Below is a selective list of carnival and
sideshow history sites.
If you would like to recommend others please
Sacramento, California USA
Carnival & Sideshow History:
Click here for a Soundprint Media broadcast featuring residents of Gibsonton,
Florida ("Gibtown"), retirement and off-season destination for carnival and
Wayne Keyser has produced some beautiful works of sideshow history in CD, DVD
and mp3 formats. The e-book titles are Bally: Sounds of the Sideshow and On the
Midway. The two and a half hour DVD production is The Carnival's Been and Gone.
These titles are very reasonably priced and can be ordered directly from Wayne at
Todd Robbins' Sideshow Page is the best overview of sideshow history and
terminology we have seen. We were very fortunate to get Todd Robbins'
permission to reprint it here at The House of Deception.
Performer, historian, and banner artist Johnny Meah, The Czar of the Bizarre had a
beautiful, artistic, and entertaining website which is now apparently gone. Here
you can watch a brief interview (produced by Keri Watson at the University of
Central Florida School of Visual Arts and Design) with this legendary authority on
all facets of the carnival and sideshow.
Both Todd Robbins and Johnny Meah are featured commentators on the 2004
release of Tod Browning's 1931 movie," Freaks." This is a must-see for every
sideshow historian and enthusiast.
And speaking of legendary circus and sideshow authorities, here is an interview,
also produced by Keri Watson at UCF, with Ward Hall, King of the Sideshows
Joe Nickell's scholarly article, "Sideshow! Carnival Oddities and Illusions Provide
Lessons for Skeptics" is well worth the read and includes references listed in our
Carnival Sideshow Bibliography.
John Robinson's Sideshow World is a huge, useful site for history as well as
information on current shows, conventions and other events. His mission is
"Preserving the Past...Promoting the Future of Sideshow."
James Taylor's Shocked and Amazed: On and Off the Midway is a superb
publication dedicated to sideshow history.
Elizabeth Anderson (known at "Ratt" to her appreciative readers), an artist and
University of Texas product, offers many biographies and photos of sideshow
performers at phreeque.com. She is especially interested in conjoined twins and
other medical anomalies. [This wonderful site seems no longer extant. Please
email us if you have updated information.]
If you are interested in the inside jargon of the carnival, James Taylor has an
article on carny lingo and terminology, based on the work of the renowned
historian Joe McKennon (see our Sideshow Bibliography).
Wayne Keyser offers an even more comprehensive treatment of the subject in his
e-book, On the Midway. Click here to see a free sample page. You should have
copies of his historical CDs and DVD (listed above).
Coney Island History:
Begin with a visit to the Coney Island History Site by Jeffrey Stanton (formerly
published through UCLA). Jeff's site includes links to many important history
articles, as well as a rides and shows list, a timeline, and some hand-drawn maps,
which are highly effective due to their simplicity. These are among the very best
Coney Island historical references on the web.
The Coney Island History Project, which strives to create an oral history of the
area and teach young people the techniques of oral history.
The enhanced transcript of the PBS documentary, "The American Experience:
Coney Island: Forty Years as the Carnival Capital by Laurence Aurbach Jr. is a
scholarly article that includes notes and a bibliography.
Coney Island Complex, a tour of Coney Island subway yards
Other House of Deception Favorites:
Here are two particularly esoteric sites:
Steve Quayle at Genesis 6 Giants is the leading authority on giants. His article
Twelve Giants and Their Rings is about sideshow giants and their collectible finger
To the Hilt offers a History of Sword Swallowing, a Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame,
and a list of quality links.
Prepare to be overwhelmed by the vast content and incredible beauty of
CircusMuseum.nl You will find posters and photographs not only of sideshow and
circus performers, but also of every other allied art and showperson of the Golden
Care and Preservation of Posters and other Old Paper:
To learn to properly care for your library and collection see The Library of
Congress, Collections Care and Preserving Works on Paper.
The American Institute for Conservation is a professional organization for
conservators. Their Caring for Your Treasures pages provide useful brochures, in
PDF format, on conserving books, photos and other paper documents.
The folks at Scrapbook.com have created a comprehensive page about paper,
document, and photo preservation. Information on how paper deteriorates and
what various papers are composed of is included.
Circus World Museum, Baraboo, Wisconsin
Lavahn G. Hoh, Professor of Drama at the University of Virginia, taught the only
accredited course in America on the circus. His book, "Step Right Up! The
Adventure of Circus in America" is still available on various sites.
Circus Posters, Princeton University Library
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Copyright Duff Johnson 2004-2021
No text or image may be copied or
reproduced without written permission.
Carnival & Sideshow History Links
Image courtesy of writer and illustrator
"Drawing Stuff So You Don't Have To"