Saturday, August 6, 2016


This is the archive of articles about the Acme Miniature Flea Circus.

Check the archive listing to the right to see some of the articles that have been written about the show.

Please note the archive is incomplete, and does not reference EVERY mention or review of the show.

To find out more about the show, visit

Saturday, July 23, 2016

WGN TV News July 22, 2016

Circus with tiny stars big on fun

CHICAGO -- Adam Gertsacov doesn’t use that many performers in his show, but in the 20 years he has been touring around the world, he says he has perfected the art of what he calls the study of fleas.
Today, his circus performed at Berger Park for some Chicago Park District camp kids and offered a little education and a lot of entertainment.
A chariot race, a highwire act and cannon heroics were all part of the show.
Adam says his fleas live for about 24-months and require three to five months of training before hitting the big stage.
The show started in 1996 and has been performed in 37 states and five countries.
Two years ago Adam and his family settled in Chicago.
This summer the free show can be seen at four different Chicago parks as part of the nights out in the park program.
July 27 6 PM Touhy Park (7348 N. Paulina Ave)
August 4 6 PM Adams Park (1919 N. Seminary Ave)
August 10 6:30 PM Oriole Park (5430 N. Olcott Ave)
August 12 3:30 PM Gladstone Park (5421 N. Menard Ave)
Cost: Free (seating limited, please arrive early)
More info: or call (312) 742-7529 or (312) 747-2001 (TTY).

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Mention in the Urbacher Letter

Urbacher Letter Archive December 2012

Acme Flea Circus

(click images to see larger)

 The Acme Flea Circus is an authentic Victorian-style flea circus. Ringmaster Adam Gertsacov presents "The Most Miniscule Show on Earth!" A posted sign warns "No Dogs Allowed." Flea Circus (0:41)

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

World's Maker Faire: September 9, 2012

Video shot by the well known juggling entrepreneur Brian Dubé.

Here is the original post:
I performed two shows a day at Maker Faire for two days in an outdoor setting, which is not ideal for the show, but worked out okay.


Fleas or Teased

New York City was home to one of the most astonishing things to those unfamiliar – the real flea circus. Most are familiar with the phrase, however, there are only a handful of flea circuses at the time and fewer yet that employ actual fleas, so it is very unlikely that any given individual has seen one of these performances first hand.
Yes, real human fleas, pulex irritans, were trained to pull miniature chariots and perform circus acts, rotate ferris wheels, and kick balls. Minuscule harnesses made from thin gold wire were wrapped around the neck of the flea. The harnesses were then attached to a variety of objects. Fleas are renowned for their incredible strength and are able to pull up to 160,000 times their own weight and jump 150 times their own size. Their lifespan, however is typically only months, and so new recruits must be found and trained. And, they must be provided a diet of human blood. Typically, owners of flea circuses just let fleas feed from their arms.
The flea circus flourished in the Victorian age, however, the harnessing of fleas goes back much further. The first to harness fleas were watch makers who demonstrated their skills in fine metal working skills. Mark Scaliot is 1578 is credited with locking a flea to a chain with “a lock consisting of eleven different pieces of steel, iron, and brass which, together with the key belonging to it, weighed only one grain.”
One of New York City’s great institutions was Hubert’s Dime Museum, which occupied 228-232 West 42nd Street near Times Square from the mid-1920′s until 1965. The building which housed Hubert’s was a schoolhouse, designed in the 1880′s by McKim, Mead & White. Hubert’s was a phantasmagoria of some of the greatest novelty, freak, sideshow, and variety acts and the home of the last working flea circus in the United States – Heckler’s Flea Circus. Heckler’s occupied a section of the basement and required an additional admission. It was here that the Heckler family plied their trade. The circus was started by native Swiss William Hecker circa 1923 and sons William Jr and Leroy (“Roy”). Roy took over the operation in 1933 and continued to operate the flea circus until he retired in 1957.
So, when I attended the World Maker Faire on September 29, 2012 and happened upon the Acme Flea Circus very unexpectedly, you can easily understand why I was stopped in my tracks and jubilant that I would at last be able to see a real flea circus. Adding to the serendipitous encounter was that the performer, Adam Gertsacov, already knew me, having been a previous customer of my business. I stood alone at his booth and it was a good 30 minutes to showtime. However, I was very passionate about seeing a flea circus in person and close up, so I stood and chatted with Adam while he prepared for his show. He told me all the details of the flea circus. I was later to learn that Adam was one of the most educated clowns in America – not only was he an alumnus of Barnum and Bailey’s Clown College, but he was also a graduate from the University of Pennsylvania and held a master’s in theater and communications from Rhode Island College.
Adam assured me that I need not be concerned about having a “front row seat” since his show was designed to insure that all audience members were guaranteed to see all the details of his performers. This perplexed me, since I had learned that flea circuses like Heckler’s typically provided audience members with magnifying glasses. Historical photos showed him surrounded closely by a small number of viewers. How would Adam accomplish this at a distance? Theater.
Adam’s show involves a lot of theater, history, and clever quips and bits, including a “flea market” where small items are sold to the audience, whom he then proclaims has been adequately fleeced. The act consists of his two fleas, Midge and Madge, who engage in a chariot race and a tight-wire act. Children laughed and squealed, however, credulity was strained when the fleas were shot from a cannon through a hoop of fire to land inside a miniature Airstream trailer.
I became intrigued and through a little research learned that a number of flea circuses currently working do not use fleas. At least one, Hans Mathes’s flea circus at Oktoberfest (you can see an actual video below), has real fleas. As to Adam Gerstacov and his Acme Flea Circus, in the end, I just decided to suspend and see it as an enjoyable piece of theater, not worry whether I had seen trained Fleas or had just been Teased :)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Travel & Leisure Magazine: July 28, 2011

