[[quoteright:350:[[TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/rsz_1400878368_849ca48e42_4936.jpg]]]]
[[caption-width-right:350:C'mon, it'll be fun! The Cult of Rakdos is a scream!]]

->''"I mean, really, what kind of a demonically evil scheme involves rollercoasters and cotton candy anyway?"''
-->-- '''Murray the Demonic Skull''', ''VideoGame/EscapeFromMonkeyIsland''

Overnight, the circus came to town. But something's wrong -- ''very'' wrong. The [[RepulsiveRingmaster ringmaster]] is abusing the animals and performers, and the circus music, which should be cheerful, [[CreepyCircusMusic seems menacing]]. The attractions (especially TheFreakShow) seem off, the cotton candy is a sickly shade of green, the [[KnifeThrowingAct knife thrower]] ''doesn't miss'', and the [[MonsterClown clowns]]... well, the less said about the clowns the better.

And people are disappearing, either consumed by or [[TheVirus turned into]] the circus denizens.

This trope is the brother to TheLittleShopThatWasntThereYesterday, and often used in context with [[TheFreakshow freaks]], providing instances of either RedRightHand or TheGrotesque.

A common variation on the theme is a killer ''[[AmusementParkOfDoom amusement park]]'', with homicidal costumed mascots and a fun house that's anything but. If it's in a video game, expect a roller coaster that acts an awful lot like a [[MinecartMadness mine cart]].

''Literature/SomethingWickedThisWayComes'', a novella written by Creator/RayBradbury and published in 1962 and turned into a movie in 1983, is a big inspiration for this trope, although the 1919 movie ''Film/TheCabinetOfDrCaligari'' is probably the [[TropeMakers Trope Maker]].

!!Compare with:
* TheLittleShopThatWasntThereYesterday: Like the Circus, the Little Shop is a liminal space between the fantastic and the mundane. But the Little Shop isn't expected to move around, and is ''always'' magical: the Circus of Fear need not be magical, though it usually is.
* AmusementParkOfDoom: If the Circus were to permanently settle down somewhere, it would be an Amusement Park. Note that you generally must choose to visit the Park, whereas the Circus comes to you.

!!Contrast with:
* CrappyCarnival: You won't have fun here either, but the reason is mundane incompetence, not eerie menace.



[[folder:Anime & Manga]]
* The Dead Moon Circus of ''Franchise/SailorMoon''.
* Buggy the Clown's pirate crew from ''Manga/OnePiece''.
* In episode 20 of ''Anime/CowboyBebop'', Spike faces off against Mad Pierrot in a creepy circus inspired by ''WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries''. It's also called ''Space Land'', and can be seen as a mockery of Bebop itself.
* The titular ''Anime/RobotCarnival'' is one of these. It used to be a normal circus, but years of wear turned it into this and it turns the citizens into the towns it visits into its new performers. Or just [[StuffBlowingUp makes them explode]].
* There were hints of something called a "Nightmare Circus" sub-arc within the Mahorafest arc of ''Manga/MahouSenseiNegima''. Sadly, it was cancelled due to the main story taking up much more time than expected.
* ''Manga/BlackButler'' has a whole arc in the manga where Ciel and Sebastian join Noah's Circus to investigate the whereabouts of children that have gone missing. Needless to say, what starts off as your average circus with jugglers, tightrope walkers, and acrobats turns much darker as we learn about the secrets behind it.
* Near the end of the ultra- {{squick}} horror manga ''Manga/{{Gyo}}'', the protagonist visits a circus where all the acts are composed of or powered by victims of the "death stench" gas-producing virus that has ravaged Japan.
* Another short manga by Junji Ito, ''Circus ga Kita'' also has a travelling circus where performers die one by one during the show. [[spoiler: It doesn't matter that the circus loses performers or that the audience witness these horrors, since every single spectator will become part of it.]]
* In Tite Kubo's short lived ''Manga/ZombiePowder'', Balmunk has a Circus of Pain/Fear that just springs up from the ground.
* The third [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxcqoCjRPTE opening]] of ''(Goku) Manga/SayonaraZetsubouSensei''.
* ''Anime/CatSoup'' has one, featuring a woman getting dismembered and a giant bird that's swallowed clouds (that ends up causing a flood).
* ''Manga/CopernicusBreathing'' may or may not fit neatly into this trope. Although it does not contain any supernatural elements, le Cirque de Soir is pretty gritty and the way it is visually portrayed is like a horrifying acid trip for a vast majority of the time [[spoiler: and not to mention, the ringmaster pimps out several of the performers.]]
* ''Anime/ChargemanKen'': As the episode's title implies, the circus in "The Devil's Circus" is ''not'' a good one. It's actually [[spoiler:led by Jurals who disguise themselves as circus performers to kill Ken.]] At one point, they even unleash [[spoiler:the lions]] upon the audience!

[[folder:Comic Books]]
* The graphic novel ''ComicBook/TheLastTemptation'' had one. It was written by Creator/NeilGaiman and Music/AliceCooper.
* In the Franchise/MarvelUniverse, the Circus of Crime was a front for criminal activity. It consisted of guys like Bruto the Strongman, Princess Python, the Human Cannonball, the Great Gambonnos, the Clown, Live Wire, and the variously threatening-and-not so much Ringmaster, whose [[NiceHat hypnotic hat]] was often the key to his schemes. Generally less overtly creepy and homicidal than other examples of this trope, the Circus of Crime is mostly in it for the money.
* Marvel villain Arcade's deadly amusement park, Murderworld, also has elements of the Circus Of Fear, and so far hasn't fallen to VillainDecay. Probably because he has so many Murderworlds.
* Also in the MarvelUniverse, in a ComicBook/NewMutants flashback, they find a circus, it's run by Skrulls who are kidnapping humans and shrinking them. As expected, the New Mutants trash the place, including various structures that didn't need it.
* ComicBook/TheAwesomeSlapstick, another Marvel hero resurrected in the aftermath of the Civil War, got his start trying to save his classmates from Evil Clowns from Dimension X who were using a circus to kidnap people and turn them mediocre. No, really. Everything got righteously smashed up.
* ''ComicBook/WolverineAndTheXMen'' featured Murder Circus. Home to a witch who worshipped longtime X-villain Azazel and stole the souls of children... and that was ''before'' it was taken over by none other than the Frankenstein monster, who had gone full-on KnightTemplar and was traveling the country looking for relatives of his creator to kill. Creepy attractions feature zombie clowns and a sideshow made of brainwashed X-Men.
* ComicBook/TheJoker likes doing variations of this in the various ''Franchise/{{Batman}}'' incarnations. Most famously, he buys an AmusementParkOfDoom in ''ComicBook/TheKillingJoke'' and crews it with circus freaks, using it to [[spoiler: attempt to drive Commissioner Gordon insane by showing him naked pictures he'd taken of Gordon's daughter after he shot her through the spine.]] And there was a song.
* Also from Batman, in Creator/GrantMorrison's ''Batman and Robin'', the first arc features an evil circus troupe led by the Nightmare Fuel inducing Professor Pyg. In the second issue, the new Robin visits the actual circus and more Nightmare Fuel starts when he is attacked by Professor Pyg's masked henchmen.
** Pyg's major underlings all resemble sideshow freaks, as well, including a grossly overweight bearded lady in a tutu and a human flame act who can burn others but not himself.
* In ''ComicBook/SpiderManNoir'', Norman "The Goblin" Osborn recruited his inner circle from the circus freak show. The Vulture was a geek who had become more animal than man, Kraven was an animal tamer, the Chameleon had the uncanny ability to alter his facial features, Ox was a strongman, Montana did rope tricks, and Fancy Dan was a promoter. As it turns out, [[spoiler:Norman himself was a refugee from the same freak-show, where he had been put on display since childhood as "the Goblin" because of his thick, green, scaly skin. He hides it under a latex mask nowadays.]]
* ''WesternAnimation/TheRealGhostbusters'' fought a ghost-circus in their comic-book incarnation. The zombie elephants were somewhat creepy.
* The second arc in the first volume of ''ComicBook/IHuntMonsters'' has the heroes dealing with a circus run by werewolves.
* An early arc of James Robinson's ''Comicbook/{{Starman}}'' features this type of circus. The "freaks" themselves are mostly nice people, but they are controlled by the ringmaster and his evil lieutenant. Because this is ''[[ContinuityPorn Starman]]'', the lieutenant comes back during the invasion of Opal City.
* ''Hoax Hunters'' has a traveling circus as a front for a murderous cult. It ''used'' to just be a regular circus, until the ringleader met an EldritchAbomination and went insane. Most people who come in contact with it never suspect there's anything wrong -- and also probably think that goat guy is wearing a costume.
* The hero Comicbook/DarkHawk has an origin involving witnessing his father take a bribe inside a creepy, abandoned carnival and stumbling upon the mysterious amulet that would eventually give him his powers.
* A young ComicBook/{{Hellboy}} ran off one day and found one of these. It was run by one [[LouisCypher "A.T. Roth"]].
* ''Franchise/ResidentEvil: Fire and Ice'' opens with the main characters fighting a zombified circus troupe, which includes a car filled with zombie clowns.
* ''ComicBook/AndThenEmilyWasGone'' has the Circus of the Night, led by Billy Styx.
* ''ComicBook/TheGoon'' had in one issue, Brigadoon's Dreamland Carnival, operated and patronized entirely by deformed Circus Freaks, who killed normal people in deadly carnival games, in revenge for the mistreatment they suffered in their lives.

