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History: Freaks of Nature

History: Freaks Of Nature

A freak show is an exhibition rarities, "freaks nature" — such as unusually tall or short humans, and people with both male and female secondary sexual characteristics or other extraordinary diseases and conditions — and performances that are expected to be shocking to the viewers. Heavily tattooed or pierced people have sometimes been seen in freak shows, as have fire-eating and sword-swallowing acts.

Freak shows were popular in the United States from around 1840 to the 1970s, and were ten, but not always, associated with circuses and carnivals. Some shows also exhibited deformed animals (such as two-headed cows, one-eyed pigs, and four-horned goats) and famous hoaxes, or simply "science gone wrong" exhibits (such as deformed babies).
Changes in popular culture and entertainment led to the decline the freak show as a form entertainment. As previously mysterious anomalies were scientifically explained as genetic mutations or diseases, freaks became the objects sympathy rather than fear or disdain.
Today, Michigan law forbids the "exhibition any deformed human being or human monstrosity, except as used for scientific purposes". However, in many states in the USA and in other countries abroad, one can still see freak shows at carnivals and state fairs, in bars and nightclubs, and on daytime television talk shows.

The exhibition human oddities has a long history:
1630s - Lazarus Colloredo, and his parasitic twin brother, John Baptista, who was attached at Lazarus' sternum, tour Europe.
1704–1718 - Peter the Great collected human oddities at the Kunstkammer in what is now St. Petersburg, Russia.
1738 - The exhibition a creature who "was taken in a wook at Guinea; 'tis a female about four feet high in every part like a woman excepting her head which nearly resembles the ape."
1884 - Joseph Merrick, exhibited as "The Elephant Man" by Tom Norman in London's East End.
1932 - Tod Browning's Pre-Code-era film Freaks tells the story a traveling freakshow. The use real freaks in the film provoked public outcries, and the film was relegated to obscurity until its re-release at the 1962 Cannes Film Festival.
1960 - Albert-Alberta Karas (two siblings, each half man, half woman) exhibits with Bobby Reynolds on sideshow tour.
1992 - Grady Stiles (the lobster boy) is shot in his home in Gibsonton, Florida.
1996 - Chicago shock-jock Mancow Muller presented Mancow's Freak Show at the United Center in the Summer 1996, to crowd 30,000. The show included Kathy Stiles and her brother Grady III as the Lobster Twins. {Mancow Muller (with John Calkins) Dad, Dames, Demons & a Dwarf Regan Books 2004 pp. 121, 137-147}
2000–2010 - Ken Harck's Brothers Grim Sideshow debuted at the Great Circus Parade in Milwaukee, WI. The Milwaukee run included a fat lady and bearded lady Melinda Maxi, as well as self made freaks The Enigma and Katzen. In later years the show has included Half-boy Jesse Stitcher and Jesus "Chuy" Aceves the Mexican Werewolf Boy and Murrugun The Mystic. Bros. Grim toured with the Ozz Fest music festival in 2006,2007 and 2010.
2005 - "999 Eyes Freakshow" founded, touting itself as the "last genuine traveling freakshow in the United States." 999 Eyes portrays freaks in a very positive light, insisting that "what is different is beautiful." Freaks include Black Scorpion.
2007 - Wayne Schoenfeld bring together several sideshow performers to "The L.A. Circus Congress Freaks and Exotics," to photograph sideshows folks for "Cirque Du Soleil - Circus the Past." In attendance were: Bill Quinn, the halfman; Percilla, the fat lady; Mighty Mike Murga the Mighty Dwarf; Dieguito El Negrito, a wildman; fireeaters; sword swallowers, and more.

The entertainment appeal the traditional "freak shows" is arguably echoed in numerous programmes made for television. Thus Extraordinary People on the British television channel Five or BodyShock show the life severely disabled or deformed people, and can be seen as the modern equivalent the circus freak shows. However in order to make the shows respectable, the subjects are usually portrayed as heroic and attention is given to their family and friends and the way they help them overcome their disabilities. On The Guardian, Chris Shaw however comments that "one man's freak show is another man's portrayal heroic triumph over medical adversity" and carry on with "call me prejudiced but I suspect your typical twentysomething watched this show with their jaw on the floor rather than a tear in their eye".

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Date added:Sep 28, 2010
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