Friday, September 28, 2007
This week we continue the adventures of that Other Barker, from National Comics #54, June 1946! This story is titled "The Curse of Raz-Ma-Taz" and features The Barker and his sideshow gang tackling a cursed Mummy! It's wrapped with laffs!
Be sure to click each picture to enlarge them to reading size!
Check back next week, Monday through Friday for more unusual attractions at The Barker's sideshow, brought to you by freakStomp Novelties!
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Dark Ride - Know those haunted "train" rides you took through tattered curtain flaps at the county fair? Or the "Haunted House" with bowls of eyeballs and creepy crawlies hiding under the table ready to grab your leg as you stroll past? Well, that's called a "Dark Ride" here at Thimbleton's Circus and Oddities...actually, everything is a dark ride here at Thimbleton's. The animatronic ghouls which caress the nape of your neck as you pass are called "gags."
Gig —This is when a game runner gets greedy, and snatches all a mark's money all at once instead of letting the mark believe he'll win big if he just gives it one more shot. Most carnies look down on this type of trick, as it usually leads to a fight with the mark, or beef with the cops.
The guys running these types of games are usually green and unskilled, and are called Gig Artists.
Hanky-Pank — "Every player wins a prize!" Ever heard that as you walked around crunching your caramel apple? That's what this term means, games with crummy worthless "prizes" which cost about a tenth of the game ticket purchased. You give a prize worth 15 cents for every dollar play, you make 85 cents profit. Hanky-Pank!
The next time you exit a dark ride down at Thimbleton's, be sure to avoid all the Gig artists and head for the Hanky-Pank instead - at least you'll leave with something in your pocket besides lint!
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
The Little Rascals comedy series was produced from 1922 through 1944, with an ever-rotating cast of naturally talented youngsters. Hal Roach Studios produced the series up until 1938, when he sold it to MGM. The series has been called both "Our Gang" and "The Little Rascals" over the years, but the official title of the series is Our Gang. The series produced 221 short features in all.
The Barker and freakStomp Novelties are going to share a classic Our Gang short with you today from 1933, entitled The Kid From Borneo.
In this short, Spanky's wandering Uncle George has returned from travel with a new sideshow attraction, "The Wild Man From Borneo." Spanky's Dad is none too fond of his wife's brother, and refuses to let him in the house! Spanky's Mom sends the kids down to the Carnival to meet George, but since none of them have ever met him, they mistake Bumbo the Wild Man for George! Bumbo's got a sweet tooth and a bottomless stomach, so when he sees Stymie's bag of treats he takes off after them, following them back to Spanky's house, where hilarity ensues!
FUN FACT: The "Kid From Borneo" (or Bumbo) was played by John Lester Johnson, a retired boxer who once went ten rounds with Jack Dempsey in 1916, breaking several of Dempsey's ribs!
We've broken this Abso-Loot-Lee Free-of-Charge show into two segments, so please take that opportunity to buy yourself a fresh bag of popping corn at the Thimbleton concession stand during the intermission between parts!
Yum-Yum, eat 'em up, and enjoy the show!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Ah, simpler times.
Your Barker longs for simpler times, ladies and gentlemen. Before the world got wise and cynical, before the internet, a time when there were simple amusements, simple attractions, simple rides, simple games, simple toys...simple rubes who could simply be taken for every dollar in their pockets!
Today The Barker's gonna dig down real deep inside his vast footlocker and unearth something which will take you back to a simpler time, a time where craftsmanship and artistry turned simple cheap metal and paint into complex wonders which brought sparkles to many a child's eye!
Tin toys were staples in toyboxes around the world for many decades. Japan was one of the largest producers of the world's tin toys from the late 1890s up until World War II - after the war, a huge tin toy resurgence began in Occupied Japan, which lasted until the late 1960s, when cheap plastic crap became the norm. Tin toys were mass-produced in assembly lines, but were assembled by hand from many individually stamped parts (some toys were made from upwards of 300 parts!), so there was a personal touch behind each toy which was all but lost when plastic entered the picture.
