What Todd Ray and his clan have created is nothing short of astounding: That a pricey slice of Venice boardwalk could offer wonders of the world, with a $5 entry fee, is a feat worth of Ripley himself. But Ray's Venice Beach Freak Show beats the Believe It or Not behemoth on all fronts. Ray possesses not only the world's largest collection of “pitch cards” (souvenirs touting individual circus and sideshow performers) but the world's largest collection of two-headed animals — living and deceased – as well. Ray's collection is so large that displays are rotated — with pickled punks, cyclops pigs, big-top miniatures, John Merrick memorabilia (the Elephant Man to you), Fiji mermaids, even a skeleton of a human “Y monster.” On any given day, you may be entertained by the world's youngest sword swallower while Larry Gomez, Mexico's Wolf Boy, mills about. “This is a magical planet,” Ray states emphatically. Of his collection, as with reality, he says, “You don't know what's real and what's not. You only think you know. If you've lost your sense of wonder, you'll find it here.” 909 Ocean Front Walk, Venice. (310) 314-1808, facebook.com/people/Venice-Beach-Freakshow/570526448.

—Skylaire Alfvegren

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