SIOUX CITY-- The circus is in town, but don't expect to see any dogs, ponies or, even, clowns doing schtick.
No, the European-inspired Paranormal Cirque is actually thrilling, wickedly sexy theater of macabre that is part "Moulin Rouge" and "A Nightmare on Elm Street."
Performing underneath the big tent near the entrance of the former Sears store at Southern Hills Mall, Paranormal Cirque will be entertaining -- and terrifying -- audiences from now until Sunday.
However, don't bring really little kids to this big top of terror. Paranormal Cirque is rated R.
"A person must be 17 and have a photo ID in order to purchase a ticket," Paranormal Cirque's Ben Holland explained. "Audience members, age 13 - 17, are welcome but only at a parent's discretion."
That's because Paranormal Cirque's preshow entertainment is not for the faint of heart.
"Audiences will need to survive a haunted house that will send them into a parallel universe," Holland said. "If they come through that, they'll be amazed by many monstrous creatures with hidden talents."
Haunted houses? Monstrous creatures? Wait, this doesn't seem like any circus we've been to before.
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Well, that was what founder Manuel Rebecchi always wanted. A Milan, Italy, native, he spent his early years, traveling throughout Europe with his late aunt, Mora Orfei, creator and impresario of the famous Moira Orfel circus.
Armed with European showmanship and American entrepreneurship, Rebecchi created a unique concept for a traveling road show. In 2012, he started a Cirque Italia Water Circus and, in 2018, Paranormal Cirque.
Holland has been a part of the circus for nearly seven years. Not only is the Washington, D.C. native the circus' unit manager, he is also its resident rubber man.
"I taught myself to contort myself to contort my own body, which was enough to get me hired with the circus," he said.
"When my dad's friends ask about me, he'll say Ben has run away and joined the circus," Holland continued. "In this case, it is true and I've been able to make a career out of it."
He's been joined by high-wire aerial performers who swing by their hair, as well as intriguing illusionists who are willing to take a spin on the jaw-dropping Wheel of Death.
Holland loves it when audiences laugh and squeal at the goings-on in the big top.
"When you see people smiling form ear to ear? That never gets old," he said.