* Akiko's horrific past as a MagicalGirl in the backstory of the ''Fanfic/BattleFantasiaProject'' involved three years fighting against the Carnival of Blood, who want you to join them forever, in addition to the four years fighting her current enemy, the Nightmare Factory. It's primarily glossed over if mentioned at all, because going into specifics would subject the poor girl to horrors that would break most {{Magical Girl}}s, horrors to which not even ''Anime/PuellaMagiMadokaMagica'' can compare.
* In the ''FanFic/{{Horseshoes and Hand Grenades}}'' sidestory ''Month of Sundays'', Damballa transforms the ''Narumi Detective Agency'' into this and the main attractions just happen to be [[spoiler: the fighting of CreepyDoll versions of ''three different Kamen Riders''.]]
* In Fanfic/{{Misunderstandings}}, the very human Peter Collins is captured by one of these, run by an evil [[WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic unicorn]] named [[ManipulativeBastard named Big Top]]. When he escapes, other ponies are concerned that this [[HumansThroughAlienEyes "alien"]] might be violent because of his poor treatment and both sides are overly cautious towards one another, especially due to a language barrier separating the two.
* The Vocaloid fanfiction ''Fanfic/RottingCamellias'' takes place in one of these.
* Creator/AAPessimal's ''{{Discworld}}'' fic ''[[https://www.fanfiction.net/s/6093110/1/Clowning-is-a-Serious-Business Clowning Is A Serious Business]]'' deals with Vetinari's devious plan to force change and modernity on the Guild of Fools - specifically, by coercing it to follow the lead of the Thieves and the Assassins by taking its first girl students. And then treating them decently when they arrive. A group of female Thieves and Assassins are hence sent to the Fools as a sort of Mature Students' Class. They adapt their own trade skills into a genuinely new and innovative circus performance which is truly memorable for all who witness it - just to prove the point, practically, that women can be the equal of men. Things are ratcheted up when an attempt is made to kill up to three high-wire acrobats. The woman who has introduced lion-taming as a brand new circus discipline has firm ideas about this. Mayhem ensues. Leading to a Civil War in the world of clowning - a Clown Army marches out of Überwald.
* In ''Fanfic/EquestriaDivided'' we have the Cult of Laughter which combines the worst traits of necromancy, cosmic horror and this trope, and it's run by [[spoiler: a MonsterFromBeyondTheVeil Pinkie Pie]]

[[folder:Films -- Animation]]
* The obscure film known as ''WesternAnimation/FelixTheCatTheMovie'' takes place in one of these for most of the film, since the BigBad sends the DamselInDistress there to perform for his amusement.
* Invoked in Disney's ''Disney/{{Pinocchio}}'' where some of the crates the Coachman locked about half the Donkey Boys in appear to be heading for a circus (the other crates were heading for the salt mines).
* The BigBad for the movie ''[[WesternAnimation/WereBackADinosaursStory We're Back! A Dinosaur's Story]]'' runs a 'literal' Circus of Fear. Everything in it is geared towards horror. Except for the clown, ironically enough.

[[folder:Films -- Live-Action]]
%%* ''Film/AIArtificialIntelligence'' and its "Flesh Fair".
* ''Franchise/{{Batman}}''
** The film ''Film/BatmanReturns'' had the Penguin secretly running the Red Triangle Circus Gang, a gang of crooks who, like him, were former circus performers. It is hinted that they abducted children when they were a legit circus, likely the reason they shut down.
** Two-Face's goons dressed up as two-sided clowns when they attacked the circus in ''Film/BatmanForever''.
** Oddly enough, this has been mostly averted with ComicBook/TheJoker in his most recent live action outings--though he does come close in ''{{Film/Batman}}''.
* The 1968 British horror film ''Film/{{Berserk}}'' starring Creator/JoanCrawford and MichaelGough is set in a circus where there are a series of gruesome and unexplained murders.
* The movie version of ''Film/TheElephantMan'' involves the title character's escape from one of these. The movie was directed by Creator/DavidLynch, who must have jumped at the chance to try his hand at this trope.
%%* ''Film/TheCabinetOfDrCaligari'' is probably the [[TropeMakers Trope Maker]].
* Creator/ChristopherLee starred in a 1966 fim actually titled ''Film/CircusOfFear''.
* ''Film/TheDevilsCarnival'' is about a carnival run by... guess.
* The movie ''Film/{{Freaks}}'' both used and defied this trope. The [[TheGrotesque freaks are all loving and caring people]], the clowns are good-natured and charming (although one of them has a hilarious [[AcceptableTargets speech-impediment]]), and the animal trainer is frigging gorgeous. There's a bit of black comedy involving a pair of conjoined twins, one of who is getting married, and the soundtrack is slightly creepy, but that's about it. Unless you get them angry, as the evil female trapeze artist and misogynistic strong man do. Do NOT get the freaks angry.
* ''[[Film/TheIncrediblyStrangeCreatures The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies]]'', one of the worst movies of all times, is set in a carnival where patrons are transformed into zombies. The film actually features surprisingly few zombies and much, much, MUCH more bad singing than would be expected.
* In the ''Film/JamesBond'' film ''Film/{{Octopussy}}'', the titular female lead uses a circus as a cover for her criminal activities as well as using circus acrobats and aerialists to commit crimes for her, while a [[RenegadeRussian renegade Soviet general]] plants a nuke in her circus. Not necessarily evil, but initially misguided.
* The monsters in ''Film/KillerKlownsFromOuterSpace'' are aliens that look like clowns and come to Earth on spaceship that looks like a circus tent.
* Before he gets to the famous HallOfMirrors Michael O'Hara from ''Film/TheLadyFromShanghai'', is dumped in one of these.
* No prizes for guessing what the Hammer horror film ''Film/VampireCircus'' is about.
* The movie ''Film/{{Waxwork}}'' is about a group of teenagers coming across an evil wax museum.

* Played straight with a later ''Literature/ChooseYourOwnAdventure'' book called ''Trapped in the Circus of Fear''.
* ''Literature/EndlessQuest'' also had an entry actually titled ''Circus of Fear.'' Decide for yourself whether the title's talking about the circus being run by bad guys or all the usual circus animals and attractions being replaced by creatures from the D&D bestiary.
* ''Literature/GiveYourselfGoosebumps #1'' is called ''Escape from the Carnival of Horrors''. And then much later there came "''Return'' to the Carnival of Horrors", because apparently you ''just can't stay away''. (To be fair you're bullied into it by the book itself in the first entry (after all what the point of reading it). In the second entry you brave it once again to get your oblivious cousin out.)

