The man who allegedly said, “There’s a sucker born every minute” is about to give us another earful.
Phineas Taylor Barnum — the circus industry’s most notoriously irascible showman — will mark his 200th birthday on July 5 by rising from the dead (OK, so that’s a bit of Barnum-esque ballyhoo) at the show that still bears at least part of his name.
Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey has hired a psychic from Park Slope who will act as Barnum’s voice, as the entertainer himself takes questions from his resting place in the netherworld (the one above or the one below is not clear).
“It’s time to communicate with him — I don’t think he’d want it any other way because Barnum did things in a grand and fabulous way,” said Gemma Deller, who will serve as the go-between at this private seance, viewable on Facebook. “It’s very possible that he is the one orchestrating the meeting — I think that P.T. led Ringling Bros. to me.”
Barnum was indeed an entertainer. He kicked off his circus freak career in Brooklyn in 1834, making money off paper-mâché hoaxes like the “Fiji mermaid,” a fake mummified corpse of a half-mammal, half fish.
It’s easy to cast the upcoming show as just another one of ol’ Barnum’s gimmicks. But the Ringling folks insist that Deller is the real deal — insomuch as anyone can be “real” when she professes to be able to contact the still-living spirit of the world’s most epic showman.
But will she really channel Barnum or is it just another hoax? We called a Barnum expert to help us determine the authenticity of Deller’s afterworld call.
“Barnum was a very moral, composed character — funny, but not ridiculous, like some say,” said Kathy Mahar, director of the Barnum Museum in Bridgeport, Conn. “He was a very refined character and a genius. It will be interesting to see how he’ll react to our questions.”
In an exclusive interview, 43-year-old Deller told us that she’s had her powers her entire life — but she “fought them for years” until she got older and more spiritual. She said that interacting with “speople” (spirit people) is a calming experience, nothing like the ghost stories we hear around a campfire.
But what will happen at the July 5 show remains a mystery — Deller doesn’t have any questions ready.
“I don’t have an agenda with [Barnum],” she said. “I act as a telephone of sorts between a client and the spirit. Barnum will have his own agenda ready.”
P.T. Barnum seance at Ringling Bros. “Illuscination” [Surf Avenue at W. 21st Street in Coney Island, (800) 745-3000], July 5, 10 am. To watch the seance, visit www.facebo