10 Weird Facts About the Circus

John Wilkes Booth Was From a Circus Family
John Wilkes Booth might not have committed this infamous crime had his father avoided a fight with circus folk. Buyenlarge/Archive Photos/Getty Images

Infamous characters populate circus history, like the snake-oil salesman P.T. Barnum and those guys from the Insane Clown Posse. (Totally counts, don't try to argue.) But did you know that because of a simple twist of circus fate, one of the most villainous characters in modern U.S. history was born?

John Wilkes Booth, President Abraham Lincoln's assassin, was born on American soil as a result of some circus-related drama. His father was Junius Brutus Booth, a well-regarded British actor. In Liverpool, England in 1821, J.B. Booth got into a fight with the Portuguese circus performer and rope dancer Il Diavolo Antonio, and Booth injured him badly [source: Speaight]. Booth decided to make a quick getaway to avoid the long arm of the law — and his wife, too. He left for America with a flower-selling girl to make a clean break. John Wilkes Booth was born to the couple in 1838.

But let's return to the ring, where you might be amused to find acts that were once considered incredible acrobatics but aren't as impressive today.