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Trapped in a Freak Show

John is passionate about human and animal rights, social justice, equality, and the environment, and likes to convey that in his writing.


Brief History of the Freak Show

In mid-16th Century England people with disabilities and deformities began to be treated as objects of interest and entertainment. Freak Shows were set up to exploit these people and crowds flocked to see them exhibited.

These freak shows were often held in fairgrounds and popular taverns as well as in special travelling exhibits. To improve the popularity and entertainment value many of these were incorporated with talent displays. singing, juggling, feats of strength etc.

During the 19th Century freak shows became very successful commercial enterprises and the two most successful promoters of these were P.T. Barnum in the United States, and Tom Norman in England.

Barnum actually concocted a number of hoaxes to draw in the public such as in 1842 with the "Feejee" mermaid, a creature with the head of a monkey and the tail of a fish. Perhaps his most famous exhibition however was a dwarf named Charles Stratton who he called "General Tom Thumb".Charles was first put on show at four years of age (but was stated to be 11). He had stopped growing at six months old at which time he was 25 inches tall and weighed just 15 lb.The boy had natural talent and was trained to imitate famous figures such as Napoleon and Hercules.

Tom Norman's most famous travelling exhibits were Eliza Jenkins, the "Skeleton Woman", and in 1884 Joseph Merrick, known as "The Elephant Man". However by this time public opinion was starting to change in regard to freak shows and it was beginning to be seen as distasteful. Norman only had "The Elephant Man" on display for a few weeks before the exhibition was shut down by police.

This change in attitudes led to the decline of the freak show as a form of entertainment by the end of the 19th Century. Deformities were now being scientifically explained as genetic mutations or diseases and not mysterious anomalies. The disabled were now seen as objects of sympathy rather than freaks to be feared and exhibited. However, even today small freak shows can be found in some fair grounds and with travelling shows.

As well as this we now have television and with it shows like "Most Embarrassing Bodies", "Australia, America, and Britain's Got Talent" etc.

The Elephant Man

Trapped in a Freak Show

"Step up, step up, and feast your eyes,

Be astounded and surprised.

Human oddities on show,

A buck to enter, very low.

Gents and ladies, boys and girls,

See the strangest things unfurled.

What you'll see is no illusion,

You will stare in wild confusion.

Scroll to Continue

Follow me into the tent,

Guaranteed worth every cent.

Inside you'll see the weirdest sights,

That may give you restless nights."

Lady Viola (originally born as Ethel Martin) Covington, Kentucky, 1898; tattooed by Frank Graf (Coney Island) in the 1920s. She became a tattoo attraction, billed as "the most beautiful tattooed woman in the world"; she wasn't only a circus tattooed

Lady Viola (originally born as Ethel Martin) Covington, Kentucky, 1898; tattooed by Frank Graf (Coney Island) in the 1920s. She became a tattoo attraction, billed as "the most beautiful tattooed woman in the world"; she wasn't only a circus tattooed

"Look to your left, within the cage,

The 'Wild Wolf Boy' is in a rage.

On the right's the 'Bearded Lady',

And 'Jessica the Four-armed Baby'.

Up ahead, beneath the light,

Look upon a wondrous sight.

A real live 'Mermaid' in a tank,

I guarantee it is no prank.

'Most Tattooed Lady' on this Earth,

'Siamese Twins conjoined from birth.

The 'Tallest Man's' a living giant,

On your donations, these freaks are reliant.

See the 'Pin Head' couple, Mary and Jake,

The 'Reptile Lady' with skin like a snake.

And most amazing 'freak' of all,

Is 'Tiny Tim', just two feet tall."

Very Special People (I recommend this book)

People crowd to view the strange,

Parting with their loose spare change.

Some show compassion, but few respect,

Though that's more than 'the freaks' expect.

Accepting life of exploitation

To humour the fickle population.

The only employment they can acquire

Is with these shows as 'Freaks for Hire'.

Sideshow performer Johnny Eck the “Half-Boy” with his twin brother Robert.

Sideshow performer Johnny Eck the “Half-Boy” with his twin brother Robert.

Now fortunately these shows have ceased,

In the Western world at least.

Though people that we once called 'freaks',

Now forced to beg within our streets.

Discrimination still exists,

And fear of difference persists,

Of the disabled and deformed.

Our attitudes must be reformed.

