10 Offbeat Circuses


Wall of Death/Car Circus

Indian performers ride in cars inside a makeshift wooden cylindrical 'Wall of Death' structure, during the annual farmers fair at Shama Chak Jhiri, some 22kms from Jammu.
The Wall of Death has it's own variations, and they're all pretty dangerous. STRDEL/Stringer

What's more dangerous than riding in a car with a lion? Riding in a car with a lion at breakneck speed around a vertical — yes, vertical — track. Yes, you might be thinking: surely that's just the fever dream of some sort of daredevil/ringmaster. Not something we would encounter as a fun weekend activity. How wrong you are.

Okay, you might be a little right. Because although the Wall of Death has been an act entertaining crowds for years (and a famous video from the Diamond Maruti Car Circus has gone viral showing the act), it doesn't generally include a lion these days [source: GTSpirit]. Nor monkeys or bears, which were the other animals that occasionally rode shotgun in the 1920s Wall of Death performances [source: Wall of Death]. And although not strictly a circus act, these car tricks are certainly part of the offbeat circus tradition. Using inertia and centrifugal force, these cars or motorcycles can seemingly climb walls, and their drivers race wildly close to spectators cheering them on.