Top 8 of the creepy tourist attractions of our ancestors, it was not jojo either

You probably know the unethical tourist attractions you see all over the world: riding an elephant, visiting Egyptian tombs or petting turtles. We’re talking about attractions here that abuse animals and that’s really not cool (don’t do that). What we quickly forget is that there were much more horrible attractions not so long ago. Between the 19th and 20th centuries, the rights of humans and animals alike were clearly not respected and this resulted in some truly atrocious entertainment.

1. The imprisonment of Geronimo

Surely you have heard of Geronimo, a great Apache leader who lived in the 1850s. To avenge his murdered family and protect his lands, Geronimo and his community of native americans fought against invasion from Mexico and the United States for years of war. In 1886, Geronimo was finally captured and imprisoned in Texas, then in Fort Pickens, Florida. Throughout the country, many people had heard of Geronimo and the native americans, described by authorities as cruel and bloodthirsty enemies. Wealthy entrepreneurs then imagined the idea of ​​transforming the prison into a tourist attraction: curious people were ready to pay dearly to see this criminal behind bars. The project is launched and Geronimo spends his days clowning around for tourists and returns to his cell in the evening. Humiliated and exhausted, Geronimo was enslaved for years.

Top 8 of the creepy tourist attractions of our ancestors, it was not jojo either
Photo credits (Public Domain): Original uploaded by Rolling Thunder to German Wikipedia.

2. Freak shows in the United States

Between the middle of the 19th century and the middle of the 20th century, a new category of circus was all the rage in the United States and was exported somewhat to Europe: the Freak Shows. The purpose of these representations is to highlight people with a so-called “impressive” physical particularity. We often saw people with a lot of hair, a disproportionate size (very tall or very short people), Siamese twins, people who were amputated or born with a missing limb, but also sick people: anorexic, suffering from microcephaly… Good often, families abandoned their children born with a disability by offering them to these freak shows that exploited them all their lives.

3. Women who never eat

At the end of the 19th century, a new scientific experiment became popular: letting women starve to test the body’s resistance to lack of food. One such woman, Joséphine Marie Bedard, spent most of her life bedridden and allegedly without ever eating. This experiment became a tourist attraction and many people flocked to see the women who never ate. It is obvious that these women took advantage of the inattention of visitors to feed themselves and journalists wanted to prove that this whole experience was only a scam intended to collect money from tourists. However, doctors also took an interest in their case and forced the young girls to starve themselves for months in an attempt to push the limits of the human body.

4. The Jardin d’Acclimatation

In 1852, the transformation of the Bois de Boulogne led to the creation of the Jardin d’Acclimatation in the northwest of Paris. Wild animals such as giraffes, kangaroos and bears are exhibited there to the delight of Parisians. In 1870, the Franco-German war began and the garden closed its doors. The winter is particularly harsh and the last animals, including two elephants, are slaughtered to feed the population. A few years later, the park reopened to the public with a new concept of exhibitions: the “exhibitions of savages”. Entire villages of human beings from Africa and South Asia are enclosed in the park for public display. Good atmosphere as always.

5. The 1958 World’s Fair

As in the Jardin d’Acclimatation, we saw a “village of savages” at the 1958 Universal Exhibition. This human zoo was a reconstruction of a Congolese village with African extras living in the middle of the exhibition. The aim of the project was to show the positive aspects of colonization but also to display the supremacy of Westerners over African populations. Unlike other human zoos that existed 60 years before, the extras were free to leave and they did when tourists started throwing bananas at them through the fence.

6. The Calvary of Floyd Collins

Floyd Collins was an American explorer whose main activity was to discover unexplored caves and caverns, often for sightseeing. In 1925, Collins discovered a new cave and found himself trapped inside while exploring it. Quickly, onlookers flocked to see what it was all about, and Collins’ Calvary quickly became an attraction. For four days, rescuers passed him water and food until a rock fall closed the cave. Collins remained stuck in the cave for two more weeks before dying of thirst and hypothermia. Around the cave, more and more tourists gathered, there were even food stalls, jugglers and other paid attractions.

7. The Woman Who Couldn’t Laugh

At the start of the 20th century, the Victoria Theater in New York was run by William Hammerstein, who developed numerous shows. His main attraction at the time was a black woman named Susan Kelly who had the distinction of never smiling or laughing. Over the years, Hammerstein promised to offer more and more money to whoever managed to make Kelly laugh. Artists moved around to do all kinds of numbers in front of hilarious spectators who paid their way, all in order to make poor Susan Kelly laugh. Hammerstein was getting rich and no one ever hit the jackpot for a good reason: Kelly had facial paralysis.

8. The Story of Jerome of Sandy Cove

In 1863, an eight-year-old discovered a man washed up on the beach in Canada. This man has both legs amputated above the knees and the wound has healed perfectly. The man says only three words: “Jerome”, “Columbo” and “fretto” which means “frozen” in Italian. Without any other leads, the villagers decide to baptize her Jerome and entrust him to a family who agree to take care of him. Jerome quickly becomes an attraction: a “wild” man who can’t speak and has no legs, that intrigues the population. Jerome’s foster family then decides to charge for visits and exposes the man in front of their house like a circus animal. For lack of money, the family could not keep Jerome and he would regularly change foster families until his death in 1912. Nobody ever knew where this man really came from and what had happened to him.

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