Freak Show 101 at Coney Island

September 24, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Coney Island has seen many changes since it opened its first sideshow in 1880. Theme parks have been developed, bulldozed and redeveloped; newer vendors have replaced old businesses; real estate has been bought and sold—the list goes on. But there are some places, and people, in Coney Island that are determined to keep the old traditions alive. The Coney Island Sideshow School, and Adam Rinn, are among them.

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Adam Rinn shows students the ropes — and glass,fire and nails — at The Coney Island Sideshow Schoo. Video by Anika Anand and Ken Christensen, courtesy of

Rinn, who grew up in Coney Island, teaches eager—and brave—students how to eat fire, walk on broken glass and carry a charge in an electric chair. The school usually teaches two four-day sessions per year. Students pay an $800 tuition—a cost that, Rinn explains, will deter curiosity seekers, but not discourage those who are truly hungry to perform sideshow acts—after “graduating,” they’ll make up the tuition costs in a gig or two, he says.

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