As a curious young buck growing up in the wilds of Dudley, my favourite travelling freak show was Dr Loom’s Caravan of Doom.
Every summer, as June turned into July, my friewnds and I would wait patiently by the railroads to catch sight of the good doctor rolling into town in his famous bright yellow Vauxhall Velox; his wobbling, disease-ridden convoy of oddities in tow.
By the late 1960s, freak shows had been largely consigned to the cultural sin-bin of Great Britain; the ruling bourgeoisie continuing their merciless exploitation of the hardworking proletariat, who simply wanted the right to spend what little disposable cash they had gawping at some of the most unfortunately misshapen individuals this side of Norwich.
Dr Loom was somewhat of an experimentalist in the field. While other freak show proprietors peddled in transparent hoaxes and fabricated curiosities, Dr Loom offered an altogether darker look at the human condition.
Inside the Caravan of Doom
There was Larry, the boy with the face like a big plate, The Hungry Hunchback, Lucy Spork, the lady with flame-retardant pubes, and the late, great Rodney Moat – the man with the ‘space hopper-sized scrote’. My personal favourites were the provocative, much-feared ‘Fruits of the Loom’, a ring of homosexual men that posed provocatively in front of the baying, hissing crowd, whilst threatening said onlookers with sacks of their infamous ‘gay-powder’.
The Caravan of Doom was chilling, sinister and utterly enchanting. My friends and I would get drunk on cheap cherry wine, pay our threepenny bit entrance fee, and become beguiled and terrified in equal measures by the sheer horror of the monstrosities on show.
One exhibit, however, sailed a little too close to the edge, even for someone edgy like me; someone who loved edge more than the wife of the guitarist from that Irish band.
The name of this poor aberration was Horace of the Old Oak Tree. According to Loomian legend, Horace was found inside an ancient tree in the Hoia Baciu Forest in Romania. A haunted mist had swept through a section of the forest, killing everything in its path, except one solitary tree. While this tree withstood the power of the fog, it began to grow crooked, as if bent by some unseen energy.
Spooky as balls
Archaeologists stumbled across the tree a decade later, and found Horace shivering inside. Sustaining himself with sap and wood lice, Horace’s body was hideously contorted after spending 10 whole years inside a f*cking tree. He really was all over the shop. His neck was somehow above his head, his left leg pointed straight up in the air, making walking a bloody nightmare, and his anus had become thin and wide. Like a card slot at an ATM. Spooky as balls, right?
Now, I like gasping as much as the next LMA member, but the pitiful sight of Horace being rolled onto the stage like some sort of nightmarish, Kellogg’s Start-shaped monster reduced me to tears. His eerie, whispered catchphrase of ‘can you try phoning the man from the hospice again today?’ sent chills racing up my spine, and not in a good way.
I fled the caravan in stunned repulsion. As I did, my eyes locked on to Horace’s. His utter misery was palpable. It was a moment of bleakness that has never left me.
A knowing smile from Dr Loom
A few days later, I travelled back to the camp site. I couldn’t get Horace and his plight out of my mind. I began to rethink my casual, hedonistic views on freakshow culture. Perhaps paying to watch badly-deformed people standing on little stools for my own amusement WAS wrong. As I arrived at the camp, I saw Dr Loom standing silently outside, gazing at the setting sun. As he saw me approach, he gave me a knowing smile.
“I’ve just released Horace,” he opined. “I love him too much, I guess. I can’t watch someone I love suffer.”
“What did you say?” I asked.
“I said I love him too much and I can’t watch someone I love suffer.”
“No, I mean, what did you say to Horace?”
“Oh. Thought you meant, what did I just say?”
“What? Oh, Horace. I told him I didn’t want him anymore. That he had to go.”
“And what did he say?”
“Jesus Christ. How are you a f*cking doctor? Horace. What did Horace say?”
“Oh. Right. He didn’t understand, son. He will one day, though.”
“You had to be cruel to be kind,” I said, trying to reassure him.
“It’s just a phrase, Dr Loom.”
“I don’t think it is, son. Whatever that poor bastard has is permanent. Anyway, he’s better off out there on his own, but to see tears dribbling down his big conker head was the saddest image I’ve ever seen. I’ll never forget it. You see, son, life is but a labyrinth of roads we must decipher…”
I interrupted him at that point. It was an incredibly touching moment, and I appreciated his insights, but I just couldn’t bear listening to him anymore. He was partially deaf as well, and his voice was preposterous, quite frankly.
I never saw Dr Loom again. Some say he released the rest of his freaks, sold his caravan and got into cock fighting. Others say he began writing erotic fiction under the name Deb Marlowe. Whatever happened to him, his actions made a bigger impact on me than he could ever know. He taught me that sometimes the greater good requires actions that may cause anguish in the short-term. Sometimes, you have to break a few hearts in order to set them free.
…as for West Ham
My contract at West Ham United is up at the end of the season. I don’t know if the club will offer me a new one, and even if they did, I don’t know if I’d sign it. Perhaps it’s time to move on. Perhaps I’ve taught my players everything I can.
I know my exit would devastate the boys. I’ve nurtured them, crafted them. Transformed them from Championship also-rans, into one of the most feared teams in east London. If, however, I feel that it’s best for everyone that we go our separate ways, I’ll drop them quicker than a turd in a tornado. Dr Loom taught me that.
And what became of Horace, I hear you ask? Did he find his way back to Romania?
Did he climb back into the safe haven of that venerable old tree, and turn his back on a cruel, exploitative word?
Nah. He died in the field; about 50 yards from the very spot he was given his freedom, in fact. He had one leg that pointed skywards, for Christ sake. Loom was optimistic, I’ll give him that.
Not Big Sam is a parody account on Twitter which can be found here. It is in no way related to Sam Neill, Sam Adams, Sam Allardyce or Sam Fox.