Today's society is based on looks,

But we need to throw away those books.

We must respect our fellow man,

Embrace our differences if we can.

No one's perfect, all have flaws,

Sometimes we all just need to pause.

Look at strangeness as unique,

Make it the 'Holy Grail' we seek.

Ethel Granger had the smallest waist on record,obtained through the strong urging of her husband to "corset train".Ethel wore the corset 24 hrs a day to shape her body.From there he moved on to piercing her for his own admiration.

Ethel Granger had the smallest waist on record,obtained through the strong urging of her husband to "corset train".Ethel wore the corset 24 hrs a day to shape her body.From there he moved on to piercing her for his own admiration.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2014 John Hansen


John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on May 05, 2017:

Hello, Yves (Savvy). Yes, I think for most of these people it was the only way they could earn a living, be accepted by society (instead of being locked away as though they didn't exist). Yes, it is an original poem written by me :) Glad you enjoyed it. Cheers.

savvydating on May 05, 2017:

This article is very interesting, Jodah. I imagine being part of a "freak show" may have been the easiest way for someone with a disability to make a living, back in Victorian times. Some performers may have felt a strong kinship with their fellow travelers---which must have helped them not to give up on life.

However, I am sure many others had quite a difficult time with their "fate." I would hate being on display like that. These individuals were very brave to do what they could to survive.

Did you write the poem as well? I really enjoyed it.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 10, 2017:

Me too, Coffeequeeen. Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 10, 2017:

Me too, Coffeequeeen. Thanks for reading.

Louise Powles from Norfolk, England on February 10, 2017:

Yes, it was certainly very sad that these people were classed as freaks and in freak shows. I'm glad times have changed.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on January 19, 2017:

Thanks for reading this, Paula. It is one of my older but most popular hubs as far as traffic is concerned. Some of the sideshow attractions were fake but many like these were real people who were doing the best they could to make a living. It is good to still be a child at heart and see the world with more innocent eyes.

Suzie from Carson City on January 19, 2017:

Jodah.....This was a fascinating read and written so well due to your exceptional talent, it was easy to handle the shock of some of the photos. You helped to read of the oddities gracefully.

I do recall the side shows so many years ago at the County Fair. It's funny to me now that I was thoroughly convinced that none of the people were real....or that they were disguised to have the abnormalities and in fact were perfectly normal when not entertaining in the freak shows. I think the very young me had a secret way of sheltering myself from anything too sad and awful to face.

Wow, Jodah......this is eye-opening for me. In some ways, I'm still that little girl.......Peace to you my friend, Paula

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on January 19, 2017:

Thanks Kelly.

Kelly on January 19, 2017:

Actually the "Rat Children" are Athelia, George or Pete, (I can't remember which was their legal guardian then) and Schlitzie.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on August 18, 2016:

Thanks for taking the time to check out this article/poem, Dan my man. I am sure many of these people were proud that at least they could earn a living, and many gained some degree of fame which may have improved the way they were treated. Yes, they were still real people and had feelings just like you and I, so I imagine they lived with a great deal of sadness that they were usually ostracised from their families and couldn't lead normal lives. Yes, being 6'5 1/2 you would have experienced being seen as different to some to throw me around 3 1/2 of those inches :) Once again I appreciate your support.

Dan W Miller from the beaches of Southern California now living in Phoenix since 2000 on August 18, 2016:

It's rather impolite of the first person to comment in such a manner because these ARE/WERE real people and have feelings. I doubt he would be so callus if he had to say that in front of or to the people described here. Best to keep one's thoughts to one's self.

However, I love the macabre and unusual in readings. BRAVO once again, my mentor.

I'm pretty sure most of these "performers" took great pride in their notoriety but I'm sure deep down a sense of sadness too.

I can relate only on a very minor scale when I hold my head up high knowing that I am over 6' 5 1/2" tall which is 1.9% of the Earth's population but alas, at times, it sure would be nice to just blend in and not be gawked at.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on August 17, 2016:

Hi again Becca, it was a pleasant surprise to get the first new comment on this hub for 10 months. It gets quite a lot of Pinterest traffic, but those readers don't usually comment. Glad you like my message, you will find in most of my hubs I am trying to voice my opinion of something I find of concern. Sorry to "hook" you ... Not :)

Becca Hubbard-Woods from Outside your window. on August 17, 2016:

This is the first hub of yours I clicked on, ready to read, when the scarecrow poem caught my eye. I just now made my way back to this. I loved the lead up information, as well as the following poetry. It all gelled so well to create compassion and beg for acceptance of everyone. I deeply identify with your message here! Alas, I'm afraid I may be hooked on your hubs and now I'm going to spend most of the night reading and acquainting myself with your inner thoughts.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on October 14, 2015:

Missy, thank you for that wonderful comment. You are right that we need to look beneath the outside appearances and find the real person beneath. We are all different and none of us perfect. Nick is a true inspiration.

