Johannes Marius Dines Petersen (1863-1935), better known as Professor Labri, was an eccentric legendary carnival barker and magician. Despite his title, he didn’t possess any formal academic credentials but proudly dubbed himself the “Professor of Modern Salon Magic.” In an era before television and radio, Labri spent years touring rural Denmark, entertaining with his unique shows. He always wore a black tailcoat suit and a silk top hat, rumored to be made from his former black cat’s skin. Labri’s impeccable clothing sharply contrasted with his absurd, high-pitched monologues. He had a cheeky way with words, employing imaginative exaggerations in his persuasion pitches, luring the eager crowds into the big top as the carnival festivities rolled into the village.
One of Labri’s star attractions was a “captive authentic cannibal, eagerly poised to feast.” However, during the performances, when Labri opened the curtain for the reveal, the astonished audience could only see a pair of old boots on a platform. With feigned shock, Labri would toss the footwear into the air and then exclaim with horror in his voice: “Oh my gracious! The poor soul was so famished he couldn’t wait, and now he’s gone and eaten himself!” The spectators, caught between disappointment and relief, couldn’t help but share a hearty chuckle at the clever ruse.
Professor Labris Plads (Professor Labri Square) in Odense is named after the entertainer, who lived next door for many years. Since 1994, this plaza has been transformed into an urban space featuring a quirky, larger-than-life sculpture of Labri, created by the artist Erling Tingkær, and a small play area. While many playgrounds include vibrant and amusing figures, this one stands out because it’s perched on top of an old bunker, with the dome forming the body and the low tower serving as the head and the top hat. What’s also unconventional, given its intended audience of children, is that the Labri figure holds a big cigar in one of his hands.
In 2014, exactly at 11:11 a.m. on the 11th of July, Professor Labris Plads reopened after renovations. As part of this makeover, an extensive yellow seating plinth was installed around the square, adorned with a collection of Labri’s whimsical quotes. Translated to English, one of these reads: “In the grand finale, the world-famous bowlegged, deaf monkey Moritz, a distant relative of Napoleon Bonaparte, shoots medieval firearms, performs double somersaults on the back of a trained mackerel, and swallows three-inch nails, magically regurgitating them as coins.”
Know Before You Go
Open 24/7 with street parking nearby, Professor Labris Plads is located at the intersection of Sankt Knuds Gade and Fredensgade. It's about a 22-minute walk from Odense Train Station. For those who prefer public transport, the L tram runs every 15 minutes and stops at Benedikts Plads, which is just a short distance from the square.