Posts Tagged ‘Zip the Pinhead’

Hubert’s: freaks and fleas in Times Square

November 30, 2009

Coney Island wasn’t the only place New Yorkers could go to ogle side-show exhibits. From 1925 to 1969, Hubert’s Museum in Times Square—next door to the Amsterdam Theater on West 42nd Street—housed freaks of all stripes.

For 25 cents, you could catch a glimpse of Olga, the bearded lady, whose facial hair measured more than 13 inches. And the Man From World War Zero, who had a terribly deformed face.

There was also Susie the Elephant Skin Girl, Lady Estelline the sword swallower, voodoo jungle snake dancer Princess Sahloo, Prince Randion, human caterpiller, and a man who could blow up balloons and smoke pipes through his tear duct.

Tiny Tim started out singing at Hubert’s. Famous freak Zip the Pinhead did time there as well.

Hubert’s had something else going for it: the city’s last flea circus. Professor Heckler’s Flea Circus operated in the basement. There, real fleas attached to very thin wires raced miniature chariots on a teeny tiny track.

Hubert’s is long gone, but you can still see it on film: A scene from 1969’s Midnight Cowboy has John Voight strolling past.

Zip the Pinhead at Coney Island

May 27, 2009

If the year was 1925 instead of 2009 and you were planning a trip to Coney Island, you would be able to see Zip the Pinhead, a P.T. Barnum freak show find who by the 1920s displayed himself at one of the boardwalk sideshows.

Zip_the_pinheadLike other freaks of the time, he was very popular; supposedly Charles Dickens and the Prince of Wales visited him, and he had his portrait done by Civil War photographer Mathew Brady. He was also heralded for saving a little girl from drowning off Coney Island.

Despite his appearance, Zip wasn’t microcephalic (the medical term for having a pinhead). Nor was he mentally disabled, according to some accounts. He just happened to be born into a poor New Jersey family and then “discovered” by Barnum, who billed him as a “wild man” from Africa.

Apparently Zip laughed all the way to the bank. On his deathbed in 1926, the 80-something’s last words reportedly were “We fooled ’em for a long time, didn’t we?”

Check out more sideshow freaks and curiosities here.