Circus Arts

From sideshow secrets to incredible stunts, learn about the magic behind circus arts.


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Is the 'Lovely Assistant' the Real Magician?

Although many people think the magician's assistant is just there for her looks, she (it's usually a "she") is often the brains behind the illusion.

Dear Tony Robbins, THIS Is How You Walk on Hot Coals

Looking to turn your fear into power and walk across hot coals? The BrainStuff crew fills you in on the fiery science behind the feat.

Ringling Bros. Retiring Elephants Early. PETA Still Not Smiling

All 11 of the circus's touring elephants are headed for a Florida retirement in May.

10 Facts About Circus Animals

Circuses are largely about the awesome animals, but have you ever thought deeper about their history within the industry?

10 Offbeat Circuses

The idea of a "traditional" circus may seem weird, but over the years we've certainly seen innovation within the industry. Not all circuses rely on clowns and elephants to keep their offbeat audiences intrigued.

10 Circus Acts That Have Withstood the Test of Time

The circus is an institution steeped in a tradition of stunning feats and amazing animals. While some circus acts have fallen by the wayside, these are in the ring for the long haul.

5 Famous Sideshow Entertainers

Some sideshow performers were such a hit that they became regular celebrities. These five entertainers used their conditions to their advantage and reached sideshow superstardom.

10 Medical Conditions Once Found in Sideshows

In the sideshows of yore, people with rare medical conditions took to the stage to display their bodies to ogling spectators. Their disabilities were touted as amazing "oddities," but what's the real science behind the show?

10 Bizarre Circus Sideshows

We're a lot more respectful of disabilities and medical conditions nowadays, but once upon a time they were much more widely exploited for entertainment and profit. Check out these 10 bizarre circus sideshows!

10 Weird Facts About the Circus

Yes, the circus gets weirder than clowns cramming in tiny cars and aerialists hanging by their hair. Delve into the bizarre history of the Big Top.

10 of the Most Dangerous Circus Acts Performed Today

Thought circus acts couldn't get more daring than fire-breathing? Guess again. Death-defying stunts are all in a day's work for some circus performers.

10 Epic Magic Trick Failures

Magic's about making the impossible possible, but for these magicians the impossible remained out of reach – sometimes with deadly results.

How a Globe of Death Works

Daredevils testing the laws of physics and the outer limits of bikes and bodies. That's what the Globe of Death act is all about. It's a breathtaking performance, no doubt; but how do they do that?

What was the first circus?

There's nothing quite like the circus, is there? The exotic animals, death-defying stunts and funny clowns have entertained folks for generations. But how did modern circuses get started? You have to go back to the 1700s.

What’s the world’s longest-running circus?

Seems like the circus has been around forever. The circus doesn't date that far back, but many troupes operating today started in the 19th century. So which is the longest-running one? It depends on whom you ask.

When did circuses start using freak shows?

Freak shows aren't part of the circus culture now, but for generations they were one of the main draws. So just how and when did circuses start displaying such curiosities?

Why did circuses have freak shows?

Circuses haven't changed too much through the generations, but one thing you'll be hard pressed to find now is a freak show. Yet, they were once an integral part of the circus experience.

Do circus performers have special insurance?

If you're a tightrope walker or fire breather for a circus, your insurance needs may be just a tad different than the rest of us. Read on to discover the kinds of insurance circus performers need.

How dangerous are knife-throwing acts?

Let's just go ahead and say it: yes, knife-throwing is very dangerous. But there are strategies that a knife-thrower uses to keep an act as safe as possible.

How did tattoos become a sideshow feature?

Today, we're fairly accustomed to seeing tattoos on people. But not that long ago, they were a shocking sight for Western audiences, making them a perfect match to be part of the circus.

What's the most dangerous job at the circus?

Working in some circus jobs is not for the faint-hearted. Tightrope walkers, lion tamers or human cannonballs all face death every day. Read on to find out which is the most dangerous job.

What's a pickled punk?

There were many weird and wonderful things you could see at circuses of the past, from bearded ladies to tattooed men. But what the heck was a pickled punk?

How Shallow Diving Works

Imagine jumping from four stories up and landing in a kiddie pool. Some brave souls make a living performing this crazy feat over and over. How do they survive that kind of punishment?

How Knife Throwing Works

You might not be whipping knives at the wheel of death by the time you finish reading this article, but you'll be on your way. Ready to learn about this awesome pastime?

How Plate Spinning Works

You may eat off them every day, but some performers prefer to entertain with their plates. Where did plate spinning start, and what are the physics involved?