The following nostalgic images are from the book Robots, Spaceships, & Other Tin Toys: The Teruhisa Kitahara Collection, published by Taschen. The photographs are by Yukio Shimizu.
Although the majority of the book has a Science Fiction theme, your Barker has chosen select pictures of toys with a carnival theme to share with you. I'm afraid the creaky photographic capture and reproductive computer device that The Barker uses can't do the pictures justice, as they're much more striking on paper.
Airship Ferris Wheel produced in the 1920s, unknown maker
Double Ferris Wheel with Swing-boats, 1950s, made by Asahi
Merry-Go-Round, 1950s, made by Line Mar
Coney Island Rocket Ride, 1950s, made by Alps
And speaking of visual pleasure...be sure to look me up tomorrow, folks!
Monday, September 24, 2007
Getcher mind outta the gutter, kid! Your ever-humble Barker is only talking about Billiard Balls!
This fellow with a set of snappers suited for elastic mastication was known in the sideshow world as THREE BALL CHARLIE.
(click pic to enlarge)
Charlie hailed from Humbolt, Nebraska, and worked carnival sideshows in the 1930s. Charlie could stuff a Golf Ball, a Tennis Ball, and a Billiard Ball into his cavernous maw, then whistle a tune for you as he balanced on top of several balls while juggling even more balls at the same time!
Charlie must've had a lotta balls to perform an act like that! I'm sure he was mentally stable, but his jawbone was sure unhinged!
Friday, September 21, 2007
In National Comics, a Quality Comics publication from the Golden Age (1938-1950ish) of comic books, a character by the name of The Barker was introduced in issue #42, May 1944. Previously this fine publication's feature character had been Uncle Sam (!), a superheroized version of the recruiting poster image! But as the world war wore down, Uncle Sam slipped from the front cover to fade away like a good little old soldier in the back of the book, making way for the carnival thrills and humor of Carnie Callahan, The Barker! The Barker was a humor-adventure strip created by artist Jack Cole, also creator of the legendary and groundbreaking humor superhero Plastic Man (and later, the very first cheesecake cartoonist for Hugh Heffner's Playboy Magazine - Va-Va-Va-Voom), but the strip was soon taken over by the talented artist Klaus Nordling - who wrote penciled, and inked every bigtop adventure by himself!
Although the humor might seem a little brittle and squeaky-clean in this day and age, the artwork remains outstanding and timeless, so from time to time your personal Barker here at Thimbleton's is gonna reach into his trunk locker, dust off a copy of National Comics from his collection (your Barker collects many different...things, kiddies), and share a peek into the pasteurized past with a blast from the Other Barker!
This story is from National Comics #53, first published in April 1946. Art and story by Klaus Nordling. Click each picture to enlarge to reading size!
Look for more comics, stories, pictures, and general weirdness from your Barker here at the blog, every Monday through Friday!
All-New Freak of the Week on Monday, I'll teach you how to do a magic trick to astound your friends and bamboozle your enemies, a featurette on Clyde Beatty - star of the cliffhanger serials, and much more! See you then!
Thursday, September 20, 2007
It has Freaks, Zombies, a Sideshow Geek, Dr. Demento and Rob Zombie look-alikes, and all the wretched acting you've come to expect from an extremely low-budget independent film! Your Barker thinks it's fantastic!
So settle in, grab a tub of stale popcorn drenched with the liquid yellow death of synthetic butter, and enjoy these piercing visuals from The Unholy Sideshow!
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Advance Man — This is the slicker who takes care of all the busywork such as licenses and paying sponsors before our carny trailers roar through your main streets. Sometimes he greases a lot of official palms to "look the other way" during our stay in your cozy, honest little town.
