10 Bizarre Circus Sideshows

Regurgitation Acts
In the 1920s, Hadji Ali was at one time the most well-known regurgitator in the world.  National Photo Company Collection

We've seen some pretty bizarre acts, from drunk acrobats to flatulists. But I say with utter confidence that the most bizarre — and perhaps most delightful — act is our No. 1. Let's get to the real head-scratchers that make us wonder "how do they do it?" Or maybe more to the point, "who wants to see them do that?" Not sure what I mean? Well, let's just say that one of our top sideshow act went by the name "The Great Regurgiator." Step right up, I guess — but maybe not too close.

Yup, vomiting — and its more benign cousin "water spouts" — were a sideshow act that records show existed even in the 17th century [source: Pednaud]. Basically, performers could either take some sort of substance to make them copiously expel or they trained themselves to harness stomach and throat muscles to their command. Either way, you had a rather messy show.

Hadji Ali was the most well-known regurgitator in the 1920s, and could hit a target 6 feet away [source: Pednaud]. Ali would also combine his act with fire-breathing, where he would ignite kerosene into a fire, and then expel of water he had swallowed to put out the flames.

Author's Note:

It's hard to deny the fact that the strange talents of people feel a little more fun to celebrate than the (often times painful or life-threatening) medical conditions. While it's terrific that sideshows these days feature performers who are empowered and responsible for their act, I can't help but think that I would pay a lot of money to see Le Petomane perform today.

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