I admit to watching "American Horror Story". I would have to say it is one of the most shocking and horrific shows I have ever watched on TV. It grabs you and drags you in though..I see where your daughter is coming from. The acting is also brilliant...especially Jessica Lange.

Thank you for all your kind compliments. It humbles me.

Missy Smith from Florida on October 14, 2015:

This again was a really good hub Jodah. Freaks, or so they are called, have always been intriguing to me, but not for their deformities as much as their spirit. They seem the most genuine of all of us humans. I, myself, think we are all freaks in some way. We all have differences, just like Nick Vujicic says.

I remember watching the movie, " The Elephant Man," when I was a young girl, it was such a good story.

My daughter loves that show, "American Horror Story," and she always tells me I will love it. She knows my weird taste, and though she tries hard to act like she doesn't possess any of my traits, she sure loves that show. I'm very surprised I don't watch it, but I'm actually hitting the hay by the time it comes on. I have to rise with the roosters usually. :)

I loved the poem. My goodness Jodah, you are a great talent! I love all your articles and poems. Thanks for sharing them!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on February 15, 2015:

Thanks for reading this and for your insightful comment, especially about your childhood experience Marilyn. "Being different" in some ways is a lot more acceptable nowadays and people often go out of their way to make themselves as different and individual as possible. Those born with deformities etc I doubt would choose that however. You are right in some ways "freak shows" at least offered these people employment and a way to earn some money where they otherwise would be just hidden away as an embarrassment.

Marilyn L Davis from Georgia on February 15, 2015:

Good morning, John; I remember one carnival in Indiana where there was a Freak Show. My mother thought it deplorable that these people were on exhibition. I was too young to appreciate her position, but we got a lecture about compassion later. My father commented that while exploited, there were families when he was growing up that would simply hide or hold such people essentially hostage in their homes for fear of ridicule. There was probably no easy answer.

The other reality is that for some of those during the era of the photos, there would not have been any way to earn a living in the conventional manner.

Your poem, on the other hand, does address the need for inclusion and a different way in which we judge those who are different. Thank you for writing it and including it. ~Marilyn

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on September 19, 2014:

Thanks for sharing about the old tintype photos. Yes some are very clear and do have amazing detail. It isn't all that long ago that these freak shows stopped being a regular part of entertainment. In fact I saw a TV show recently that was about a current group of people with deformities who banded together and travelled around the Philippines performing.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on September 19, 2014:

Thanks for reading and voting up Vellur. Glad you enjoyed the poem

Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on September 19, 2014:

These people certainly had their share of difficulties. The old tintype photos were amazing in their detail. The one of the conjoined twins was a spectacular display of fashion during that time. I have a few tintype photos of my grandparents and their families.

In the sixties, there were still carnivals that offered freak shows with the Amazing Snake lady, the bearded woman and others that my Mom ushered us quickly past the barker who beckoned for viewers.

Nithya Venkat from Dubai on September 19, 2014:

Beautifully expressed! I love the way you have written "look at strangeness as unique". Great poem, voted up.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on September 18, 2014:

Thanks for reading Wayne. Yes, I haven't seen that movie yet but I read the book "very Special People" which is very similar.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on September 18, 2014:

Exactly Paula, many were hidden away in institutions never to be seen The only plus side to these "freak Shows" were that it enabled some of these people with deformities etc to make a living, all be it on display for people's entertainment.

Wayne Barrett from Clearwater Florida on September 18, 2014:

John this was a great article with great poetic accompaniment. I was reminded of the old movie Freaks, which was banned for a long time. Keep up the good work.

Paula Atwell from Cleveland, OH on September 18, 2014:

There are so many odd deformities and unusual conditions to the human body. So sad that these people get treated as freaks.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on September 18, 2014:

Thank you Audrey, it's always great to get your wise and thoughtful comments. It's a strange subject..sad in a way, empowering in another.

