Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

The Freak Show

eshaw's picture

“This is my selfish pleasure, to watch unseen” (Oly, Geek Love)

The Freak Show  

"Come one, come all! Step right up, scroll on down, take a break from your Internet perusal and see the most magnificent array of specimen that the World-Wide-Web has to offer! Yes! For the meager price of only a few minutes of your precious time I will show you the horrible, the wondrous, the amazing sights that, I promise, you will never forget! You will soon hold them before your very own eyes. I swear that these human bodies, and YES they are all real human bodies, will astound you! Disgust you! Make you cry out for more! 


"Ladies and Gentlemen, step right on in… 


  And let the show begin!"

 “The roses started him thinking, how the oddity of them was beautiful and how that oddity was contrived to give them value…He realized that children could be designed. ‘And I thought to myself, now that would be a rose garden worthy of a man’s interest!’” (Al, Geek Love) 

"Our first exhibit hails all the way from the exotic lands of India. She is...

The Octopus Girl
"Yes, it's true Ladies and Gentlemen: she has four arms and four legs. She is quite good at multi-tasking, I can tell you that! While her parents could barely make ends meet, this talented little girl is making top dollar not only here on the wonderful World Wide Web, but also on television! Maybe you've seen her? It's thanks to you fine folks that this little girl is out of the slums and living the life that she's always dreamed of! (And any more donations that you could spare would certainly would go a long way!)"
 “Miranda seems preoccupied with deformity…There is no obvious reason for such a fascination in her own life…She is strong and straight. Her spine and legs are as long as history. It may be that the impressions of her infancy are caught somehow in the pulp of her eyes, luring her. Or there may be some hooked structure in her cells that twists her toward all that the world calls freakish” (Geek Love)
"Well, let me tell you folks, if you think The Octopus Girl was impressive then you are in for quite a treat, perhaps even two! Let's give a warm welcome to Ching and Chang our Mystical Twins of the Orient!
 "Yes they are quite the pair! And fashionable too, I think you would agree. They love to wear their evening best and go see a show. They're favorite color is Crimson and they are brilliant entertainers - beautiful singing voices, their duets are simply marvelous (and they have a few other special talents for just a couple extra dollars!) Let's give another warm round of applause for the beautiful Ching and Chang, Ladies and Gentlemen!"
 “It was a central charm of his act that, though he looked and acted alien, part animal, part myth, he would prop his chin on the lip of the tank to talk ‘just like folks’ “ (Arty, Geek Love)
 “The only live exhibit was a trio of featherless hens…They lived for two years before Lil found them, heaped dead in a corner of their cage…Al had them stuffed and they stayed on in the same cage.” (Oly, Geek Love) 


"Now this next one, folks, I have to warn you, is QUITE the showstopper! He may not be as active as the last two but I have no doubt in my mind that he will astound and shock even the most seasoned gazers! Ladies and Gentlemen, it is my pleasure to introduce....

"Two-Faced Boy

"Two-Face is guest starring on the show tonight. You can see him regularly at the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennyslvania (though I believe that their prices are egregiously high...much higher than yours truly would ever charge here at the humble Freak Show) In his spare time, Two-Face spends mandatory time participating in a research grant on anatomical anomalies! What a brainiac! I guess he's putting both his heads to good use!"
“Paulette, the pre-transsexual, was beautiful and slender, with perfect breasts. Paulette’s act flourished until the removal of her G-string revealed a shriveled penis and scrotum. The boos drowned the bald man’s announcement that Paulette would be leaving for Tangier the following month and would return in December as a real girl.” (Geek Love)


"Now unfortunately, the Bearded Lady is currently taking a sabbatical, but I'm sure that you will all be just as pleased with our next guest, if not more so! Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present...

The She-Male

"Yes, you heard right. Isis may look like a woman but don't be deceived! Isis was born with MALE parts. That's correct, ladies and gentlemen of the audience, Isis is part male and part female! And another mysterious anomaly of nature presents itself. Don't worry though, thanks to the generous donation of America's Next Top Model's Tyra Banks, Isis was able to undergo the surgery she needed to become a real woman! Thanks Iris and Tyra!"

 “A long and distinctly female leg stretched out. It ended in a shiny red sandal with a high heel….The legs belonged to an enormous belly, thin arms, and a pile of whipped-cream-colored hair. Then the things crawled out of the van and began milling around…Vern stared as the wheelchair was unfolded and then small lumpy bald thing helped the limbless worm thing up into it. Then he reached back for the 30.06 and smoothly, still staring, pumped a round into the chamber” (Vern, Geek Love)

