|“||What you want to hear, Guaranteed!||”|
— Slogan on a Billboard advertising the Carnival, in the illustrations of The Carnivorous Carnival
Caligari Carnival is a carnival located in the Hinterlands. It is the setting of The Carnivorous Carnival and ends up burned down by Count Olaf and the Baudelaires. It is owned by Olivia Caliban, also known as Madame Lulu.
|“||The fortune-telling tent no longer stands at Caligari Carnival, or anywhere else for that matter. Anyone wandering through the blackened and desolate hinterlands would scarcely be able to tell that there had been any tents at all.||”|
The Carnival seemed to have run for quite some time under the care of Olivia Caliban, calling herself Madame Lulu and disguising herself as a mysterious foreigner and fortune teller. She employed several people, including a figurine seller and "freak show" attractions, though she definitely did not pay the latter and rarely allowed them to be seen outside their tent.
The Carnival seems to have once been a more impressive place, with a roller coaster and several tents. Before it was set ablaze, it had fallen into disrepair, and the roller coaster had gone unused for years.
Wanting information on the Baudelaire Family, Count Olaf agreed to help Lulu attract more customers and increase her revenue at the same time by building a new attraction: a pit full with starving lions ready to devour the freaks employed at the carnival. After Lulu accidentally fell into the pit, Olaf and Esmé Squalor set fire to the carnival, forcing Violet and Klaus Baudelaire to participate.
While it is technically unknown how involved with VFD the carnival is, there are several depictions of the V.F.D. Eye around the carnival. For example, one such depiction is nearby the remains of the Volunteer Feline Detectives. Furthermore, important information regarding the organization was hidden inside a figurine.
|“||Oh, my Olaf. Please, times are very hard for Caligari Carnival. Is not good business idea to have carnival in hinterlands, so there are not many people to see Madame Lulu or crystal ball. Caligari Carnival gift caravan has lousy souvenirs. And Madame Lulu has not enough freaks, please, in the House of Freaks[...] Madame Lulu needs money, please, to do repairs.||”|
Just outside the grounds is a sign that reads "CALIGARI CARNIVAL" printed in old-fashioned script, with a faded painting of a lion chasing a frightened young boy. Behind the sign is a ticket booth and a phone booth, and behind both structures is the roller coaster, though by the time the Carnival has been burnt to the ground, the roller coaster has been in disrepair for a long time.
Past the roller coaster are several tents, with a caravan alongside each for employees to reside in, all painted with different decorations.
Madame Lulu's Fortune Telling Tent
Madame Lulu's tent and caravan are decorated with the V.F.D. Eye.
Near the entrance is a cupboard, and there is a large trunk in one of the corners, holding Lulu's disguise kit. In the center of the tent is an enormous table with a large black tablecloth decorated with shiny stars, upon the center of which is placed a crystal ball. The corners of the tent are covered in heavy curtains. The ceiling is decorated with small lights in the shape of stars, with a small mirror hanging from a piece of metal at an angle among them, attached to a piece of rubber that leads to a large knot of wires and gears, attaching to more mirrors on a wheel.
Underneath the table is Madame Lulu's Library, where she stores every scrap of paper and information she can find, in hopes of using it to please her customers. There are all kinds of documents included- newspaper articles, magazines, letters, files, photographs, etc. Several pieces of information involve the Baudelaire Family, as Count Olaf frequently visited to ask for their location. It also seems to include information about VFD, such as an invitation to Duchess R's ball, and a coded map of the Mortmain Mountains.
The lights and invention are controlled by two switches on a tentpole. When the sun rises, a small hole in the tent hits the mirrors, which creates false lightning, while the mirrors are unseen as the lights are off. Madame Lulu then pretends to read a fortune while rifling through her library.
House of Freaks
- Main article: House of Freaks
The show where the freaks conduct live performances is inside a shabby tent with several holes in it. There is a sign before it reading "WELCOME TO THE HOUSE OF FREAKS," which contains a small drawing of a girl with three eyes, which is a generic portrayal of the strange employees employed at the carnival. The tent is beside the caravan where they live, with the word, "FREAKS" labelled in peeling paint.
The House of Freaks is an attraction at the Carnival where employees with characteristics normal people consider bizarre will show off their irregularities for the audience to watch. Cold beverages are also sold inside.
This attraction was Count Olaf's idea to help bring in more money to the carnival so it was added soon before its demise. He transported what was once a group of Volunteer Feline Detectives to a large pit near the House of Freaks, dug by his henchpeople, and whipped and starved the lions. He was then going to "randomly" choose one of the Freaks to be pushed into the pit in front of a crowd of people.
Although Violet and Klaus, dressed as Beverly and Elliot, were chosen to be pushed into the pit, the siblings were able to escape this fate, and instead, Olivia Caliban and the Bald Man with the Long Nose fell into the pit and were devoured by the lions; it is unknown if it was accidental or if one or both were intentionally pushed.
Caligari Carnival's solitary roller coaster was out of order for quite some time, and had been grown over by poison ivy. The Baudelaire siblings and Madame Lulu had planned to use the carts from the roller coaster to escape the carnival, meaning they were able to function off the track.
There is a Gift Caravan at the Carnival that is said to have had lousy souvenirs that guests chose to buy nevertheless. One of them, a figurine, contained an important piece of evidence hidden by VFD; a female volunteer ran the tent and escaped the fire with her figurine.
The Guest Caravan at the Carnival houses any guests of Madame Lulu's. Count Olaf, Esmé Squalor, and their associates stayed in this caravan during their stay at Caligari Carnival. It is revealed that Jacques and Lemony Snicket also stayed here once.
Netflix Series Divergent Canon
In the Netflix series, the Caligari Carnival is explicitly a VFD-owned business. The role of Madame Lulu is shifted between volunteers, held by Kit Snicket for an unknown period of time. The show where the freaks performed live was still put on and they were used to cruel treatment, though Kit apparently told them that they deserved better and offered to pay for their education.
Kit left the carnival in the care of Olivia Caliban to search for the Sugar Bowl, and she used her position to keep Olaf and his troupe in one place. She and the Baudelaires planned to escape together, but she ended up sacrificing herself for them, confronting Olaf in front of the lion pit so they could run. Olaf then killed her by dropping her into the pit of hungry lions, where she was mauled to death by the lions. He then set fire to the entire carnival, burning the Baudelaires’ escape route.
- The Carnival was likely named after the 1920 German Horror film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, often cited as one of the first horror movies ever made.