IRL

Former Carnival Workers Share The Craziest Things They've Seen While Travelling With The Carnival

Behind the scenes at a carnival isn't all smiling clowns and funnel cakes. Nope, there's a dark world where carnies run amok, and we are totally here for it - minus the murder.

spankthewhitewhale asked former carnies of Reddit: What's some f*cked up sh*t you have seen while traveling with a carnival?

Submissions have been edited for clarity, context, and profanity.


15. Don't mess with a crackhead.

I watched a crackhead hit an old lady with a 2x4, then threatened to hit me with it when I tried to help her.

ATrevor810

14. Oh no no no.

A girl i know about 10 years back was on the 'zipper' ride at a pop-up carnival and the bar broke causing her to get flung around inside the cage. They tried to stop the ride but couldn't in time and she broke her collar bone.

When the ride finally stopped it was because a carnie shoved his arm in the gears to stop it. Brave man, horrifying event. That carnival still comes around twice a year and they still have the same zipper ride.

AnonymousHoe92

...and the arm is still there, turning in the gears to this day.

ISeeTheFnords

I'm imagining this being said by someone holding a torch light under their face

AnonymousHoe92

13. Only slightly unnerving.

As a welding school student I made the mistake of checking the welds and wiring on a ferris wheel.

The horror... The horror... The horror...

MMMLG

Should we be avoiding ferris wheels at mediocre carnivals and fairs?

PeanutButterOnBread

If you see anything like this, yes.
This is what a weld is supposed to look like.

MMMLG

12. Nudes are forever.

When I was in high school, our school couldn't afford money for sports anymore, so as a way to fund our teams, they farmed us athletes out around the community.

I was assigned to help set up and take down stuff at the county fair. One if the carnies working along side us had some wild stories but the most "impressive" thing he had was a shoebox full of Polaroids.

This was early 2000s, before smart phones, but he basically kept a collection of nudes. The shoebox was almost full.

This guy was 140lbs tops, and looked like a 60yr old piece of leather wrapped around a skeleton. But I'll be damned if we didn't witness with our own eyes, him flirting and getting the number for a local.

HartiganPrime

These kinds of stories make me feel bad that I don't do better with women.

Killbot_Wants_Hug

It's all about confidence. Confidence is a natural mask for a ton of short comings.

Krish-0

11. Nothing about this is surprising.

Not a carnie, but I worked with an ex carnie for awhile, and he had a lot of great stories. From his perspective, the business is very exploitative and almost completely staffed with felons, wanted men that can't get jobs anywhere else. Here's a couple of things I remember:

People that worked the fryers for the food stands would save all the fried batter crumbs for staff to eat at the end of the day. He would eat baskets of random fried dough and crumbs, corn dogs that had burnt or fallen apart, cold popcorn. Nobody was forced to eat this stuff, but it was free if you wanted to save your money.

If you really pissed off a vindictive boss, they might wait until they'd traveled somewhere remote or far from your hometown and then fire you, leaving you stranded and far away. This happened a few times.

irwinlegends

If you really pissed off a vindictive boss, they might wait until they'd traveled somewhere remote or far from your hometown and then fire you, leaving you stranded and far away. This happened a few times.

That's cold-blooded.

PeanutButterOnBread

10. Carny creepers.

I worked at the country fair grounds for a few years when I was young. The amount of carnies in their late 20s who'd hook up with local teens was f*cked up. I didn't realize it at the time, because I was 16 years old and was just jealous of those guys, but in hindsight they are pretty garbage humans. They'd use weed as a lure.

Judge_Bredd2

9. This carn job.

When I was 16, I worked a day accepting tickets in front of the fun house in the next state over. I wound up chatting with three girls that were roughly my age, and let them through for free. Two of them flashed me from the inside, and I was fired on the spot.

I maintained contact with the third one, and discovered that we have the same birthday, amongst other similarities. We hooked up five years later after calling each other every year on our birthday.

Not really messed up, but that's my carnie experience.

MadmanTardy

Were you fired because you let them in for free, or were you fired because they flashed you?

no_way_jake

Definitely both. It paid off in the end, though.

MadmanTardy

8. Jeez...

There was one guy who got his car searched because the cops smelled weed. They pulled out weed, meth, fentanyl, (a whole host of drugs, some they didn't recognize), a crossbow, a gun, a box of assorted sex toys, etc. Dude was also a felon. They had him packed up and out of there before the end of the day.

Cometstarlight

If a good time is against the law, lock me the f*ck up!

