Behind the Scenes of Howl O Scream: Sideshow Square

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, busch gardens italy bridge during howl o scream
Entrance to Sideshow Square

Admittedly when I thought about doing archive posts for attractions, I only thought about parks, rides, and whatnot. Howl O Scream attractions, specifically, didn’t come to mind at first.

Maybe I’ll write it off as being because many HoS attractions don’t have but so much history or source material to do a whole deep dive for. But for my beloved freak show, Sideshow Square, I know for a fact that there is plenty.

When it comes to Sideshow Square and other attractions I’ve been in, I’ll leave a few things unsaid. Namely backstage life, onstage ordeals not part of the normal show, trade secret types of things, etc.

But I can detail the lore behind them, stuff that’s part of the attraction’s onstage show for guests to enjoy.

Some people probably don’t realize how in depth some of the terror-tories are if they’re just passing through and only see them as fancy named scare zones. But, there’s quite a bit more.

Now, for the terror-tory that I’ve seen from its inception to curtain call, through its good and bad… the attraction I’ve shed tears from laughter as well as blood and sweat… and the one that has given me the best circus family a doll could ask for: Sideshow Square.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, busch gardens williamsburg howl o scream
Box Clown Trickster & The Jack-In-The-Box

Running Away With the Circus

Sideshow Square, with the corresponding Circo Sinistro, debuted in 2016 as a part of the Evil Encore event theme.

Sideshow Square itself was supposed to be a troupe, from the nearby Circo, who lured people into the big top for wholesome soul collecting purposes.

The original character lineup consisted of a ringmaster, ringmaster swing, a fortune teller, clowns, clown abouts, and living dolls. For those who know Sideshow, it probably seems like I missed a character–the magician.

Initially, there were four marionettes before the magician became a spur of the moment addition for reasons I’ll omit. The cast was about 12 or 13 strong, the average number for terror-tories.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square cast at circo sinistro
2016 Sideshow Square Cast

On the subject of terror-tories, a terror-tory is meant to be an immersive hybrid between a theater show and a scare zone. These attractions originally featured elaborate facades built into the hamlets they resided and saw the actors engaging in ongoing improv between both the cast and guests in between atmospheric and startle scares.

They’re meant to take you into whatever story world the attraction is themed to. Atmosphere and immersion being the operative words in the concept.

And, while Sideshow Square debuted in an era when all terror-tories no longer received large-scaled sets, it was one of the last terror-toriesif not the last–created under the direction of the management team that came up with the concept. So, in every other regard of what a terror-tory was intended to be, Sideshow embodied that. And according to its reception, it definitely delivered.

Our area originally spanned from the basketball games at the front of Festa Italia to the opposite end of the Coke market and the path around the tea cups attraction. By 2019, Pantheon construction cut Sideshow Square’s area to just in front of Tempesto and the Coke market. (Thanks, Pantheon)

I will say that the rehearsal period for 2016 Sideshow was my favorite because it consisted of creating Sideshow Square. Creating the backstory, characters, skits, and scares.

For the marionettes, we even got to pick out which corset, skirt, and patterned fishnets we wanted for our characters. Upper management did the lighting, set, boundaries, props, and music.

The show itself, the performance side of the attraction, was what we got free reign to create together as a cast. The only prompt we were given being “19th century circus” and everything else detailed below (from 2016-2017) being the brainchild of our imaginations.

Our attraction director, Phil Raybourn, and our stage manager provided feedback on ideas, scares, skits, and other material that we came up with.

Material that also included character dynamics like the puppets needing to be soft spoken, childlike sounding since we set their backstory as people who got taken by the circus and turned into marionette dolls.

The windup doll was an actual mechanical creation–created by the Sinistro Brothers and Mr. Karver (a renowned doll marker from the Evil Encore)–who had two volume settings, on or off. No in between. A character trait that would serve well for startle scares.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, busch gardens howl o scream sideshow square and circo sinistro
The Sideshow Troupe Parading Out Of Circo Sinistro

The ringmasters being brothers, the Sinistro Brothers, wasn’t a thing until the four guys sat together and said, “Wait a second… what if we’re all siblings?” (as was common in 19th century circuses) And furthermore, why not base all of their names around natural elements. Fierre, Icesic, Cirrus, and Voltimus.

The story world centers around a circus, run by a maniacal band of brothers, that has been touring the realms, worlds, and times for centuries with the purpose of soul collecting. Two brothers, Cirrus and Voltimus, ran the show’s big top Circo Sinistro. The other two brothers, Icesic and Fierre, spearheaded the Sideshow Square.