BC — This is a shorthand warning from one worker to another to knock it off, shut it down, cease whatever it is you're doing! To Be Cool. Maybe an incorruptible sheriff is giving you the eye from around the corner and you don't notice; maybe some rough redneck is winding up to crunch a fist into your Adam's Apple while you're busy skimming all the money out of his dear old Granny's coin purse - whatever it is, Buster, you better BC and drop it until you find out for sure!
Peek the Poke — This is when an operator of a "game" uses a sidekick to look through the group gathered round, and pick out potential players with plenty of money so those folks can be set up for the pinch!
Be sure to have your Advance Man take care of business, so you won't have to BC if your buddy gets busted Peeking the Poke!
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Behind this flap you'll find the truly eerie tale of a woman so tormented by the ghosts of her family's past that she devoted her life to escaping them by altering the very house she lived in!
This, friends, is Sarah Winchester:
Does the last name sound familiar to you? If you're a God-fearin', red-blooded rootin'-tootin' rifle-shootin' American, it should! Sarah Winchester is the wife of William Wirt Winchester, of the Winchester Repeating Arms family name, manufacturers of high-velocity death for centuries!
Legend has it that after the deaths of her daughter Annie in 1866 and husband Willie in 1881, mournful Sarah sought comfort in the visions of a Medium. This shadowy Medium informed the Widow Winchester of a curse on the Winchester family name, due to the many cemetery plots filled with those unfortunate enough to have been the focal point of a Winchester gun barrel. "Thousands of people have died because of it and their spirits are now seeking vengeance," The Medium warned Sarah, no doubt while holding her hand over a candelit table shrouded in muslin cloth!
Now, here's where the history becomes a bit muddy, and as it happens here at freakStomp Novelties we specialize in muddy histories...The Medium may or may not have then told Sarah she had to travel West, where:
"You must build a home for yourself and for the spirits who have fallen from this terrible weapon, too. You can never stop building the house. If you continue building, you will live. Stop and you will die."
Is it true? Did this clairvoyant indeed pass these grave instructions on to a guilt-stricken Sarah? Did such a ghostly vision of the future appear in her mind? Does it matter? No! We here at freakStomp Novelties live by the saying "If it sounds true, and feels true, it must be a lie -but lies are always more interesting, anyway."
The fact remains that Sarah did pull up stakes and head West to San Jose, California, where she began construction on what is known today as the Winchester Mystery House. Construction went on 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of every year for 38 years, until Sarah's soul shot like a bullet into the void on September 5th, 1922.
Before the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, the Winchester House grew to seven stories tall! Now it stands at four. The house and outer buildings spread across 4.5 acres, giving plenty of leg room to your average spectre. Sarah used her 50% ownership in Winchester Arms, as well as her $20 Million Dollar inheritance, to fund the endless construction of this winding, maze-like spirit trap.
Marvel at these astonishing facts about this unusual abode:
- There are 160 rooms, with 40 bedrooms, and 2 ballrooms...for those occasions when the bullet-riddled corpses rise from their graves and wish to boogie down
- 2 basements, enough to hide all those damp, musty secrets and skeletons
- 47 fireplaces, to keep it hotter than Hell
- 17 chimneys, which must have frustrated Santa to no end
- 5 Kitchens, for the dead constantly hunger
- 40 staircases, many of which lead nowhere, some of which lead into the ceiling
- 52 skylights
- 2000 oddly-shaped cupboards, some as small as an inch deep
- 10,000 windows
- 950 doors, some of which open into solid walls
- 3 elevators
- 1 shower
20,ooo gallons of paint were required to cover the expanse. By the time the last section was finished, the painters had to start back over from the beginning! Sarah considered the number 13 and Spider Webs to both be lucky symbols, so you'll find these themes throughout the house (coat hooks are always in sets of 13, a chandelier has 13 candleholders, there is a spider-web patterned Tiffany Glass window set with 13 colored stones).
