Venice Beach Freak Show

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When I was at Venice Beach with my family, we came across a freak show. The barker in front had a couple of two-headed turtles in a plastic tub filled with water. He said admission was $5. The barker also told me that we could take photos of everything inside. What an enlightened attitude! Many of the other businesses at Venice Beach had signs forbidden photography, bu not the Venice Beach Freak show. My wife, my 8-year-old, and I got our tickets and headed inside.

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Here is a lizard with two tails.

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The interior is small, but packed with fun things to look at.

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Adorable miniature pinscher with 5 legs.

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A two-headed-lizard. Many of the things on display here were animals with more that the usual number of body parts. They even had a push-me-pull-you turtle that tried to swim in opposite directions. Both sides seemed to be evenly matched as it made no progress in either direction.

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If you don't want to see what is in the hole, close your eyes for the following picture.

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It's Joseph Merrick, one of the patron saints of Boing Boing! When I was in college I was in a band called the Elephant Boys, which was named after Mr. Merrick.

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The two-headed baby chicken was just one of many pickled punks on display.

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The cyclops chihuahua was never as famous as the cyclops kitten, which was one of Boing Boing's most popular posts of all time.

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A grinning chimpanzee proffers the establishment's handsome business cards.

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Take a good gander at these examples of Alien Evolution. Not to be confused with the sea devil skates that unscrupulous dealers sell on eBay as cryptozoological oddities.

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The other side of the room had a stage show running every seven minutes. This woman is sitting in an electric chair while the man illuminates a fluorescent light tube with the current emanating from her body.

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The man was an accomplished sword swallower, but his 7-foot-long balloon swallowing routine was even more impressive!

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Venice-Boardwalk114 Venice-Boardwalk115 Venice-Boardwalk124 We left the Venice Beach Freak Show feeling like this fellow!


  1. All that for five dollars!?  You found yourself a genuine bargain!  Allowed to photograph too, without an additional surcharge? Even better!

    I thought I found a good value at the Santa Cruz Mystery Spot which is $6.00/head.  However, it’s a crap shoot–it all depends on which tour guide you get.

  2. Looks very cool, although, from what I’ve heard, a freakshow on Venice Beach is almost redundant.

  3. I just can’t come up with anything witty or suggestive to say about the guy swallowing a 7′ balloon. Oh, wait…

  4. The iguana with two tails happened because the tail broke, but did not actually fall off.  Since it broke, it grew a new one, but the old one healed.

    You can do it deliberately; I hope that wasn’t the case there.

    1. I’ve kept iguanas (and other lizards) for 19 years. I only ever incubated one batch of iguana eggs, and a couple of the hatchlings had split tails. (Which is what led me to never try it again.) Judging by the picture, I don’t think the iguana here had a broken tail that regrew forked. I think it was a birth defect, as mine were.  Reptiles seem to get this developmental problem quite frequently, as you can tell by the double-headed beardie, double-headed slider and double-tailed iguana just in this one collection of “freaks”.

  5. ” This woman is sitting in an electric chair while the man illuminates a
    fluorescent light tube with the current emanating from her body.”

    No he’s not. And no she isn’t.

    She’s sitting near the Tesla coil which you can see to the left rear of the chair. The high frequency oscillating field of the coil is what is illuminating the fluorescent tube. There is no real current to speak of. Ionizing the tenuous mercury vapor inside the tube requires high voltage, not current, and that is what the Tesla coil provides. This is basically the same effect as the giant lightning bolts produced by very large coils. You don’t see those here because the coil is small and the air too dense for significant ionization. But the vapor in the tube is a pretty decent vacuum and will ionize quite well.

    It’s conceivable she’s in the circuit though it doesn’t look like it. Human nervous systems aren’t sensitive to currents with frequencies above about 20 kHz and Tesla coils typically operate at hundreds of kHz. If they operate in the MHz range, the skin depth is so small that the signal doesn’t even penetrate the body at all.

  6. I went to this place the other day, and it was exactly what I was hoping for and more – couldn’t believe it was only 5 dollars. I just loved the sense of fun and attention to detail – it didn’t matter that the electric woman wasn’t really electric, or that a few of the exhibits were fake, that was just part of the enjoyment for me!

    After I left I drew a couple of sketches of the exhibits (including a visiting dog-faced boy!) and other inhabitants of the beach:

  7. Cyclops chihuahua is fake, because it has a nose. Real-life cyclopses don’t have noses – or if they do it’s a small tube growing out of the forehead. The reason for this is simple: the nose can’t grow like it normally should because there’s a big ol’ eyeball right where the sinuses are supposed to be. For the same reason some cyclopses are also born without mouths. If you look carefully at a pic of Cy the Kitty, you can see he doesn’t have a nose. 

  8. Amusement parks are caked with sounds
    A solid hunk of meat
    A barker’s sweat flings from his tongue
    His tattoo shines with heat

    A wary stranger stands and sways
    Enraptured by his stance
    Two-headed goats come stumbling by
    And give a troubled glance

    The barker looks into the eyes
    The stranger tries to bend
    The barker swears to more delights
    For all who seek within

    The stranger enters canvas doors
    And smells the fresh cut hay
    The barker points to Siamese twins
    The stranger looks away

    The eyes of horse faced women
    Watch the few who wander through
    They sense the tension in the air
    And smell the sweet taboo

    A heart beats fast against a chest
    The stranger leaves the tent
    The waves of people drown the sounds
    Of loss of innocence

  9. Joseph Merrick was thought to have suffered from Neurofibromatosis type I (and maybe Proteus Syndrome). It is a fucking shitty ass disease (ask me how I know).

    Basically we have genetic code that says, “Don’t make these extra tumors.” If you lack that code your body might start making tumors, usually along nerve paths.

    NF is pretty common – 1 in 4000. The thing is, you can have it and have no idea you have it until you have kids and they develop a tumor on their spine, small bumps all over their skin, large deforming tumors on their face, or something equally horrible. OR your case might mean you have a few brown spots on your body, a learning disability, something called Lishe nodules on your eyes, or maybe a strange bump here or there. From mild to wild.

    Sooooo – if you would like to learn more or donate to help out now and future “Elephant Men”, check out

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