Circuses were once the center of entertainment for many cultures around the world. Audiences would often travel from the surrounding areas, sometimes for days, to take in the death-defying acrobatics, exotic animals, and three-ring glitz and thrills.
Although circuses are still popular globally, they certainly do not have the draw they once did. Many thrill-seekers today frequently opt for Salt Lake City haunted houses over lion-tamers and trapeze artists. But as fans gear up for the next season of American Horror Story, which focuses on the freak shows of yesteryear,there is sure to be a new emphasis on the circus.
Whether on the screen or in a Salt Lake City haunted house, few fictionalized productions can compete with the eerie real abandoned circus sites around the world. Let’s take a quick tour of two of these abandoned circuses sites that stand silent long after the crowds disappeared.
Built in 1981, this stunning soviet-era building saw thousands of circus-goers in the once stable Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic. But after the collapse of the USSR, the newly formed country of Moldova underwent years of war, during which it earned the title of Poorest Country in Europe.
Although the country was economically crippled, the Chisinau Circus kept its doors open demonstrating the important role of circuses in Soviet culture. And the building’s decadence certainly does not show any hints of the country’s financial hardships. Each detail of this circus building reflects decadence: soaring windows, marble-clad staircases, and hand-carved sculptures.
The Chisinau Circus did survive the collapse of an empire, but in 2004 the circus was closed for major repairs. It never reopened.
The now decaying circus remains mostly intact with a decade of dust on its façade. The dressing rooms of once well-trained performers are now scribbled with graffiti, the box office windows have been boarded shut, and the giant ring stands eerily dark and silent.
The site in Edmund, Oklahoma, has been at the center of many urban legends. Now hidden behind signs warning trespassers against entering, this field, the last known site of Gandini’s Circus, is said to be one of the real haunted places in the Midwest.
Although there is not a lot of information available on Gandini’s now-abandoned Circus, nearby residents believe that the field holds what was left of a traveling circus that disbanded in the 1930s.
The trailers, discarded circus signs, and cages in the grassy field stand rusting and forgotten. It appears Gandini simply left the circus right as it was when taking down the tents.
Perhaps the lack of hard facts gives an even more unsettling aura to this haunted place. As locals weave stories of the abandoned circus, like spotting lions and tigers in surrounding fields, its legend continues to grow. We can just be thankful the Gandini Circus isn’t one of Salt Lake City haunted houses.
These haunted places show us why the circus has always captured the sinister side of our imaginations. Check back in a few weeks when we explore more of the twisted tales of the circus.
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