Who wrote this book and when?
These biographies were compiled into a collection by Marc Hartzman and published in 2005.

Has there been a film version?
No, although there have been many documentaries on the medical conditions which cause these people’s deformities, and the 1932 movie “Freaks” by “Tod” Robbins stars almost 50 of the individuals in this book.

Who are the main characters?
The men and women who marketed themselves as freaks, spacemen, wonders of the ancient and modern world, and the specially gifted in circuses, side shows, and dime museums from the years 1830’s until present.

What’s it about?
It features quick biographies on many of the people who worked as freaks in showbusiness for P.T. Barnum, Bailey, the Ringling Brothers, Christ and Hall, and others; from fat men and women, to ossified people, two headed children, giants, and sword swallowers.

Why is this book a classic?
It isn’t. It’s about a classic piece of Americana which has fallen on hard times due to the influence of Political Correctness.

Why should I read this book?
I dunno if you should or not, it just sounded intriguing to me.

How did this book make your list?
I spotted it on the shelf of new books at my local library.

Has it won any awards?
It has not.

Favorite Quotes:
“She was a normal young girl until age twelve, when puberty unleashed its mighty fury. Rambunctious hormones transformed her into a whole lot of woman.” – on Hannah Battersby, page 19

“Goshen didn’t limit his company to the small. He considered himself an oversize Adonis, and some women seemed to agree.” – on Colonel Ruth Goshen a.k.a. The Middlebush Giant, page 43

“Ingram was born in Decatur, Alabama, and he learned at the tender age of four the skill that would be his livelihood. He once described his discovery: ‘I was playing hide-and-seek with some kids. I hid in a dark place, but they found me, and I was so startled my eyes popped out.’ His friends must have been even more startled.” – on Willie “Popeye” Ingram, page 173

Anything else?
It’s ironic that over half the modern day “freaks” were born or raised in the Northwest US, especially Seattle and Pullman.

Personal thoughts:
This book was interesting to me in the typical now frowned upon naseo-fascination way. Ironically, the people who were billed as “freaks” in the past didn’t really strike me as something or someone who would make me feel uncomfortable in person. It was the modern day people who wanted to be considered freaks who made me cringe. And as politically incorrect as it sounds, I feel bad for some people nowadays who are unable to display themselves legally because of laws against showing off physically deformed people for profit. If you consider it, (as was brought up in this collection), the majority of the individuals who advertised themselves as sideshow attractions would make more money and be happier in that profession than by relying on the government, family, or an institution to support them.

Our perception of what is visually acceptable has changed so much in the past 100 years – and even nowadays, the standard of what is acceptable and beautiful while more visually aesthetic, may not even be as truly attractive. Most of the people described in this encyclopedia would be shunned in everyday society in 2006, but back in their day, they were adored, revered, and considered some of the most beautiful people in existence because of their humility, generosity, humor, and spirit. Today, the people we spend our time looking at make a lifestyle of starting catfights with one another, marrying and divorcing in a matter of days, starving themselves to almost nothing, and indulging in “necessary” amenities which could probably bring third world countries out of poverty just with the sales tax placed on the price.

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