The “human fountain” of Coney Island

Most of the people who made a living at the Coney Island sideshows were born with some kind of freakish deformity. Then there are self-proclaimed freaks—such as Mortado the Human Fountain.


Mortado drilled holes into his hands and feet to make it look like he survived crucifixion. His act involved sitting in a specially rigged chair that allowed jets of water to come up from the holes.

He’d also have spikes drilled into the holes in front of a crowd, then have fake blood squirt out like he was being crucified on stage. Apparently visitors really bought his act; some would even faint when the “blood” spurted out.

Mortado started at the Dreamland Circus Side Show in 1930 and initially wowed the crowds. But his popularity dipped, and the sideshows as well became less and less popular. What happened to Mortado once the show shut down? It’s a mystery.

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