05 April 2012

This Way to the Egress

For this year's A-Z challenge, I'm posting juicy tidbits of researchy goodness for your interest and edification. I intend to use these as story prompts for the terrifying writing challenge Story a Day in May. You may use them however you wish.


From The Lost Museum


In many ways, P.T. Barnum's American Museum (1841-1865) was the epitome of our modern era in which the media manages to both manipulate and disappoint on a consistent basis - and yet we still flock to the movies and gather round the television in massive numbers.

Barnum's genius was in combining gimmicks and fakes with genuine information and the popular moralizing of his day. He was the king of false advertising. According to The Lost Museum, he used the above image of three fishy hotties to lure people to the museum, and delivered the "Fejee Mermaid," which looked like this:

From The Lost Museum
If it looks like a monkey sewn onto a fish, it probably is.

The American Museum was insanely popular, hosting by some estimates up to 15,000 visitors a day. (That is, until it burned down in 1865.)

My favourite part of Barnum's flair for crowd control was the egress. Noticing that people were lingering a little too long at the exhibits and cutting into profits, Barnum put up a sign that said, "This Way to the Egress." Counting on people to not know that "egress" is another word for "exit," he deftly deposited them back onto the street.

20 comments:

Amanda Heitler said...

I remember this story. It made me laugh then and makes me laugh now.

kelworthfiles said...

I love the Egress story too. It's adapted into the duel of wits with Com-Pewter in Piers Anthony's novel "Golem in the Gears" - Bink tricks Com-Pewter into conjuring an Egress to keep them trapped in the evil machine's lair, by hinting that a female Egret is a fierce and vicious bird - but they walk through the Egress and escape. :)

Bluestocking said...

Clearly Barnum was tapped into the human subconscious in a way we haven't seen since.... And I'm sure it's only a matter of time before some geneticist tries to fuse monkey jeans with fish ones :)

L.G.Smith said...

Ooh, let's go see the egress next! LOL

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

I love weird tidbits of "researchy goodness", and what a great idea as a theme for the A-Z. I planned to do a quick fly-by, and darned if I didn't end up reading your first five posts. Count me in as your newest follower.

Jocelyn Rish said...

I hadn't heard the story about Egress - how awesome. P.T. Barnum was a freakin' genius - can you imagine what he'd do in today's digital age? Rule the world, for sure!

Continued success with the A to Z challenge,
Jocelyn

Pearson Report said...

Oh, I laughed - how funny of PT to be so clever. Must remember this...may come in handy somewhere down the road.

Very entertaining "E" post.

Jenny @ Pearson Report
Co-Host of the Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Sarah Pearson said...

That's just brilliant! That man knew how to turn a dime!

Melissa Sugar said...

Brilliant indeed. That does look like a monkey sewn into a fish.

Traci Kenworth said...

Looks to me like a fish swallowing someone as they try to escape...

Elizabeth Twist said...

Barnum was amazing, wasn't he?

Elizabeth Twist said...

Nice! I'm sure I read Golem in the Gears back when I was a Xanth-obsessed teen, but I had forgotten the female Egret scene.

Elizabeth Twist said...

It's probably already happened!

Elizabeth Twist said...

:)

Elizabeth Twist said...

Hi Susan! Nice of you to stop by.

Elizabeth Twist said...

If Barnum were alive today, I can imagine him, oh, I don't know, starting the Matrix or SkyNet or something. Or maybe just throwing his hands in the air and declaring that there was no more to be done because the internet has stolen all his best tricks.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Thanks, Jenny!

Elizabeth Twist said...

Everything he did seems calculated to mesmerize people.

Elizabeth Twist said...

It is also covered in papier maché.

Elizabeth Twist said...

Ha! Totally!

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