- Robert Desnos
Come one, come all! The circus is now open for business and ready to show the world how normal can sometimes be considered boring. From back breakers to Elephant riders, circus performers overcame the impossible. No matter what kind of challenges were thrown there way, performers have taken a stance to serve as inspirations to all!
This article is not meant to exploit, but rather to share the rare talent of people who chose to display their true selves in an effort to better their lives, as well as the lives of others.
You might not guess it by looking at her that Artoria Gibbons was born on a farm in Wisconsin. In an interview with Arthur Lewis, Artoria said, “[Red Gibbons] was the tattoo artist and if I let him tattoo me I could join the show and see the world.” More than 80% of Artori’as body was covered in tattoos. Her husband, Red Gibbons, tattooed each one of them.
Is it strength, flexibility, or just years and years of stretching? Contortion is a magical and nearly impossible feat of flexibility, allowing a person to bend into shapes the rest of us cannot.
Knife throwers became popular sideshow acts in the late 1800s as part of Wild West shows. The performance usually consisted of stunts like popping balloons, pinning cards, slicing through flower stems, and the famous ‘profile’ in which the thrower aims knives along the body of his target girl.
Putting Her Best Foot Forward
Myrtle Corbin began a career as a sideshow performer at just 13 years old. Given the moniker “The Four-Legged Girl From Texas”, she got her start after her father charged curious neighbors a dime each to see Myrtle. Famed showman P.T. Barnum heard about the wildly popular girl and hired her for his show.
Chained For Life
Unfortunately, Daisy and Violet Hilton were one of the few performers who were exploited in the sideshow business. The sisters were joined posteriorly, united by skin, muscle and bone. The twins were trained and groomed to sing and dance and faced terrible abuse and dehumanizing treatment. Daisy and Violet began touring at just 3 years old. They spent 21 years of their life as slaves until a lawyer took on the twins’ case to grant them their freedom. Later on in life, they became wildly successful.
The Ice King
Tom Jack, aka the Ice King, was born as Karl Breu in 1884 with severe albinism. Tom had skin as white as snow, colorless hair, and pink eyes. A circus arrived in his town and he stole the show by impersonating the ringmaster from the stands. The circus director offered him a job right after the show. He was offered a position as a clown, but Tom decided he wanted to perform magic. He focused on chain escapes and eventually became known as the Ice King. He nearly died performing a stunt in London when he was jumped from the bridge into the Thames and couldn’t escape his chains.
Circus’s have been using animals in their shows for years. Often, because the animal is so highly intelligent, circus’s train elephants to perform for crowds. The most famous example of an elephant performer was Jumbo. Jumbo was the star of P.T. Barnum’s “Greatest Show on Earth.” Unfortunately, Jumbo has a sad story. He was captured in Africa and was forced to perform in London.
Firing The Crowd Up
If you have ever tried juggling, it is definitely a tricky act to beat. A juggler needs dexterity, focus, balance, and a natural gift for multi-tasking. If you have ever given juggling a shot, it’s not as easy as it looks!
The curtain drops to reveal women hanging by a thin hoop, not a hair out of place, smiles ready. What is known as the human chandelier, the women contort and contort in the hoop, leaving the audience hanging on the edge of their seat.
Though it might seem all fun and games, it required a lot to become a circus entertainer. Not only do you need to be talented and unique, but you have to train very hard. This strong woman just proves that she has what it takes!