Johnny the Monkey Boy


Well, the ten-in-one and geek show started to make money. With the fairs coming up and a lot of the acts were hopping from one show to the other, hunting for new territory, our half-and-half showed up among the missing come Monday. We found ourselves without a freak or act for the added attraction (or blowoff).

May and I went to the carny cookhouse for coffee and doughnuts. We told the waitress what we wanted and went over and sat down at a table. While we waited for the coffee to come, I saw a Life magazine lying in the chair next to me. I reached over, picked it up and started to thumb through it. When I got to the middle, there was this two page story about a colored woman in Philadelphia who had given birth to a baby boy with a seven inch tail and dubbed it the 'Monkey Boy.' I showed it to May and said, "How would you like to have that in the blowoff?"

She said, "Man we'd clean up, but there ain't no way for us to ever get that mother and baby on the road."

The gal brought the coffee and doughnuts. As we ate the doughnuts and drank the coffee, Mable, the woman that had the monkey show, came into the cookhouse and started crying as she passed me.

I asked, "Why the tears, Mable?" She replied, "Oh, Fats, you know Junior, our little baby monkey?" I answered, "Yes!"

She continued, "Well, George (her husband) went in to feed him early this morning and found him dead in his cage."

I guess that every carny on the lot knew Junior, a little half-grown, rhesus monkey, because he was all over the lot getting into mischief. One time he snatched a hot dog off the griddle at the hot dog stand and put it down without anyone telling him to and went squalling to his mother.


Mable said, "George is building him a coffin and we're going to bury him behind the monkey show at three o'clock this afternoon. Larry, the preacher, is going to offer the last rites and you're welcome to come if you want to."


Well, May and I, along with about twenty other carnies attended the burial services. The preacher said his thing, they lowered the coffin into the ground and Mable tossed a handful of dirt into the grave. George covered it and Mable placed a cross on the grave and we all left the grave site.

Around two o'clock in the morning, May and I became grave robbers. Silently, we went behind the monkey show, dug up the casket, removed the cadaver, put the casket back in the grave , covered it back and put the cross back.

Then we took the cadaver back to our secret labortory (the walk-in camper). May put some Nair hair remover on the monkey and after removing the hair, she washed all the excess dirt and grime off and then put it in a plastic bag and sealed it. She then stuck it in the refrigerator and we went to bed.

In the morning, while May and the fat lady fixed breakfast for our help, I went to town and found a two gallon clear glass jar with a screw on lid at a junk store (just the thing we needed). Next, I went to a hardware store, got a two gallon can of denatured alcohol and a roll of duct tape and then ended my tour at a newsstand and bought every copy of the Life magazine, which was ten copies. I then went back to the lot and ate breakfast.
Owing to the fact that it was Saturday, I told the ruffeys to load up all the excess equipment that was laying around.

May mentioned, "I heard that the monkey show was leaving to go play fairs up in Canada." I was glad to hear that, because, if Mable got a look at Junior in the jar, I'd have a lot of explaining to do. So things worked out just fine.

Now, May and I didn't know a damn thing about preserving specimens. We just put the monkey in the jar, filled it with alcohol, screwed the lid on tight, put the tape around the top and stuck it in the closet. We had five or six blank banners on hand at the time, so when we got to the next spot, I banged out a couple of pictorial banners showing the monkey boy.   I pasted the articles from the Life magazine on the front and sides of the ticket boxes and one on a sign for the blowoff. Now, I had a feature attraction that I felt sure would never leave and believe me, it was a gold mine in a two gallon glass jar.

At the front of the side show, I would say when I got to the feature, "No doubt, my friends, you remember reading in the syndicated newspapers and the Life magazine about little Johnny, the Monkey Boy, a child born alive with a seven inch tail. If you will cast your eyes on the picture on our ticket boxes, they are actual photos of the monkey boy in his mother's arms. Believe me, when the nurse inside our show takes Johnny boy out of his crib and lets you see him, you will have to say that he looks more like a monkey than he does a human baby boy.


There is a ticket box on each side of me. The show is just starting and if you don't want to miss any of it, get your tickets right now and walk in. Fifty cents for adults and a quarter for children." The marks would line up.

Well, little Junior made us money. At times I would stand at the exit of the blowoff listening to the marks as they came out. I remember two black women came out and one said, "Lord have mercy, ain't dat sompen. Dat pore little baby wid a tail! Wonder iffen he could sit down on de pot to do his bidness?" The other lady said, "I don't know, but where in de world would he find a pair of pants wid a hole in de rear end for his tail to get through?"
Another time, a well dressed woman and her daughter, about ten, came out and the girl said, "Mother, couldn't they have removed the tail by surgery?" The mother replied, "I guess they could have dear, but now its too late, poor thing."

A couple of teenaged boys came out and one of them said, "Boy, I sure wish that I had his tail. Come football season, I'd swing on the light poles and see the game for free." The other one answered, "Yeah, me too, but with my luck, somebody would probably shoot me, thinking that I was a squirrel."

Well, about six weeks out, the weather got scalding hot. The inside of the blowoff had to be over a hundred degrees and the heat inside of Johnny's jug speeded up the fermenting process and the pressure inside kept on building up.

I was standing next to the entrance to the blowoff, getting ready to make the pitch, when I heard this big bang, like a couple of cars slamming into each other. I pulled back the curtain, looked inside and saw that the glass jar was busted! Poor little Johnny-Boy's parts were scattered all over the place. I looked up and his keister and tail were hanging on the light stringer overhead, his guts were sticking to the side wall and his head was on the stage. The joint smelled like a radiator shop after the first snow. By that time, the inside lecturer had told the marks that the next act was way down at the end of the tent...there, where they saw the nurse.

May took a peep into the blowoff. She rolled her eyes, shrugged her shoulders and said, "Oh, well."

After all the marks had congregated at the entrance, I said, "Ladies and gentlemen, due to conditions beyond our control, we will not be able to exhibit the Monkey Boy at this time. Now, if you will kindly give your attention to the center stage, Hamlet, the juggler, will show you how easy that it is to balance a cigarette paper on the tip of your nose."

After we closed that night, paid off the help, had a bowl of soup and got in bed, May said, " What in the hell are we gonna put in the blowoff now? You know that we've got a dozen fairs coming up." I

answered, "Don't worry, I'll think of something." May fell off to sleep with her head on my arm but I laid awake thinking of what I could come up with.

To be Continued


Posted here courtesy of Midway Publications - Copyright 1999 William T. Usher All rights reserved


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