* There's a G-rated version in the children's picture book ''The Amazing Spider-Man: The Big Top Mystery''. To be sure, the circus in itself isn't scary, but it becomes this way once Spidey learns that he has to stop a saboteur from causing deadly "accidents" for the performers and spectators. Among the perils are a panicky elephant, a [[PantheraAwesome crazed lion]], and [[spoiler: a [[MonsterClown murderous clown]] who had "arranged" all the accidents and whom Spider-Man had [[LaserGuidedKarma rescued from the aforementioned lion]] [[TheFarmerAndTheViper earlier in the story]]. After he is finally caught, arrested, and questioned, the clown admits that he wanted to prevent the owner from selling the circus so he wouldn't lose his job]].
* Jean-Claude, from the ''Literature/AnitaBlake'' series, owns and runs a fully functioning vampire circus, clowns with fangs and all.
* The ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' novel, 'Circus Of Souls'. She figures it out soon enough, but is then zapped by the brain-altering magics of the circus.
* ''Literature/TheCircusOfDoctorLao'', the one novel by Charles G. Finney. One amazing novel.
* ''Circus of the Dead'', a short e-book by Seth Blackburn, is about a circus that features a real zombie as its main attraction. As is expected, [[GoneHorriblyWrong things don't end well]].
* The main antagonists in ''Literature/DevilsCape'' are the Cirque d'Obscurite, a group of carnies who developed superpowers based on their talents when they were exposed to the death of a superhero and murdered first one hero, then the rest of his team. They're led by the Behemoth, formerly part of the freakshow, but also include [[PlayingWithFire Hector Hell,]] [[RubberMan Kraken,]] [[VoluntaryShapeshifting Werewolf,]] [[WingedHumanoid Osprey,]] and [[FeelNoPain Gork.]]
* Not a circus, but an amusement park - ''Literature/FullTilt'' by Neil Shusterman. Good ''god'', ''Full Tilt''.
* Averted/inverted in Iain Lawrence's ''Ghost Boy''. The main character discovers that the freaks are kind and good-natured, but they still unsettle him a little, and the non-freaks are much better at being charming.
* Nick Harkaway's ''Literature/TheGoneAwayWorld'' subverts this by having a circus help and support the good guys.
* The ''Literature/{{Goosebumps}}'' book ''Welcome to Horrorland'', which spawned a sequel (''Return to Horrorland'') and two spinoff series (''Goosebumps: [=HorrorLand=]'' and ''Goosebumps: Hall of Horrors'').
* In several ''Literature/IncarnationsOfImmortality'' books, ghosts run an ethereal amusement park, where the ghosts try, and often succeed, in scaring the visitors. Amusingly, people kissing seems to scare the ghosts, in return. However, the rest of the amusement park is typical, if ghostly, fare such as a smoke ring toss.
* ''Literature/TheManualOfDetection'' has [[Film/TheCabinetOfDrCaligari Caligari's]] Travels-No-More Carnival, which is this trope in spades.
* Angela Carter's ''Literature/NightsAtTheCircus'' doesn't feature an ''evil'' circus per se, but some scary and strange crap definitely goes down.
* The Fun Fair, ''Literature/{{Nightside}}'''s first amusement park ended up this way. It's considered a very bad place (and this is Nightside we're talking about) and requires services of major exorcists just to keep it quiet. The protagonist even comments on the nerve and bravery of someone who graffittied the front gate sign.
* ''Literature/ThePiloFamilyCircus''. An extradimensional travelling circus of madmen, magicians, and monsters, where the employees are paid in bags of management-controlled wishing powder made from the crystalised remains of human souls- extracted from the audience. Oh, and the managers have a nasty habit of causing global chaos on Earth via the [[ChessMaster Fortune Teller]] and the [[MonsterClown Clown division]], on behalf of a race of reptilian demigods [[SealedEvilInACan imprisoned beneath the showgrounds]].
* Count Otto Black, a RunningGag recurring villain in Creator/RobertRankin's insane versions of novels, is often seen running a circus.
* The setting for the ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'' novel ''Carnival of Fear''.
* ''Literature/{{Redwall}}'''s Slagar the Cruel runs a traveling show which ''seems'' perfectly benign (except that all the performers are [[AlwaysChaoticEvil weasels and stoats]]). The show is used to distract the good guys while a performer drugs their drinks and Slagar himself hypnotises them, and when they wake up the "show" has vanished, taking their children with it.
* The Peabody-Ozymandias Traveling Circus & Oddity Emporium of the eponymous novella in the Literature/RepairmanJack universe by F. Paul Wilson serves as this. Peabody is more or less a regular owner of a circus, but Ozymandias's freaks bear an otherworldly taint.
* Subverted in ''Literature/TheSagaOfDarrenShan'', where the "Cirque Du Freak", though intended to be nightmarish and slightly horrifying (and potentially dangerous), actually provides a warning beforehand of what it will be like, and gives patrons an opportunity to leave. If any are injured, the show is halted until they are fixed up. Also, the "freaks" are rather friendly and personable people, and the Circusmaster, Mr. Tall, actually runs the cirque as a means of providing people with strange abilities with shelter, family, the opportunity to travel, and a circumstance where their unique abilities can inspire wonder rather than fear.
** The Cirque is a beacon of home and safety for the main characters to the point where it even becomes something of a sanctuary from the vampire wars of the later books - and when [[spoiler: it is invaded, that is the clearest of signs that we've reached a point of no return.]]
* ''Literature/ASeriesOfUnfortunateEvents'': ''The Carnivorous Carnival''
* ''Literature/SomethingWickedThisWayComes''. Its carnival is strongly implied to thrive on fear and unhappiness.
* ''Franchise/StarWarsLegends'':
** According to the short story "A Boy and His Monster" in ''Literature/TalesFromJabbasPalace'', Malakili the Rancor Keeper was previously employed by the Circus Horrificus, where Hutts paid to see weird creatures get tortured to death.
* The ''Theater des Vampires'' in ''Literature/TheVampireChronicles'', who are vampires hiding in plain sight. They manage to be both scary and complete jackasses at the same time. They ''act'' out vampires killing humans on stage while the human audience watches in oblivious entertainment, and sometimes even satirically offer themselves in place of the victim they don't believe is a victim.

[[folder:Live-Action TV]]
* ''Series/AceLightning'''s appropriately named Carnival of Doom. The one seen in the actual show would be pretty innocuous if not for all the digital supervillains who happen to live there, though.
* The first phase of ''Series/BigBrother 17's'' final competition required players to survive hanging on "candy apples" in one of these.
%%* ''Series/{{Carnivale}}'' embodies this.
* ''Series/DoctorWho'':
** In [[Recap/DoctorWhoS8E1TerrorOfTheAutons "Terror of the Autons"]], the Master takes over Rossini's Circus with a mixture of hypnotism and threats and forces the staff to act as his mooks. A downplayed example, as there is no actual circus performance in the story.
** Subverted in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS10E2CarnivalOfMonsters "Carnival of Monsters"]], with the showman Vorg portrayed as ignorant of the horrors he's leading.
** There was an unmade script for a Sixth Doctor story called "The Nightmare Fair", later released as a novel, then an audio play (unofficial) and then an audio drama (official). The circus in question belongs to an old enemy, the extra-dimensional HumanoidAbomination known as the Celestial Toymaker.
** [[Recap/DoctorWhoS25E4TheGreatestShowInTheGalaxy "The Greatest Show in the Galaxy"]] featured the Psychic Circus. Initially a genuine circus staffed by kindly hippies, it was corrupted by a group of {{Eldritch Abomination}}s, who forced the performers to lure innocent people to take part in a "talent contest", and then to torture and kill them for their entertainment.
** ''Series/TheSarahJaneAdventures'' series 2 had Spellman's Magical Museum of the Circus in the story ''The Day of the Clown''.
** ''Series/{{Torchwood}}'' series 2 had the Night Travellers in the episode "From Out of the Rain".
* ''Dumbo's Circus'', a popular puppet show on the Creator/DisneyChannel in the 1980s, had a HalloweenEpisode whose climax was the musical number "The Day the Spooky Circus Came to Town" (with a bass line, believe it or not, filched straight from Music/MichaelJackson's ''Music/{{Thriller}}''). Somewhat ironically, the {{Aesop}} of the episode was to teach kids to ''not'' be afraid of Halloween (or circuses, for that matter).
* An episode of ''Series/GetSmart'' involves Max tracking down a murderer and jewel thief in a circus. Turns out most of the circus members are part of the crime ring.
* ''Series/{{Heroes}}'' headed in this direction in their final season. The season opened with the role of primary antagonists falling on a group of carnies, led by a man named Samuel who [[spoiler:injected ink into people and manipulated it inside their bodies along with creating earthquakes and manipulating earth]] In the end it turns out this is a subverted trope as the carnival was a protected home for people with powers where they could openly be themselves.
** Most of the carnies aren't really evil, just misguided by [[spoiler: Samuel. He was manipulating them to give him more power. The carnies were just looking for an safe haven to openly use their abilities and earn a living.]]
* Papa Lazarou's circus in ''Series/TheLeagueOfGentlemen'' might qualify as a subversion. While Papa Lazarou's appearance is pure Nightmare Fuel and he spends all his spare time kidnapping women ("You're my wife now!") Royston Vasey is already so full of freaks that the circus [[HorrifyingTheHorror soon flees in terror, as the town is too weird even for them.]]
%%* ''Series/MightyMorphinPowerRangers'', first-season episode.
* An episode of ''Series/{{Mutant X}}'' dealt with a travelling circus led by a man whose power was to trap people inside funhouse mirrors.
* The short lived series ''Series/SheWolfOfLondon'' (aka ''Love & Curses'') featured an episode during it's first season, ''Big Top She-Wolf'', that dealt with a demonic circus.
* One episode of ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' had a circus that was run by an anthropomorphic manifestation of fear (depicted as a MonsterClown, naturally).

