After Seeing These Vintage Freak Show Photos, You’ll Swear Off Circuses For Good

Before YouTube, television, movies, and even photography, the world enjoyed spending its off-hours looking at deformed human beings who traveled (sometimes against their will) in a gypsy caravan for little to no money. It was affectionately called the “freak show” and it was, like, the Beyonce of the last 2 centuries.

E J Kelty, a photographer in the early 1930s, decided to join the Ringling Brothers and other circus/freak show acts on tour and photograph the performers that made up their weird, nomadic families. Here are some of his pictures that show what life as a circus freak was really like.

If Sky High Jack is so tall, why does he need that huge, ridiculous marching hat?

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Imagine being the clown understudy who has to wear the lady clown-mutant suit. So sad.

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These guys are essentially C-3PO and R2-D2 in human form.

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That face pretty much sums up the experience of being in a freak show, and also watching one.288

I know elephants aren’t carnivorous, but does anyone else think about how easy it would be for one of them to swallow us whole?

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I like how in the same show, there’s a woman with no arms or legs, but then 3 women who are just like, “We play the saxophone!”

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This. This is too many clowns.

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“Congress of Strange People” …So like… just Congress? H’yuck!

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Well, these aren’t freaks, but they’re definitely freaky.

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Seriously, why do we have to put the tall guy in a funny hat? Isn’t it humiliating enough to have your overactive pituitary gland on display?

294As a harbinger of what may soon become of the circus, this year Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey announced that they’ll be letting their elephants go in a few years. While it’s sad to see such a historic pastime slowly die, we can always get similar kicks out of watching reality TV shows. Those freaks are just ugly on the inside.

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