Girl to Gorilla Sideshow Act

Girl to gorilla sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson

1940s Girl to Gorilla sideshow banner by Fred G. Johnson

The girl-to-gorilla trick is an old sideshow act based on the principles of the vintage Blue Room or Pepper’s Ghost illusions. For decades it mystified eager crowds in dimly lit tents as one of the top-grossing grind shows on the midway.

The audience would gather in front of a large cage. Inside was a beautiful girl dressed like a wild jungle lady, usually just recently captured in some remote and primitive region of the world.

Is she the result of some freakish evolutionary blunder?

Was she the subject of bizarre and cruel experimentation?

The talker begins to lull the ape girl into a trance and beckon her through her metamorphosis. Before the crowd’s very eyes she would begin to grow hair and fangs, slowly transforming into a large, raging beast.

When the transformation was complete, an angry gorilla stood growling inside the cage. Then it would burst through the iron bars and send the horrified crowds screaming from the tent.

4 replies
  1. Avatar
    Gail Salazar says:

    I really want to do this at my haunted barn. I remember it like it was yesturday when I first saw this show it scared me so bad I ran clear across the fairgrounds before I realized it wasnt chasing me. Where do I find the plan on how to make this

    • Avatar
      Edward Pacheco says:

      I too saw this at the Expo on Dort Highway in Grand Blanc Michigan and people almost ran me over to get out of the tent. I was with my older brother who almost ripped my head off to get past me . I too would love to know how to reenact this as a gorilla man or gorilla boy or whatever the show was fabulous and scary as I stillI still remember.

    • Avatar
      J. Mathais Sprocket says:

      There are many vendors on the web specializing in Sideshow plans (Brill’s for example) that sell the plans for the girl to gorilla act. You would do as well to seek out the public domain material on the “peppers ghost” illusion from the mid seventeenth century. Sorry to be vague, but those of us who are “with it“ are not encouraged to share the secret with the public, especially for a haunted house – It is designed to be a standalone midway illusion in a dedicated space (sightlines are of paramont importantance, it is a classic single-O in the jargon, and is always a popular money maker no matter the century. If you perform this, or any illusion l, please make certain you can do it well enough to be completely convincing. It is the same as with the “magicians oath,” and never reveal the “secret” of the illusion. This act is legend throughout the world, and with good reason!


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

What do you think?