It is believed that flea circuses date back to the time of the Ancient Egyptians.
They were certainly popular throughout Tudor times and only began to fade from popularity after the Victorians.

The original flea circuses would use human fleas.
The 'ringmaster' would attach them to special harnesses and use them to pull miniature chariots and wagons.
These fleas would need feeding regularly and their lifespan was only about a month, so running a real flea circus was quite an undertaking. 

Because of improvements in personal hygiene, human fleas became rarer and rarer until by the 1970's, the only remaining real flea circus was having to pay extortionate amounts just to buy one flea for their show!

Cold weather would kill the fleas and many performers travelling the world would arrive at their destination only to discover that their troupe had all died!

About 150 years ago, a new kind of flea circus emerged that didn't use fleas.
These were known as 'humbug' flea circuses and were worked by magnets, strings and levers.

Originally built by watchmakers to show their skill in building tiny mechanical components many street corners or fairs would have a flea circus as a sideshow.

Although these 'humbug' circuses were initially believed to be a cheat, people were also quick to realise that the magic of these invisible performers moving chariots or swinging on the trapeze were just as entertaining and far outweighed any thoughts of being conned.
Many people would still swear that they could see the fleas.

In the 1950's Michael Bentine toured a 'humbug' flea circus that reached America and re-vitalised the long forgotten art form.
With his circus you could even see the fleas footprints appearing in the sand.

Professor McGinty is one of only a few 'humbug' circuses around today and this classic entertainment is experiencing a huge resurgence at the moment; as are magicians.

There may be no 'real' flea circuses still around in the world today as current technology has enabled 'humbug' circuses to perform acts that real fleas could never perform.

Children will believe the fleas are there and adults will enjoy a half an hour of embracing their inner child.