In the Sideshow, they recruited a fortune teller, Madame Syrena. Subsequently, they took on Rellik (a big top clown), Chef (a carousel clown), and Mumbles (clown puppeteer) from whatever hell hole realm they came from. The clown abouts (the clowns in doll like masks and suspenders) joined either of their own psychotic volition or having been given the ultimatum of join or die.

The wind-up doll, Wendy, was a creation that the ringmasters and renowned doll maker Mr. Karver constructed. The marionettes (Margot, Madeline, & Olive) were people who were lured to the circus, held hostage, tortured, brainwashed, and then turned into living dolls.

A fourth marionette took up a bromance with Fierre and ended up becoming the troupe’s magician instead.

So, in short, the original cast lineup was:

Ringmaster Icesic Sinistro
Ringmaster Fierre Sinistro
MisFortune Teller Madame Syrena
Magician The Gentleman
Manic Marionette Madeline
Manic Marionette Margot
Manic Marionette Olive
Wind Up Doll Wendy
Big Top Clown Rellik
Carousel Clown Chef
Clown Puppeteer Mumbles
Clown About Pinky
Clown About Two

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square closing for the night
Ringmaster Fierre Rounding Up The Troupe For The Night

As a whole, they’d beckon people into Circo Sinistro where that person’s soul would be collected.

Half the cast consisted of more outright terrifying characters for the startle, or so people would be intimidated into Circo. While other cast characters were atmospheric and unsettling. So, it’d be easier for them to approach people who’d otherwise be too terrified and lure them into a trap… and it’d be easier for them to distract you… or for them to deceive you…

As such, it never failed that people would see a ringmaster or doll and not think anything of them because when compared with the clowns, they weren’t as scary looking. And those people quickly learned their mistake, which was always fun.

Madeline definitely never convinced a group to wait in a 2-hour line for Circo Sinistro when they weren’t planning on doing any of the mazes because they’d be too scary for them. And, Madeline definitely didn’t reassure them that “it’s not that bad” and promptly omit the rest of that line “it’s actually worse.”

That group may or may not have returned to the Sideshow afterwards, upset with the marionette for the fact that Circo was terrifying, and they waited in a long line for it. Madeline may or may not have laughed at that fact and laughed even harder when a clown then scared them into a sprint out of the Square.

Amongst quite a few other schemes, tricks, and shenanigans…

Some of my favorite scares are from Sideshow Square just because people underestimated some of us and found out the hard way of why they shouldn’t.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, busch gardens during howl o scream
A Clown-About Scares Mid Photo

Debut year skits consisted of the opening ceremony, nap time/deadbolt, circus auditions, we’re all Wendy, and show & tell.

The opening ceremony was ~an opening ceremony~ where after the troupe paraded out, Fierre and Icesic would go into a spiel:

I: Gentleman and ladies…
F: Ladies and gentleman…
I: This is my brother Fierre…
F: And this is my brother Icesic
I & F: And we are the Sinistro brothers!
I: Tonight, we have a delightful exhibition for your entertainment.
F: Now some of you may cry, but that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make.
I & F: With that said, let the good times roll!

The troupe would then disperse and proceed to terrorizing the watching crowds.

All of the other skits were spontaneous ones that happened throughout the night. In nap time/deadbolt, Fierre would summon the troupe to the center of the Square and tell them to go to sleep so they didn’t get too worn out during show.

Consequently, Icesic would then argue with Fierre that in the middle of set wasn’t the time for that. He’d then wake the troupe up who’d all go hyperactive for a minute running around and rushing everyone in the Square.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square naptime skit
The Troupe Waking Up From Nap Time

The circus auditions consisted of the two brothers recruiting a guest to audition for their show. If the auditioner did well, the Brothers would get dismissive; not wanting a guest to upstage their precious freak show. If they didn’t do well, they’d coldly dismiss the auditioner and sic a clown on the person for fun.

The we’re all Wendy and the show & tell shticks didn’t happen as frequently.

In the former, the whole troupe would have a sanity lapse from hearing the wind up proclaim her name and start impersonating her until the ringmasters snapped them back out of it. In the show and tell, a ringmaster would take a character up on the platform and showcase that character’s sadistic features/how they collected souls.

At the end of the night, the ringmasters would round the troupe up before dragging them back to the big top. All throughout the set, there’d be miscellaneous gags between characters such as a marionette stealing a clown hammer or the magician trying to overthrow the ringmasters.

