When one thinks of carnies, what springs to mind is missing teeth, crystal meth, small hands, and the smell of cabbage. These are stereotypes. Like old west outlaws, their freewheeling, nomadic lifestyle—moving from town-to-town—lends itself to a life wholly outside of mainstream society, speaking a language entirely all their own, in a world filled with hardened, scary, scary people.
But I went undercover and became a carny at the 162 Gibson County Fairgrounds in rural Indiana, where not only did I sleep in a trailer behind the Tilt-a-Whirl, but I also learned secrets to the legendary carnie games!
CARNY TIP: In the Basketball game, the balls are over-inflated, and neither the ball nor the hoop is regulation size. Forget shooting off the backboard or rim; the key is to drop the ball straight down in an alley-oop shot
CARNY TIP: The key to knocking over the milk jugs with a baseball is to try and hit it at the base of the bottom two, and not where the three jugs intersect.
CARNY TIP: How hard could it be to pop a balloon with a dart? The darts are dull and the balloons are so limp they barely holding their shape. Arc the dart so that it hits the board on a steep downward trajectory, thus using the weight of the dart to pop the balloon.
CARNY TIP: To win at the Ring Toss Game, snap your wrist as you throw the ring to achieve the most spin possible, this will stabilize the ring making it easier to land cleanly on your target.
CARNI TIP: The highly insular nature of carny society has fostered popular suspicions of inbreeding, supposedly manifested by a tendency towards small hands or thumbs.