* A lot of Music/TomWaits' stuff, especially the albums ''Music/{{Swordfishtrombones}}'', ''Music/FranksWildYears'', ''Music/RainDogs'', ''Music/{{Alice}}'' (which includes a song about Johnny Eck), ''Music/TheBlackRider'', and ''Music/BloodMoney''.
* "Circus of Death," from Music/TheHumanLeague's first album ''Reproductions'', tells the story of a singularly destructive circus. The song is also, oddly enough, a Series/HawaiiFiveO {{Fanfic}} of sorts.
* The Music/InsaneClownPosse's appearance and Dark Carnival mythos is based on this trope. Many of their songs, including "Murder Go Round", "House of Mirrors", "Halls of Illusion" and "Tilt-a-Whirl" relate to Circus, or rather, Carnival of Fear-based themes.
* The cover art, title track and [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWIW6Ti0PbE its music video]], and associated merchandise (comic books, action figures and a CD-ROM game) of the 1998 Music/{{KISS}} album ''Psycho Circus'' make use of this concept.
* The Song ''Flohzirkus'' by Samsas Traum is exactly about this. One of four thrown knives is guaranteed to hit, and the woman is actually sewn in half.
* This is kind of the whole schtick of Seattle-based group Circus Contraption, especially during their "Grand American Traveling Dime Museum" show.
* Creature Feature's [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v2Yb5jzRTBI "The Greatest Show Unearthed".]] is all about this:
-->Come inside, for the ride,\\
Your deepest, darkest fear!\\
The best night, of your life,\\
You're never leaving here!\\
The unknown, the unseen,\\
Is what you're gonna find!\\
Witness this, witness that,\\
Until you lose your mind!
* Music/NoxArcana's CD ''Carnival of Lost Souls'' is based on [[Literature/SomethingWickedThisWayComes ''Something Wicked This Way Comes'']], so features one of these.
* Music/EmersonLakeAndPalmer and their "Karn Evil 9". ''Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends...''
* Music/BobDylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man" from ''Music/Highway61Revisited'' if the lyrics are taken literally, takes place at least partially in a Circus Of Fear.
* The video for "I Stay Away" by Music/AliceInChains, made even creepier by the use of somewhat grotesque puppets. The song doesn't really have much to do with it.
* ''Circus of Sour'' by Music/{{Donovan}} doesn't sound like it's about a particularly ''nice'' circus.
* A lot of Music/HannahFury's music evokes feelings of this, but [[http://www.songmeanings.net/songs/view/3530822107858568453 "Carnival Justice (The Gloves Come Off)"]] especially makes use of some creepy carnival imagery.
* The artwork for [[Music/MrBungle Mr. Bungle]]'s self-titled first album centers around this trope, as does the song Carousel (off the same album).
* [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsjTBdiPq8o "Dark Woods Circus"]] of the Music/{{Vocaloid}}s. Perfect example.
* "Circus Apocalypse" by the dark cabaret act, Vermillion Lies.
-->Come down and join the circus\\
It's the end of your world\\
Come down and join the circus\\
All you dead boys and girls\\
If you still have a pulse\\
We can remedy that\\
You can check your life\\
While you check your hat
* The dark cabaret act ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LlbJyPf5EG0 Circus Contraption]]'' is MADE of this trope.
* Music/{{Pink}}'s Funhouse Tour featured quite a few freakish clowns. The name comes from one of her songs: "This used to be a fun house/But now it's full of [[MonsterClown evil clowns]]".
* The song "Grease Paint and Monkey Brains" by [[Music/RobZombie White Zombie]]. It even starts with a circus calliope breaking down mid-song.
* Music/PoetsOfTheFall's "[[https://youtu.be/MKk1u5RMTn4?list=PLjACqN5i5sDWIIpg-5EB4WcitMMqnXhFP Carnival of Rust]]." The Carnival is run down and creepy, and the staff is menacing and vaguely predatory. The video's plot revolves around Zoltar, a [[SadClown depressive]], decaying Carnival automaton with flaking paint, and the experiences of the [[PostApocalypticGasmask gas-masked]] female customer who he tries to persuade to stay with foreboding, increasingly desperate pleas and demands for a relationship while [[HostileAnimatronics banging on the walls]] of his case.
* The ConceptAlbum ''The New World's Fair'' by Creator/MichaelMoorcock and his band Deep Fix (yes, [[HiddenDepths Michael Moorcock sang and wrote songs]]!) involves the denizens of a carnival in a post-apocalyptic world.
* 'Circus metal' is slowly becoming its own sub-genre for a combination of [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin circus music (or more generally dark cabaret) and metal]]. Good examples of this are [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bHDhA35KR_I Stolen Babies]] and [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XvgDLx4VA1k Unexpect]].
* The circus folk in Music/PanicAtTheDisco's [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vc6vsl5dkc "I Write Sins Not Tragedies"]] are a subversion since, while definitely creepy, they're actually the good guys.
* The aptly named Dark Cabaret group The Carnival are centered around this.
* ''Music/{{Nightwish}}'s'':
** The song ''Scaretale'' has a part like this.
** As does the music video for ''Storytime''.
* "Cirkus" by Music/KingCrimson is a rather [[MindScrew mind screwy]] version.
* The album cover of ''Music/StrangeDays'' by Music/TheDoors features some freaky [[note]] Well, not exactly ''freaky'', but wearing dark clothing and appearing to be vaguely poor, which was unsettling enough for the 1960s. [[/note]] circus people too.
* ''Music/MiracleOfSound'''s song "Call of Duty Circus" portrays ''VideoGame/CallOfDuty'' as one of these.
* The titular Music/EvelynEvelyn ConjoinedTwins spent their teenage years a part of a freak show act. It was better than their previous place, though that's not saying much as they used to be pimped out to people. It's implied they were sexually abused by the clowns, the elephants were fed so poorly that they died, and the twins were overworked and beaten. The only good thing about their experience at the circus was that they learned how to play the ukulele, which helped them get interested in a music career.
* A K-pop version is the video for [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjBHPvYW3GkI Midnight Circus]] by the group Sunny Hill.

[[folder: Professional Wrestling]]
* The original {{Heel}} Wrestling/DoinkTheClown qualifies, of course.
* [[Wrestling/JohnTenta The]] [[Wrestling/{{Kurrgan}} Oddities]], in 1998 Wrestling/{{WWE}}, started as this, as a traveling carnival freak show complete with creepy music led by [[Wrestling/DonCallis the Jackyl]]. The group [[HeelFaceTurn turned Face (Good)]], and the Jackyl was replaced by Wrestling/{{Sable}}, and the Music/InsaneClownPosse came on board and would rap their new theme song, "Oddities", as the group danced down to the ring. ICP later [[FaceHeelTurn turned heel]] on their way out of WWE in late 1998. The Oddities, by early 1999 down to Golga (John Tenta), Kurrgan, [[Characters/WWEAttitude the Giant Silva]] and [[Wrestling/GeorgeSteele George "The Animal" Steele]], suffered through BadassDecay[=/=]RedemptionDemotion and were released in February 1999.
* Sinn Bodhi's Odditorium in Wrestling/{{Chikara}}
* Wrestling/{{AAA}}'s Psycho Circus and later, Mini Psycho Circus.
* [[Wrestling/{{TNA}} Total Nonstop Action]] debuted "The Menagerie" in 2014, headed by [[Wrestling/MikeKnox Knux]] and including [[Wrestling/TaneaBrooks Rebel]], [[Wrestling/SteveScott Crazzy Steve]], and [[Wrestling/RobTerry The Freak]] as [[WrestlingDoesntPay wrestling carnies]].

