner of her eye! Secondly,
she attached a small tube to a small balloon which she
held up to her eye and then she inflated the balloon!
And, finally, she held a toy flute up to her eye and
expelled enough air through her eye to play a tune on
As she presented her act she explained her unusual
talent to the gawking marks. "I can do these things
because I have an enlarged lacrimal duct in the corner
of my right eye.
"I was born with this condition. My mother first noticed
that something was different when I cried as a baby.
I actually cried unevenly. There was an unusual gush of
tears from the tear duct in my right eye, while just a
few tears came from my left. When I was five years old I
was taken to several leading opthomologists who examined
my eyes and these specialists explained that while my
condition was rare it was not unique.
"The doctors informed my
parents that there was nothing to be alarmed about.
The enlarged tear duct would have no effect on my
"As I grew older I noticed that whenever I had a cold,
my right eye would fill up with tears and run for hours
at a time. Often, when I sneezed, air particles would be
expelled through the tear duct.
"I must have been about ten years old when I returned to
a specialist for another checkup. This time I was
examined by Dr. Edward Campbell at the Department of
Otolaryngology of the University of Pennsylvania
Hospital in Philadelphia. He explained that the lacrimal
duct is connected to the nostril and that my duct was
about five times the normal size. He reaffirmed what the
other doctors had said and told us there was nothing
that could be done about this condition at that time.
"When I was a child I began to control my breathing so
that I could shut off the air from my right nostril and
force it through my right eye duct. I would amaze the
kids in our neighborhood by blowing soap bubbles through
an old corn cob pipe. I had to be careful not to inhale
or I'd get a nose full of soap."
When I asked Virginia how she got into the sideshow
business she told me she started her career as a
summertime professional during her sophomore year at
West Chester (PA.) State Teachers College.
"I remember sitting in the Student Union building at
college one evening with a group of guys and gals when
this good-looking guy came in and introduced himself as
T.J. He told us he had transferred in from Penn State
University. He was a likeable guy and pleasant to talk
with. He had an object he was carrying wrapped in a
"When someone asked him what it was, he told us it was a
sword. He unwrapped it and showed it to us. One guy
asked him what he was doing with it and did he collect
"T.J. said that
he not only collected them but that he swallowed them,
too. He passed the sword for all of us to see that it
was a real sword and not a trick one where the blade
goes into the handle. T.J. threw back his head and
slipped the blade down his throat. The crowd of kids
that had gathered around to watch all applauded.
"My room mate, Denise, announced to the crowd that I had
an unusual talent, also. When I told them I could smoke
cigarettes through my eyes they all thought I was crazy.
I reached over and took a cigarette from one of the
guys, took a long drag on it and expelled the smoke
through my right eye duct. The crowd was amazed. They
applauded me more than they had T.J.
"They all wanted to know how I did it.
I explained it was not a trick; just a stunt I learned
to do when I discovered I had an enlarged duct and could
expel air through it.
"T.J. walked me home from the Student Union that night
and we became good friends. About a month after we had
begun dating, he told me he worked summers in a
traveling carnival sideshow which his uncle owned. He
suggested that I consider joining up with the show for
"I thought about it a!I winter and when spring came
around I knew I would have to decide what I wanted to do
for the summer. Most of the gals at school worked as
waitresses at summer resorts.
I finally decided to join T.J.'s uncle's show.
"I really enjoyed that summer. T.J.'s cousin and aunt
were along and I stayed in their trailer with them. So I
had 'proper' living
"T.J. did a good sword act and also swallowed neon
tubes. When they dimmed the stage lights you could see
the lighted tubes in his throat.
"He also did a knife throwing act which he taught me.
Before the summer was over, he and I took turns doing
the act, with one throwing knives and the other acting
as the human target.
"It was a great summer and I also worked in the sideshow
following my junior and senior years in college.
"I went on to teach English in a high school in Ohio.
T.J. became a physical education teacher and coach
somewhere in New Mexico. We communicated for a while but
then we lost touch. I spent summers in college working
on my Master's degree. About five years ago I heard T.J.
was killed when a neon tube he swallowed broke inside
his throat and the gas escaped into his body.
"I returned to working sideshows after I finally got my
Master's degree. It is a great break after teaching kids
all winter long. I only play amusement parks now because
I have to leave around the middle of August to go home
and get ready for the new school term."
I told Virginia that my situation was similar to hers
and that I would probably only work another summer in
sideshows. I asked her if the people she taught knew
about her unusual talent.
"Oh, no. I never discuss my summer job. Once, though, I
had a scare that someone might find out back in
the small town where I teach. I was written up in the
National Enquirer and also the Midnight tabloid. I guess
no one ever saw the stories because I never had any bad
reaction from them."
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