Tessa Fontaine spent a season performing inside America’s last traveling sideshow, the World of Wonders. There, she ate fire, charmed snakes, swallowed swords, sat on an electric chair, escaped from handcuffs, and more. Come learn what it’s like to travel the country with the sideshow, light your tongue on fire, and get in on the secrets to some of the most famous sideshow acts. You might even learn a trick yourself.
This online experience is part of Atlas Obscura’s Wonder From Home initiative. At Atlas Obscura, our mission has always been to inspire wonder and curiosity about the incredible world we all share. Now, more than ever, there’s a need to stay connected—not only to our sense of wonder, but to each other. Follow and share the hashtag #wonderfromhome for inspiring stories, more incredible online experiences, and live streams with the Atlas Obscura community.
Tessa Fontaine is the author of The Electric Woman: A Memoir in Death-Defying Acts, a New York Times Editors' Choice, finalist for the Utah Book Award, and best book of 2018 from Southern Living, Amazon Editors', Refinery29, PopMatters, and the New York Post. Tessa spent the 2013 season performing with the last American traveling circus sideshow, the World of Wonders. Other writing can be found in the New York Times, Glamour, The Believer, LitHub, and Creative Nonfiction. She’s been a guest on NPR’s Live Wire, WNYC’s Midday Show, and featured in Elle Magazine.
Raised outside San Francisco, Tessa lived a year in Ghana and has traveled extensively in West Africa, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the United States, most recently in a 1982 camper van named Flipper that has been passed down through women in her family. She has taught in prisons and jails for five years, for the New York Times summer journeys, and she founded Salt Lake City’s Writers in the Schools program. Around the country, she has performed her one-woman plays in theatres ranging from New York to San Francisco. These days, Tessa lives in Asheville, North Carolina, where she teaches at Warren Wilson College.