BLAST FROM THE PAST
The Sickest Thing: My Evening With the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow
by Christine Bode
March 24, 1992
For the past month I’ve been re-reading the journals I wrote from 1992-1998 and while I’m definitely not the wild, party animal and social butterfly that I once was in my 20’s and early 30’s, I have still retained my interests in live music, the paranormal or unexplained, and the wondrous freaks of nature that once were the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow.
In March of 1992, I went to visit my best friend Jen in Vancouver as she was living there at the time. One night, Jen and my friend Vicki and I went to The Town Pump in Gastown to see the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow. We had no real idea as to what we were in for! And no, I haven’t seen American Horror Story: Freak Show yet as I’m not sure I’m up to it. The infamous Jim Rose Circus troupe was founded in Seattle by Jim Rose in the early 1990s and I’m telling you, I have never seen anything so absolutely, completely bizarre, repulsive and yet amazing in my entire life!
The Town Pump was totally packed at $10 a head which back then was a substantial cover charge, but the show was well worth it. The first thing, or should I say person, we saw was a guy named The Amazing Mr. Lifto who had 11 parts of his body pierced, including his ears, nose, tongue, nipples and penis. He lifted various heavy, heavier and heaviest objects with different parts of his anatomy. His finale was to spray shaving cream on his genitals and lift a large weight that looked somewhat like a boat anchor with his dick! He had a hole in his penis through which he’d strung some kind of wire with a hook which was then attached to the weight. When he lifted that damn thing, his poor penis stretched so far that I thought it was going to rip apart! OUCH!! We were stunned and couldn’t believe it, but that was only the beginning and the show just got more and more bizarre after that.
This is a very tame video to show you just a little of what this man can do. There are other more disturbing videos available on the Internet for those who are not faint of heart.
Following Mr. Lifto was a dwarf lady named Dolly the Doll who sounded as if she was drunk, and she basically just told the audience about her days in the Circus and about the guy she married who used to carry her around on his back. This was boring in comparison to the rest of the show.
Jim Rose was the headmaster/host (his sideshow has toured with Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, KoRn and Godsmack) and the first thing we saw him do was to swallow four razor blades, one at a time, and then he swallowed a string and said he was going to do some “internal juggling.” He was a great showman and drew the whole thing out quite dramatically. He pulled the string out of his mouth, very slowly, and one by one the razor blades were retracted, hanging neatly in a row on the string. Unbelievable! Jim performed little stunts throughout the show in between the other troupe members’ performances. He got out of a straightjacket, put his hand in a leg-hold trap (for raccoons) and let it snap shut on him, and laid down on a the stage floor, putting his face in a pile of broken glass. Then he had a woman step on his head while his face was embedded in the glass! YIKES!
In 1993 there was a documentary produced about The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow that you can get through Amazon. Not long after that, Jim Rose appeared on The Jon Stewart Show.
There was another guy called The Torture King/The Human Pincushion and his gig was to pierce his skin with a various assortment of pins and skewers. He had about 50 pins stuck through his torso and arms and he demonstrated how he did that (EEWWW!). Just in case some of the audience couldn’t see the stage very well there was a large video screen mounted on the wall so we wouldn’t miss anything. God, it was gross to watch! This guy stuck a pin through his voice box, one through the orbit of his eye and then he stuck a skewer from one side of his cheek, into his mouth, and out the other side of his face! GOD!! I almost lost it then! After that, he made a big show out of taking many of the pins out and he actually bled a bit. Some of the pins that were on his chest had little lights in them and for his piece de resistance, he put a fluorescent tube into his mouth, and touched an electrical generator that electrically shocked him into lighting up the tube. He was electrocuted three times! The second time, he had a neon tube in this mouth, which apparently takes more electricity to illuminate, and the third time, he wore a fluorescent “halo” on his head and held a sword and when they shocked him again, he did his “Electric Christ” impersonation!
The piano player was a young guy, about 25, who was called Slug/The Human Terrarium. First, he chewed a mouthful of broken glass and swallowed it. Then a tray full of jars and bowls was brought onto the stage and passed around the front of the audience to help verify their contents. Slug proceeded to eat four worms, (he chewed them up and stuck out his tongue so that everyone could see the mess! YUCKKKKK!!!!) two crickets, and four maggots! Jen and I thought we were going to puke at that point. I was really feeling nauseous. Apparently, that guy had complete control of his gag reflex which is more than I can say for myself. After that, he swallowed a dagger, a large screwdriver and a very large sword, in succession.
The last guy to perform was called The Tube. He could control his sneeze reflex, which he proved by sticking a string through his nose and drawing it out through his mouth. Then he took a very long piece of hollow, plastic tubing and fed it through his nasal cavity into his stomach. It was attached to a 40 oz. plastic container which he filled with beer, ketchup, chocolate syrup and Malox. He proceeded to inhale the entire concoction through his nose into his stomach. A couple of minutes later, he regurgitated the whole mess (which was now a different colour, due to the bile in his stomach) back into the container and invited a member of the audience to join him and the other troupe members on stage for a glass of “bile beer”!! One guy (I don’t know whether he was a plant or not) got up on stage and drank it! I couldn’t believe it!! GROSS!!!!!!
After seeing this freak show, nothing else we did in Vancouver could have lived up to it in comparison. I don’t have any pictures from that night but there are photos of the troupe members to be found in Google Images and I’ll leave the search to you if you care to look. Attending The Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, is by far, the sickest – and I don’t mean cool but I do mean crazy – thing I’ve ever done.