avatarCan Hoang Tran


Paranormal Cirque III, My First-Ever Circus Experience

Paranormal Cirque III, one of the three performance units of Paranormal Cirque, is touring along the southeast United States from February to March.

The front entrance to the tent, where attendees can watch the performance of Paranormal Cirque III.

The weekend after Central Florida Comic-Con 2024, I got to experience the circus for the first time.

Going to the circus is generally a family-friendly activity, but this circus production was different. I saw the promotional ad for Paranormal Cirque III on my Facebook feed and I saw that it was coming to a location that’s like 15–20 minutes from my house.

It promotes itself as a Rated-R circus which means don’t bring your kids. The rating itself got my attention. I’m definitely a Rated R person because I have a f — ked up imagination, a dark sense of humor, and a habitual F-bomb dropper.

I didn’t hesitate to buy a ticket the first chance I got. I could use the entertainment because of the mild post-con depression I was suffering after attending CFCC 2024 the previous weekend.

The other reason I wanted to check out Paranormal Cirque III was that there was a small pop culture convention taking place in Avon Park called HCACon. I could have attended HCACon that day and be back with more than enough time to attend the early evening performance of Paranormal Cirque III but I didn’t want to consistently miss Saturday class at the TKD dojang.

As a 3rd Dan, which means I’m a full instructor, I have to attend Saturday classes if I’m not doing anything on those days. I missed the previous Saturday to attend CFCC 2024 and it wouldn’t look good if I missed a second straight Saturday to attend HCACon.

There’s always next year, though.

Fast-forward to arrival at the Eagle Ridge Mall, where Paranormal Cirque III had its tent in one of the areas of the parking lot. There’s roughly over three hours to kill and I spend most of that walking around the Eagle Ridge Mall which is the first time returning after 11 years (which I’ll save for another article).

It’s roughly past 5:30 PM and I get bored of the mall which leads me to explore the exterior of the venue used for Paranormal Cirque III. I walked around a bit and took pictures of the exterior.

I don’t know what to expect but I walk around a bit more though I’m limping in pain from the sparring I did earlier in TKD class.

Before we were allowed to enter the venue, I managed to talk with and get to know some of the people from Paranormal Cirque III. The first person I talked to was a man named Damian, hailing from Argentina, who does double duty as the doorman and one of the aerial performers. He has his work cut out for him.

Damian told me that Paranormal Cirque III is one of three units of Paranormal Cirque. He also explained that Paranormal Cirque is an extension of Cirque Italia which is known for its water circus.

This is a photo of Damian before the show in his pre-performance role as the doorman.

We talked a bit and I told him about the Lake Alfred and Haines City area which are hubs for the Latinx community. Many of the Spanish-speaking students I taught or trained with are from either of those two cities. One of the students comes from a Venezuelan family, a couple of students come from a Nicaraguan family, one student comes from a Dominican family, one student comes from a Honduran family, and so on.

For the 2023 summer camp program we had one boy who came from a Colombian family and a young girl who came from a blended Puerto Rican & Ecuadoran family.

Then I got to talk with Rafinha, hailing from Brazil, who is the ringmaster of the troupe. We got to talking and he introduced me to one of the cast members who hails from Ukraine.

This is Rafinha from Brazil who is the ringmaster, clown, and protagonist of this year’s Paranormal Cirque III tour.

This is one of the shining examples that the performing arts are a universal language as any medium like the circus brings together people from across the world.

I was able to talk with one of the workers, Lili from Colombia, who is there to help lead attendees to their designated seats.

This is Lili from Colombia who is one of several people who is tasked with greeting guests and guiding them to their seats.

After I was done talking with Lili, the attendees started entering the front gates and into the tent. I ventured into the tent, took more photos, and soaked in the atmosphere.

This reminds me of when I visited the Terror haunted house at Church Street when I was 12 and when I went to Halloween Horror Nights when I was 20.

What I didn’t know was that Paranormal Cirque has a small haunted maze that attendees could go through before entering the main room to see the show.