World's Strangest Circuses

At London’s Hoxton Hall, acrobats scamper up each other’s shoulders to form a pyramid—although it hardly looks human. The performers are unrecognizable beneath elaborate ant costumes complete with antennae and googly eyes.

Circuses have always been a bit offbeat, but they’ve morphed well beyond the classic three-ring spectacle of clowns and animal tamers. Today’s strangest circuses are small and innovative. Some, like the Insect Circus, push the boundaries by incorporating burlesque or performance art, while others are reviving near-extinct sideshow traditions for a new generation.

“Circuses were once the biggest shows in town,” says Marc Hartzman, author of American Sideshow. “People didn’t have the same mediums of entertainment that we have today.” As audience interest drifted in the 1970s, circuses began adapting, particularly in the U.K., the U.S., France, Canada, and Australia.

A painter by trade, Mark Copeland founded the U.K.-based Insect Circus in 2002, designing fantastical costumes for the acrobatic “ants,” a winged trapeze duo that go by the names of Baron and Baroness Flutterby, and others. He is especially proud of a stag beetle shell worn by three performers. This lumbering six-legged “insect” takes on a matador in an act that resembles a Spanish bullfight.

Still other circuses get their strange factor from sideshow elements like sword-swallowers and actual insects. Adam G. Gertsacov, creator of Acme Miniature Flea Circus, practices a craft that dates back to the late 1800s. After graduating from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College, he wandered from circus to circus until he got some career-changing advice. Legendary clown Avner Eisenberg told him to “focus on the fleas,” and Gertsacov hasn’t wavered since. He trains 12 fleas at a time to perform tricks like being shot out of a mini cannon into a Hula-Hoop dubbed “the hoop of death.”

For truly death-defying stunts, look to Delhi, India, where the Diamond Maruti Car Circus has become infamous for performing while hanging out of speeding vehicles. For 25 cents, you can peer over the edge of a pit and watch performers on motorcycles and in cars zoom in circles as they grab hands and stand up on their seats—an unbelievable performance that also qualifies as one of the world’s strangest sports.

Even in an age of entertainment overload, the world’s strangest circuses share the ability to keep you on the edge of your seat. Here’s a sneak peek at their shows.


Acme Miniature Flea Circus, New York

Inspired by Hubert’s Flea Circus in Times Square, which closed in 1957, Adam Gertsacov pieced together the tricks of the flea trade from his circus mentors. The Acme Miniature Flea Circus’s bloodsucking insects have tumbled their way through four different countries and 38 states since the mid-1990s. The only thing Gertsacov asks from his audience? No dogs allowed.
Strange Factor: Two fleas race to a finish line while pulling a chariot. Other less fortunate fleas are shot out of a mini cannon into a Hula-Hoop called the “hoop of death.”