Audrey Howitt from California on September 18, 2014:

Really well done John! So very interesting. It is so much a sad write really, but I love you conclude--

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on August 11, 2014:

Thanks for reading Bill and for your interesting comment. I haven't yet seen the movie "freaks" but I will have to do that soon. I do have the book "Very Special People" however, and can highly recommend it.

Bill Russo from Cape Cod on August 11, 2014:

This was a great take on a tough topic. Johnny Eck, whom you picture with his brother, was one of the performers in Todd Browning's 'Freaks'. He was an amazing individual and was quite talented. The film did poorly upon release but is now highly regarded. A compelling look at the innards of the sideshow, the movie portrays people of the show as sympathetic and strong. At the climax, we applaud them, even as they are committing an act of murder.

In the United States, the "Freak" shows existed at least through the 1960s. I remember especially, going to the annual Brockton Fair and seeing them. It was fascinating and as bad as it was in some respects, it was at least employment for the unfortunate folks. Some of them made a lot of money. Most, I suspect, just got by.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 29, 2014:

thank you Mel, yes you are right. They had more autonomy then and actually earned some money, some even became famous celebrities. So in some ways they had it better.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 28, 2014:

Thanks for an interesting comment Mel. We may look back and see these people as having been exploited in the freak shows! but maybe they were really better off in many ways as many of them earned their own living and had some sort of autonomy.

Mel Carriere from Snowbound and down in Northern Colorado on June 28, 2014:

A splendid little bit of poetry and an interesting summary of the plight of these unfortunates. But it raises the question whether they are better off today living in the streets or as wards of the circus, where they may have felt a purpose for living, however wrong it was. I'll never understand why some humans find joy in the misery of others, but there it was to be exploited. Wonderful verses and hub!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 27, 2014:

Thanks for your insightful comment teaches. Whatever you do don't miss Nick's talks he is an incredible inspiration.

Dianna Mendez on June 27, 2014:

I am so glad people are beginning to change their views. It was a sad time back then, very poor choice of standards. Our church is hosting Nick Vujisic in a couple of weeks and I am so looking forward to hearing him share his story. Great write up on this issue!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 26, 2014:

Thank you so much Genna, for your kind and insightful comment. If you have ever seen a freak show it is something you will never forget. Thanks for the vote up too.

Genna East from Massachusetts, USA on June 26, 2014:

I recently watched the film, “The Elephant Man,” with Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt. Your comment about how public opinion was beginning to change is spot on; especially as it related to Merrick. In reality, he willingly participated in these shows as a way to make money. I’ve only seen a few seconds of a freak show in my life…when I was a little girl at a carnival. It made me cry as I thought the people in the crowd were cruel. I never forgot it. I like your poem; it reflects the lives of these individuals and how they were reduced to putting their lives on display for others to stare at. Congratulations to Nick on his wedding! Voted up ++.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 25, 2014:

Thank you Nell. One way to tell if one of your hubs is successful is if the reader spends a good deal of time reading it and watching the videos all the way through without getting bored. I am glad this hub captured your interest. Thank you for the kind words, and yes Nick did get married. I enjoy your hubs on human oddities and strange historical facts as well. I appreciate your kind comment.

Nell Rose from England on June 25, 2014:

Hi Jodah, I have been on your hub for about half hour! its totally fascinating to me, I also write about people like these that were once treated so badly, but now, fingers crossed have a bit more dignity given to them. Of course they thought they had a good life compared to living at home with those disabilities, so they were happy most of the time. Then I watched the whole of the video. Wow! what an amazing and wonderful guy, I am so pleased he has got married, after watching the video I thought 'sure it said he got married'! lol! Wonderful jodah, and totally drew me in, oh? and your poem was awesome!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 24, 2014:

Hi Dana, yes I remember the movie of 'The Elephant man starring John Hurt. It was very sad, and is a story that could be applied to many of these people. You are right that performing and being on display in these shows at least gave them some independence and income though probably small in most cases. Probably better than being locked away in institutions out of the public eye. Thank you for the vote up.