This performer greets us as attendees as they enter the haunted maze. She is also one of the show’s aerial performers.

The people of the show did an excellent job staying in character, which adds to the authentic haunted house experience.

I had completely forgotten about Terror until I saw Paranormal Cirque III.

Now it was time to see the show.

It takes me some time to find my seat because it’s dark. I purchased a ticket for $20 (with an added discount, too), the lowest price, which put me in one of the top-row seats. I thought it would be sitting in a high-up row but I was wrong.

To take videos and so on, I was (surprisingly) placed in one of the best areas.

There was a circular screen elevated over the ring with videos and other graphics, which was good advertising. I got to learn about the other shows offered by Cirque Italia. The cinematic showed us exteriors of haunted places, too, and I got Resident Evil Village vibes.

Some parts of the pre-show cinematic made me think about the boss fight in RE Village where you have to fight Donna Beneviento.

Once the circular screen was lifted, the show began.

The show kicked off with the scantily clad and gothically-dressed dancers marching onto the circus ring, a man with two flaming whips followed shortly after. It was a great intro as the man was cracking those whips until the flames went out, and then the man followed it up by cutting papers and wooden boards with the whip.

After the excellent fire whip display (one reason to watch the show if you’re a fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender), the performers followed up with the staple knife-throwing act. These knives were on fire, giving more pizazz to the display.

As a martial artist who has trained in multiple styles, especially the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), I appreciated the opening act. Whips are UNDERRATED weapons in my opinion because if you f — k around with one, you’re gonna bleed. If someone unfortunate enough is on the receiving end of a whip, they’re gonna get cut.

This reminded me of a story my mom told me about how some whips are made by stingray tails. I was told that they’re durable and they’re painful as f — k to be on the receiving end. Her uncle specialized in making whips from stingray tails and would use them to punish his children whenever they received bad grades in school.

Keep in mind, that this happened (I’m talking about corporal punishment) in Vietnam where corporal punishment is allowed and encouraged.

We were treated to the next opening act, a trapeze performance. This trapeze performance was unique because there was a tightrope above it but that’s not why it was unique. There was a modified motorcycle moving back and forth on that tightrope which moved the position of the trapeze. It was surprising and bad@$$ to watch.

The addition of the gothic dubstep was a nice touch, too.

The main act begins with Rafinha’s first appearance as he takes on the role of the circus clown. He is the “character clown” who serves as the protagonist of Paranormal Cirque III’s storyline. Yes, the show has a storyline.

The role of the clown, from what I learned watching Circus (a docuseries on the Big Apple Circus), is one of the most crucial to any circus performance. Not only are they tasked with entertaining and interacting with the attendees, but the clowns are the audience’s viewpoint characters. The clowns embody the audience’s POV and Rafinha comically portrayed that role very well.

Rafinha accidentally f — ked up a ritual meant to keep evil demons at bay.

The head priest, the robed figure who appeared at the beginning, tasks Rafinha with the job of collecting three souls to sacrifice to keep the mystical gate sealed. If Rafinha fails, then his soul is forfeited and sacrificed.

You break it, you buy it. Rafinha “broke it” and now has to “buy it.” Rafinha adds to the realism by throwing all sorts of profanities, hence the R-rating, adding to the comical effect. Let’s be honest here, any adult who got thrust into that situation would be shooting off profanities. I’d be dropping one F-bomb after another if I was put in Rafinha’s position.

Rafinha reacts as any other person would react. I also loved how he switched forth between English and Portuguese (I think he was speaking in Portuguese) while he ranted about his life-threatening predicament.

Wish you the best of luck on that adventure!

I don’t envy anybody who ends up in that predicament. Anybody unfortunate enough to be in that predicament, please don’t knock on my door because I neither need negativity nor drama in my life.

The rest of the circus show kicked off with scenes involving Rafinha entertaining the attendees as part of the show’s storyline. I only took a few videos of the show as I promised to not record the entire production.