The Soundtrack

The music soundtrack for Sideshow Square for its entire run (2016, 17, 18, & 19) is as follows:

Steel Dream by Cirque du Soleil *note: first 53 seconds only
Goons & Greasepaint by Midnight Syndicate
Mice Circus from the Coraline Soundtrack
Haunted Carnival by the Fiechters
Dr. Atmore’s Elixirs of Good Humor & Fortification by Midnight Syndicate
A Strange Menagerie by Midnight Syndicate
Welcome to the Carnival by Midnight Syndicate
Secret by The Pierces

And yes, in this exact order. I still hear it sometimes when I try to sleep at night.

…not that I mind. Sideshow was fond times!

Evolution of the Evil Encore

Year one to year two for Sideshow Square brought a few changes, but nothing as dramatic as 2018. The cast lineup was predominantly the same with a few new characters.

Madame Sirena took over Madame Syrena’s job. Pickles replaced the big top clown, Rellik, and Happy J replaced the carousel clown, Chef. One of the clown abouts, Pinky, was now a new clown about, Wick.

Making the 2017 cast lineup:

Ringmaster Icesic Sinistro
Ringmaster Fierre Sinistro
MisFortune Teller Madame Sirena
Magician The Gentleman
Manic Marionette Madeline
Manic Marionette Margot
Manic Marionette Olive
Wind Up Doll Wendy
Big Top Clown Pickles
Carousel Clown Happy J
Clown Puppeteer Mumbles
Clown About Wick

Although for the last two Saturdays of that season, we had a fourth marionette named Wynona.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square cast
2017 Sideshow Square Cast

The biggest change came in the form of props. The clown abouts lost their siren guns, the marionettes no longer had strings, the magician rarely had his jack-in-the-box, and the ringmasters no longer had bullhorns.

The skits stayed the same save for the show of force and clown fights replacing the we’re all Wendy and show & tell.

The show of force was when the troupe would group up and do a sweep through the Square in a wave of terror from one end to the other. The clowns fights were standoffs between the clowns and ringmasters at the center of the Square.

Gags consisted of ongoing ones from the previous season, but also had a few new ones in the second year. For example, the marionettes would occasionally play patty cake with Fierre (a nod/inside joke from their night in Circo’s dollhouse), Madame Sirena had a very active love life and would break up with characters mid-show for another character, and the windup had a tendency to steal guests toys.

Overall, the second year was a continuation of year one with minor tweaks.

For a marionette’s perspective from living in Sideshow Square, check out Madeline’s diary Mind of the Manic.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square marionette madeline
Manic Marionette Madeline | Photo: Randy Davidson

The Characters

Also to add, this year so much of the attraction was documented that my family ended up making a Sideshow Storybook for me and I got copies printed for the rest of the cast too. It included a lot of Sideshow lore that I penned for preservation (fortunately for this blog post) shared on my Instagram.

Here are the biographies of each character from the 2017 season as detailed on my IG and in the Sideshow Storybook:

Icesic Sinistro is the second youngest of the four Sinistro Brothers and lead ringmaster for the Sinistro Brothers’ production Sideshow Square.

Ever since the Show’s creation in the mid 19th century, Icesic has toured various realms and times with his brothers and collection of oddities in what sounds like a wonderful magical fantasy, but in reality is a twisted, demented nightmare to most.

Icesic, however, would never describe his Show in such a light. The cool tempered ringmaster prefers euphemisms to explain away the wicked things he, his brothers, or his Show have been accountable for. Whereas one would outright say he abducted, tortured, and then killed a person for an act in the Show, Icesic would call it audience participation.

Although he often smiles and feigns sincerity to guests–known for his talent of making “how do you do” a single word–when one is on the ringmaster’s bad side, they will find he doesn’t hold back on veiled threats and demeaning insults. Upset that the brothers at the Big Top wouldn’t let you join? “Of course they wouldn’t. I mean, look at you. Ugh.”

Even his troupe isn’t exempt from Icesic’s cold personality. It isn’t out of the norm for the ringmaster to go from praising his performers as prized possessions to guest one moment to dragging them to the box by their ear, threatening the security of their place in the Show.

Icesic’s, and Fierre’s, general overall relationship with the troupe could best be described as an abusive cycle of genuinely caring about their performers and a cruel, blatant disregard for them. But, speaking of Fierre…

Honorable mention: Whenever a guest would hold up their hand for a high five, Icesic would hold his hand up like he was going to give them that high five before spinning away at the last second while grabbing the tip of his hat with a jest “Nope!” or “I don’t think so.”