Friday, July 15, 2011

Journal News: Wear Your Glasses To This Circus

Cover of the Journal News Weekend Section July 15, 2011

Wear your glasses to this circus
by Paul Bousche

Midge and Madge have performed alongside Adam Gertsacov for over 25 years.
They have joined him on his far-flung travels, which have spanned 38 states and five countries from Canada to Brazil, putting on shows night in and night out. You might be wondering, what's the big deal?
Well, the big deal is that Midge and Madge aren't really that big at all. In fact, they're fleas.
Weighing in at an average of 0.1088 grams each and at only half the length of a fingernail, these "tiny performers" have been pleasing crowds around the world for decades as part of Gertsacov's Acme Miniature Circus.
Gertsacov, Midge, Madge and their circus will be at the Hudson River Museum on Sunday as part of its Victorian Day.
Along with the tiny show, families can play Victorian-era games like nine-wicket croquet, lawn bowling, pick-up-sticks and marbles.
Believe it or not, Gertsacov, the merry ring leader of the spectacularly small Acme circus, actually started out as a clown. And he has the degree to prove it. He graduated from the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College in 1989, which was statistically harder to get into than Harvard Law School.
"I never knew how difficult it was to get in when I applied, but I realized my love for performing and gave it a shot," says Gertsacov, a Rhode Island native who now lives in Yonkers.
But how did his attention turn to fleas? Gertsacov realized early in his clown career that circus clowns were not at the top of the three-ring heap.
"I wanted to be the main clown, but the lion tamers were getting all the attention," he says. "So I knew I had to branch out on my own. I began to look for my own unique act."
During his search, Gertsacov became intrigued by the flea circus, which was a big form of entertainment back in the Victorian era. "There was no television or social media, so this was what kept people entertained," he says.
The research wasn't easy as flea circuses of the past weren't very well documented. "I immersed myself in fleas for over a year and a half and figured out the show."
The last popular American flea circus, according to Gertsacov, was Professor Heckler's of Times Square, which left New York in 1957.
Today, Gertsacov's educated insect stars pull chariots, dance on a tightrope, and perform other circus-like stunts.
While he does not reveal his method of training (a proprietary secret, he explains), he assures the curious and the civic minded that he uses only methods of positive reinforcement to teach the insects their routines.
"I treat them as if they are my own flesh and blood," Gertsacov says. "And in some ways, they are."
There is also a pre-show "flea market" in which miniature props are for sale.
"I have mini 'Save The Fleas' bumper stickers. Hey, it worked for the whales," he says.
About Midge and Madge: They are members of the Pulex irritans species — that is, human fleas that can live for 24 months, a long life as fleas go.
And yes, they are females because lady fleas are a little bigger than their male colleagues and easier to train.
Midge and Madge, who arrive in their own mini Airstream trailer, will enjoy careers from 16 to 18 months before retirement.
Gertsacov says his Acme Miniature Circus is great entertainment and all ages are welcome — just don't bring the dog. Gertsacov says he doesn't want them to steal the show — literally.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Minnesota Public Radio: Whatever Happened to the Flea Circus?

What ever happened to the flea circus?

Posted at 2:24 PM on May 22, 2009 by Sanden Totten

Professor A.G. Gertsacov Photo by Dennis Hlynsky
Adam Gertsacov small.jpg
A few weeks back a visitor to this blog found our Skribit page and asked this question: "Are there still flea circuses?"
The flea circus is an act where real human fleas (Pulex irritans) are harnessed and trained to perform tricks. At one time the flea circus was pretty common, say around the late 1800's and early 1900's. But today, you can go your whole life without running across a single human flea . . . let alone a flea circus full of them.
But that doesn't mean the art of training fleas is dead! It's just a bit harder to catch these days. We spoke with one seasoned "flea-man", Adam Gertsacov, also known as Professor A.G. Gertsacov, the leader of the ACME Miniature Flea Circus. He told us about his show, what to feed a flea circus performer and why vacuums may have been partly responsible for the decline of the great flea circus side show.

Have to see it to believe it? Check out the ACME Miniature Flea Circus website for dates and locations.
Come see (or squint to see) the circus!
Photo by Jaime Murphy