It is one of the most gruesome acts in all of carnival history. An act so vile and riddled with controversies that it is largely a thing of the past. It is the geek act. Despite the extreme nature of this form of entertainment, it was actually common in occurrence during its peak. However, the lack of consolidated historical documentation and questionable portrayals in recorded media have made it difficult to separate fact from fiction. This work is dedicated to presenting a detailed and unflinching history of the sideshow geek. Along the way, we'll examine adjacent genres of live entertainment from years gone by such as wild men, stone eaters, human ostriches, competitive goldfish swallowers, and more. All this information is presented as we examine the rise and eventual fall of the act that is the sideshow geek.
"An impressive survey drawing back the curtains on one of the most strange and macabre corners of the history of popular entertainment and a must read for sideshow fans and performers. Nathan Wakefield digs into the meat of the geek act with intellectual dexterity and humble curiosity, offering us a chance to revisit an act that will forever remain locked away on the stages of yesteryear. Step right up and peak inside (if you dare)."
~ Mistress Kali, Founder of The Southern Sideshow Hootenanny
“The evolution of the geek and how the public reacted to this spectacle in different eras says so much about who we are.”
~ Keith Nelson, Co-founder, Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
"Nathan Wakefield has produced a well-researched and documented history of a wild niche in show business: that of the sideshow geek and related curiosities. As alluded to in this oddly fascinating book, geek acts were akin to passing a car wreck, where even though you might see something horrible, you find it hard to look away."
~ Alan Howard, performer, author, editor and aficionado of variety acts.
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This book is a cooperative project of Outside Talker Press and Shocked and Amazed Publishing.