In 1881 Fredrick Burnham and Martin Sleighley combined their rather small local circuses in order to compete with some of the larger traveling shows that were becoming the trend in America. Burnham’s Traveling Circus featured mostly acrobats and contortionists with a small amount of animal acts. Sleighley’s Fair of the Fantastic featured predominately animal acts and a world renowned clown troupe. Combining the two put them on par with larger shows like Ringling and even P.T. Barnum’s show.
Tragedy struck in 1892 while the circus was wintering in its new home on the west coast of Florida in the growing town of St Petersburg. The Circus’s entire animal collection died quite suddenly. Burnham and Sleighley passed it off as a case of African Rabies. However; police reports from the incident seem to mention ritualistic slayings and hints of animal sacrifice. No charges were ever filed and nothing was ever officially declared.
Facing a season without animal acts, increased competition from nearby Ringling Brothers and with only a Freak Show and Clown Troupe intact; Burnham and Sleighley decided to try a different entertainment approach that season. They renamed themselves Burnem and Slayley’s Midway of the Macabre. Playbills were posted promising “Thrills, Chills and True Terror.” A grand premiere was scheduled for late October in St. Petersburg, FL.
As far as reports go only the first act was performed. Reports of a riot and a large fire were posted in one of the first copies of the St. Petersburg Times. Recent research has shown that riot reports may have actually been downplaying the incident so as not to scare away potential new immigrants to the recently burgeoning town. Some reports even speak of no survivors of the show.
All we do know is that Burnem and Slayley’s Midway of the Macabre never performed again. The Circus’s camp site was abandoned and torn down. None of the railcars or wagons were ever discovered. Burnham and Sleighley themselves were never seen again. The circus and it’s entire troupe seemed to vanish into thin air.
Timmy’s notes - Occasionally I’ll hear circus music and carnival sounds echoing off the walls of Hellview. I’ll even see an occasionally playbill for Burnem and Slayley’s show posted to random trees in the cemetery proper. This year they are certainly more prevalent. I fear the Circus is coming to Hellview.