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It’s midnight and minus three on the deserted streets of Finland’s oldest city as we hit town in need of thermal underwear and strong liquor.
Generally nothing much happens in Turku in winter. That is, apart from some heavy duty drug abuse and the midday speech by the local mayor, which is broadcast on Christmas Day by Finnish television.
But tonight – and for one night only – the kids from Turku are in for a treat.
Finland’s leading freakshow circus, Mundus Absurdus, are about to take to the stage at a top Turku nightspot. The circus has been performing together for three years at various rock and fetish festivals around Finland. Tonight they’re sandwiched between showcases sets by two of Finland’s leading death metal bands.
The guys all met through a mutual interest in the tattoo and piercing scene and came together to produce a show which mixes new circus skills with traditional freakshow elements, such as the bed of nails, hammering nails into your nose and fire breathing.
On stage they’re part Slipknot, part Hammer House of Horror, drawing on both Jim Rose and traditional Russian circus.
The set revolves around four main members, two dressed as devils and two as clowns. Each member is self-taught and has their own speciality from jumping on broken glass to needles.
“On stage we don’t feel any pain as we’re so pumped up on adrenaline and endorphins,” explains fireater Antti Kervinen [pictured above], who beat his own Guinness Book of Records entry in August 2001 when he ate 54 flaming torches in one minute.
“It’s only after the show, when we start to come down to earth, we count the injuries.”
On stage that night, all goes smoothly with Lassi Lindqvist smiling demonically as he swings two large milk crates from his nipples. The sound of the audience wincing fills the room.
“Breathing fire is the most dangerous stunt because, if you get the flame in your lungs, then you’ve only got two minutes for someone to give you a tracheotomy before your lungs collapse and you suffocate,” says Lassi.
“Our audience are like peeping toms,” he adds. “The people who come to see us harbour a dark need to see what we do, but the would never dare do it themselves. We’re like their scapegoats.”
As the show reaches its fire-breathing crescendo, and top Finnish metallers Maj Karman Kanniit Kuvat tune up backs stage, the crowd goes wild.
“Everyone thinks they can do the stunts but we’re doing this for real – no protection, no faking it”, smiles Lassi after the show.
“Of course I get a rush from doing this like no other stimulant. It hurts like hell but feels great too,” he smiles.
“But, if I stub my toe at home, I’m like a baby,” he adds.
“Really, I’m just a big wuss.”
This story was first published in the Bizarre magazine in January 2002. Liked this? Try also Last Tango in Finland.
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