Speak to P.T. Barnum — live!

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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

Updated 5:19 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated to make it clear that this is actually NOT a public event.
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Reasonable discourse

Craig from Coney Island says:
In fact, Barnum NEVER said "There's a sucker born every minute" -- it's a quote erroneously attributed to Barnum that was, in fact, said by one of Barnum's competitors. The full story:

Also: This psychic mediumship session is NOT open to the public. (There are 1:00 and 5:00 performances that are, of course), but can be followed online via Facebook ( and Twitter (
June 30, 2010, 8:33 am
Tim from Bay Ridge says:
I think this is a great idea by the circus, and I wish you'd have treated it with a little more respect. All you have to do is read Edgar Cayce, Sylvia Browne or John Edward (for starters).

Each of us on this planet is NOT a physical being having a spiritual experience (meaning that when the physical body is gone, we're gone), we are all spiritual beings having a physical experience (meaning that when the physical body is gone, the spiritual remains).

If you're looking for proof of truth or hoax, well, there is none --- that's what FAITH is all about.
June 30, 2010, 8:45 am
Lizzie from Bay Ridge says:
I am not amused by this publicity stunt by animal abusers Ringling Brothers. Go to or to learn more about why to boycott Ringling Circus.
July 1, 2010, 10:25 am
Cara from Staten Island says:
Coney Island is a dirty freak show --- and this fat psychic promoting talking to a dead jerk who abused animals and taught others to do so is not only insane, but an uneducated witch. Please do not attend or support circuses that use animals. In doing these we are keeping the slave trade alive and well. Here are some facts about Ringling Brothers: In 2009, PETA recorded Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus employees for many months and in numerous U.S. states. Eight employees, including the head elephant trainer and the animal superintendent, were videotaped backstage repeatedly hitting elephants in the head, trunk, ears, and other sensitive body parts with bullhooks and othercruel training devices just before the animals would enter the arena for performances. (A bullhook is an elephant-training tool that resembles a fireplace poker.) A tiger trainer was videotaped beating tigers during dress rehearsals. Footage from the investigation can be viewed at Former Ringling employees have reported that elephants are routinely abused and violently beaten with bullhooks. In December 2009, PETA released dozens of photographs taken by a retired Ringling trainer named Sam Haddock. The photos reveal the violent training methods used on baby elephants at Ringling’s Polk City, Florida, training center. The photos, which are available at, depict baby elephants bound with ropes and wrestled into physically difficult and uncomfortable positions by several adult men. According to Haddock’s notarized statement, the elephants scream, cry, and struggle as they are stretched out, slammed to the ground, gouged with bullhooks, and shocked with electric prods. According to him, these violent training methods are the only way an elephant can be trained to perform in circuses. Ringling's so called "Conservation Center" is nothing but a breeding center for elephants to perform in their shows as they are not legally able to take them from the wild anymore. The vast majority of baby elephants born in their breeding facility either die, get tuberculosis, or the deadly herpes virus. Please do not buy a ticket and support this animal cruelty any longer.
July 7, 2010, 2:42 am

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