Coney Island freak show


Coney Island may have been dolled up this summer with the arrival of the City-funded squeaky clean Luna Park amusement park, but less than two minutes down the road is somewhere you can still find the essence of old Coney Island.

Coney Island USA is a not for profit arts center dedicated to keeping the old spirit of Coney alive. Upstairs, there’s a museum whose entry price (99 cents) is as old-school as the exhibits in it – old posters, signs and parts of rides, some crazy mirrors, and plenty of photos of how Coney was in its heyday.

But downstairs is where it really gets interesting. Every day they put on a freak show in the back of the building. Pay your entrance fee, part the curtains and you’ll find yourself in a stand like a school gymnasium, watching the exhibitions that go on around the clock on a continuous basis.

You’ll see fire breathing, knife climbing, snake charming and contortion, as well as more gruesome stuff like an electric chair and trampling broken glass. And if that’s not enough for you, go on a Saturday night at 10pm when an all-female troupe performs a freak show of a more, ahem, adult nature.

Most of the lines the cast speak are actually handed down from previous generations of artists, so as well as the gruesome bits, you’re actually watching a little bit of history. And as you come out into the afternoon sun and join the queue for the polished rides at Luna Park, you’ll be even more fond of Coney – both old and new – than you were to start with.

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