I was recently made a gift of a valise which belonged to a great-great-uncle whom I’d never known nor indeed ever heard of. Inside his valise, which must have been close to a century old,  were some personal effects, nothing of great interest, but among them I found a small bundle of printed matter, folded into a yellowing envelope and tied with a bit of unravelling string. Upon opening the envelope I was surprised to find that they were keepsakes from a circus of some kind called “Dr. Peppy’s Superb Symmetrical Circus.” There was an advertisement (pictured above) as well as some promotional cards, highlighting what I have to assume were star attractions of the circus. Each had handwritten notes on the back. I’ve scanned the cards and transcribed the notes below for your wonder and amusement.

From the back of the Advertisement originally written in a fine hand:

“What’s most intriguing about “The Doctor’s” Circus is the compounding of the unlikely. Not only does he bring to us the oddities of form and function, which though unusual, we’ve come none the less to expect from our visiting circuses, but he combines these with an even more spectacularly unlikely sight - Each of his performers is very nearly perfectly symmetrical in the physical aspect! As though the likelihood of finding sorcerers and giants and bearded women were not miniscule enough Peppy has managed to gather a group of misfits displaying the least common human trait of all, perfect symmetry. Everywhere you look within the tents you feel a though you were seeing performers split by a looking glass. Truly it is a wonder.”

“We were welcomed at the edge of the fair-grounds by a peculiar little man who called himself “Fu Qiang.” He bid us to step lightly and follow him. With two canes and three legs he galloped as though he were a tiny bulbous equine. Albeit a five legged one of course.”

“The Oracular Man was a shock to behold. Many of the faint at heart and slow of mind, could not at first bare the sight of him. Some swooned, others whimpered, but he quickly won them over with flattering prophesies and comforting tales of a future paradise. While the educated and rational moved on after a short viewing to see more of what the circus had to offer, The Oracular Man none the less had a huge crowd hanging on his every pronouncement for the remainder.”

 


“This man did not seem to have a name, at least not that I can remember. He was large as a bear and ate raw fish whole. grabbing them with one massive hand from a tin bucket. I assume he was the “Strong Man” of the show but we never saw him do anything but eat and defecate explosively against the side of the tent. perhaps it was his day off?”

“It seemed to me that the contortionist did no much contort himself into impossible shapes using muscle and concentration and practiced skill but was rather an impossible shape to begin with. He seemed to me to simply stand there, occasionally bending over to flick a bit of hey from his shoe, or lifting his seemingly backward arm to doff his hat to a lady.”

“Animus was a strange sort of animal handler. He mostly barked commands at small rodents and once convinced an old mangy dog to jump into a barrel. He was billed as “Lord of the Cockatiels” and in as much every trick was performed with a small flock of the birds perched on his arms and shoulders. I couldn’t help but feel that his greatest trick was not being covered in bird droppings. I didn’t witness even a single bird relieve him or herself for the entire show.”

“The bearded lady was somewhat dull. ‘When you’ve seen one…’ as they say. It seemed Dr. Peppy must have been aware of this because the ringmaster barely mentioned her facial hair at all, focussing instead on a constant stream of barely concealed innuendoes surrounding her “Twin Husbands,” octogenarians who stood by her side the whole time, inexplicably wearing nothing but their underclothes, and making lewd faces.”


“Zin, the so-called Morticant, was a sorcerer of some sort. Mostly he stood upon a small box or tub draped in black cloth, growling out incantations in what seemed a mixture of Pig-Latin and Yiddish. At one point he produced a string of words which to the children looking on sounded remarkably like “fresh doo-doo loaf!” They snickered and howled and fell over clutching their sides as children will do. Needless to say The Morticant was not amused. Shortly there after he disappeared in puff of noxious smoke.”

“The boxing match featuring Jabbin’ Joe Vs. Jabbin’ Jim was one of the strangest sights I may ever see. The bout went six rounds, filled with, as their nicknames foretold, an endless string of jabs, before Jim, evidently forgetting he shared his lower half with Joe, hauled off with a vicious shot below the belt. Both were helped from the ring and the match was called a draw. Evidently the 36th consecutive draw in a row I might add.”

“Evidently the Baron was a distinguished German soldier who laid claim in his youth to the title of Europe’s Greatest Marksman. During some battle or another he lost both hands with the exception of one finger on each. Wanting to maintain his Title he had a rifle surgically attached to each wrist, his two remaining fingers sewn to their triggers. Though he continues to be an amazing marksman it was whispered at the back of the tent that the very day of his amazing surgery he went to the water closet to relieve himself and became a eunuch as well.”

Strangely all my searching for further information on “Dr. Peppy’s Symmetrical Circus” have come up empty. None of the old timers on my uncles side of the family remembers anything about the circus and none of his children’s children remember ever hearing it spoken of. It’s almost as though the Circus never existed! lucky we have this record otherwise it might have been forgotten forever ay?

06.04. filed under: !. lies. play. 8