BigHoss47

Those cops ruined what was shaping up to be one hell of a weekend.

guydudebro42069

7. Same.

We had this really tall chick with black and grey dreads. She was mostly used to carry stuff and the like. Whenever there's be a thunderstorm though we'd catch her just staring up at the sky. She'd wander off for days at a time and just show up again with no explanation.

ConneryFTW

6. The Simpsons got it right too.

Not a carnie, but my entire family worked in horse racing, so pretty much carnies too wealthy for their own good. Jockeys are maniacs. 100-pound humans harnessing the strength of 1000-pound angry, inbred animals at high speeds. They fear no man. And they love cocaine.

creedbrattonsdad

It's Always sunny in Philadelphia was accurate then?

i-reckn-so

Yes and no. They're not nearly as jolly. A lot of them came from nothing, often first-generation immigrants, insecure about their stature around us normies and I've seen them snap in an instant. They're very tightly wound. I always felt like walking on eggshells around em.

I once saw this little fella in the winner's circle jump vertical from a standing position and whack an over 6-ft-tall man in the side of his normal-sized noggin with his tiny helmet. I was like 12 and it was pretty badass tbh. Oh, and they all have nicknames and the good ones have groupies.

creedbrattonsdad

5. Stay away from the Johnson.

Not a carnie, but a friend of mine has a little sister who is currently pregnant by a carnie named "Johnson." She's 17 and "Johnson" is of an unknown age. She doesn't know where he is from or his real name and he doesn't know that she's pregnant. She's excited to show up at the fair next year with their kid. Anyway, the carnie brought her around to show her how sh*tty the rides are. She said they were horrible and that she would never go on one again.

availablepoet

4. Ouch.

Not a carnie (sorry) but I had a few beers with one once, and he told me the most f*cked-up (and hilarious) story that makes me wince when I even think about it. I'll try to do it justice:

This chap decided to join a travelling fair for a summer. He ended-up getting a job as the guy who wanders around taking money and then spinning people on the waltzer

One day, some girls were egging him on to spin them faster and faster, so he really went for it, except he got his hand caught on something and ended up spinning with them. He lost his grip and flew off, landed and then skidded along the ground on his ass.

Those who have seen these rides, know the ground undulates up and down, and to do so, they have gaps in the floor (take a look at the above picture to see).

Well... this guy slid along until one of his ass-cheeks plopped neatly into one of these open gaps, which then closed as the ride span, and basically popped his arse cheek.

Yes. Popped his entire ass cheek.

He said he can't remember much about the accident, but he spent the following year or so with, basically one huge blood blister as a backside.

Mungo_Clump

3. Just a katana, nbd.

Didn't work at one, but it would come to town every summer for August long weekend (first Monday of August in Canada)

Basically some locals got into a fight with the staff working the carnival after they tried to steal something from them (cash and merch if I am not mistaken)

So the police are called, and by the time they get there a giant melee broke out in the centre of the fair grounds, there's like five people surrounded by the carnival staff, and one of them comes running in with a katana, swinging it at the would-be thieves until about twenty cops break it up.

Normally they pack up and leave Monday night / Tuesday morning, but they left immediately afterwards. Was probably the best article the local newspaper had run in years.

LunchboxOctober

2. Next you're gonna tell me magic isn't real.

A Magician friend and I spent some time visiting backstage with the local carneys. This show featured, walking on glass, laying an a bed a nails, a woman without a body (head sitting on table) and the big draw was a women laying down in a box while blades were put through the box in every direction.

They showed us everything was done. At the end of the show they invited the audience to step up (for a quarter) and view this woman's body all tangled and mangled in this box full of blades.

This was a HUGE money maker for them. What the audience saw was the woman laying on her side with the blades stuck in comfortably around her!

The guys are great talented performers and could really put on an entertaining show!

GeneralFactotum

1. Be honest  - you clicked for this.

I worked with a guy that looks like your typical white guy from the suburbs and he has had a successful career in video editing. When you get to know him, it becomes apparent that he has lots of memory issues from doing some hard drugs. When he graduated high school he faced getting a girl pregnant by running away and joining a traveling carnival for a few years.

One part of his job was to ride shotgun with one of the drivers and keep him awake all night. The driver would pound a gallon jug of vodka while driving.

He told us of being woken up while some carnies were getting lucky with underage girls. We questioned him for never interrupting and he said he would have gotten knifed in his sleep if he did.

Carnies making and selling meth. Carnies on meth working on the rides, taking apart motors, replacing bearings with old bearings that they found in the junk shop. Those rides had rusted shut grease zerks that would just let them grind metal.

DarrenEdwards

Getty Images

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