* G-rated example: The 54th album of ''Radio/AdventuresInOdyssey'' features a carnival that is a front for a counterfeiting ring.

[[folder:Tabletop Games]]
* The ''TabletopGame/OldWorldOfDarkness'' has the Midnight Circus, a wandering circus of horrors and evil that eventually got its own sourcebook to reveal its secrets. It's literally packed with ''every'' kind of monster that exists in the World of Darkness, from vampires to werebeasts to faeries to Formori to witches to full-fledged demons. All of them are either evil, or so deformed and horrific that they have nowhere else to go. To put this in perspective, a Midnight Circus member who almost qualifies as a TokenGoodTeammate would be "Tub of Flesh", a Nosferatu who had the misfortune of falling into the hands of Sascha Vyskos. Consequently, whilst he deeply loves children and strives to protect them, he's basically a roiling mass of semi-liquid purple-black flesh that constantly forms and reabsorbs eyes and fanged mouths. And even then, he's still a vicious killer when he needs to be, and he has to feed on blood. That's right, one of the nicest members of the Midnight Circus is a blood-drinking Shoggoth-expy with a soft spot for kids.
* The Swords & Sorcery ''TabletopGame/ScarredLands'' setting has a Circus of Fear ''nation''. The Carnival of Tears in Blood Bayou.
* Appearing in the ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer}}'' spinoff game ''TabletopGame/{{Mordheim}}'', and referenced in Warhammer too, is the Carnival of Chaos, a circus staffed by Chaos worshippers and daemons of Nurgle (who, despite being the Chaos God of despair, is a rather jovial fellow). The show seems to be benign until the climax when the Carnival members and and their stage's true putrid corruption is revealed. At this point the entertainers slaughter anyone who hasn't already fallen to the diseases secretly spread during the performance. They then round up the women and children who survived, the Carnival Master [[{{Fingore}} taking a finger]] from each woman and taking them as his [[AndNowYouMustMarryMe "wives"]].
** The ''TabletopGame/{{Warhammer 40000}}'' roleplaying game ''TabletopGame/DarkHeresy'' introduces The Menagerie, which uses carnivals, revels and fetes as a cover to expose innocent people to [[BrownNote sanity-blasting]], [[BodyHorror flesh-warping]] horrors. [[ArcWords Come and see!]] [[MadnessMantra You must come and see!]]
* ''TabletopGame/DungeonsAndDragons''
** The titular organisation from ''TabletopGame/{{Ravenloft}}'''s Carnival box set seems like this at first, with the workers divided roughly between mutated freaks and [[EnemyMime spooky, utterly silent folks in bizarre face paint]], many of which work as [[MonsterClown rather disturbing clowns,]] but it actually subverts the trope. The Carnival is one of the most accepting and hospitable places in the Demiplane of Dread, and most of the workers are good people. Most of them... there are some members who are actually evil, though they've managed to hide this from their fellows. One of the options for the true nature of Isolde, their leader, (and which has more or less been adopted as the truth), is that [[spoiler: she's a rogue angel who came to Ravenloft to pursue the [[HornyDevils incubus]] known as the Gentleman Caller, with the Twisting resulting from the interaction between her nature and the sheer corrupt nature of Ravenloft]]. The original workers for Isolade's Carnival, however, are escapees from a now-dead Darklord called "The Puppetmaster", who ruled a domain (the Carnival l'Morai) that played this trope straight (''Carnival of Fear'', mentioned in Literature above, deals with the original domain, not the current Carnival).
*** Despite all this, as is only appropriate in Ravenloft, the Carnival's still very creepy. The Skurra are attendant Vistani who wear strange black and white facepaint (the Skurra-verra) that protects them from the Twisting at the cost of making them mute. The Twisting causes people who stay overlong in the Carnival to mutate, their form changing to reflect their hearts and souls- for example, the bitter and malevolent Professor Pacali's repressed plots take life as deformed midget "things" that grow from his flesh. This is the source of his "Pickled Punks". One of the "attractions" are the horrifically warped Chaos Spawn-like remnants of people who attacked the Carnival, entities referred to simply as The Abominations. And some of the populace were strange and unnatural before they entered the Carnival, like a bloodthirsty leopard with the ability to assume a humanoid form, a Seawolf (an amphibious werewolf), the Fetch of an evil wizard and a Wax Golem.
** 1st edition supplement ''Adventure Pack I'', adventure "The Circus of Gandolfo". The title circus is just a cover for a Doctor Frankenstein-like MadScientist who likes to kidnap people and perform bizarre experiments on them.
* An TabletopGame/OldWorldOfDarkness supplement titled ''Midnight Circus'' detailed something very much like this, containing all manner of supernatural creatures enslaved to a mystic travelling circus dating back to the Roman era. It was disturbing even by World of Darkness standards.
** In the ''TabletopGame/NewWorldOfDarkness'', ''TabletopGame/VampireTheRequiem'' gives us the vampiric bloodline called the Carnival. Every last vampire of the bloodline bears a circus-freak deformity (their founder suffered from sirenalia, and was billed as "the Andalusian Mermaid"), and they often act as traveling or static carnivals, the better to hide in plain sight.
* The ''TabletopGame/{{Pathfinder}}'' module ''Carnival of Tears'' showcases a carnival where icy fey have taken over, and are slaughtering the attending townsfolk in gruesomely creative ways. No one notices, due to powerful illusion magic that replaces every event of horror with a completely normal, even enjoyable, carnival scene.
* ''TabletopGame/MagicTheGathering'' has the sado-masochistic hedonist Cult of Rakdos with its [[http://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/Rakdos_Carnarium_Cropped_851.jpg circuses]] [[DoomyDoomsOfDoom of DOOM]].
* One of the playable "families" in ''TabletopGame/{{Gloom}}'' is ''Darius Dark's Den of Deformity.'' The description for Darius Dark himself is: "The circus is in Darius' blood. And there is an awful lot of blood in Darius' circus." Although creepy and weird, the circus performers don't seem to be evil so much as incompetent. With the possible exception of [[MonsterClown Mister Giggles...]]
* [[http://www.sjgames.com/pyramid/sample.html?id=3327 The Circus Maximus]] for ''TabletopGame/{{GURPS}}''.
** Also for ''GURPS'', Poponax the Evil Clown's carnival from the ''Magic Items 2'' sourcebook. The carnival itself is relatively harmless, but all the prizes and souvenirs the visitors receive are cursed.
* In the ''TabletopGame/MutantChronicles'' Universe, the Dark Apostle Semai's method of obtaining sleeper agents in human society is by having carnivals in big cities abduct children to brainwash them.
* The Pale Moon clan of ''Anime/CardfightVanguard'' is less grisly than most other examples on the page, appearing to all intents and purposes a regular circus run by fetish-appealing performers, but these staff are monsters, the circus animals are chimera, and one stronger performer of note is a giant UncannyValleyGirl.
** And considering they're also [[CarnivalOfKillers all top tier assassins]] for the Dark Zone Nation...
* One of the canon Abyssal ''TabletopGame/{{Exalted}}'' is The Melkin Fool in Red, who is the ringmaster of the Circus Moribund. Little information is available about the Circus itself, but much can be inferred from the fact that it is run by an Abyssal.

* In the 2013 Broadway revival of ''Theatre/{{Pippin}}'', the ShowWithinAShow "Pippin, His Life and Times" is specifically being performed by a circus troupe (with performers from the RealLife Canadian troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main). The reason it's this trope is that over the course of the production, particularly in the second act, matters become increasingly disturbing until the GrandFinale - [[spoiler:where the players try to convince Pippin to commit a dramatic suicide in order to be "Extraordinary". When he refuses, the Lead Player becomes hostile and takes away the "magical illusions" of the show and he and the company encourage members of the audience to come and take Pippin's place. Because "we're right inside in your heads!"]].

[[folder:Theme Parks]]
* [[Ride/UniversalStudios Universal's]] Theatre/HalloweenHorrorNights has done this plenty of times, most notably in 2007 with the "Carnival of Carnage" theme, where the event's main icon, Jack the Clown, rounds up his own band of sideshow freaks and creates a horribly demented midway. He would later do this horror carnival again in 2015, the event's 25th anniversary.

