A Flea Sized F.A.Q.
The following flea information could be a "spoiler" for those who do not want ALL the mysteries revealed! Please read no further!
Q: Are the fleas real?
A: This is always the first, and hardest question to answer about fleas that I get. But I think the answer is most interesting!
The more you read about the circus, the more amazing it simply becomes!
First of all, if you've watched the sample video, you MUST know by now that YES, the fleas are real and real fleas can and are trained to do real stunts.
(Some people can not accept this even after seeing it done! So strong is the humbug associated with fleas!)
The difficulty of this artform can be truly immense. It took me well over an hour to tie my first flea in a collar, and I was about to call the whole thing a humbug (despite so many credible historical accounts) when viola, I almost by accident collared my first flea!
I got a rush at that moment like I could do anything! Take over the world? Cure all disease? No problem for the man (or woman) that can collar a flea performer! Anything suddenly seems possible. I highly recommend this experience!
It was the end of a long road of obtaining the right kind of flea, devising a collar, supporting and keeping the flea alive (in a self designed flea habitat), figuring out how to immobilize her without injury and then TYING a collar in place "just so" so that the flea could still feed.
It was hours before I came back down to Earth. (Maybe this could be classified as an addictive behavior? Shall we start a movement?)
(Note: I'm nearly done with a video which will teach you how to collar and train your own flea! What talent could possibly be more important in life. Let me know if interested.)
Now, this being said there's much more to understand about this seemingly simple question.
First, there is MORE THAN ONE KIND of circus!
HISTORICALLY, flea circuses have almost always used real fleas. In some cases the fleas were dead, and much like the art of taxidermy, they were placed in a circus scene, dressed in little circus cloths (I'm not kidding) often with details down to tiny flea sized shoes being made!
For $.25, the circus owner would "rent" you a magnifying lenses, and let you examine his workmanship.
In this type of "microminiature" work, it was not uncommon to spend A YEAR carving a tiny ornament for a flea.
Though not related to fleas, an example of this art, and probably the finest microminiature sculptor was Hagop Sandaldjian from Egypt.
A few of Hagop's sculptures can bee seen by clicking here.
Viewers needed a microscope to see his work! (This work can still be seen on display at The Museum of Jurrasic Technology in Culver City California.)
In microminiature work, even one's PULSE can ruin an entire years work, so painters learn to make brush strokes between heart beats!
The next type of circus was cruel, and, being a lover of these little creatures I do not approve. However for a brief time fleas were GLUED into a scene alive, then heated to make their legs flail to appear they were playing tiny instruments and such.
Anyone who has got to know a flea would be appalled I'm sure! I hope such doers find themselves infested some day.
The last circus IS pure humbug, though I have to say there is tremendous art and showmanship involved in this circus as well! There is a BIZARRE psychological phenomenon in that even in a humbug circus PEOPLE DO SEE THE FLEAS! I can not emphasize this enough.
My very first circus was humbug, yet even trained observers from the press SWORE in articles they could see the fleas, and lamented having such difficulty photographing them!
The video currently for sale on my web page will teach you exactly how to build a circus to be operated completely as a humbug, or real fleas can also be incorporated! (You can Click Here for more info.)
I have to say that just as amazing as the FACT that MOST people WILL see your fleas in a humbug circus, is the fact that many will never believe; no matter what they see! (I think the fleas teach us much about human nature here!)
The "mythology of the humbug" is very strong as well. My own mother has seen me train a real flea. She has seen a flea pull a cart. She has seen a flea bite me! And she still whispers in my ear "I know it's not real Professor!"
So, the flea circus will ALWAYS exist somewhere between reality and imagination because everyone perceives it differently!
Trust me, no matter WHAT you do, what people see, and what happens within, the timeless appeal, and the question: "Are the fleas real?" is that it may never be truly answered!
What could be a more wonderful item than that?
Q: What can you train a flea to do?
A: Well, I'm sure there are no limits! I know of more than 4 encyclopedic volumes on the doings of fleas, but, for practical circus happenings fleas can:
1). Be taught not to jump.
2.) Be taught not to react to load noises.
3.) Be taught to feed and do useful work while in a collar.
4.) Be taught to juggle a ball.
5.) Be taught to dance.
As I said, there is probably much more, but these are some of the things I've played with. Part is training, and part is observing a lot of fleas and seeing what traits certain fleas express!
Q: How high can a flea jump?
A: I'm AMAZED how often I'm asked this question!
To my very unscientific observations, I'd say few fleas can jump more than about 80 times their height. My show's holding facility has walls of a height based on this, and I have had FEW escapes.
Being the scientific guy I am, and with how often I'm asked this, I was unsatisfied with not knowing, so I asked David Watson who crunched the hard numbers.
You can learn HOW a flea jumps on his page at http://www.ftexploring.com/lifetech/flsbws1.html
Or, Click Here for some thoughts on calculating how high YOUR OWN fleas might jump.