In other words, many people got stood up by the ringmaster for a high five and it was funny every time.

Fierre Sinistro is the second oldest Sinistro Brother and the ringmaster swing for the Sinistro Brothers’ productions. Assigned to Sideshow Square, should either Circo brother Cirrus or Noctilucent not be present one night, Fierre is the designated ringmaster to fill in at the Big Top. However, more often than not, Icesic is the one to step in for their missing brother(s) while Fierre stays in Sideshow. It could be attributed to Fierre’s wild and free-spirited nature.

Despite occasionally laying atop the platforms and taking in the scene in the Square, Fierre is active throughout the Show’s area. Of course, he ensures his troupe is collecting souls and luring others to the circus, as they should be–lest an unfortunate performer face the ringmaster’s wrath (note: no one has faced Fierre’s wrath and emerged unscathed).

But, he also fancies himself skipping through the crowds, running his metal gloved fingers along the ground to create sparks by the guests’ feet, and instigating and encouraging various games and antics amongst the troupe. Much to Icesic’s dismay.

It could be misleading, maybe even hypocritical, when Fierre is orchestrating Sirena’s mind being passed around behind her back just to turn around and fuss at Wendy for playing with a guest’s plush toy. But calling the temperamental ringmaster out on that hypocrisy is practically suicidal.

Fierre’s good side is great, but his bad side is the embodiment of death and fury itself–or at least it will seem like it to whoever is on the receiving end. And no one is safe from the mood swings of Fierre… well except for his beloved babydoll daughter, Iris.

Honorable mention: Anyone graced with the sight that was Fierre doing something which was supposed to be running will know of how absolutely bizarre yet hilarious looking it was.

Once upon a time when the Sinistro Brothers’ Sideshow Square was set to debut in the hamlet Festa Italia in the year 2016, the Show was due to feature four manic marionettes. Being that the marionettes were plagued with never-ending problems concerning their “design,” (read: the marionettes loved their strings but their strings didn’t love them), The Gentleman was originally the fourth marionette up until that opening day.

Mr. Karver, the renowned doll maker and puppeteer, was forced to remove the strings from the fourth marionette and it was left to the ringmasters to decide The Gentleman’s fate. Fortunately for the man, he was permitted to perform in the Show as he made a role for himself and that role became the magician.

Origins aside, The Gentleman is the magician of Sideshow Square and despite what his troupe mates say, he does in fact work there. He’s often found showing off his Jack in the Box or running away from the troupe that blamed the rebellion on him.

When he’s not showing off or taking off, he can be found consulting with his brother from another mother, ringmaster Fierre… or luring unsuspecting guests to the Big Top. After all, he hears that they’re having a killer performance…

Honorable mention: As evident, the troupe has quite the way of showing their love for The Gentleman. One of these instances was during warmups at the circus when everyone was acting out each other’s personality.

When it came to acting out The Gentleman, a quarter of the troupe walked out the tent like they were going home since The Gentleman doesn’t work there. To top it off, a certain wind-up doll used the box in the Nightmare tent to reenact The Gentleman’s spill off of the platform in the Square.

Don’t worry though, The Gentleman knows that deep down the troupe care about him… hopefully…

Madame Sirena Nerezza is the misfortune teller of Sideshow Square, ex-partner of Mumbles the clown and ringmaster Fierre, and the Sideshow’s resident banshee. Sirena joined the Show after visiting the mysterious Big Top, Circo Sinistro, and being invited to join as the fortune teller. Seeing an escape from her abusive husband, Ivan, Sirena agreed to run away and join the circus.

In stride with the macabre nature of the Show and its performers, Sirena’s welcome gift from the ringmasters was the disfigured, clown painted face of Ivan. Ever since, Sirena has been giving fortunes and palm readings in the Show, all the while searching for her long lost mind.

One could suppose that the absence of her mind is a good excuse as for why she occasionally felt the need to warn guests that they were in terrible danger. While the ringmasters encourage giving guests a taste of what to expect in the Big Top, going too far as to warn guests that hey may very well die and consequently scaring them from entering the circus is prohibited.

These meltdowns from Sirena usually occur when she has to be dragged back to the circus by two marionettes and a clown when it’s time for them to “go on a walk for a little while” but they sometimes occurred in the Square too.

Of course, she would be thrown in the box for it, but rest assured that this Madame is a stubborn, fearless one–probably the only troupe member who did not fear the box or the ringmasters. But then again, she is out of her mind…

Honorable mention: Sirena’s mind may or may not have actually been an acorn found on the ground that she then claimed as being her mind. Bonus, Wick may or may not have been the one to hide it from the Madame for nearly a year after the last night in the Square (2017).

