Before YouTube, television, movies, and even photography, the world enjoyed spending its off-hours looking at deformed human beings who traveled (sometimes against their will) in a gypsy caravan for little to no money. It was affectionately called the “freak show” and it was, like, the Beyonce of the last 2 centuries.
E J Kelty, a photographer in the early 1930s, decided to join the Ringling Brothers and other circus/freak show acts on tour and photograph the performers that made up their weird, nomadic families. Here are some of his pictures that show what life as a circus freak was really like.
If Sky High Jack is so tall, why does he need that huge, ridiculous marching hat?
Imagine being the clown understudy who has to wear the lady clown-mutant suit. So sad.
These guys are essentially C-3PO and R2-D2 in human form.
That face pretty much sums up the experience of being in a freak show, and also watching one.
I know elephants aren’t carnivorous, but does anyone else think about how easy it would be for one of them to swallow us whole?
I like how in the same show, there’s a woman with no arms or legs, but then 3 women who are just like, “We play the saxophone!”
This. This is too many clowns.
“Congress of Strange People” …So like… just Congress? H’yuck!
Well, these aren’t freaks, but they’re definitely freaky.
Seriously, why do we have to put the tall guy in a funny hat? Isn’t it humiliating enough to have your overactive pituitary gland on display?
As a harbinger of what may soon become of the circus, this year Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey announced that they’ll be letting their elephants go in a few years. While it’s sad to see such a historic pastime slowly die, we can always get similar kicks out of watching reality TV shows. Those freaks are just ugly on the inside.