After Rafinha’s opening act, we were treated to an aerial act known as the “hair hang.” The theme of the hair hang act is an ode to the scream queens of horror. The performer played the role of a female victim who finds herself awake in some bed, likely in a cabin, and trying to escape the homicidal murderer who’s after her life.

The hair hang performer mimicked the would-be victim running through the (figurative) woods before meeting her fate at the hands of the masked killer.

This act pays homage to the scream queen.

The next act that happened caught me by surprise. When the hair hang act ends and everything fades to black, the ring dimly lights up and introduces the next act with a pallbearer entering the stage. He’s haggard, tired, and done with life (figuratively, not literally).

I expected something morbid (which I have nothing against and I have a morbid sense of humor) as the pallbearer carried a coffin over his back. I was surprised when the tempo changed and the pallbearer was energized and began his juggling act.

There was one act that involved a performer dressed like DC Comics’ Harley Quinn who popped out of a lifesized Jack-in-a-box. I thought that was a nice twist because it’s usually a joker’s head that pops out.

She then got on a unicycle and started riding it. While that feat alone is impressive, the performer upped the act by jump roping while riding on the unicycle. I believe DC Comics should take notes and have Harley Quinn arrive at some event while riding on a unicycle. The performer wowed the audience by climbing onto another unicycle elevated by four wheels.

It was impressive to see the performer ride that unicycle like it was nothing.

There was another impressive act that used the “space wheel.” I admire the performer’s athleticism as he effortlessly kept his feet on the wheel. Like the performer in the unicycle act, this performer jump-roped while moving on the space wheel which made me go “Holy f — k.”

Now that I think of it, the people of Paranormal Cirque must LOVE to jump rope.

At least they know how to jump rope, I couldn’t do it to save my life no matter how many times I’ve tried the activity.

The most surprising act, but still entertaining, was a group act in which the performers were dressed as nuns while doing a bunch of unique jump rope acts. I believe the troupe LOVES to jump rope.

This was the most upbeat act, especially with the music (something you’d hear at Black churches), of the entire show.

There were more aerial acts such as the high rope and the silk rope, done by different performers, which were entertaining to watch. The high rope act made me think of one of the boss fights from the game NieR: Automata and the silk rope act made me think of the fight scenes in John Wick.

Before the show and during the intermission, attendees were able to do photo-ops holding either a Chucky or Annabelle doll.

It was overall a great show and I would watch Paranormal Cirque next year if it returns to town.

This production is a homage to the horror genre with references to The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Friday The 13th, Annabelle, and The Nun. If you love horror movies, this is one reason to check out Paranormal Cirque when it comes to town.

Another reason to watch the show is that many of the performers are native Spanish speakers. If you’re a member of the Latinx community, definitely attend the Paranormal Cirque and give these performers your support. BIPOC performers need constant support from the BIPOC communities. This is a show that is very friendly to Spanish speakers.

As I have mentioned, the performers and crew members come from many parts of the world. It’s a great way to meet Spanish speakers from other countries such as Argentina, Colombia, Chile, and so on.

A third reason to check out the show is to stick it to the Bible thumpers, which is a core reason I bought a ticket to see the show. When I saw a promotional post on FB and checked the comments, I was shocked at some of the (ridiculously) negative comments. The commenters expressed their prejudice without even seeing the show.

The moment those people saw “R-rated” and saw the gothic theme, they quickly called it “Satanic” or something derogatory. Yeah, there’s NOTHING Satanic about the show. This is a show where the performers use a theme of horror. I’ll go further and call the naysayers hypocrites because I believe the people who talk s — t about Paranormal Cirque without even seeing the show, they’re NOT going to watch the show, are the same people who will likely vote for a certain candidate if he manages to evade the criminal charges against him and become the GOP nominee.

Paranormal Cirque is a must-see show. Especially if you’re into attending pop culture conventions and festivals. I’m glad to have seen the show after suffering post-con depression the previous Monday. The top seats are great, too, where you get more than your money’s worth.

If you see a promotion that says Paranormal Cirque is coming near you, buy a ticket and enjoy the show.

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Performing Arts
Horror Films
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