Dana Tate from LOS ANGELES on June 24, 2014:

I remember seeing the Elephant man when I was a kid. I saw it at the movies with my family and it was one of the saddest movies I ever seen. It is sad that people will use the misfortunes of someone else to make money. And what's worst if it wasn't for the circus and what not, some of these people would have nowhere to go....interesting article my friend voted up!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 24, 2014:

Hi Flourish. I guess it's human condition to be amazed, shocked, disgusted by the alarmingly different. It has changed to some extent but is still there. Nick (in the video) is an amazing man, and his new wife obviously wonderful as well. Glad you enjoyed this.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 24, 2014:

So glad you enjoyed this hub Jamie enough to make it your new favourite. That's very cool. Thanks for your support and encouragement.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 24, 2014:

Thanks DDE, I am glad I presented you with something you had never seen before. Yes we have come a long way, but our entertainment demands keep changing. We give the people what they pay to see.

FlourishAnyway from USA on June 24, 2014:

Well done, John. It's sad that we used to regard such people this way (and to some extent still do). The gentleman in the video was particularly inspiring.

Jamie Lee Hamann from Reno NV on June 24, 2014:

This may be my new favorite. I love you hub! Excellent work my friend. Jamie

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on June 24, 2014:

Wow!Incredible! The photos got me starring I have not seen anything like this before.So much has changed from then to now.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 24, 2014:

H travmaj, yes I did see Conchita Wurst win Eurovision. That contest has led the way in acceptance of differences. Maybe European countries are more accepting than many others, I don't know. But I think we have moved on in many aspects, though striving for photoshopped beauty and being thin is still driving our culture.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 24, 2014:

Sorry if you found this hard to read MsDora, but I guess i is a rather unpleasant subject for most people. Parents of these unfortunates at the time probably thought it was better to get a little money this way then having their children hidden away or pretending they didn't exist. Thanks for reading.

travmaj from australia on June 24, 2014:

Oh dear, how could society condone such shows as entertainment? But then different era I suppose. Did you happen to see the Eurovision contest 2014 winner - Conchita Wurst? Clearly respected. So I guess in many ways we've moved on. Your poem does justice to this subject. I guess most of us are flawed in one way or another. Certainly made me think.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on June 24, 2014:

A bit hard to read, but reality is often hard to digest. The parents who sent their children to these freak shows are being judged, but remember that they did not have the education we now have, and they might have had no idea how to deal with their feelings. Just happy that no we act more humanely. Thanks for the information, Jodah.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 24, 2014:

Very true Frank, strangeness is becoming the new thing (not sure I'd say the norm). People are doing weird things deliberately to their bodies to alter their appearance. Thanks for reading and commenting.

Frank Atanacio from Shelton on June 24, 2014:

side show, freak show.. back then was exciting and entertaining.. but Jodah look around's the norm..:) great entertaining hub my creative friend :)

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Thank you Alicia. Your words are echoed by many others that they are glad the freak show is now largely just a part of history. I did see a show on tv where a group,of 'freaks', rather people with a range of strange medical deformities (snake like skin, wart like growths deforming hands and feat, etc) travel around the Philippines or Indonesia doing shows to earn a living. So it does still exist in a form. I am glad you found this hub interesting even though sad.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on June 23, 2014:

This is a very interesting hub that is also very sad. I'm glad that freak shows no longer exist in many countries. The combination of history and poem is this hub works very well!

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Jackie, we will always find some form of entertainment that future generations will look back on as being exploiting or inappropriate. I agree the amount of violence in movies and games is desensitising the current generation to the atrocity of murder and violence. Thanks for your continued encouragement.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

I am glad this hub touched you Ann. I wanted to get a point across and am glad I succeeded. Thank you for reading and for your kind comment.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Yes dragonfly, genetic testing is one if the good points of technology. It makes a lot of these deformities les prevalent in developed countries at least. Some people in our modern society deliberately deform there bodies as shown in my last couple of pics. They want to be different and stand out from the fact choosing to what was once called a"freak". Thanks for reading.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Than you for your generous comment Graham, much appreciated.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Thanks for your kind and insightful comment Kim. You are right that these things could be dangerous to young eyes without guidance. I don't think there were age limits back then apart from parents discretion though.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Thank you for your interesting comment Rachael. You are right, maybe these shows did serve a purpose of getting deformities and disability more accepted by the public rather than hidden in institutions and pretended didn't exist. The fact that some of these special people became celebrities would have helped.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Thanks for reading Shauna and I appreciate your comment. Glad I got my message out there.