“The men in front of me stood up, leaning forward, slapping each other’s shoulders and sending out the high-pitched long-toned sooooooo-eeeee’s of pig callers.” (Miranda, Geek Love)
"I think that it's time that we bring another one of our ladies out on stage! Engineered by generations of male fantasy, let's give a warm welcome to...
"The Plastic Girl
"The Plastic Girl hails from Anywhere, USA. And you can tell she loves being looked at, am I right, Ladies and Gentlemen? She is not an anomaly of nature, no, you probably won't find here there! She's a creation of the mind and the proof of the great power of modern technology! With her superiorly designed body, Plastic Girl can sell anything from bras to McDonalds hamburgers, even love itself! Let's give a great, big round of applause for the Plastic Girl!"
“But it was strange and different to me, watching these people watching her. Because they thought she was pretty, because they thought it would be good to grab her ass and pump jizz into her. Their bodies lifted up, clean and simple to her in the clear, unconscious awareness of each of their cells’ sensing that she would grunt out strong young” (Miranda, Geek Love)
“She is not interested in my identity. She doesn’t notice it. Her eyes flick impatiently at me for a fast fix – a regenerative fusing of the image on her retina, the model she inflicts on the paper. I am merely a utensil, a temporary topic of the eternal discussion between her long eye and her deliberate hand.” (Oly, Geek Love)

"Don't leave just yet! Because next up is quite a treat! A rare specimen from a far away land. Watch the proof of evolution in front of your very eyes! And here he is...

The Ape Man

"His is a breed that we have captured, brought to America for you good people to observe in his natural habitat! Here he is pictured at the Bronx Zoo in 1906. He comes from the far land of Africa, but as you can see here, we have done our best to recreate his exact living environment. Though he may miss his home, he must know that he is doing a great service to us by letting us study him and learn his fascinating primitive ways! Am I right, ladies and gentlemen?"

 “these are written by norms to scare norms. And do you know what the monsters and the demons and rancid spirits are? Us, that’s what. You and me. We are the things that come to the norms in nightmares…These books teach me a lot. They don’t scare me because they’re about me.” (Arty, 46)

“The noise is suffocating and I have to squint to see in the strange light. Then cold air hits my scalp and a hand is thumping my hump in an investigative way. ‘You forgot one!’ is the shriek. My wig is dangling high above my head in a wavering hand. My dark glasses are snatched away and the light sears me.” (Oly, Geek Love)

 "Now Ladies and Gentlemen! It's time for the last exhibit of the evening! Ladies take out your pocketbooks and find your compacts, and you'll have to share with the Gentlemen for a moment, if you don't mind. Yes! Wonderful! Presenting the final specimen for your inspection...

The Self

"Yes, I know it's difficult, but try not to look away! Now that you know what kind of freak you are not. Learn how to preform what you are! More importantly than who are you, what can you do with yourself? Ask yourself: what kind of freak are people seeing when they look at you?"

 “I have seen her move through twenty blocks of crowded noontime sidewalks, swinging from one startled pedestrian to another, grabbing one by a shoulder, patting in examination, while stretching out an arm to snatch at the breasts of the next one in her path…she hurtles on, using body after body as handholds through the air” (Crystal Lil, Geek Love)
Miranda: You have often
begun to tell me what I am, but stopped
And left me to a bootless inquisition,
Concluding, ‘Stay; not yet.’
Prospero: The hour’s now come;
The very minute bids thee ope thine ear.
Obey and be attentive. (1.2, 33-38, The Tempest)

"So you're still not sure then? Allow me to help you...

"We all live in marked bodies, after all. And we must do our part to continue."

 Prospero: To have no screen between this part he played
And him he played it for (1.2, 106-109, The Tempest)
“The crowd is standing up and beating tables. The laughter is fierce and the band is loud, but barely loud enough, as I lift my thin arms and waggle my huge hands and bob to the light, and my knees begin to shift in what my body calls dance, waving my hump at the crowd, the light warming my scalp and burning into my unprotected eyes. My big shoes thump at the ends of my little legs, and I am proud with my arrow tits flapping towards my knees, and the fat lady standing on my coat is staring…The twisting of my hump feels good and warm in the air…How proud I am, dancing in the air full of eyes rubbing at me uncovered, unable to look away because of what I am. Those poor hoptoads behind me are silent. I’ve conquered them. They thought to use and shame me but I win out by nature, because a true freak cannot be made. A true freak must be born.” (Oly, Geek Love)

Works Cited (Images):,,,,,,,,,

Works Cited (Text):


Dunn, Katherine. Geek love. New York: Vintage Books, 2002. Print.
Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. New York: Penguin Group, 1998. Print. 




J Nathan Bazzel's picture

Incorrect photo and information

I am sorry to inform you that the image you have posted is not from our collections here at the Mutter Museum. I believe that specimen is from a museum in Sweden.

I am also sorry to hear that you feel our admission is too high. Unfortunately, it is very expensive to keep over 20,000 objects in perfect condition. The revenue generated from admissions covers just a small portion of this cost. With the reduction in grants due to the current economic climate it is necessary for us to find additional means to protect this wonderful national historic landmark. We hope that you appreciate the collection enough to visit again and perhaps become a member of our new program that will allow to visit unlimitedly for a modest fee.

J Nathan Bazzel
Director of Communications
The College of Physicians of Philadelphia