Vintage Scares #14: Spook Shows!
Most of you are probably too young to remember spook shows. They came in a number of varieties, from the travelling professionals to the local Knights of Columbus. Their heyday was the 1930s, but experienced a decline by the late 60s. Your city or town may still put on haunted houses or hay rides, but the spook show was a whole different animal. They generally took place in a tent or rented theater, and starred a variety of showmen: generally, magicians, carnies, and hypnotists.
One thing was for sure, they were always a racket. The "REAL DEAD BODY" was a chicken from a local butcher, the 'FREE BABY" was a baby chick, and the shrunken heads were always plastic. If you were an adult stupid enough to believe the ads, you deserved to lose your quarter; but, if you were a kid, it didn't matter how lousy it was. When you told your friends about it, it would be the greatest, most horrifying thing you ever saw.
Besides, kids back then were easily amused. I remember being scared shitless over the lights being turned off and chains being rattled. They were always pretty seedy, so you never could be quite sure these carnies weren't the kind to really decapitate that girl on the table. And another lure were the young beauties (hired from the local modeling agencies) at the entrance.
Despite the fact that most of these shows were run by hustlers and thieves, I actually kind of miss them. It was a unique experience. I can imagine how it would go down nowadays - idiots would sue, petty assholes would demand their money back and report them to Better Business Bureau, and religious nuts would run them out of town for violating indecency laws.
Well, let's not dwell on the negative. Here's a few ads I found from the glory days of the spook show. Enjoy!