“Well, I guess there’s a sucker born every minute.” ― David Hannum
Cinderella has been busy with research and related work of late, which accounts for the silence of a week. But she’s noticed that readers continue to visit, and sincerely appreciates their interest.
Part of our silent time has been spent looking into obscure and well-known biographies and histories around and about what is sometimes called the “bedroom” of New York City – incorporated towns in the orbit of Newtown. Woodbury, for one. Bethel, for another. And, of course, there are more.
All of these towns have something in common: They know which side their bread is buttered on.*
Bethel was the birthplace of P.T. Barnum, the enterprising and successful Connecticut hoaxer. Born in 1810, Barnum not only acted as Jenny Lind’s (the Swedish nightingale’s) promoter, but also the exploiter of Tom Thumb and the Feejee Mermaid, unfortunates whom he used to extract money from the pockets of the gullible. Alice Hoffman’s dreary book, The Museum of Extraordinary Things, is likely based on Barnum and his dreary exploits.
Rough, scar-faced Bridgeport has the dubious distinction of hosting a museum devoted to Mr. Barnum’s remarkable life. Bridgeport resides in the crook of Fairfield County, a place where, Cinderella has been told, criminal bottom dwellers are within easy range of potential well-heeled criminal procurers from the north.
Bridgeport was Mr. Barnum’s “adopted home,” which he served as mayor. But Bethel, as said, was his birthplace. (Bethel, translated from Hebrew, means the house of God, ironically.)
Kinder, gentler, prettier Bethel also devotes real estate to Mr. Barnum, who appears in the form of a statue on a plinth in front of Bethel’s public library on Greenwood Street. His hat is off to rubes everywhere and also to his detractors, since we all have to live in the same world.
(Image is from the CT Monuments website)
Is this significant? Well, consider when the statue was erected: in September 2010. It marked the 200th anniversary of Mr. Barnum’s birth, just in time for certain great and small events about to happen in and around the area.
In the course of her visits, Cinderella has discovered that beneath the fairy tales we have been told about certain Connecticut martyrs and saints are related “scairy tales.” We are coining that term here, but we aren’t copyrighting or trademarking it, so feel free to use it. As the Brothers Grimm surely knew, within every fairy tale is a scairy tale dying to get out.
Cinderella enjoys fairy tales – she wouldn’t be here without them! Yet, it must be faced, fairy tales have been deployed successfully as propaganda tools long before Tom Thumb made an appearance on Mr. Barnum’s shoulder.
Scairy tales are the scarred entrails of fictions most people want to believe are true. Scairy tales are true crime.
Most of us want genuine lives. Even those of us forced to live double lives due to persecution crave the genuine. It’s incomprehensible to most of us that, for certain people, a double life might be preferable to a single honest one. But for those who embrace it, a double life is “second nature.” There are many reasons for that.
The point is that P.T. Barnum gained much from what came naturally to him, and what does not come naturally to most of us. (And he lost all that matters in the process.)
To conclude: There are railroad tracks in every Connecticut town. Some are born on the right side of them, some on the other, wrong side. For the latter, it is the same scairy tale, over and over and over again. Something P.T. Barnum knew only too well.
Just imagine what Mr. Barnum might have accomplished in the age of television.
*On this fascinating subject, please go here to an interview with Sofia Smallstorm.