Sideshow Spectacular

Revisitng some of my travels, possibly the most fun I had all spring was the  Retro UFO3 convention at the Integratron. The best adventures leave you with something to think about at the end.

One dude who fits the bill is Tim Cridland aka Zamora the Torture King. Cridland, a sometimes author, recorder of anomalies and researcher, has had a lifelong fascination with circus sideshows, the

 “freaks” who were capable of extreme physical acts that would seem impossible, or at least excruciatingly painful to the average person.


As a researcher, and then as a performer, Cridland learned that the trick to many of these wild talents is that there is no trick. These sideshow performers, Indian fakirs, sword swallowers, blockheads and fire eaters are doing exactly what they appear to be doing. He also found that expectation or belief plays a major part in how these feats are accomplished.

 These acts may be tricks, but they are not faked. He does chew on a broken lightbulb, walk on burning iron, lie on the bed of nails and poke skewers through his own arms.  He swallows sharp steel swords. He

exhales oxygen and carbon dioxide like the rest of humanity, but performs the standard suite of “fire breather” or “fire eater” tricks – extinguishing a lit torch in his mouth, spitting flames etc, at a virtuoso level. He does the "human pincushion" and also "the bed of nails" – with a couple of burly guys standing on him. Through it all he keeps up a witty, circus barker-style banter that is charming and also imparts a certain logical element to his act. He explains that these “impossible” feats are a matter of physical conditioning and not so much savant ability.


Cridland has been studying these tricks since he was a teenager. He was a founding member of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, which formed the basis of his first book, “Circus of the Scars.” Now 44, Cridland uses his skills in his stage act “Zamora the Torture King,” billed as “often imitated, never duplicated,” and as a tour guide to haunted Las Vegas, pointing out weird phenomenon and little-known aspects of a town well-known for its eccentricities.


 His most recent book, “Weird Nevada” expands the anomalies of Las Vegas to the entire state. Eccentricities of geology, anthropology, architecture and culture are given brief treatments and color photographs document the reality of these unlikely occurrences.


Which brings us back to the bed of nails and other “impossible” feats. Cridland performed the Torture King act at the RetroUFO convention in Landers, Calif, which is where I caught up with him. Some audience members are disgusted, others are riveted. Those who are familiar with Tim Cridland, the author, might not know Zamora the Torture King, his “after dark” persona. Cridland also gave a lecture about “Lemurians in Mount Shasta,” a possibility that dazzled the public’s imagination in the 1930s and has since resurfaced periodically in various New Age venues.


If ever you find yourself over on the Las Vegas side of the Mojave – which is also all kinds of weird, check out Zamora’s act, “Vegas After Midnight,” which features beautiful tattooed showgirls with “biological anomalies.” You’ll never forget it.


Zamora's Official Site

















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~ by ravenjake on June 23, 2008.

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