Who's That On The Cover?


I have a copy of Shocked and Amazed Volume Number 7. There are several people on the front cover. I am interested in knowing who the person in the back with the turban and what looks like water or some other type of liquid coming out of the palms of his hands is? I am interested in any information, name, what acts he did and pictures if you have any. Thanks for your time.  JT Mangum San Francisco, Calif.


JT, in the 1930's, Dreamland Circus Side Show in Coney Island, New York announced The Greatest new attraction of the season, Mr. Mortado? A sensation who has been appearing in Europe. He is the only living man to have been captured by savages, crucified and lived to tell about it.


There is a photo of the Dreamland Sideshow from the early 1930s. You can see the fat woman, the strong man, the man-monster, the dwarf, a Prussian (or Turk) with monumental mustache. And an immense banner above the marquee announces the crucifixion of Mortado, showing an illustration of him being crucified. It goes on to say they guarantee that the spectator will attend a realistic reproduction of the event. The price is fixed, ten cents extra will charge for Mortado.


"I have read that he worked there for several years and as the popularity and novelty of his act wore off, he left the show and was not heard from again. As I understand it, the act was framed on a variation of the old shipwreck/island native torture story that was used with tattooed men early on. The story was that he was crucified by natives, survived and was made king. They did a reenactment of the crucifixion onstage and then he sat on the king's throne and had water spouting out through spigots that penetrated his pierced hands and feet." Todd Robbins


The technique that Mortado adopted was different from others and he considered them to be more practical. Mortado decided to pierce his hands and feet. Thus, in the presentations after the spectacle, he no longer needed to dress the wounds, all that was necessary was for him to fill the orifices with cylindrical corks, to prevent the skin from growing back.


After he finished with his crucifixion, the holes in his hands and feet were also useful for his act the Human Fountain.


"Anecdotally, I've been told that "Mortado's" wife was a nurse, the better to ensure that the surgically cut holes (the crucifixion angle was all showmanship) in his hands and feet remained clean/uninfected as they never healed properly. (How could they, cut as they were through such major tissue?) And he was billed as both the Crucified Man and the Living Fountain." James Taylor


The cover art on Shock & Amazed Volume 7 was painted by Mark Frierson. Since he typically doesnít paint the covers for two consecutive issues he wasnít even supposed to do this cover. It wasnít anything personal. Johnny Meah had been contacted and asked to do the cover. James contacted him to see if he had it completed and Johnny told him that he hadnít started it and didnít have the time to right then. So James contacted Mark and asked him if he would do the cover since he needed it completed right away. Mark told him that he could, and James asked him to paint people that had performed at Coney Island. He asked Mark not to paint anyone on the cover that was currently alive because there were so many people and the cover wasnít big enough for all of them. He didnít want to leave any of them out. So everyone that appears on the cover is deceased, but they are some of the greatest performers that have ever appeared at Coney Island.


It was really hard for Mark to decide who was going to be on the cover because there were so many to choose from. Mark decided to include three people who were special to him. Mike Wilson, Otis Jordan and of course Melvin Burkhart. All three of these people were personal friends. He also painted banners for all of them professionally that they used in their acts when they performed in the sideshow. The other people featured on the cover of this issue are Frank Lentini, Schlitzie, JoJo the Dog Faced Boy, Mortado the Human Fountain and a two headed punk.


The Following is from Mortado Pitchbook,


I am a native of Berlin, Germany. At the age of about eighteen, like most youths of that age, I became possessed of the desire to travel, and see the world. Anything that would offer adventure, thrill and excitement. I had already joined the Navy, but as yet had seen no active service, until the first year had passed, on a training ship, and then, at the beginning of the World War, my actual service commenced and there began a series of adventures and incidents that lead up to the terrible crisis that shortened my Naval Career, and made me what I am today, "A Human Fountain."


My training, on an old type sailing vessel, made me energetic, and fitted me fully for the after duties. I was then assigned to a cruiser, as ship-boy, and, very shortly started out on the sea of adventure, and this was about the time of the starting of the World War in 1914.


My parents had died when I was quite young and my home was wherever I should rest my head at night. Through influence I was shortly promoted to the rank of a Junior Naval Officer, but my career as such was brief, as the war had started and all the young men of the German Empire were needed the most in the massive army that Von Hindenburg and the Kaiser were rushing through Belgium. I was assigned to special duty in Northern Africa.


While in the Northern part of the Sahara Desert, I became lost from my party. Using my compass I went to the nearest Oasis to await some of my comrades. A band of Riffs, who are a wild tribe of Mohammedans, came riding up to where I was sitting. I knew their hatred toward white Christians and knew not what my fate would be. However, I had not long to wait. They robbed me and dis≠robed me of all my clothing and carried me to a large wooden water wheel which was used for drawing water.


They gave me what the Americans call the "spread eagle," driving large wire nails through my hands and feet through the soft or fleshy parts, and crucifying me, so to say, to the wheel, and abandoned me to my fate. I must have been there for hours unconscious and fortunately was discovered by some white men who released me, carried me to civilization, and notified my commanding officer of my condition. In a few hours an ambulance came and conveyed me to a base hospital, and for many days I suffered intense agony. My condition was such that I was returned to Berlin and there I was under treatment in the army hospital for over two years. Incapacitated and unable to do any manual labor, and at a loss what to do, a friend who was a showman and had made several trips to America with novel attractions, suggested to me to build some kind of an exhibition whereby I could exploit myself and my experiences, and then the idea of the Human Fountain came to me and I planned and constructed the act that I am now presenting to the public. 
I first presented the exhibition in Berlin, in January, 1929, and it met with instant favor from both press and public. A New York Booking Agent, learning of my success, sent a representative to interview me with the result that I signed a contract to appear at Dreamland Circus Side Show, Coney Island, N. Y., for the summer season of 1930


If my offering has pleased you and you have found it "just as represented," kindly tell your friends to come and see me. I will be pleased to give any information desired at any time.  - John Robinson, Sideshow World

The reprint of the information in Mortado Pitch Book was used with 

permission of James Taylor from Shocked & Amazed Vol. 6.


Some information and assistance provided by Mark Frierson, James Taylor and Todd Robbins


If you have a question you would like to submit email us at the Sideshow World.


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