Wind-Up Wendy is the wind-up doll of Sideshow Square and the greatest dancer. She is the masterpiece of Mr. Karver and the Sinistro Brothers, capable of dancing, engaging in conversation (select phrases in both English & Spanish modes), collecting souls, processing simple emotions (such as joy and rage), playing with children’s toys, and activating a built-in machine-gun feature.

As clear in her abilities, Wendy has an intelligent AI–being able to process basic emotions in addition to understanding right from wrong. An example being: Wendy taking a guest’s toy to play with before fleeing from the ringmasters, as she knows she should not have it, and then crying when said toy is taken from her possession.

Having been built a while ago (sometime in the 19th century for the Sideshow), there are a few broken areas on her face that exposes the gears underneath. But during upgrades, these are left as is to give the greatest wind-up doll additional character. However, on hotter days a mysterious black liquid sometimes leaks down her face from aforementioned gears. So it goes to say, Wendy’s ideal operating temperatures are not to exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

Nonetheless, Wendy has been a revolutionary dancer with the greatest technique and skill, not ever having been surpassed in talent since her creation some years ago. And as an FYI, she knows.

Honorable mention: If a guest insulted Wendy’s dancing abilities or refused to hand her their toy, Wendy would purposefully begin crying loudly to attract the ringmasters and clowns’ attention so that those guests would quickly regret their mistake.

They might not have thought much about upsetting her at the time, but they definitely thought again when they found themselves at the receiving end of a ringmaster’s or clown’s wrath.

Madeline is one of the three Manic Marionettes in Sideshow Square. She has been in the Sinistro Brothers’ show since the beginning, after accepting an invitation to a preview of the, then up and coming, Circo Sinistro.

Like the other Marionettes, Madeline was then held captive at the Big Top and turned into a marionette by Mr. Karver and the Sinistro Brothers.

Before being brainwashed, Madeline planned on escaping the sadistic circus by pretending to follow the ringmasters’ orders like they were holy writ in an attempt to deceive them into believing she was complacent with her new life. But, once the ringmasters put the marionettes under their spell, Madeline forgot everything she’d ever known except for the compulsive feeling to adhere to everything the ringmasters said.

Thus, the goody two shoes marionette was “born.” Her obsessive focus is on being the perfect marionette… walking, talking, and acting exactly how she was told. Unstrung, after an existential crisis, her main focus is to keep herself entertained by collecting souls and playing with her troupe mates.

A bit mentally unstable, she takes advantage of being able to do things she was unable to do in the strings in order to keep… her mind… from wandering… off…

Margot is the second marionette in Sideshow Square. She was kidnapped by the Sinistro Brothers and transformed into a puppet for their show.

Although she doesn’t remember her wicked beginnings at the hands of the ringmasters, simply put, Margot drives the ringmasters crazy.

Best described as childlike mischief, Margot often finds herself doing all of the things–well, almost all of the things–she clearly she knows she shouldn’t be doing. The ringmasters’ demands for the marionettes such as generally being creepy little “innocent” soft-spoken dolls, she adheres to. The ringmasters’ demands for the marionettes such as not standing on the platforms, not stealing the clowns’ hammers, and not playing in the arcade, Margot does not adhere to.

The rebellious marionette is quite aware of the consequences of her actions and has a very real fear of upsetting the ringmasters, but that’s just fuel for her motivation to not get caught.

When she’s not actively getting herself into trouble, Margot can be found everywhere at all times. And, it’s best to leave it at this… don’t fall for the cutesy little marionette doll appearance of Margot, because she can be far from sweet and innocent when provoked.

Olive is the third marionette of Sideshow Square. Olive was always a fan of the circus and dreamed of joining one day. Sure enough, she did… it just may have not been exactly what she had in mind.

One night, curiosity got the better of her and she snuck into the puppeteer’s tent at Circo Sinistro. The next thing she knew, she was all tied up and entrapped within the Sinistro Brothers’ show as a new marionette doll.

Despite the ringmasters’ spell to brainwash the puppets into forgetting their human life, Olive has always been the one to occasionally have moments of clarity in which she remembers all that the Sinistro Brothers did to them.

Even when her mind is back under the ringmasters’ control, Olive can be sassy and stubborn, liking to do whatever she wants regardless of whether or not she’s allowed. She has a mischievous personality, assisting in scheming against the clowns or playing various games during show time.

