When the freak show came to Perth

Monkey BoySo you thought the Giants were good last weekend? Baby, you don’t even know what entertainment is.

Through the magic of history, let Dodgy Perth transport you back 120 years to show you a good time.

On Hay Street, right where the Kings Hotel now stands (lovely piece of architecture that it is) was once the site of Ye Olde Englishe Fayre. So on a hot December night in 1895, let’s find out what there was to see.

After passing through an elaborately decorated entrance, you would first see the standard fairground stuff: sideshows, refreshment stalls and a stage for a variety performance.

Persuasive attendants would tempt you to part with your money for swinging boats, shooting-galleries, and the inevitable Aunt Sally. Opportunities to lose money on games were everywhere.

But you want real entertainment, don’t you? Not the ordinary fairground paraphernalia.

Let’s pay (again) and enter the first tent. Here you’ll encounter waxworks, including those of Beach and Searle, renowned Australian scullers. Unfortunately, this wax wasn’t made for the Perth summer heat and is beginning to melt a little. Next!

Mummies. Four-thousand year old mummies. They will hold you for a bit.

And if mummies aren’t your cup of tea, how about the body of conjoined twins. That ought to make you stare. And at the two-legged pig right next to them. There were plenty of other freaks to guarantee value for your money.

But the big draw card of Ye Olde Englishe Fayre was Monkey Boy.

Either “a human monstrosity” or a “hideous freak of nature”, he was substantially under a metre tall, and a mere thirteen years old. He looked like a monkey, acted like a monkey, but (shockingly!) could talk to the crowd.

Everyone rushed forwards to touch and manhandle the weird child.

And the papers all agreed that “monkey-faced boy” was the best thing ever to appear in the colony.

Forget your Giants, Perth. They knew what real entertainment was 120 years ago.

Please note that this is an edited re-post of an earlier article. Dodgy Perth has many new followers lately, and the story is so good it’s worth rereading anyway.