philosopher of the last century remarked that we take
pleasure in the misfortunes of our neighbors. He is dead, but
his saying survives, and dime museums are living witnesses of
its truth. Their prosperity depends upon their freaks, and
it is the deformity of the freak that attracts.
There are no set rules by
which it can be decided that a given person of animal is or is
not a freak. It might be thought that the supply of idiots
in this world was large enough to keep prices down, in
accordance with accepted principles of political economy; yet
several idiots are at this moment exciting the curiosity of
people who have paid ten cents each to see them, and showmen
glad to hire them at fifty dollars a week. Idiots
are generally genuine Aztec children or Wild Boys from
Australia. Again, a little pot-bellied negro boy, with a
pointed head, and short, crooked arms and legs, would not draw
more than just a passing glance in the annual order of things.
Call him the Turtle Boy and he becomes a freak.
People like to stare at him,
and trace that something alien of the boy and turtle, which the
genius of the showmen suggests.
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