[[folder: Toys]]
* ''Toys/MonsterHigh'' plays on the atmosphere of this trope (not the menace) in the Freak du Chic line, which introduces [[GiantWoman Gooliope]] [[SlimeGirl Jellington]], a circus-raised giant and gives the gang elaborate circus looks to go with her. This is also invoked by the Scared Silly add-on guise of one of the Inner Monster dolls, and by Merry Trotabout, a carousel-horse Fright-Mare.[[note]]The Fright-Mares are a centaur offshoot line of smaller dolls[[/note]]

[[folder:Video Games]]
* The yearly summer sideshow event in ''VideoGame/KillingFloor'' turns all the specimens into circus-themed versions of themselves. For instance, the [[NamesToRunAwayFromReallyFast flesh pound]] becomes the flesh clown, and the patriarch becomes a ringmaster. There is also a map made for said event called "Abusement Park."
* The higher levels of play in the MMORPG ''VideoGame/CityOfHeroes'' include a "Circus of Fear"-style villain group called the Carnival of Shadows.
** The members of the Carnival feed on their patrons' souls.
* ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry''
** This is the theme of two levels in ''VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountry2DiddysKongQuest'', the world Krazy Kremland. Interestingly, these circus levels have [[SugarWiki/AwesomeMusic nice music]], and a fun MinecartMadness design. However, levels in the same section of the game, including the boss fight, take place [[BeeAfraid inside a giant beehive]], which serves to show just how run down (or possibly deliberately dangerous) the park is.
** The Seal Pompy the Presumptuous in 'VideoGame/DonkeyKongCountryTropicalFreeze'' is fought in one set up by the Snomads.
* At the end of the game ''VideoGame/{{Psychonauts}}'', Raz (the protagonist) accidentally merges his mindscape with the villain's. Since Raz grew up in the circus, his mind is molded to resemble a giant circus tent. However, [[spoiler: the BigBad has a mindscape that reflects how traumatized he was when his father, a butcher, would slaughter and cook his rabbits.]] So, what do you get when the two minds collide? A horrible, twisted circus where nearly everything is made of meat.
--> '''Raz:''' My memories were bad enough. This is just ''gross''.
** Raz' remark above implies that his own (real, not that dream he had because Sasha had to go and buy the ''cheap'' Brain Tumbler) mindscape wouldn't be so much fun to begin with. He gains new perspective on his old memories at the end of the game, though, which leads me to wonder what it might look like now.
*** [[spoiler: [[NinjaPirateZombieRobot Evil Zombie-Ragdoll-Carnie Dad]]]]
*** And the heartstring tugging [[spoiler: (for a parent, at least) "Is that really how I look in your mind?" When [[PapaWolf Augustus Aquato]] finally sees himself through his son's eyes. ]]
** Furthermore, the [[SugarWiki/AwesomeMusic music]] fits the bill completely. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a1BrVVFaF-Q Just listen to it.]]
* The first ''VideoGame/ShiningForce'' game for the Genesis had a circus-based level, with a powerful marionette heading up the attacking forces ([[MonsterClown clowns]] included).
* Okay, so it's a carnival, but Tokkentakker's little three-ring terror ride that is the basis of ''VideoGame/{{CarnEvil}}'' certainly fits the bill, complete with demonic floating clown head.
* The theme park from ''VideoGame/SilentHill3'' is the Dark Silent Hill version of a theme park. Come for the faceless fairytale characters, stay for the hooded, twitching carousel flesh-horses and dark echoes of previous lives!
** Lakeside Amusement Park is actually first visited near the end of ''Silent Hill 1'', and also features a bloody battle on the carousel, this time with [[spoiler: Possessed Cybil]].
* The first mission of Circus Park in ''VideoGame/BillyHatcherAndTheGiantEgg'' certainly fits the bill.
** And the second stage too. Sure, it may not be dark anymore, but that's a pretty messed up funhouse you have to go through.
* The Nation of Fools from ''VideoGame/CastlevaniaPortraitOfRuin''. Enemy types include demonic clowns and evil acrobats. The circus appears to be in some post apocalyptic world surrounding a black hole. [[spoiler:At the end of the level, the black hole turns out to be the level boss Legion.]]
** The creepy mock-circus music just to drive the point home.
*** There was also another Circus Level at the HubLevel within the HubLevel.
* [=LeChuck=] converts a part of Monkey Island into an amusement park of doom (the "Carnival of the Damned") in ''VideoGame/TheCurseOfMonkeyIsland'' as part of his master scheme: Reasoning that the first thing a sailor wants when he arrives to port is a family-oriented fun-park, he builds the Carnival of the Damned, and its centerpiece ride, the Rollercoaster of Death, leads straight into Big Whoop and converts everyone who boards the ride into a ghost pirate minion.
* ''VideoGame/HouseOfTheDeadOverkill'' has one with [[NotUsingTheZWord Mutant]] [[MonsterClown Clowns]] and a freakshow complete with a freak as a boss. A freakier freak than a normal mutant.
* ''VideoGame/EarthBound'' has this in the city of Threed. It already starts off with a scary circus and a town overrun with undead/spectral monsters. The trope is inverted at first, as the big top is the sanctuary for townspeople. When another circus tent mysteriously shows up, the trope is played with a Nightmare Fuel-inducing variation, as [[spoiler:the tent itself is a monster.]]
* The aptly named Wonky Circus in ''VideoGame/WarioWorld''. There's also the circus setting for the third boss (Chortlebot) in ''VideoGame/WarioLand: The Shake Dimension'', although it's only ever used as a battle arena against said MonsterClown.
* Take your average Circus Of Fear, add in [[LethalLavaLand untold volumes of molten rock]] for all the geothermal power you'll ever need, have the whole thing built in a week due to harnessing the powers of a monster, and staff it with robots out the ass. [[Franchise/SonicTheHedgehog Welcome to Eggmanland.]] [[ThatOneLevel Enjoy your stay]].
** Also, ''[[VideoGame/Sonic3AndKnuckles Sonic The Hedgehog 3]]'' had Carnival Night Zone. The music could be described as an EarWorm, and [[GuideDangIt that damn barrel]]...
** Casino Park in ''VideoGame/SonicHeroes''. Not just a way to make Rings, but doubling as a death trap for Sonic.
*** Also ''VideoGame/ShadowTheHedgehog'' has Circus Park, overrun by GUN soldiers and aliens, which is also an AmusementParkOfDoom. It was built by Eggman with rings stolen through his evil schemes, to finance his evil schemes, which is also a little scary because it shows Eggman's settling in for the long haul with his own business.
* ''VideoGame/EarthwormJim 2'' provides an example with ''Circus Of The Scars'', also known as ''Inflated Head'', best summed up by Website/SomethingAwful forumite Phiggle in his LetsPlay of the game as such:
-->''"You ever been to a carnival? You know that game they have with the water guns and they're shooting water into these clowns' mouths and there's a water balloon that inflates and inflates, eventually it explodes, everybody's happy, whoever won the race gets a prize from, you know, the carny who's got, like, three thumbs on both hands, you know what I'm talking about? Well, that's basically this level. Except for the part where everybody's happy. [[DifficultySpike This level's hard]]."''
* Donbalon's stage from ''[[VideoGame/NiGHTSIntoDreams NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams]]'' probably qualifies for this.
* ''Website/{{Neopets}}'' has the flash game aptly named ''Carnival of Terror'' and has a world called The Deserted Fairground. Both are located in the Haunted Woods.
* ''Music/{{KISS}} Psycho Circus'' is ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin
* One of the levels in ''[[VideoGame/{{Painkiller}} Painkiller: Overdose]]'' features a spooky circus of doom.
* ''VideoGame/TheLegendOfZeldaMajorasMask'' has a giant music box that plays what can only described as scary circus music. It doesn't even help much that it also scares the mummies away.
* ''VideoGame/ApeEscape'' takes this trope and packs every element into the first half of the first game's monstrously huge VeryDefinitelyFinalDungeon. The main area is an amusement park taken over by the BigBad, with lots of separate areas branching off, including a crazy mine cart style roller coaster, and a more literal circus flavored area, where you must defeat an evil clown. The other sections are mostly other common video game settings, including TheWildWest and a BigBoosHaunt. This is only the first half of the level. The other, even longer, half is the Big Bad's flying castle, which includes elements of {{Tomorrowland}}. Yeah, this series really likes its location tropes.