She also finds it hilarious to go around catching people off guard while telling them to not be afraid. She has picked up an ironic sense of humor from the clowns she’s lived with for the past century and a half. Olive definitely can be a feisty one!

Equipped with a boom stick, mallet, or horn, the Clown has a knack for humoring guests with his goofball personality before going in for the kill- er, scare.

He also enjoys putting on presentations although he’s aware no one can understand what he says. When told that he needs to improve his diction, he had a response… but of course it was unintelligible.

Beyond scare tactics and speaking problems, Pickles is loyal to his band of Clowns, not afraid of being thrown in the box with them for joining in on the Rebellion or being thrown in the box for trying to save one from that very fate.

However, Pickles is suspected of being a traitor after he was found with the property of what must be a rival circus. He seemingly denied the accusations, but did he really? He can’t truly defend himself properly if no one knows what he is saying…

Happy J is a Carousel Clown in Sideshow Square and half of the nightmarish duo that is Mumbles & Happy J.

From day one of joining the Sideshow troupe, it was clear that Happy J and clown puppeteer Mumbles would be an inseparable, maddening pair capable of surreal levels of insanity, pandemonium, and mischief.

It is unsure as to whether or not Madame Sirena herself could foresee the extent of the total chaos that follows in the pair’s wake. Happy J, alone, is a handful for the Ringmasters to keep control of. The Carousel Clown keeps busy in partaking in hiding Sirena’s mind, harassing the Marionettes, and impersonating Wendy between tormenting guests- and Happy J never fails at tormenting guests.

Sometimes he’s singing a lullaby with Mumbles before charging guests or sounding his boom stick by guests feet. Listing all the things Happy J is guilty of doing in the Square would be exhausting as he’s *always* doing something.

The Carousel Clown never tires it seems, having endless energy for doing push ups off of the platforms, facing off with Pickles, and terrorizing guests and troupe mates alike. If there was a shenanigan going on and the Ringmasters were looking for the culprit(s), they never had to look no further than Happy J and partner in crime, Mumbles.

Mumbles is a Clown Puppeteer in Sideshow Square, master of the puppet Mumbles Jr, and the second half of the Clown terror duo Mumbles & Happy J.

Of all the Clowns between the Circo and Sideshow troupes, Mumbles takes the cake as the most troublesome Clown for the Ringmasters to deal with. The Clown Puppeteer practically lives in the box for causing trouble and chasing guests. Rarely an hour goes by without Mumbles being punished for something he did.

The Clown knows quite well he shouldn’t threaten Fierre’s life, chase a guest clear across the Square, chase Margot and Madeline around for their horns, or lie to get Olive in trouble for something she did not do, but Mumbles’ excuse is that it’s fun or it’s well deserved.

Once upon a time, Mumbles was in a relationship with Madame Sirena but by the third weekend of Sideshow’s second tour in Festa, Sirena dumped Mumbles for Ringmaster Fierre, leading the Clown to say he would kill Fierre and take on the Ringmasters. Clearly, not only did this not happen (Mumbles isn’t capable of taking on the Ringmasters) but all Mumbles succeeded in doing was putting himself in a dire position.

Contrary to what Mumbles believes, his place in the Show isn’t secure for as long as he continues being a notorious hellion.

Wick is a Clown in Sideshow Square and the (un)official mallet breaker- or maybe Wick just doesn’t have the best of luck with them… Even before she became a Clown in the Show, Wick was into all the antics typical of one.

When the Sinistro Brothers’ productions came into Wick’s hometown, her friends dared her to steal something from one of the performers. Up for the challenge, Wick snuck into the circus and made off with a Clown’s mask. It was in no time afterwards that Wick discovered that the Clown mask would uncontrollably cry and scream.

After a few days, the unsettling wailing of the mask was too much for her to handle and she went back to Circo Sinistro to get rid of it. As Wick slid the mask under the edge of one of the tents, the mask cried out, catching the attention of the show’s performers.

Caught, Wick’s ultimatum was to either become another number in the long list of souls lost to the circus or to join the productions wearing the very Clown mask Wick had stolen. As evident, Wick decided to join the Sinistro Brothers and became a Clown in Sideshow.

There, she is known for her dolphin sounding laugh and nearly breaking the head of the Clown mallets off of the handle (the Techmaster had a love-hate relationship with Wick for this). Wick also plays with her targets in pretending to be friendly and nice before lunging at them, earning herself another soul. To say, she’s a crafty little Clown.

The Year the Clowns Cried

At the end of the Sideshow Square’s second season in Festa Italia, the Sinistro brothers had a falling out.

