Willes Curiosity Shop



Lou Riley needed more shows for the backend of the midway and he decided to frame a big wax show with some of the historic figures from the past, in it, like Count Dracula, Frankenstein, Joan of Ark, The Witch of Salem and Materia Morah, the German spy.

I just so happened that the Willes Curiosity Shop in Philly, was going out of business after a hundred years of selling to museums and side show owners. They had almost anything. Paper mache figures, oddities, wax figures of all kind, lots of parts for store mannequins, like arms, legs, heads and some complete bodies.

We were playing a date about fifty miles from Philly, so Lou gave me a grand and told me to go and get enough material to frame the wax show.


May, George Rin (our block head) and I went to town. Wanting to unload all the miscellaneous wax figures, mannequin arms and legs, we wound up with a ton of stuff for five hundred dollars. We had to rent a U-Haul trailer to carry it back.

The trailer was a stake body with an open top. After we got it loaded, we started back to the carny lot. We had only gone a few blocks when we made a sharp turn to the right and the trailer's right wheel jumped the curb and flipped over. Luckily, we were only doing about ten miles per hour. The trailer was unhurt but the entire load was scattered all over the street.

With all the arms, legs and heads about, someone must have called the police, the rescue squad and the ambulance. Because in less than five minutes, there were a half dozen ambulances, fire trucks and squad cars on the scene. By that time, with about a dozen onlookers we had the trailer back on its wheels and were picking up all the body parts. One of the news reporters taking pictures said that at first glance, it looked like a very serious wreck and kept on popping flash bulbs. In less than half an hour we were on our way again.

The next evening we got a copy of the Philly paper, showing pictures of the turned over trailer and the body parts scattered over 6th and Market Streets. The byline read "Seeing is Deceiving, freak accident, etc, etc"

Well, in less than two weeks, Lou had his wax show and it got money.

That was the biggest year we ever had, money wise. Before the season ended, we had a twenty seven foot, self contained Airstream all aluminum travel trailer and a heavy duty International carryall with
two gas tanks to pull it, plus ten grand.


To be Continued


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


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