Triggered by guilt, fired by compulsion, Sarah played Russian Roulette with carpentry for the rest of her life! Shoot, leading those haunts on a snipe hunt must have been a blast!
As you leave for today and exit into the main carnival thoroughfair, dear audience, keep in mind this sage nugget of wisdom: Guns don't kill people...unless you remember to take the safety off! Lock and load!
Monday, September 17, 2007
As we draw the curtains back for this first oddity, I must remind you that no flash photography is allowed! Autographed photos of our attractions can be arranged through seance at the end of the tour...
Ladies and gentlemen, we proudly present for your puzzlement Mr. Pasqual Pinon, the Two-Headed Mexican:
(click the pic to enlarge)
Listen closely as we weave the convoluted and melancholy tale of our doubly strange friend..
While no exact date can be verified, Pasqual Pinon is said to have been birthed in the year 1862. As told on stage while his parasitic twin stared motionless at the astounded audience, Pinon lost the family ranch to legendary bandito revolutionary Pancho Villa, and fled Mexico thereafter. The twin, which once was as spry and lively as you or I, had been frozen into place due to a stroke Pasqual suffered at the age of twenty. If you doubted the authenticity of the double header, Pasqual would lift the neck of his "brother," showing you the "neck" attached to his forehead. Paqual himself was not much of an entertainer, and would sit patiently showing his sibling from every angle while an interlocutor such as yours truly spun his biography and fielded questions from the audience. Pasqual supported his family of seven (he had twice the sex drive of normal men!) for two years, touring the country with the Sells-Floto Circus.
And living a lie...
The truth underneath the expressionless features of his second head was just as interesting (and convoluted), though, don't you worry!
A sideshow promoter discovered Pinon splitting rails in Texas back in 1917. He found Pinon's tumor to be striking in size, but needing that extra touch to...bring it to life. There are two versions of the tale which branch from here:
- A fake face sculpted from wax was placed over the tumor's peak, hair arranged around it so that it appeared natural.
- A metal (silver, so some versions go) plate with a nose structure and facial features was surgically implanted underneath the skin of the tumor, and makeup was applied to the resulting blank "face."
The biggest mistake the sideshow promoters made in this ruse was that in all cases of parasitic twins connected at the skull (craniopagus parasiticus in medical terms), the secondary head is always upside-down!
Whichever version of the fakery you choose to believe, after two years Pasqual began to deteriorate mentally (some even say the silver face plate was compressing his brain!), and the Sells-Floto manager paid to have the tumor removed. Pinon retired to a normal life, and no information exists as to what became of him. In any event, it must have been a load off his mind...
Welcome to the Graaaaaaaaaaaaand Opening of freakStomp Novelties official blog, The Barker's Blog! Every Monday thru Friday (weekends off so I can lose them, it's in my contract) I'll be pitching some entertainment your way, along with a liberal sprinkling of capitalistic greed!
If you were lucky enough to take a gander at our Secret Post (which has been up here all by its lonesome for over a month), you have an inkling - but if you weren't, let me inkle you right now! Cast your gaze to the post directly below this one for what you can expect from myself and the freakStomp gang over the coming days, weeks, months...forever, even.
And what do we expect in return for all this top-notch hopscotch? NOTHING!
Well, far be it for me, a simple carnival pitchman, to try and sell you things, but if you have some cash, and you maybe wanna exchange some of it for goods, then maybe you could click on the link below and check out our ebay store, if you feel like it:
There's lots of neato keeno stuff there already, and there'll be even neato-er keeno-er things soon to come, in many colors, shapes, and sizes!
And if you do buy something from us, send us a picture of yourself via the email address in my profile, along with a little info about yourself (website you want to plug, etc.), and we'll add you to our "Friends of freakStomp" category! It's almost like instant fame, without all the pressures of being an actual celebrity!
How was that pitch? Soft enough for ya?
And now, without further adieu (and oh, how I do), let's get on with the show!