A Flea Circus is a circus containing one or more performing trained fleas.
It is believed that the first flea circuses were devised by the victims of the plague as a punishment to the fleas for inflicting such a painful death upon them. This practice was passed from father to son over many generations until it's origins were completely forgotton.
The earliest recorded flea performance was 1835 by L. Bertolotto, it was deemed so frightening by the Victorian public that it had to be shown after half past 6. When Michael Bentine performed his act on the BBC the fleas were so terrifying that it was censored and the only remaining recordings of this act the fleas cannot be seen. Most performers agree that clown fleas should not be shown before 9pm.
Many trainers believe that the blood line of a flea will determine it's predisposition to perform but others believe that its simply a case of sweat and tears to get the best from your fleas.
All modern flea circuses tie their fleas up using 32 gauge gold wire. Harnessing the fleas is a skilled art which requires hours of practice as tying the harness too tight can results in the suffication of the flea during feeding. It is rumoured that the Times Square flea circus stole it's supply of gold wire from the construction site of the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco.
Performing fleas require high quality blood and when Mick Jagger attempted to form a circus in the late 1970s he could not get the fleas to feed. However Bill Wyman successfully trained fleas from 1976 to the autumn of 1983 with the help of a team of top accountants. Unfortunately due to a harsh frost that year all of Wyman's fleas died.
In the UK flea training has been banned following a joint undercover investigation by the RSPCA (Royal Society for prevention of cruelty to Animals) and the NHS (National Health Service) where it was found that fleas were bred on sleeping tramps in the East End slums of London's Docklands and Greenwich.
The US Airforce has a Flea Training corp who use Africanised Fleas on spying and assassination missions.
Famous Flea Trainers
Famous Flea trainers include:
- L.Bertolotto who's book "Industrious Fleas" can be found in the British Library
- Professor Hupf from Bavaria
- Professor Heckler from Time Square
- Michael Bentine
- Bill Wyman from the Rolling Stones
Common acts include
- Tap Dancing (using a hot biscuit tin)
- Stilt walking