Magruder’s Curiosity Cabinet is fiction (any similarity to persons living or dead blah dee blah dee blah please don’t sue us).  But I tried to get the descriptions as “real” as possible.  You know, the stuff all writers sweat over: trying to portray the fashions correctly; trying to get the streets correct in that period; accurately depicting someone dying in misery from bubonic plague.  The usual.  

For any of my fellow history geeks out there, these are some books on various topics that I read for Magruder’s and recommend to you now.


PS: For Goodreads’ers… the list can also be found on my Goodreads Author Page, on a “shelf” called Magruders-Related-Books.



Bogdan, Robert. Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit. University of Chicago Press, 1988. 

Coney Island History Project.

Denson, Charles. Coney Island Lost and Found.  Ten Speed Press, 2002.

Drimmer, Frederick.  Very Special People.  Citadel, 1971.

Ennison, W. J. Souvenir Guide to Coney Island. Megaphone Press, 1905.

Frank, Robin, ed. Coney Island: Visions of American Dreamland.  Yale University Press, 2015.

Gresham, William Lindsay. Nightmare Alley.  New York: Rinehart & Co., 1946.

Hartzman, Marc.  American Sideshow. Tarcher, 2006.

Immerso, Michael.  Coney Island: The People’s Playground.  Rutgers University Press, 2002.

Jay, Ricky. Celebrations of Curious Characters.  McSweeney's, 2011.

Kasson, John.  Amusing the Million: Coney Island at the Turn of the Century.  Hill and Wang, 1978.

Kent, Mackenzie “21 Unbelievably Haunting Vintage Photos from the Circus.” March 15, 2014.

Mannix, Daniel P. Freaks: We Who are Not as Others. Reprint. Juno, 2000.

Nickel, Joe. Secrets of the Sideshows.  University Press of Kentucky, 2008.

Stanton, Jeffery.  Coney Island History Site.

Taylor, James. Shocked and Amazed! On and Off the Midway.  (multiple volumes)



“A Little Island Near New York Peopled With Babies.”  The New York Times, Magazine section, November 27, 1910. (

Boccaccio, Giovanni. The Decameron.  Penguin Classics, 2003.  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “History of Quarantine.”

Chase, Marilyn.  The Barbary Plague: the Black Death in Victorian San Francisco. Random House, 2004.  

Crosby, Molly Caldwell.  The American Plague: The Untold Story of Yellow Fever, the Epidemic that Shaped Our History. Berkley, 2006.

Defoe, Daniel.  Journal of the Plague Year.  Penguin Classics, 2003.  

Kelly, John. The Great Mortality: An Intimate History of the Black Death.  Harper Perennial, 2005.

Mohr, James C. Plague and Fire: Battling Black Death and the 1900 Burning of Honolulu’s Chinatown.  Oxford University Press, 2004.

Walls, Edwina. Observations on the New Orleans Yellow-Fever Epidemic, 1878.  Louisiana History: The Journal of the Louisiana Historical Association, Vol. 23, No. 1 (Winter, 1982), pp. 60-67

White, Frank Linstow. “Barriers Against Invisible Foes.” Frank Leslie’s Popular Monthly. Vol. XXXIII, January-June 1892. (



Bond, Justin Vivian. Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels.  Feminist Press at CUNY, 2011. 

Bornstein, Kate. Gender Outlaw: On Men, Women, and the Rest of Us.  Vintage, 1994.

Bornstein, Kate, and S. Bear Bergman. Gender Outlaws: The Next Generation.  Seal Press, 2010.

Bronski, Michael. A Queer History of the United States. Beacon, 2012.

Williams, Cristan.  “Gender Performance: The TransAdvocate Interviews Judith Butler.” Transadvocate. May 1, 2014.



Dreiser, Theodore. Sister Carrie. 1900.  Reprint. Dreiser Press, 2013.

Du Bois, W.E.B. The Souls of Black Folk. 1903. Reprint. Penguin Classics, 1996.

Gutman, Herman G. The Black Family in Slavery and Freedom: 1750-1925.   Vintage, 1977.

Horn, Cathy. “The Forgotten of Ellis Island.”

Houdini, Harry. The Right Way to Do Wrong. 1906. Reprint. Melville, 2012.

King, Gilbert.  “The Rise and Fall of Nikola Tesla and His Tower.”  February 4, 2013.

Newkirk, Patricia. Spectacle: The Spectacular Life of Ota Benga.  Amistad, 2015.

 *note: there are too many here to even include, but these are faves!