Fierre staged the dolls deaths, making Icesic believe that the hot-tempered elder brother had accidentally broken all of them when they were actually hidden within the dollhouse alongside Fierre’s literal baby-doll daughter, Iris. Icesic was angered about this and few harsh words near the railroad when somehow Fierre ended up on the tracks, the train came by, and Icesic’s brother had disappeared presumably dead.

Fierre had actually staged his own death to take the dolls and the magician and begin touring separately of the Sideshow. Moreover, upon finding out she was pregnant, Madame Sirena left the circus.

Icesic was now left with the most troublesome troupe members, the clowns, and didn’t have the patience to manage them without Fierre. Consequently, Icesic up and fired the clowns. Fierre caught wind of this and took them under his wing too.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square howl o scream cast
Ringmaster Icesic & Fierre Conducting A Skit

Icesic then reconnected with the Sideshow’s original fortune teller Madame Syrena and then cast new additions to his show.

The new lineup consisted of more old-fashioned traditional clowns, a knife thrower, an escape artist, and a juggler. During this year, Jack the Ripper terrorized me as I worked the streets of England. As such, this particular year’s gags and skits I’m not familiar with.

I do know they still did an opening ceremony. But any other specific theatrics, I’m not aware of and might add in should I find out more.

New Era of Terror

Year four (at least according to our realm’s time) of the Sinistro’s Sideshow Square saw Icesic find Fierre and the rest of the original troupe alive and well. The two brothers then agreed they needed to get together and work out their issues.

Consequently, their sister was crowned in charge of Sideshow after she escaped an insane asylum. She took her pick of the old and new troupe members to join her lineup.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, howl o scream 2019
The Ringmistress & Troupe Rehearsing For Opening Night

Under the new ringmistress, Lilith, the roster consisted of new characters, returners, and revamped performers.

New was Clyde (the horror clown), Hector the Horrible (knife clown), Jeffrey Sinatra (the organ grinder), Madame Fortuna (fortune teller), and Lolla Ingrid Poponopolous (the lollipop clown).

Returning was Mary (the merry go round) and Grasshopper (the knife thrower). Revamped was Happy J (from carousel clown to smash clown), Mumbles (from clown puppeteer to crash clown), Madeline (from marionette to circus pixie), and Wick (from a clown about to the creeper clown).

The opening ceremony still took place, the troupe still collected souls, and performers still got thrown in the box for acting up.

Nap time took on a new form where the troupe decided themselves that they were tired and would pile up together and go to sleep until the ringmistress woke them up.

Clown fights still happened where the ringmistress would pit two performers against each other to impress her. And, the ringmistress and her pet, the circus pixie, conducted auditions.

A new skit where the troupe played clown car with the boxes consisted of them all jamming into the boxes together. The whole troupe bombarded the curious crowds who wandered close.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, busch gardens sideshow square
2019 Sideshow Square Cast

A number of new gags became a part of the attraction.

The lollipop clown often got her lollipop stuck or would try to eat her troupe mates. The smash and crash clowns often tried to whack guests or cast mates with their mallets. The circus pixie would steal her troupe mates props or costume pieces to give to Trickster or Mayhem (the clown faces on the boxes). And, the cast would steal the creeper and horror clowns’ faces.

This last cast of Sideshow Square consists of:

Ringmistriss Lilith Sinistro
MisFortune Teller Madame Fortuna
Jeffrey Sinatra

Circus Pixie Madeline
Horror Clown Clyde

Creeper Clown Wick
Knife Clown Hector the Horrible
Lollipop Clown Lolla Ingrid Poponopolous
Merry Go Round Clown Mary
Knife Thrower Grasshopper
Smash Clown Happy J
Crash Clown Mumbles

Finale

For now, time will tell what’s next for the Sinistro’s circus. Currently, they are off in other realms touring and soul collecting.

Management used to grade Howl O Scream attractions by their performance, scares, guest reviews, and such. For 2016, 2017, and 2019, Sideshow Square was crowned as the top terror-tory for the event.

With every attraction, you always hope that it does well. When you’re new and debuting, obviously you don’t want to be the addition that fell flat. And then in the following years, you want to do just as well if not better than the year before. So all around, you don’t want to be the attraction or year that bombed.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, busch gardens circo sinistro
The Magician, Ringmaster Cirrus, & Madame Sirena In Circo Sinistro

Sideshow really being the fruit of our labor and embodiment of us as opposed to being a preset attraction we were added to, made it different and set the stakes higher for us.

