The Lizardman, née Erik Sprague, a downstairs performer, poses in front of an exhibit of artifacts upstairs at the Coney Island Museum. Erik is a member of the "self-inflicted" category of freaks. He has a full body tattoo, and many body modifications including sharpened teeth, sub-dermal implants and a bifurcated tongue. Erik was a PHD candidate in philosphy before leaving academia to pursue performance art full time. His act is a combination of stand up comedy and traditional sideshow acts.
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Amy Herzog, author and professor of Media Studies at Queens College, poses in the Coney Island Museum. Earlier she had given a talk on, among other things, the relationship between immersive experience and architectural fantasy as rendered by the fantastical work of Albert Grass at Coney Island in the 1940’s.
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Neo Burlesque performance artist Bunny Love exits the stage behind hostess Jo "Boobs" Weldon after a performance honoring analog technologies. The best Neo-Burlesque performers have gone far beyond traditional striptease deep into the realm of avant-garde performance art. After the performance, Love and Boobs took part in a panel discussion about burlesque's historical associations with sideshows.
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Princess Pat Muko from Nigeria, seen here in the back stairwell at Coney Island USA. Muko is a regular performer in Neo-Burlesque and of traditional sideshow acts such as the Electric Chair and Straightjacket Escape.
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The Venerable Tsering Phunstok, a Tibetan monk, spoke about Buddhist death philosophy at the Congress of Curious Peoples Symposium. The Symposium is a two day academic event featuring panel discussions on topics related to the sideshow and history of Coney Island. After his talk, Phunstok took in the sideshow and watched several performances. Among others, he saw Baron Von Geiger, who bills himself as the World’s Strangest Strongman, stick fish hooks in his face and swing an anchor attached to them.
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Baron Von Geiger and The Illustrated Penguin, née Jason Brott. Geiger is what they call a self-inflicted freak, someone who has altered his or her looks with things such as tattoos, piercings, or body modifications. Penguin is in the born different category. He was born with severe birth defects that left him with two very short arms and resulted in him resembling a penguin in both body shape and gait. Geiger specializes in acts of self-mutilation and pain endurance. Penguin has a wide assortment of talents including tradional sideshow acts such as the Blockhead.
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Evan Michelson, co-owner of Obscura Antiques & Oddities and star of the television show "Oddities." Some years Michelson gives a presentation at the Congress in which she typically presents a strange object and places it in historical context. This year she was a regular attendee there to enjoy the proceedings.
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Neo Burlesque royalty backstage before the Jo Boobs Wild Women panel discussion and performances. For over a hundred years sideshows have featured women behaving savagely and inappropriately, as social and psychological curiosities. L to R: Bambi the Mermaid, Julie Atlas Muz, and Bunny Love.
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The Great Fredini, one of the mainstays of Coney Island USA. Fredini. Along with Bambi teh Mermaid,Fredini played a leading role in the Neo Burlesque revival in Coney Island. He is also a sideshow performer best known for the Blockhead routine and he often serves as master of ceremonies for various shows.
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Jelly Boy the Clown, a founding member of the Squidling Brothers Carnivolution. The Squidling Brothers act is a combination of sideshow, aerial feats, Neo-Burlesque and perverted puppets. After the show, audience members can staple money to various parts of the clown's body, the more delicate areas requiring the largest bills.
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Jason the Illustrated Penguin looks on as members of the Cabaret of Flesh prepare for a performance.
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Eak the Geek, née Edward Arrocha, is a longtime Coney Island Sideshow performer and East Village Poet. Arrocha no longer performs regularly at the sideshow, but returns each year for the Congress of Curious Peoples Alumni Weekend.
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Longtime Coney Island Sideshow performers Donny Vomit and Heather Holiday bring a high level of professionalism to the standard sideshow acts such as the Straightjacket Escape pictured here.
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Knife thrower The Great Throwdini and his assistant Lana Firebird pose next to a regular at the Coney Island Freak bar on Surf Avenue.
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Scene from the act of the Squidling Brothers Carnivolution.
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PHD candidate Philip Kadish poses next to a Fiji Mermaid in the Coney Island Museum before his lecture on “Pinhead Races and the White Man’s Burden: Racial Science and the Politics of P.T. Barnum’s “What Is It?” A Fiji mermaid is the torso and head of a young monkey sewn to the back half of a fish and covered in papier-mâché. It was a common feature of sideshows for decades.
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Nati Amos the Patchwork Girl performing during Super Freak Weekend. Super Freak Weekend features performers who were born different. Amos was born with only one or two fingers, depending on how one defines "fingers."
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Denny Daniels presents his traveling Museum of Interesting Things, an amusing assembly of odd and interesting artifacts from days gone by.
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"It's a truly ethereal feeling, a sort of transcendence that I feel whenever I suspend. Its an experience that takes you into another place physically, emotionally, and spiritually. In a show, there was another quality to it. Something about having a crowd of people there and exposing them to something so magical yet so raw. It hurts to some degree but amongst the other emotions and the amazing things that your body is enduring, the pain gets washed away."
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Les the Mentalist and Lord Whimsy on Surf Avenue, Coney Island USA before their lecture on Fate and Chance in the context of culture and folklore, during which they also performed traditional mentalist routines.
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Lana Firebird in the Coney Island Museum.
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James Taylor with his favorite exhibit in the Coney Island Museum. Taylor is a regular at the Congress of Curious Peoples. He is writer and expert on the sideshow. He publishes the "Shocked and Amazed" book series and often appears on television, radio and in other major media to discuss sideshow related topics.
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Performance by members of the Cabaret of Flesh in which they attach hooks to their backs and run in different directions.
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Aaron Beebe, director of the Coney Island Museum in the museum’s Cosmorama of the Great Dreamland Fire, a 360 degree immersive spectacle in the style of 19th century cycloramas which he co-designed.
The Congress of Curious Peoples is a weeklong event that brings together the upstairs and the downstairs in the sideshow world. The upstairs being academics and aficionados that study and enjoy the sideshow acts. The downstairs being the performers themselves. They are all, in their own ways, Curious People.