In a recent article we discussed daredevils and circus performers as those who vest their lives in tempting death.
Reflecting back on my experiences with circuses, I realize circuses are
sold as entertainment salves for children, not adults. If circuses are
for children, why then, are some of the scariest things you can see in
your waking life performed as entertainment for immature eyes that only
see the act and not the preparation?
I won’t get into the animal cruelty of circuses or why some adults have a childhood fear of clowns
that still haunts them today, but I will wonder what children must
think while watching a trembling high wire act, the flame-eating
bearded lady and the overabound muscle man who eats nails and bends
iron bars around his neck.
are universal and I realize this “Danger by Dollar” for profit is not
limited to America. You can frighten young children in Russia, too:
Poland also celebrates the universal fear in circuses:
I was seven-years-old I attended a circus. I watched, open-mouth in a
silent scream, as “The Chinese Knife Twins” – both dressed in sequined
baby blue jump suits that sparkled in the spotlight — took long knives
and placed the handle-end in their mouths. Then one twin mounted the
other and did a handstand on the other twin’s shoulders.
Then they took the point of each of their knives and balanced
knife-tip-to-knife-tip. There were no strings or wires. Neither twin
used their hands.
One twin was balancing atop the other at knifepoint!
One slip and each knife would plunge into the other twin’s throat
resulting in a quick and bloody death in front of us all.
When a younger friend leaned over and whispered in my ear behind a
cupped hand, “Let’s try that later” — and I saw he wasn’t joking —
the fear rose a second time because I knew neither of us had access to
knives that long and sharp.
I was terrified watching “The Chinese Knife Twins” and the experience
still holds me today. I remember not breathing hoping knives would not
slip and ruin the circus.
I realize now my reaction was precisely the kind of whole-body
revulsion the circus was hoping to create in children just like me, but
at what greater cost, and why must the children pay the balance due in
the extended tax of an ongoing emotional turmoil?
When did terrifying children become the intention of the ticket takers
and the sideshow barkers and the parents who are entrusted with
protecting their offspring from the unreal, but very real, dangers of
watching the tempting of death live-and-in-person in exchange for a