The Colossal Convocation of Carnies
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: "If you didn't make it to the Sideshow Gathering
this year, you should be kicking yourself." Why? It's a whole holiday weekend of sideshow mayhem taking place in
northeastern Pennsylvania. Did I mention this is the only convention of its kind? Did I mention
that the top performers from the sideshow world were in attendance and up on stage? Did I mention that new Guinness World Records were attempted
and set? So, you were there right? Good. But for those who weren't, here's a sample of what you missed.
Between acts, all-around entertainer and self-proclaimed carny trash Aye Jay worked as emcee.
The strange, the unusual and the freakish took center stage at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering.
Showmen from across the country congregated in Wilkes-Barre to celebrate the giddy thrills and forbidden mysteries of
the circus and carnival sideshow. Over the holiday weekend, carnies swapped lies (or “cut up
jackpots”, as they say), performed outrageous feats of physical daring – and allowed the public
Performers at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering included: New York’s Bindlestiff Family
Cirkus; Sideshow Bennie, the One-man Ten-in-one; The Pickled Brothers;
The Great Nippulini,
World’s Strongest Nipples; Natasha Veruschka, Queen of Swords; Matt the Knife;
Denver’s Crispy Family Carnival; Ses Carny; and carny jack-of-all-trades
Red Stuart. Unfortunately, although initially scheduled to perform, George the Giant was unable
to attend this year's Gathering for medical reasons.
In addition to the performers, many vendors were on hand to display unusual items
such as two-headed animals and freakshow memorabilia.
The Great Nippulini with his infant doppelgänger.
The Pickled Brothers Sideshow
A bit of audience participation
The Pickled Brothers kicked off the performances with sword swallowing, a whip act, and a bed of nails routine in which two large gentleman weighing a combined
700 pounds stood on Travis's chest. Ouch!
Oh, the humanity!
Ses abuses himself with the fiendish eye hooks for our twisted enjoyment.
22 inches of electric danger
Natasha swallows the neon sword — on her knees!
The Big Swallow
At midnight on Friday, members of the Sword Swallowers’ Association International (SSAI)
attempted to break their own world record for the greatest number of swords swallowed at one
time with “The Big Swallow” — and succeeded. There were only nine sword swallowers on stage, but
they managed to swallow fifty-two swords at one go — a new record. Red Stuart carried the bulk of the record by swallowing a sandwich
of twenty-four swords (prepared for him by the Great Nippulini) wrapped around a broadsword — a new personal best. Dan Meyer,
founder of SSAI, topped his own personal best of three swords by swallowing seven at once. Natasha Veruschka swallowed eleven blades, Keith Nelson three,
and the rest swallowed either two or one blade.
Quit chokin' and start pokin': Down the hatch!
Left to right: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson (a.k.a. Mr. Pennygaff), John Metz (a.k.a. Façcade, Johnny Mayhem), Dan Meyer,
Natasha Veruschka, Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt the Knife Cassiere, and Charles "Crispy" Knight.
Matrimony, sideshow style
Immediately following the Big Swallow, Mr. & Mrs. Johnny Mayhem were joined in holy matrimony by the Rev. Travis Fessler
Red Stuart plays to a packed house
Although a bit hoarse from the previous night's record-breaking sword feat, Red Stuart starts off Saturday's
festivities with a 5-in-1 demonstration of blockhead and human pincushion.
Sideshow Bennie invites a young lady from the audience to step on him while he plants his face in a pile of
But wait, there's more!
Bennie stands on broken glass, then demonstrates why his vertical leap makes him a lousy basketball player.
My proudest achievement...
Bennie invited Kate and me up on the stage to compete in a round of darts. Let it be known far and wide that
I am the official 2005 Sideshow Bennie Back Dart Champion — and I intend to defend my title against all
comers! Because there are no losers in a Sideshow Bennie Back Dart competition, Kate had the
consolation of extracting a Bag of Mystery from Bennie's Big Ass Box of Cool Stuff. Whee!
The Bindlestiff Family Cirkus
Mental floss duet
Keith Nelson (a.k.a. Mr. Pennygaff) and Stephanie Monseu (a.k.a. Mistress Philomena) about to
share a mutual sinus cavity moment with the aid of two balloons.
Crispy Family Carnival
Consultation at the blade box
Firefly, Crispy, and Ukulele Loki puzzle over how to insert the next blade through Boobzilla.
Boobzilla unleashes her mighty double-L endowment
Hide the children! Boobzilla uses her massive mammaries to hold telephone books, and even the wee Firefly on a folding chair!
Crispy spits fire
In the courtyard after the main performance, members of the Crispy Family took turns eating and blowing fire.
The Great Nippulini
Pride of the league
The Great Nippulini suspends sixteen pounds of regulation bowling ball from his nipples.
Nippulini adds a set of pins for a matching set.
Sideshow Bennie gets a light
Smoke 'em if ya got 'em.
Do not attempt this at home
He's a trained professional, folks.
Midget on a nipple swing
Firefly of the Crispy Family Carnival enjoys a bit of a swing suspended from Nippulini's powerful nipples.
Matt the Knife
Plastic bags are not toys
Bound with chains, handcuffed and wrapped in a plastic bag attached to a vacuum cleaner, Matt the Knife
effects his escape from the airless deathtrap to thunderous applause.
Seeking the elusive balloon
The finale of Matt's mentalist act: a metal mask obscuring his vision, a reluctant assistant, an audience member holding a
balloon to his noggin, a nervous audience, and one very large kitchen knife.
Oblivious to all this madness, Col. Hunsley's two-headed turtle happily floats in its
On Sunday morning a brunch was held in honor of this year's special guest, Slim Price. Additionally, Franco Kossa,
organizer of the Sideshow Gathering, extended tokens of appreciation to various individuals, performers and
organizations helping to keep this form of entertainment alive. Among this year's awardees were
Captain Don Leslie, Carnival Diablo, the Lucky Devil Sideshow, and SideshowWorld.com.
In a completely unexpected turn of events, Franco — dear man that he is — also
presented Kate and me with this plaque in appreciation of the help we had given him in promoting
this year's event. Franco, it was my pleasure, and I will do whatever I can to help make the next
Sideshow Gathering a success.