Posts Tagged ‘Dreamland Circus Side Show’

The “human fountain” of Coney Island

February 10, 2009

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.

Sideshow freaks and human curiosities

November 18, 2008

Legendary Coney Island amusement park Dreamland burned down in 1911, but that didn’t stop its owners from launching the Dreamland Circus Side Show on Surf Avenue soon after.

This 1930s photo shows some of the sideshow’s most famous performers (plus the newest attraction, “Mortado”). Note the Nedick’s on the right—once a big chain of hot dog and orange juice stands.










The granddaddy of all freak show promoters was P.T. Barnum; his museum on Ann Street in lower Manhattan attracted hundreds of thousands of gawkers each year.

“The Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth” toured the country, luring crowds with its “peerless prodigies of physical phenomena,” including a bearded lady, sword swallower, and “Egyptian giant.”



Another bizarro Barnum exhibit: babies. Twins, triplets, “quaterns”  . . . it seems 19th century New Yorkers were as fascinated by multiples as we are today.