If people didn’t like it, that was on us. We created the backstories, the dynamics between characters, the personalities and the way those translated into the characters’ scares… So, if the reception was lackluster on account of performance–people not being entertained or scared–that was on us.

It was ourselves we put into it and wasn’t just a script we followed like cogs in a programmed machine.

And all that said…

The reception of Sideshow Square was far more than any of us really expected. We hoped that people enjoyed it, whether that was running out terrified or sitting and watching us do our thing for a while. And, the reception superseded that and then some.

There were a lot of people we’d recognize night after night, year after year that came to see us and followed along with our story world enthusiastically. A lot of people also followed along with the characters themselves, with each having their own groupies.

Photographers often came and took some top-notch shots of us in action. Furthermore, there were a number of people who made fan art for us, created shirts, brought us gifts, played with us in character, and wrote tributes for us.

It was really kind of surreal how into some people got. And you would think I of all people would know, because I was that Howl O Scream fan once upon a time. But I guess I always figured I’m an oddball, an outlier who likely fan-girled more than most, but nah… Nah.

Busch has a rich community of fans niched in the Entertainment and Howl O Scream categories. And, they are so very cherished and appreciated.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square fan art
Sideshow Square Fan Art By Savannah

I don’t know where the Sideshow is heading, what’s in store for it. But I do know that it will forever have a special place in my heart.

It reigns as the most dysfunctional freakshow in the realms with the craziest band of oddities there are. And regardless of whether or not they return to the Festa tour stop, they’ll always be out there terrorizing the realms, worlds, and times.

Forever.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, sideshow square cast 2017
The Troupe Before The Parade To The Square

Encore

As of June 2022, the Sinistros have indeed made off for the other realms, worlds, and times.

Going into 2019, we’d anticipated it being the closing season and spent the summer planning the season’s storyline accordingly.

However, halfway through that season, the possibility of one more year come the next wasn’t exactly off the table. (The attraction reigning back at the top caused some second guessing.) But, we still proceeded with what we’d planned for the season’s arc nonetheless.

As we all know, 2020 fell to a dumpster fire in a handbasket. Consequently, Howl O Scream did not go forward that year. But a last-minute fall event, Halloween Harvest, did run during October only.

During this (in essence) Howl O Scream crossover event, a few Sideshow Square characters did return in what would be their last appearance in this realm as of currently.

Ringmistress Lilith, Madeline (circus pixie gear still), and Jeffrey (organ grinder) were back for the Harvest event, essentially marking an encore/one last hurrah for the Sinistro troupe.

Amongst these final festivities, the Ringmistress took a few spins on the tea cup ride, Madeline got chased around by Jack the Ripper, and they filmed a few media shoots before bailing back to the big top. It was a fun time.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, busch gardens halloween harvest
Circus Pixie Era Madeline During Halloween Harvest

By the fall of 2021, Ringmaster Noctilucent was persuaded to have one more go in Festa and reopened Circo one last time. Jeffrey and Mary-Go-Round pitched in to join Circo in this Festa farewell. But, the Sideshow troupe had bid their goodbyes and were off to take other lives.

As of 2022, the Sinistro circus is touring as one whole menagerie for the first time in centuries. Moreover, all the brothers are banded together again, their sister is still free of the insane asylum, the dolls are once more with their strings and key, and the collection of clowns is greater than ever before.

The Festa tour stop will forever hold dear to the Circo & Sideshow troupe.

It’s the realm they first originated in back in the 1850s–where the Sinistro circus began, evolved, and their zenith lied. It’s home to all the hallmark moments in their production’s history. And, despite their dark intentions being well known amongst their audience/victims, they’re still beloved for the charmingly eccentric nightmare they are.

And while the curtain’s dropped on their time here, they will always be out there touring the realms, worlds, and times as one freakshow family.

Forever.

sideshow square, circo sinistro, howl o scream, busch gardens williamsburg, busch gardens howl o scream williamsburg, busch gardens sideshow square, howl o scream circus, carousel of chaos, busch gardens sideshow square circo sinistro
The Sinistro Brothers Present Circo Sinistro & Sideshow Square

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

9 Comments

  1. Only got to see it a couple of times and wish I went more but lived to far away then. It was always something going on, very fun to watch. One time Wendy windup had a giant toy and the ringmasters were fussing. Also liked the crackle stick the clowns had that shocked near people’s feet. I always wondered how it worked. Enjoyed reading about it and the Ripper Row.
    -Al

  2. You guys were our favorite! We would spend alot of time the first years watching. Most interactive territory at howl o scream.