Flea circii

Everyone’s heard of the flea circus, right? But who knew they were a real thing?! Via the ever-informative metafilter comes word of all sorts of flea-circus related advice. The first flea circus was as early as 1751, as this flea circus blog tells me. The next flea circus is going on right now in Chicago! And it’s so easy to start your own – here are some instructions. For instance, one of their tricks:

…there are two fleas secured, one at each end of a very little bit of gold-coloured paper. They are placed in a reversed position to each other – one looking one way, the other another way. Thus tied, they are placed in a sort of arena on the top of the musical box; at one end of the box sits an orchestra composed of fleas, each tied to its seat, and having the resemblance of some musical instrument tied on the foremost of their legs.The box is made to play, the exhibitor touches each of the musicians with a bit of stick, and they all begin waving their hands about, as performing an elaborate piece of music. The fleas tied to the gold paper feel the jarring of the box below them, and begin to run round and round as fast as their little legs will carry them. This is called the Flea’s Waltz.

Some people think that the best flea circuses are those minus the fleas:

In your basic performance, “fleas” will climb a wire ladder (visibly depressing each rung as they go), visibly make a diving board bounce and then create a splash in the little saucer of water they dive into (wetting the audience). You never see the “fleas,” just the evidence of their passing. You may also see little bicycles putter in a circle, you may see a merry-go-round spin, you may see a little bar hover a minute fraction of an inch above a high wire as the “flea” walks across.

For the finale, fleas may load themselves into a cannon and be fired through a paper hoop held by an audience member. A tiny hole appears in the hoop as if the “flea” had actually flown that trajectory.

But here’s a real one, and it’s pretty cool:

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