SHE WILL SWIM NIAGARA: Millie Viola

Millie Viola was the stage name used by various female balloonists who appeared with Professor James Price. Their first billing was at the Minnesota State Fair in 1888. Millie made several appearances around Salt Lake City in 1889, until Price (forced to leave town in a hurry) resurfaced in Australia the following year — with... Continue Reading →

The Fakir of Oolu: Illusionist

Alfred Silvester (1831 – 1886) was a magician who first appeared in London in the 1860s with Pepper’s Ghost, a transparent ghostly illusion created by reflecting an image onto a sheet of glass. A special effect, similar to the holograph, it’s still used today in amusement rides such as Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Silvester ran into... Continue Reading →

The Faust Family of Acrobats

How Lillian envied their freedom. She didn’t notice the heat, the dust motes shimmering in the shafts of light or the smell of stale sweat. Their poise and agility, their triumphant shouts as they flipped, twisted and spun across the stage entranced her. It looked more like fun than work. She wished she could remove... Continue Reading →

Harry Rayward: Ventriloquist

The next morning, Lillian’s head ached with a pounding throb, her back was stiff and every movement an effort; but her spirits lifted when a bouquet of flowers arrived. ‘Better if the Professor doesn’t see this.’ Ruby snatched the card before Lillian could stop her and read it aloud. ‘Mr Stiggins offers his sincere commiserations... Continue Reading →

James William Price: Balloonist

‘I’m loathe to raise this with ladies present, Price, but I’ve received a letter from your child-bride, the delightful Georgia Angell, enquiring of your whereabouts. She’s most anxious to ascertain that you weren’t involved in the tragic events in Honolulu. It seems she’s lost contact with you since you left Salt Lake City and very... Continue Reading →

Park Van Tassel: Aeronaut

‘There’s nothing the public likes more,’ Professor Park Van Tassel declared, ‘than the possibility of witnessing an accident.’ He plucked a chrysanthemum from the waiting bouquet, slotted it into the buttonhole of his double-breasted suit, and leaned towards the mirror to adjust the waxed tips of his moustache to a jaunty angle. ‘You must believe... Continue Reading →

Sequah: Medicine Man

On securing lodgings at the Central Hotel in Auckland, they were confronted with a most extraordinary sight. A man dressed in the manner of Buffalo Bill — fringed buckskin, a wide-brimmed sombrero, and long flowing locks down to his shoulders — pulled up outside the hotel in a four-horse golden chariot. ‘What on earth is... Continue Reading →

Madame Cora de Lamond: Magicienne

Madame Cora came forward to greet them. Over her greying hair, she’d draped a spangled, gauzy black fabric which, despite being torn in a few places, gave the impression of an Indian sari. She cultivated an air of eccentricity; whether it was for effect or to discomfort them, Lillian wasn’t sure. First of all, she... Continue Reading →

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