[jahsonic.com] - [Next >>]


Related: ambivalence (stare or avert our eyes?) - grotesque - incongruity - cabinet of curiosities - Frankenstein - monster - ugly

Films: Freaks (1932) - Elephant Man (1980)

Theory: Leslie Fiedler (Freaks: Myths and Images, 1978 - Barbara Creed (The Monstrous-Feminine, 1993) - Jack Hunter (Inside Teradome, 1995

"The true freak, however, stirs both supernatural terror and natural sympathy, since unlike the fabulous monsters, he is one of us, the human child of human parents, however altered by forces we do not quite understand into something mythic and mysterious, as no mere cripple ever is. Passing either on the street, we may be simultaneously tempted to avert our eyes and to stare; but in the latter case we feel no threat to those desperately maintained boundaries on which any definition of sanity ultimately depends. On the true Freak challenges the conventional boundaries between male and female, sexed and sexless, animal and human, large and small, self and other, and consequently between reality and illusion, experience and fantasy, fact and myth."; Leslie Fiedler, Freaks: Myths and Images of the Secret Self (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1978), p.24.

(Nicolas-Francois Regnault, Descriptions des principales monstruosites, 1808)

Freak show

A freak show is an exhibition of rarities, "freaks of nature"--such as unusually tall or short humans, and people with both male and female secondary sexual characteristics--and performances that are expected to be shocking to the viewers. Heavily tattooed people have sometimes been seen in freak shows, as have fire-eating and sword-swallowing acts.

Freak shows have often been associated with circuses and amusement parks. One of the last remaining freak shows in the United States is in Coney Island. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freak_show

Freak scene

Psychedelic Psoul (1967) - The Freak Scene

The freak scene was a term used by a slightly post-hippie and pre-punk style of bohemian subculture. It referred to an overlap between politicised pacifist post-hippies and generally non-pacifist progressive rock fans moving between rock festivals, free festivals, happenings and alternative society gatherings of various kinds. The name comes, at least partly, from a tongue-in-cheek reference to the beat scene.

The freak scene was a stepping-stone between the hippie era and punk. The dissatisfaction with society's labelling of its subcultures had become self-parodying. The scene evolved from the growing awareness that sexism and homophobia, which still existed to a significant extent in hippie behaviour patterns, were unaccceptable. The taking on of the derogatory word freak represented an embracing of identity politics. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freak_scene [May 2005]


The medical study of teratogenesis or grossly deformed individuals is called teratology (the study of "monsters" or "wonders"). Monster, is a pejorative term for a grossly deformed individual. These severely deformed humans rarely survive, although there have been some celebrated examples such as Joseph Merrick, known as the 'Elephant Man'. Some cases, such as conjoined twins, were formerly regarded as monsters, but are now candidates for surgery. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teratology


Our Living Language Our word geek is now chiefly associated with student and computer slang; one probably thinks first of a computer geek. In origin, however, it is one of the words American English borrowed from the vocabulary of the circus, which was a much more significant source of entertainment in the United States in the 19th and early 20th century than it is now. Large numbers of traveling circuses left a cultural legacy in various and sometimes unexpected ways. For example, Superman and other comic book superheroes owe much of their look to circus acrobats, who were similarly costumed in capes and tights. The circus sideshow is the source of the word geek, “a performer who engaged in bizarre acts, such as biting the head off a live chicken.” We also owe the word ballyhoo to the circus; its ultimate origin is unknown, but in the late 1800s it referred to a flamboyant free musical performance conducted outside a circus with the goal of luring customers to buy tickets to the inside shows. Other words and expressions with circus origins include bandwagon (coined by P.T. Barnum in 1855) and Siamese twin.


  1. Inside Teradome: An Illustrated History of Freak Film (1995) - Jack Hunter [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    See entry on Jack Hunter.

  2. The Monstrous-Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis - Barbara Creed [Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]

    See entry on Barbara Creed.

  3. Freaks: We Who Are Not As Others - Daniel P. Mannix [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    From the Back Cover
    Originally printed in a small edition and withdrawn by the publisher after one month, this book (out of print for nearly 20 years), is brought back to eye-popping life with many new photos. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

    About the Author
    Daniel P. Mannix was the author of numerous books, including Those About To Die, Memoirs of a Sword Swallower, The Wolves of Paris, as well as many magazine articles. He died in 1997. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

    Book Description
    Another long out of print classic book based on Mannix's personal acquaintance with sideshow stars such as the Alligator Man and the Monkey Woman, etc. Read all about the notorious love affairs of midgets; the amazing story of the elephant boy; the unusual amours of Jolly Daisy; the fat woman; the famous pinhead who inspired Verdi's "Rigoletto"; the tragedy of Betty Lou Williams and her parasitic twin; the black midget, only 34 inches tall, who was happily married to a 264-pound wife; the human torso who could sew, crochet and type; and bizarre accounts of normal humans turned into freaks-either voluntarily or by evil design! 88 astonishing photographs and additional material from the author's personal collection.

your Amazon recommendations - Jahsonic - early adopter products

Managed Hosting by NG Communications