* ''VideoGame/FallFromHeaven 2'' has a whole nation, the Balseraphs, based on this trope and CrazyAwesome, ruled by a MonsterClown and his CreepyChild daughter.
* ''VideoGame/{{Blood}}'''s "Dark Carnival" in the first episode is supremely twisted. Aside from a lantern-carrying statue of Death siccing zombies on you when you ignore his request for a ticket, the optional game where you kick a severed head through a slowly opening and closing mouth to win a prize, or the secret funhouse level that shoves rotting skeletons at you while maniacal laughter plays, there's also the fact that the whole place is built next to an evil temple filled with cultists who want you dead. Well, [[TheUndead deader]].
* The second Soviet mission of ''[[VideoGame/CommandAndConquer Red Alert 3]]'' which takes place in a vagrant carnival built on an abandoned rocket test site. It seems sparsely populated until the Soviets activate the abandoned launch facility upon which Japanese troops (including a Psychic Commando) burst out of the tents and surround the Soviets. The actual mission itself is called "Circus of Treachery".
* Music/TheResidents' ''VideoGame/BadDayOnTheMidway'' had this setting.
* The first level of ''VideoGame/DarkChronicle'' had one of these coming to Max's town, which culminated in a boss fight against the deranged clown Ringmaster and his pet elephant, Linda. And then he chases you onto a train and throws bombs at you until the whole train derails.
* ''VideoGame/MarvelUltimateAlliance'' has a level in Murderworld, mentioned in the Comics section. Complete with kamikaze bots, android copies of party members, and clowns with radioactive flower-squirts.
* ''[[VideoGame/{{Gauntlet}} Gauntlet: Dark Legacy]]'' had one of these as a final level.
* ''VideoGame/TimeSplitters2'', features all kinds of nightmareish characters in the Circus of Fear theme, like cannibalistic clowns, siamese twins that are treated as separate characters by the game, and a lion tamer who brainwashed himself into becoming a lion.
* In ''VideoGame/WorldOfWarcraft'', the Darkmoon Faire is a recurring event, and definitely qualifies for this trope. It is most assuredly not a wholesome thing; much of the staff is undead, the colours are flatly ugly, the designs on the tents are disturbing, and then there are the quests.
** With patch 4.3, it gets even creepier, as you now go to Darkmoon Island. When you enter the portal, you end up in a very ominous forest with gnarled, apparently dead trees. The signs that point you to the fair mention "ignoring the eyes" in the forest. There was some mention of never wandering too far into the woods... And if you decide to look around you might find some cages filled with humanoid skeletons, and a forsaken woman selling some [[IAteWhat rather]] [[{{Squick}} questionable]] [[ImAHumanitarian meat]] [[HumanResources products.]]
** Then there's that all-seeing eye at the entry gate that looks a lot like it belongs to one of the raid bosses... and the NPC who stumbles over his words as he almost says that the Master would be interested in certain items. It is very heavily implied that the Faire is related to the Big Bad of that expansion.
** And then there's a KillerRabbit based on [[Film/MontyPythonAndTheHolyGrail the trope codifier]].
** There's also a [[http://www.wowhead.com/npc=67332/darkmoon-eye Darkmoon Eye]] collectible battle pet that is a dead ringer for [[TheLordOfTheRings the Eye of Sauron.]]
* ''VideoGame/{{Painkiller}}: Battle out of Hell'' has a circus/fun fair called Loony Park with killer clowns and monsters made out of snack food.
* Sea Gate Amusement Park, a DLC level on ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamKnights''. (Seriously, sometimes one has to wonder why the Gotham zoning board even lets these things be built, seeing as the Joker always seems to turn them into nightmares). Simply getting to the place requires riding a rickety old cable car perched over a derelict oil rig. Why? Supposedly it was built by a now-deceased oil baron with a thing for monstrous fish, for his five year old daughter. But it was never opened because said daughter died, most likely because of the [[AdultFear dozens of lethally hazardous rides]] lying in wait for the heroes.
* Ryan Amusements in ''VideoGame/{{BioShock|1}}'''s Rapture is designed mostly as a propaganda device to scare children into never going to the surface.
* One level in ASC's ''VideoGame/{{Sanitarium}}'' has this. It's a delusion...
* Sweet Tooth's circus in ''VideoGame/TwistedMetal 4'' features such attractions as the "roller toaster", aside from being a battleground where the demented clown and a number of assorted psychos try to kill each other.
** The reboot gives us Sweet Tooth's Carnival of Carnage, built by his worshipers [[spoiler: in remembrance of his death at the hands of Calypso's wish granting]]. Not only is it a mobile carnival, its a Circus Of Fear HumongousMecha BaseOnWheels MilitaryMashUpMachine flanked by many [[MonsterClown psychotic clowns]] carrying [[ChainsawGood chainsaws]], [[ActionBomb suicide bombs]] and/or piloting [[TransformingMecha transforming]] [[BadHumorTruck ice cream trucks]]. And the ''entire thing'' is the FinalBoss. Just friggin' look at it [[http://cghub.com/files/Image/200001-201000/200758/520_large.jpg]]
* The downloadable ''Loon'' [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QICTjcKO5wE track]] in ''[=POD=]'' featured deformed fairytale castles, giant roulette wheels, an enormous wizard hat and rusted metal plates, located on a planet infested by [[GreyGoo an alien virus]]. Or is it? When you look over the guardrails, [[NothingIsScarier there is only a black void there...]]
* Stage 6 in ''Silent Assault'', complete with a MonsterClown head for a boss.
* ''VideoGame/BaldursGateII'': The circus in Waukeen's Promenade starts out normal -- until their disgruntled illusionist Kalah uses powers gained from some kind of an implied DealWithTheDevil to turn the inside of the tent into a weird personal world of his own that is BiggerOnTheInside and that no-one can escape until he is defeated.
* In the ''VideoGame/SpiderMan'' game for Sega Genesis, the Green Goblin takes over Coney Island in the second level, and you have to fight your way into the fun house to capture him. The music on the soundtrack is very Music/DannyElfman-like, creepy and [[EarWorm catchy]], and among the {{Mooks}} you have to mop up are strong men, fire-breathers, and armless cobra people(!).
* ''VideoGame/MysteryCaseFiles'' sets two of its games, ''Madame Fate'' and ''Fate's Carnival'', in the titular Madame Fate's Carnival. The detective is tasked to investigate the death of Madame Fate herself and a curse that's engulfed her carnival.
* The Megadrive game ''VideoGame/NightmareCircus'' is set entirely in one of these.
* Parodied by the sixth Halloween update of ''VideoGame/TeamFortress2''. In the game's universe, the very first carnival was ''made'' to be evil and to appease the Clown God Boffo, and evil circuses have followed in this tradition ever since.
* Downplayed in ''VideoGame/PaperMarioColorSplash'' with The Emerald Circus--it is a deathtrap, and the most potent one on Prism Island, but it's targeted largely at Mario, and any other targets are active and known allies of Mario. Nevertheless, from Mario's perspective, he has to face down firebreathing Dino-Rhinos and their trainers, Shy Guy acrobats who can dodge Mario's attacks, juggling Hammer Brothers on tightropes Mario cannot cross, and [[spoiler:Lemmy Koopa]], a StageMagician determined to make Mario "disappear" for good.
* ''VideoGame/NexusClash'' has the [[IDontLikeTheSoundOfThatPlace Circus Carnivorous]], a blood-soaked amphitheater in the heart of FireAndBrimstoneHell. A giant obelisk of living stone-flesh festering with the unholy madness of the dark god [[EldritchAbomination Tholaghru]] occupies center stage, and needless to say it's not safe to sit in the audience.
* The fourth level of the second world in ''VideoGame/KirbyTripleDeluxe'' is an abandoned circus crawling and teeming with ghosts that can be only seen via reflective mirrors.

