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Publisher's Summary

The carnival sideshows of the past have left behind a fascinating legacy of mystery and intrigue. The secrets behind such daring feats as fire-eating and sword swallowing and bizarre exhibitions of human oddities as "Alligator Boys" and "Gorilla Girls" still remain, only grudgingly if ever given up by performers and carnival professionals.

Working alongside the performers, Joe Nickell blows the lid off these mysteries of the midway. The author reveals the structure of the shows, specific methods behind the performances, and the showmen's tactics for recruiting performers and attracting crowds. He also traces the history of such spectacles, from ancient Egyptian magic and street fairs to the golden age of P.T. Barnum's sideshows. With revealing insight into the personal lives of the men and women billed as freaks, Nickell unfolds the captivating story of the midway show.

©2005 The University Press of Kentucky (P)2015 Redwood Audiobooks

Critic Reviews

"Nickell delivers brilliantly." (Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things and Scientific American columnist)
" Secrets of the Sideshows is a wealth of information for circus fans or anyone who's wondered how those seemingly-impossible illusions are created." ( Brookings Register)
"If you want the lowdown on sideshows, step right up, ladies and gentlemen, Joe Nickell presents the best show on the midway." ( Times of Acadiana)

What listeners say about Secrets of the Sideshows

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Very entertaining nostalgic book!

What made the experience of listening to Secrets of the Sideshows the most enjoyable?

I really enjoyed hearing the history of the Sideshows, and the peek into the lives of those who put them together. I also loved learning the "shop talk" of the performers, it really puts you in the center of it all.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Secrets of the Sideshows?

I remember as a child at the small county fairs seeing the large Banners depicting the sideshow attractions, so the descriptions of the banner art in this book really took me back!

Any additional comments?

This was a fun, informative, and easy listen. A must for anyone who loved the carnivals and circuses of yesterday!

1 person found this helpful