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
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."
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
The Following is from Mortado
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
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
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
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
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