[[folder:Web Comics]]
* The Website/{{Tumblr}}-based webcomic ''[[http://circus-of-freaks-webcomic.tumblr.com/ Circus of Freaks]]'' is about two Victorian-era {{circus brat}}s who join a freak show, with the impending doom that the two of them, who are able-bodied, will be [[BodyHorror mutilated into curiosities]].
* ''Webcomic/GunnerkriggCourt'': In his [[Recap/GunnerkriggCourtChapter4NotVeryScary introductory chapter]], [[BedsheetGhost Mort]] creates one of these at Antimony's suggestion to scare her classmate Paz.
* Gamzee from ''Webcomic/{{Homestuck}}'' more or less has this as his overall intention now that he's "sane", a turn of events which could arguably be the most utterly terrifying moment in the comic to date. Just listen to [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=m5RJOBPc1fM "Midnight Calliope"]] or [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APWIMf9cIro "The Carnival"]]. It's recommended you have a spare pair of pants on hand.
* ''Webcomic/{{Sparklecare}}'': The Big Frightening Loud Circus Carnival of Death is an aptly named circus that's apparently part of the titular hospital. There, Barry almost burns to death in an accident involving a fire ring.

[[folder:Web Original]]
* It has been announced that once ''FanFic/GraveAcademy'' starts, a part of the academy or a separate location will be this.
* An episode of the Flash series ''WebAnimation/{{Xombie}}'' had Dirge and Zoe fighting a horde of zombie clowns in an abandoned amusement park, while Dirge's undead dog [[strike:Cerebus]] [[SpellMyNameWithAnS Cerberus]] faced off against a zombie tiger.
* Website/BlackPhoenixAlchemyLab made a series of perfumes with collectible cards designed around the "Carnaval Diabolique".
* ''Wiki/SCPFoundation''
** [[http://www.scp-wiki.net/scp-1323 SCP-1323 ("A County Fair")]]. This appears to be a carnival run by TheFairFolk. Customers have to buy tickets by paying things like a cherished memory, or (ominously vague) "a favor", and anyone who eats food there has a 17% chance of staying there permanently as an employee.
** -- [[http://www.scp-wiki.net/system:page-tags/tag/herman-fuller Herman Fuller's Circus of the Disquieting]]; the performers found by the SCP Foundation, while creepy, are pretty friendly (and mostly maltreated), but the Man With The Upside-down Face they keep mentioning is decidedly not. Also described as a [[TheLittleShopThatWasntThereYesterday little big top that wasn't there yesterday]] in a tale:
--->'''''Opening Night''''': Not an eye sees our caravan pull up in the moonlit lot. Not a soul hears the sound of our spikes driven into the earth. One day we're not there, the next day we are.
* Inverted in one episode of ''Podcast/WelcomeToNightVale''. A carnival arrives in the supernatural town of Night Vale, and the host on the local radio station, Cecil, clearly believes them to be the trope, using his program to repeatedly caution the local citizens against them by describing them as weird and disturbing. Eventually, Cecil's scaremongering leads to a mob gathering and chasing the carnival out of town, at which point it becomes obvious that the carnival was perfectly normal and benign all along, and that it was the townsfolk who were the scary weirdos antagonizing them.
* ''WebAnimation/NomadOfNowhere'': It turns out the Twindleweed Brothers' Circus is composed of retired bounty hunters who capture the Nomad easily...but the only member who's actively evil is Twindleweed himself; the others are just desperate for money.

[[folder:Western Animation]]
* ''WesternAnimation/MightyOrbots'' had to deal with "The Cosmic Circus", a fake circus designed to duplicate key members in the Galactic Patrol. Was actually kinda creepy.
* Episode 9 of ''WesternAnimation/{{Ben 10}}'', "Last Laugh", feature a circus led by a VampiricDraining MonsterClown named Zombozo, whose members included: Acid Breath, a zombie-looking man [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin breathing acid]]; Thumbskull, a DumbMuscle strong man with a broken horn on his head; and Frightwig, a DarkActionGirl with CombatTentacles as hair.
* One episode of ''WesternAnimation/TheThirteenGhostsOfScoobyDoo''.
** Franchise/ScoobyDoo uses this trope ''a lot''. Circuses, carnivals, [[AmusementParkOfDoom amusement parks]], or anything similar.
* A possible variation: an episode of ''MyLittlePony'' involved the witch Somnambula inviting the ponies into her illusory carnival, where she [[LiquidAssets steals their youth]].
** Taken from ''Something Wicked'', at least the movie; in the book, the ''reverse'' happens to [[spoiler:the teacher, but she's turned instead into a child and has to run away with the freaks at the end.]]
* Circus Gothica in ''WesternAnimation/DannyPhantom''. It's a cover to rob towns, and the ringmaster (appropriately named Freakshow) uses his staff to brainwash ghosts and force them to work for him. Not to mention what almost happened to Sam when she was forced onto the tightrope...
* ''VideoGame/{{Rayman}}: The Animated Series'' has one of these as the whole plot setting. Did I mention [[BreakTheCutie half the cast are kids?]]
* An episode of ''WesternAnimation/LoonaticsUnleashed'' had one where MixAndMatchCritters are made and used to perform.
* A ''[[WesternAnimation/CaptainCavemanAndTheTeenAngels Captain Caveman]]'' episode on ''[[WesternAnimation/TheFlintstones The Flintstone Comedy Show]]'', "Clownfoot," featured the episode's [[MonsterClown villainous clown]], Clownfoot, using a circus as his hideout. At said circus, Clownfoot also rigs a tandem bicycle Wilma and Betty are riding on a high-wire to fall apart, over a cage full of hungry saber-tooth tigers.
* The ''WesternAnimation/TinyToons'' episode "Sawdust and Toonsil" has Gogo Dodo caught and imprisoned by a very-Satanic-looking ringmaster when he attempts to rescue some of his fellow Wackyland residents (a sphinx, a unicorn, etc.) from a circus. Bugs, Buster, and Plucky have to rescue him. They never really show the rest of the circus, but the Ringmaster's treatment of the Wackylanders is pretty nightmare-inducing.
* Episode 12 of ''WesternAnimation/SuperRobotMonkeyTeamHyperforceGo'', "Circus of Ooze".
* ''WesternAnimation/MightyMax'' has an episode where an Evil clown named Freeko kidnaps children, and morphs them into creatures for his freakshow. This episode, as one would expect, is brimming with horror.
* The Funhouse in ''WesternAnimation/ReBoot''. One of the rarest games on the Net (because only User children play it) and is nearly impossible for sprites to beat. Bob and Dot are the only confirmed sprites to escape it alive.
* "Wild" Bill Krebb's sideshow in ''WesternAnimation/AdventuresOfTheGalaxyRangers'' episode "Showtime." the performers are slaves, the acts have zero safety net, he ''gladly'' exploits the fact that Andorians go [[BrainwashedAndCrazy feral in captivity]]. And this was a ''lighthearted'' episode...
* In ''WesternAnimation/AquaTeenHungerForce'' episode, "Circus," Shake sells Meatwad to the circus for $2. Other acts include "Inside-out Boy," and the show does not go well for anyone, especially the audience.
* [[TheDragon Jose's]] mechanical circus from ''WesternAnimation/CyberSix'' seems pretty cool to the audience but is actually an elaborate death drap for the titular character. Of course if you get out of line, like [[BadassNormal Lucas]] [[BigDamnHeroes does]], you get taken to the back and thrown to a massive two-headed robotic snake.
* The season 1 finale of ''WesternAnimation/TeamGalaxy'' features this, where the circus clowns kidnap humans for their performances.
* ''WesternAnimation/BearStory'': The animals are kidnapped from their homes and made slaves at a circus, driven by whip-cracking circus performers.

[[folder:Real Life]]
* Carnival Diablo: The Ultimate Sideshow plays on this trope. The Carnival is run by the Devil, and the performers are presented as other-worldly beings with bizarre abilities. Many acts seem to put performers, and sometimes audience members, in danger.
* The ''Circus of Horrors'' is a real circus show that plays on the trope.
* The mad clowns, [[http://hecklesandtwitch.com/ Heckles and Twitch]].
* The [[BloodSport original Roman-style gladiatorial arena]], making this trope OlderThanFeudalism. However, the "attractions" were only scary to the people in the pit as most Romans enjoyed these public displays of violence. The gladiatorial games were even more horrible (to us) than most modern people realize, beginning with staged (but still hazardous) hunts of wild animals in the morning, executions of lower-class criminals such as slaves by various gruesome methods over lunch (during which time most respectable people left the arena to eat), then the lesser gladiatorial events such as fights involving noxii (who were sentenced to death by fighting and had their skulls bashed in at the end if they happened to survive the combat) and finally the main gladiator duels, which were relatively safe; a few gladiators actually survived more than ten fights. But the real Circus of Fear here was this: for the Romans, a proper funeral was essential to having a proper afterlife (and the real gladiators were organized in guilds that gave them just that if they fought bravely). For those who were executed in the arena and had their bodies torn apart, burned, or later dumped in trash heaps or the river, the agony and horror of death was just the transition to eternal suffering as a lost soul.
* Circus Circus in Las Vegas used to have a 3D motion ride with this trope as its theme.