"Human Blockhead," Gibsonton's last legendary freak, dies

Melvin Burkhart, a circus performer and magician who could hammer nails into his nostrils, died of a stroke on November 8th. Burkhart, 94, was the last of the group that had chosen Gibsonton, FL (AKA "Gibtown") as their circus freak wintering town. Many of them retired there, and have been dying off in recent years -- Jeanie the Half Girl went in 1999, joining Al the Giant, Lobster Boy, and others.

Burkhart had settled into a satisfying life with family and children, clebrating 52 years of marriage this year, but he never abandoned the sideshow tent. Known as "Rubber Face" for his amusing and expressive contortions, his most famous routine was to shove an icepick or 5-inch nail into his skull by way of his nose. As a young man, injuries from prizefighting, along with surgery to remove bone fragments from his head, left a tiny cavity that made the feat possible.

[11/18/2001]
Address:
US Hwy 41 S., Gibsonton, FL
Directions:
On the southbound (west) side of US 41 just south of the bridge over the Alafia River. I-75 exit 250, drive west on Gibsonton Drive for 2.5 miles, then turn right onto US 41 and drive north for one-half-mile.
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