Friday, 3 October 2008

Sceptical Wikipedians

Over at Wikipedia the Wikipedians are questioning if real flea circuses really exist or existed historically and if it is really possible to train fleas.

This is something I have done myself a few times over the 5 years I have been investigating flea circuses. The problem is two fold, the first is that the very idea of a flea being "trained" to pull a small model is quite fantastic. The second problem is that the flea performers themselves like to hype up their performances and it is in the interests of those who don't perform with real fleas to have their audiences believe that they do. I also questioned the very existence of one of the great performers L.Bertolotto speculating at one point that he was a fiction created by Charles Dickens.

The question of L.Bertolotto is answered by the diverse range of different sources in which references to Bertolotto appear which I believe to be more than even Dickens could manage. The story of L.Bertolotto is fantastic but less fantastic than the idea that someone managed to make it all up and distribute clues all over the globe. It's a bit like a Flea Da Vinci code!

For me the existence that real flea circuses once existed is also covered by the diversity of the references. The film footage from British Pathe news is pretty convincing, the photos of the Torp flea performances in Denmark and Hecklers in New York are also quite believable. But the fact that at least 2 people have reproduced these acts (Cardoso and Noon) for me is the icing on the cake meaning conclusively that it can be done.

What do you think? Is there such a thing as a real flea circus?

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