Halloween is proving to be all of a bit of a Haze...

Dr Haze of the Circus of Horrors and (below) the new cast.
Dr Haze of the Circus of Horrors and (below) the new cast.
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It’s hard to see Dr Haze as a wide eyed innocent abroad in the tourism temptations of Blackpool.

But by the prickling of my thumbs something with a wicked sense of humour this way came... long ago.

Circus of Horrors - hair act

Circus of Horrors - hair act

Ask the work experience girl, Katy Delenty, from Blackpool, who is now the Circus of Horrors Girl in a Bottle!

It’s all in a night’s work for the Circus of Horrors and the most devilishly charming undead ringmaster of all - Dr Haze.

So what’s a nice little lad, as was, like him doing in a place like this, decades on?

The Circus of Horrors is one of the set pieces of Blackpool Pleasure Beach’s ultimate white knuckler - the Halloween fest.

Circus of Horrors - Girl in the bottle

Circus of Horrors - Girl in the bottle

The cult circus is on for three days at The Globe, bringing the surreality of circus, with a decided twist, to a venue which excelled in presenting just that some years ago - with the Cirque de Soleil-influenced Eclipse.

Blackpool is already home from home for the Preston-born entertainer.

“It’s a hugely significant circus town and I’ve got many friends in the circus clan who have settled in Blackpool,” says Dr Haze, aka John Hayes.

It was coming here as a child which inspired his love of circus.

“When I was a kid I used to come to Blackpool to go to the Tower Circus and see the Lights and the Pleasure Beach,” he recalls.

“The Tower Circus, indeed the Tower itself, was magical.

“There’s a big Blackpool influence in our show.

“If you look at the Circus of Horrors it’s circus with a twist, with a bit of lateral thinking.

“This is our fifth season for Halloween and we have built up a great following at The Globe – it’s the perfect setting for us.”

The show is coming to Blackpool straight from the West End - and 18 years since making its debut at the Glastonbury festival.

“Nobody believed it would last eight weeks let alone 18 years,” says Dr Haze.

“And it’s been a real coming of age for us. After 18 years on the road we’ve finally got to the West End, a residency right in the middle of Shaftsbury Avenue and we’ve done really well there.

“We sell out in Blackpool every year and our fans travel to see us there from different parts of the country.

“The great thing is they make a weekend or week of it - come to see us and stay on.

“It is perfect for us and good for Blackpool.

“Circus of Horrors is part of Blackpool’s Halloween now.”

With so much going on in Blackpool over Halloween - effectively extended from Thursday to the weekend - it’s turning out to be a half term horror fest.

There are guided walks and talks, and seaside spooks agogo, in all of the key attractions, and beyond, in the broader Blackpool community.

But what is it that keeps us fascinated - with fear? In the early days of the Golden Mile the side shows and stalls promoted the weird and wonderful

Dr Haze reckons he has the answer. “Blackpool’s a truly surreal place, I think all seaside resorts are but Blackpool more than most. It is very different. It is also very innovative while also being traditional. You have a foothold in the past but it’s also reinventing.”

And the circus tradition is tweaked constantly by the changing face of attractions - and the early season curtain opener that is Showzam!

“There are too many bland towns and cities where everything is exactly the same - Blackpool stands out because it is so diverse.

“Circus of Horrors isn’t clever. It’s just different, more raunchy, down to earth, accessible, because circus never really goes out of fashion - and because we all have this thing with us, we like to be scared but not harmed.

“The Pleasure Beach has built a reputation for that on the back of the roller coasters and the Ghost Train.

“The principle’s just the same for us. You won’t get harmed but you will get scared. Pleasurably scared. “

Dr Haze says he draws inspiration for the show from all around. “I listen to people talking. As a mad Preston North End fan - sorry Blackpool - I even listen to the fans chanting. They can be cynical and funny and I’ll adapt some of that for the show. I’ll walk down the road and see someone doing something and apply an element of that to the show.

“And I love horror films, the Exorcist was the best of the lot.” One of his heroes is Alice Cooper - who told him how he went to a screening of The Exorcist with actress Linda Blair who played the possessed teenager.

“Apparently someone was using their mobile phone in front, not talking but texting, and they both got so fed up with this that Linda Blair leaned forwarded and said ‘turn your phone off’ and the phone owner turned and saw who it was and - well, you can imagine.

“We’ve built an Exorcist scene into our show this year. We feature a contortionist on a giant bed - who also gives the impression of levitating. It’s very freaky. This lad Vitaly, from Russia, wanted to be an acrobat and sent us a video which was a bit twee, but then we saw him dislocating and invited him over for a couple of months last winter, and have brought him back now and have developed the new act.

“Most of our acts find us, we don’t find them, it’s great that they seek us out.”

And some have a happy serendipity about them - such as Dr Haze’s latest find, the Girl in the Bottle.

It’s not every day you are offered work experience as a pickled person but that’s exactly what has happened to Katy, from South Shore, who jumped at a chance of work experience with her favourite show after seeing an opportunity via social media site Facebook.

She appeared at the Great Dorset Steam Fair and made such a impression she got kept on - in her home town of Blackpool.

Katy comments: “When I applied I thought the job would involve costume making or something behind the scenes, when they said it was to become the girl in the bottle I was shocked to say the least. I was even more excited when I found out I would also do it in my home town of Blackpool.”

The former bar manager stands at 5ft 4in and is, says Dr Haze, “an eye catching lass”, yet manages to squeeze inside a bottle 2ft tall by 18in diameter. Katy is now one of the stars of the Halloween spectacular at The Globe on Thursday, Friday and Saturday. What will Katy do next? “Who knows - but she’s got a future with us,” says Dr Haze.

As for what fazes Dr Haze? “Nothing really. Only death - and taxes.”

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