Page 1. " This thing of darkness I acknowledge mine. "

This is a Quote from the character Prospero in Shakespeare's The Tempest 5.1.275-6

the tempest
Public Domainthe tempest - Credit: william shakespeare

To listen to an audio version of The Tempest please visit The Tempest Audio Book free online



Page 1. " Quote "

These are two complicated nautical knots

turks head knot
Public Domainturks head knot - Credit: Sebbe Wigmo

  Turk's Head Knot  





Monkey's Fist
GNU Free Documentation LicenseMonkey's Fist - Credit: Tortillovsky
Monkey's Fist Knot

Page 1. " Quote "
Page 3. " 'When your mama was the geek, my dreamlets,' "

In the early 20th Century the word 'geek' started to be used to describe a performer in a carnival sideshow, presented to the audience as a wild man, who would perform sensational acts such as fighting each other, slinging around their own excrement and biting off the heads of live animals. They were often transients and addicts who would go to extreme lengths for money and as such were often regarded with disdain and ostracised by other carnival workers, which may contribute to the modern usage of the term.







Page 8. " The resourceful pair began experimenting with illicit and prescription drugs, insecticides, and eventually radioisotopes "

Radioisotopes are used as a type of internal radiotherapy to treat cancer. Because of the raised levels of radiation in the body, it is often reccomended that patients who have been treated with radioisotopes stay away from young children and pregnant women for a short time.

Page 8. " His hands and feet were in the form of flippers that sprouted directly from his torso without intervening arms or legs "
Page 9. " The girls were Siamese twins with perfect upper bodies joined at the waist and sharing one set of hips and legs. "

Electra and Iphigenia are, judging by Olympia's description, a pair of conjoined twins of the Parapagus type which is to say fused side-by-side with a shared pelvis.

Chang and Eng
Public DomainChang and Eng

Conjoined twins are sometimes known as Siamese twins. The term was originally used to describe twins Chang and Eng Bunker who were born in Siam (now known as Thailand) in 1811. In 1829, they were "discovered" in Siam by British merchant Robert Hunter and exhibited as a curiosity during a world tour. They later travelled with P.T. Barnum's circus.


Page 10. " 'Please, Papa,' I begged, 'tell us the Rose Garden' "
Portland's Rose Test Garden
GNU Free Documentation LicensePortland's Rose Test Garden - Credit: Kelvin Kay

The International Test Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon

Portland is referred to as the Rose City. The park Al refers to is the The International Rose Test Garden which is one of 24 official testing sites for the internationally respected All-America Rose Selection.

The garden of artificially manufactured 'designed' flowers inspires Al to create his own family in a similar way. Dunn was particularly concerned with the possibilities emerging in the 1980s that genetic modification and selective breeding seemed to offer.

In an interview with Chuck Palahniuk for his book Fugitives and Refugees, Dunn refers to her own visits to the International Rose Test Garden as an inspiration for the creation of the Binewski children. She relates the memory of walking among the roses considering her son's misbehaviour and thinking to herself, "These would not have occured in nature-I should've designed a better child".

Page 17. " One evening, leaving the radio staion, where I had worked later than usual "

Olympia works as the 'Radio Story Lady' at Radio KBNK in Portland. This directly echos Dunn's own experience; in the 1970s she hosted a radio show on Portland's community radio station KBOO, in which she would read short stories.

Page 18. " I trailed along all the way down to the Glass House Club "

The Glass House Club does not exist in Portland but its name may have been suggested by the Glass House Tavern on Sandy Blvd, Portland, which is a Gay and Lesbian bar.

The Glass House Club is a fetish strip venue where Miranda and the other girls show off their physical abnormalities to tittilate the audience. In many ways the club is another form of sideshow, and Miranda's working here suggests thatly has she inherited her parent's genetic legacy, but also their method of exploiting it.

It is interesting to note that the other performers mentioned here, Denise the long haired girl and Paulette the pre-op transsexual, are also examples of the type of performers who could be seen in a typical 1950s sideshow.

Page 23. " A true freak must be born "

'Freaks' can be divided into two categories; natural freaks and made freaks. Natural freaks are born with abnormalities, wheras made freaks aquire them through accident or design. Olympia, her siblings and her daughter are examples of born freaks. Other examples are (real) bearded ladies, microcephalics (known as pinheads).  Made sideshow freaks include human pincushions, extensively tattooed people and contortionists.  

 Mirin Dajo, a Human Pincushion, performing at the Corso Theatre in Zurich in 1947

Modern day examples of the differences between born and made freaks are Jesus Manuel Aceves, known as 'Chuy' the Wolf Boy and Paul Lawrence, The Enigma. 

 A video of Paul Lawrence, aka the Enigma, performing with a chainsaw 

The Enigma has undergone extensive body modifications throughout his performing career. He has had multiple body piercings, implanted horns and a full body jigsaw tattoo. He was born physically 'normal'.         


Creative Commons AttributionChuy - Credit: Jason Black

Jesus Manuel Aceves, known as 'Chuy' the Wolf Boy is seen on the left alongside Donny Vomit & the Black Scorpion at Coney Island's Sideshows by the Seashore. Jesus was born with the rare congenital condition hypertrichosis, which resulted in his body being entirely covered in hair. He has performed in sideshows as the 'Dog Boy' or 'Monkey Boy' for a large portion of his life and has two daughters, one of whom shares the condition.




Olympia's assertion that "A true freak must be born" illustrates her pride in her family and heritage and a sense of hierarchy amongst freaks.