Sure, circus clowns give people the creeps. But this circus has more than just clowns to make people scream in their seats.
When “Paranormal Cirque” opens in south Fort Myers on Jan. 20, you’ll find an entire big top full of monsters and murderers: A barking, bloody “dog boy” in a cage. Zombie trapeze artists that get a little bitey. A demon-possessed woman hanging from her hair 40-50 feet above the audience. And lots more.
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Leave the kids at home for this one. The R-rated circus is filled with adult language, sexual jokes, racy costumes, and lots of blood, gore and general creepiness.
“It feels like you’re living inside of a horror movie,” says contortionist Ben Holland, who plays the dog boy. “It’s not suitable for the kids. But for adults, it’s a lot of fun.”
The horror-themed show follows last summer’s prison-focused “Cirque Alcatraz” in Fort Myers. Both shows are aimed at mature audiences and staged by Sarasota traveling circus Cirque Italia.
Adult circuses are common in Europe, but they’re just now catching on in the United States, Holland says. “It’s a new and interesting and cool thing.”
And people obviously love that thing. “Paranormal Cirque” was Cirque Italia’s first adult show, and it often sells out wherever it goes, says spokeswoman Sarah Kessler. It’s traveled all over the United States since launching in 2018.
Cirque Italia’s owner, Manuel Rebecchi, comes from Italy and knows Europe’s adult circuses well, Kessler says. So he thought it would be a good thing to introduce to U.S. audiences.
“We know there’s that group of people out there who love their horror movies,” Holland says, “and they want it to be Halloween all year round. We just made a show themed around that.”
“Paranornal Cirque’s” other horrific highlights include a motorcycle high-wire act, a vampire magician with “sexy vampire assistants” and a pre-show where “scare actors” roam the grounds and sometimes chase people with chain saws.
As the dog boy, Holland sits in a cage wearing a collar and covered in blood. Sometimes he barks, runs up to people and tries to bite them.
He also twists his arms and legs into all sorts of crazy pretzel shapes. He’s a contortionist, after all.
“I take all my bones out of place and try to put them all back together,” he says. “It’s worked almost every time, so far. Knock on wood.”
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The show doesn’t tell an actual story like “Cirque Alcatraz” did, Holland says. Instead, it’s a loose collection of traditional circus acts organized around a horror theme (specifically, the underworld).
For people who are easily scared, Kessler suggests skipping the pre-show, which starts 45 minutes before show time. The main show, she says, is more spooky than scary. There are even comedy bits in between the performances.
Learn more about Paranormal Cirque at paranormalcirque.com.
Connect with this reporter: Charles Runnells is an arts and entertainment reporter for The News-Press and the Naples Daily News. Email him at [email protected] or connect on Facebook (facebook.com/charles.runnells.7), Twitter (@charlesrunnells) and Instagram (@crunnells1).
If you go
What: “Paranormal Cirque”
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Jan. 20-21; 6:30 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 22; and 5:30 and 8:30 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23
Where: JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, south Fort Myers
Tickets: $10-$50. Get $5 off with a promo code from the “Paranormal Cirque” website.
COVID protocol: Seating is socially distanced with a limited capacity. Masks are required. Hand sanitizer stations will be available throughout the tent.
More: The R-rated show features adult language, blood and gore, and other adult material. No one younger than 13 will be admitted. Anyone 13-17 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Info: 941-704-8572 or paranormalcirque.com