Jackie Lynnley from the beautiful south on June 23, 2014:

So very sad; and so glad this is no longer a joyful entertainment for people. Now I think it is murder in movies and games so much so that slaughter worldwide means nothing and we go on laughing and living as if it won't happen to us. Food for thought. You have come so far in your articles John. Always enjoy them.

Ann Carr from SW England on June 23, 2014:

Yes, amazing how people were treated but, as you say, not so different now. Some are still regarded as freaks but they're cast away. Do we never learn?!

I love your poignant poetry on this subject, bringing it home that we should care rather than stare. 'Beauty is in the eye of the beholder' and all that!

This touched me deeply and the photos are spectacular, a great collection to illustrate your point.


dragonflycolor on June 23, 2014:

It's definitely interesting to see how people who viewed others who had diseases, deformities, or genetic mishaps as "freaks". Nowadays, we have the capability of pinpointing genetic markers to determine most abnormalities. Great hub!

Graham Lee from Lancashire. England. on June 23, 2014:

Hi Jodah. What a fantastic hub. Your research is terrific and your photographs, mindblowing!

voted up and all.


ocfireflies on June 23, 2014:


Very interesting and done so well. I love how your pics are placed to match up with the references of them in your poem.

I think technology allows people to create their own or peruse other's "freak shows" which makes this exploitation that much more dangerous for young eyes may see things without adult supervision giving them no direction as to how best interpret what they are watching.

I wonder if there was an age requirement like had to 18 or accompanied by an adult for these freak shows of the past? As usual, V+/Share.

Awesome job my friend.


Rachael O'Halloran from United States on June 23, 2014:

When I was very little, in the late 1940s, Steel Pier (on the Atlantic City boardwalk in NJ) had a sideshow with all kinds of freaks. Why parents ever take their kids to stuff like that I'll never know. It scars them (and scares them) for life. I had 2 older brothers who ducked behind the stage to see who was real and who wasn't. Lots of people used to go to this one Steel Pier show - hundreds of thousands every summer at 10cents a pop earned them a tidy sum. Their shows were not real. Not one legit freak in the bunch. Finding that out at age 5 was the only thing that took away the nightmares that came immediately after attending my first show. I know there are lots of people in this world who are physically challenged like the Elephant Man and others, but all these freak shows that weren't legit, in an effort to make money, managed to make fun of them by imitation.

Now that the shows are few and far between, I think these legitimately deformed/diseased people are less bullied, and not as shocking as they once were. As bad as these shows were, they somehow made ailments/deformities more acceptable to the public.

I like how you put together history with your excellent poems. Keep up the great work, you have found a good niche there.

Shauna L Bowling from Central Florida on June 23, 2014:

John, I'd been to a couple of freak shows when I was little. They were at carnivals. To be honest, they scared the hell out of me.

Fortunately these shows no longer exist, as far as I know. It's sad to put people on display, limiting their destinies.

The ending to your poem carries a very powerful message my friend.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Thanks Will, it does make us appreciate what we have. I appreciate the kind words.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Yes Ruby, I agree it is good that most of those shows are a thing of the past. Man's inhumanity continues to astound me. Hopefully one day ...well... Nick Vujicic is the most inspirational man I have ever known. He inspires everyone he meets.

WillStarr from Phoenix, Arizona on June 23, 2014:

Our own little woes become minuscule when we are reminded of what others have endured in the past, and unfortunates endure today.

Well done as always, Jodah.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on June 23, 2014:

I've been here for awhile with tears welling, the video was so amazing. Nick's comment, " Laugh at life " made me feel small and ashamed, we want so much and he only wants arms and legs. How anyone could put someone on display for money is beyond belief. The people who paid to see them were no better. Thankfully we don't have shows like that anymore. Your poetry is beautiful and heartfelt.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Thanks am I.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on June 23, 2014:

A sad chapter of our history...a beautiful lesson in your poem. Well done, John. Hell, my friend, if you get right down to it, I'm a freak, as are we all.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

No problem Eric, thanks for being the first to read this.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 23, 2014:

Oh I am just like anyone -- I read the whole thing. And you put your articles together so well that no matter what the subject matter I get something good out of them. We are all freaks in our special ways, it is just that most of us carry them only on the inside. Thanks buddy.

John Hansen (author) from Australia (Gondwana Land) on June 23, 2014:

Sorry Eric.

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on June 23, 2014:

Just too freaky for me. Yikes!