A grind show is one that runs continuously. The attraction is presented on a small platform at one end of the tent. The tent housing the standard grind show is 20 feet by 20 feet. Large flashy canvas banners usually 4 feet by 6 feet depict what the attraction is. Most grind shows will have a banner on either side of the entrance to the tent.
Next to the attraction itself, the banner is the most important part of the show. It has to be a professionally painted job if it is to “pull the people in.” The artist always exaggerates the attraction to be seen. Banners are expensive, but they are worth every dollar paid for them.
The ticket seller is located between the two banners, at the entrance to the tent, and he often doubles as the talker or “grinder.” He speils out what the attraction is. He talks continuously. . . grinds out the message. Many shows today have a taped grind message often with music and dramatic sound effects. Using a tape saves hiring a “grinder”; anyone can sell tickets.
There are several illusions which can be adapted as grind show attractions. These have been used for years on carnivals and are big money makers.
Spidora the Spider Girl was one we exhibited twenty five years ago and is as popular with spectators today as it was then. It is an easy illusion to present and requires only the girl to work the illusion and an inside talker or lecturer who tells all about this “poor little creature.” We presented Spider Girl on a small platform at one end of the tent and the audience stood about 10 feet from the small stage.
They saw the living head of a girl attached to the hideous body of a large spider, enmeshed in a web on a stairway. They saw each step under the web and there appeared to be no place for the girl to hide her body. We presented the attraction as a freak of nature and the entire presentation took about five minutes. The tent was cleared and another group of waiting spectators ushered in.
During this past season we had the pleasure of working with Ray-Mond, the illusionist, who presented his Spider Girl on small carnivals in Maryland. His illusion is mounted on the back of a truck, which is then enhoused in a tent. He merely opens the two back doors of the truck and the illusion is ready to present. When he “tears down” at the end of the engagement, the tent, poles, and banner line all pack into the truck.
Working with Ray-Mond’s show proved to me that the public still loves this kind of attraction. Many spectators returned three and four times to see the “little creature.” It has always amazed me how many actually thought Spider Girl was a real freak. People wanted to know what she ate, where we got her, what her parents were like, etc. Of course, Ray-Mond, master talker and performer he is, had an answer for all their questions.
Admission to see his show was only 25 cents and many weeks this attraction grossed $1 ,000. Not bad for showing only a few hours a night and at the smaller carnivals and fairs.
One grind show operator used a huge tortoise shell in place of a spider’s body and called it the Turtle Girl. Pete Hennen had a similar illusion show on the road a few years ago called Reptile Girl and utilized the stuffed body of a snake.
Spider Girl illusion plans are available from Abbott’s and it can be made in your home workshop. Or you can buy the illusion ready to work from Abbott’s.
Another illusion that adapts itself well to a grind show is the Headless Girl. Although it has been exposed in magazines over the years, it still, when properly presented, draws big crowds. Here again, the banner line, depicting the headless girl must be of an exaggerated nature. The picture never should show the girl as she appears in the actual illusion — sitting in a chair with tubes running into her neck. Rather they should picture the girl sitting on the beach, or walking down the street or doing things a normal person does in daily life. One showman uses huge banners showing an automobile accident with bodies strewn all over the road and in the foreground is a shapely body of a girl with its head decapitated. Spectators viewing the banner assume the girl inside lost her head as the result of the accident.
This illusion is easy to present on a platform. Spectators should be about eight feet away from the stage. An inside lecturer tells how the girl lost her head as spectators view the girl minus her head. She moves her hands and legs to prove she is alive.
The most sensational headless girl we’ve seen in a long time was presented by Jim Windland who was with the Capital City Shows carnival. He called it “Nina the Headless Wonder” and presented the illusion in a 30 foot tent which had a 54 foot banner line in front! (Abbott’s workshop plans for Headless Woman $5.00, or purchase the complete illusion, F.O.B. Colon, Michigan.)
“Minnie the Mermaid,” the tiny girl in a goldfish bowl was an illusion that turned out to be very profitable for us. We used it during summer vacations while in college and during the winter months rented it out to a local department store as a special window display. We used the Abbott version although there was another foreign made one that was quite popular about twenty years ago. Both versions must be carefully staged to avoid getting a distorted view of the girl, but once the angles are worked out, it is great! In the older version the girl was behind the bowl and spectators saw her through the bowl which was fitted with a special lens. The trouble with this version was the girl never really looked like she was in the bowl; it looked like she was behind it.
The Abbott version does not require an elaborate set-up; there is a special cabinet which requires about 4 feet of space and the bowl appears to be on top of this. The girl looks like she is in the bowl. The audience should be about 5 feet in front of this. It is a cute illusion and we presented it with a very pretty girl in a scanty costume. The extent of the costume depended upon the local authorities where we were playing. The show had sex appeal as well as mystery. This illusion is available from Abbott’s in Colon, Michigan. No workshop plans are available for this illusion.
One of the most unusual illusion grind shows I have ever seen was called “Icy.” A beautiful girl was frozen in a huge cake of ice. She was displayed in the center of a tent and spectators walked around her. Advance newspaperpublicity offered a cash reward to anyone who proved the girl wasn’t buried in ice for 48 straight hours. The exhibit was open for inspection any hour of the day or night. There was a 25 cent admission charge.
Mark Allen, Baltimore illusionist, is currently framing the Burned Alive illusion and has the entire entrance to his tent made of a series of panels, each showing scenes of a beautiful girl being burned alive. He is going to call his grind show “The Crematorium.” It has horror, magic and sex all combined.
In our next column we will discuss the greatest grind show illusion of the current scene. EVERY large carnival wants it. It only takes two minutes to present and it grossed over $100,000.00 last season on one large carnival. It is a variation of an old illusion and it not only fools the public but most magicians as well !