Cirque Paranormal: An otherworldly experience

Staff Writer
Runnels County Register
A performer makes his entry to Cirque Paranormal.

Cirque Paranormal has ghoulishly plowed its way into Abilene for 8 performances at the Mall of Abilene. The circus, centered around the paranormal, is making its way through west Texas. It is owned by Cirque Italia, which also puts on their unique Water Circus at other times of the year.

Olivia Mattice, 27, is one of the 14 or so performers and 40 crew. Her show includes Mattice dressing up as Maleficent and performing with fire. She is also part of other performances. Mattice has been part of Cirque Paranormal for 3 years and performing overall for a decade, “I started as a fire performer and that introduced me to the circus arts. Once you’re introduced into the circus community, you get inspired by other performers. They’re willing to teach you and we spend a lot of our free time learning from others.” The Cirque Paranormal contortionist, Ben Holland, 23, is new to Cirque Paranormal and has been with the circus since January of this year.

Holland is originally from Washington D.C. and joined the circus 8 months ago, “It’s been a magical ride.” He’s a self-taught contortionist, “I saw a contortionist on television when I was 8-years old. I thought it looked great so I started practicing and stretching every day. One day, I just figured that I was good enough to perform.” Holland also taught himself to juggle.

Cirque Paranormal isn’t for the faint-of-heart. You must be at least 13-years old to attend, and anyone 13-17 must have an adult, with ID, accompanying them.

The performances all pay homage to traditional circus acts, but with a healthy dose of the paranormal. There are acrobats on various apparatuses, a motorcycle balanced on a wire with an acrobat performing aerial feats that will steal your breath away, the Wheel of Death, clowns, chainsaws, coffins, contortionists, zombie dancers and much, much more. It’s a thrilling new take on the circus days of old.

Mattice says that the performers all have multiple jobs, just as its always been with circuses throughout the ages, “It takes us about 3 days to set up and everyone has a job. It’s the culture of the circus.” Mattice said that the Cirque Paranormal has been making the circuit in the United States for about 3 years.

Holland, who is dressed to kill (or be killed, as the case may be), says that local regulations across the country have, in some cases, dictated the length of the show, “The show typically lasts 90 minutes to 2 hours. No matter how long the show is, we perform to the fullest and people receive the same great show that they always expect from us. Not only is the Cirque Paranormal new, it’s one of the only things happening right now with the current world situation. People are going to come here and spend their hard earned money and we want to give them their full money’s worth. ”

Mattice points out that time off from circus life is minimal, “We get about 3 weeks off a year. We’re together a lot so we’re like a big family.” Holland says beauty can be found everywhere, “Everyone in the world has a different talent and that’s what makes the world a beautiful place.” According to Mattice, the circus receives most of their reviews from social media, “Right now, we’re at a 4.7, out of 5 stars, on Facebook.”

It’s not just the performances on the stage that draw people in, “We have actors in a pre-show who receive a lot of nice compliments,” Mattice points out. She says that right now the “Wheel of Death” is the hot topic on social media. Mattice was asked if the circus had many people showing up to join them, “Oh yes. We have people who, ’want to run away and join the circus,’ show up. We can’t sign anyone ourselves, but we refer them to corporate because we all feel that talent shouldn’t go unnoticed.”

During the interview with Mattice and Holland it’s easy to see that they get excited just talking about Cirque Paranormal. It’s more than ’just a job.’ They’re all smiles and it’s easy to see how close the performers and crew are during the entire interview. When you travel a day or two, spend 3 days setting up, then perform 6 shows in 4-days, camaraderie is seemingly intrinsic to the success of the show. Thursday and Friday were schedule for one show at 7:30 p.m., but they’ve added a 9:30 p.m. performance on those nights due to demand. Saturday and Sunday also have 2 shows at those times.

The interview in the parking lot at the Mall of Abilene even drew interest. Holland was dressed in his performance outfit; Shirtless with fake blood across his stomach, chest and face; torn tan pants coated in blood and soot, and a disheveled mop of hair atop his head. A man drives up in his car and asks Holland, very seriously, “Are you okay?” Holland replies that he is, indeed, okay. The man doesn’t seem to believe him, “Are you sure that you’re okay?” Holland laughs and tells the man, “We’re with the circus. You should come to the show.” The man chuckles, shaking his head before he rolls up his window and drives off.

It’s 105 degree on the afternoon of the interview. But, that didn’t slow Mattice and Holland down. Holland hops up on the hood of a semi truck rigged for death and destruction, takes off his shoes and socks and shows off his incredible and jaw-dropping contortionist skills. People pass by in their cars, some of them coming back and making a second pass. Even an ambulance shows up and parks in the parking lot a few feet from where the interview is taking place. The medics didn’t get out but they watched for several minutes. They must have been wondering about the contorted man, covered in blood, striking sinister poses on the hood of a semi truck outfitted with skulls, masks and saw blades.

Cirque Paranormal, it’s all that they say it is, and more.

When: August 13-16; Each day has 2 shows: 7:30 p.m and 9:30 p.m.

Where: Mall of Abilene parking lot. Look for the immense black and red tents.

Tickets: The tickets range in price from $10 for ages 13-17, to $50 for platinum level seating. A ticket for adults in the general seating areas is $20. There are several other options and pricing.

Olivia Mattice and Ben Holland shared the circus experience at the Mall of Abilene. Holland's right arm and shoulder are contorted at an impossible angle.