|“||Only by entering will you learn its secrets.||”|
Fräulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities is the performing troupe of atypical individuals (commonly called "freaks") in a traveling carnival operated by Elsa Mars. The story "Freak Show" depicts the encampment of this troupe in Jupiter, Florida in the early 1950s.
The carnival, which employs various carnie laborers and a fortune teller, is open all day and includes a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round. However, the main event is the nightly stage performance of the freaks as well as acrobats, contortionists, sword-swallowers, and fire-eaters. The evening concludes with a musical performance from Ms. Mars.
The freaks are people with different capacities working in Elsa's freak show. She protects them as if they're her family. They seem to be close to each other, working together. She refers to them as "her monsters" and seems to keep herself aloof from them, despite her performances with the troupe and her own hidden deformity.
Some of the performers are listed here.
Ma Petite (born Mahadevi Patel) is a little Indian woman who serves as Elsa's (metaphorical) right hand and assistant. In her youth as one of India's untouchables she was literally the pet of a wealthy Majaraja, led by a leash. While her master toured America, Elsa set her eyes on this tiny prize and traded three cases of Dr Pepper to have Ma Petite join her show, where she became an ideal companion to Elsa's first acquisition, Pepper.
On stage, the world's smallest woman is unveiled in a birdcage and plays a tiny violin for musical numbers. She is often carried by others and serves as manicurist and snuggle pillow to Elsa. She is a trusting and friendly innocent that doesn't appear to be privy to the darker activities of her fellows.
She narrowly escaped death at the hands of Maggie, whose conscience got the better, but soon afterwards was murdered by Dell, and her pickled corpse eventually made its way to the American Morbidity Museum.
- Actress Jyoti Amage has stated in interviews that she hates being treated like a child or doll, but on the show that is exactly how she is treated. She is almost always in the arms of one of her fellow cast members.
Pepper is a "pinhead" (suffering from microcephaly), who appears often with a companion, Salty. Her story is also explored in more detail in a previous (but chronologically later) story "Asylum".
Like his "wife", Salty was also born with microcephaly. He was rescued by Elsa from a boys home in Cincinnati and quickly formed a bond with fellow "pinhead" Pepper, to whom he was unofficially married in a ceremony presided by Elsa. The two performed in the show together with simple dancing and clowning.
In December of 1952, Salty died of a cerebrovascular hemorrhage in his sleep, which Elsa claims is not uncommon for those of his ilk. Decapitated by Stanley, who had convinced Elsa to allow him to make the funeral arrangements, Salty's head is now displayed at the American Morbidity Museum.
Eve is an abnormally tall woman who plays piano in the show's musical numbers. She has been instrumental in helping Jimmy protect their family from outsiders. She has a close friendship with her smaller counterpart, Ma Petite.
Amazon Eve also has great body strength, which she displays when Dell (The Strong Man) attempts to murder her in her sleep, although she believed he was "trying to get with me". She is able to disarm and subdue him throwing him out of her caravan questioning "who's the strong man now?".
She is seen afterwards in Ethel's caravan having her swollen hand chilled in ice water as they discuss whether they should banish Dell or murder him for his crime against Eve.
- Amazon Eve is the actual stage name of Erika Ervin, the transgender model/actress that plays her. She was first seen by small-screen horror fans as the body (in wide shots) of Shelley Godfrey in Hemlock Grove.
Paul was born with phocomelia, a rare congenital malformation of the limbs. Both arms have the appearance of flippers, which coupled with his body ink has earned him billing as "The Illustrated Seal". He performs in the Freak Show as a drummer. Growing up in England, he was shunned due to his deformity. Inspired by the glamor of Hollywood movies, he immigrated to America only to suffer further discrimination. Out of anger, he decided to become the monster everyone judged him to be by tattooing his entire body. However, vanity prevented him from marring his handsome face. 
Paul acted as a lover for Elsa, but was also having a relationship with Penny. After Elsa becomes suspicious, Paul accuses her of selling Dot and Bette. Outraged, Elsa calls for a group meeting to see if the other freaks hate her too. She makes them prove their trust by having one freak tied to a spinning wheel while she throws knives at them. Paul volunteers, and Elsa throws three knives, the third of which strikes Paul's stomach. He is bedridden during his recovery, and is taken care of by Penny. When Penny is mutilated and tattooed indirectly by her father, Paul blames himself for causing it. Later, it seems that Paul has made a full recovery.
Shortly after Dandy becomes the owner of the freak show, Dandy earns a reputation for mistreating the freaks. When Paul decides he's had enough he stands up to Dandy and quits. This throws Dandy into a psychotic rage. Dandy goes on a rampage and massacres most of the freaks, starting with Paul.
- The most likely inspiration for Paul is Sealo, the Seal Boy about whom actor Mat Fraser wrote the play Sealboy: Freak.
Suzi is a woman without legs who relies on her arms and a wheeled board for mobility. When she was two years old, she had a spinal disease that forced her doctor to remove her legs, and her parents gave up on her and abandoned her in an orphanage. After leaving the orphanage, she became a beggar and was jealous of another beggar who got more attention because he could tap dance with his legs. Out of jealousy, she stabbed his leg but accidentally punctured his artery and killed him. This man inspired her to perform and she decided to join the freak show afterwards.
Meep is a tiny geek with a singular vocabulary ("Meep!") and a singular talent; he bites the heads off of small animals.
When Jimmy attempts to frame Dell Toledo for the murder of the police detective by planting the officer's badge in his trailer, the strongman turns the tables and it is instead found by police among Meep's possessions. Upon his arrest he is placed in a holding cell with several low men who believe him to be responsible for a string of murders and the helpless, frightened freak is beaten to death.
Toulouse is an ex-convict that was saved from working on a chain gang when Elsa bribed a guard for his release. He has since served as one of several "little people" employed with the troupe. Like most of his fellows, he plays many roles; from cook to stagehand to performer. He's as comfortable diving into a mosh pit as flipping flapjacks.
While Bette and Dot Tattler are performing "Criminal" by Fiona Apple, Toulouse goes crowd-surfing.
In Curtain Call Dandy goes on a psychotic rampage and shoots Toulouse in the head while he's drinking.
Barbara is a morbidly obese Park Avenue debutante that Elsa recruited from a wellness facility. She was given the stage name "Ima Wiggles".
She was sent to the fat farm by her wealthy Manhattan family, as her mother couldn't keep telling people that she was pregnant forever. Elsa lures her to the show by promising that her "every pound and jiggle shall be celebrated". Since joining the troupe she has been providing the comforts of both her ample bosom and bottom to Jimmy Darling, who mourns the death of his mother. This has caused her some grief from his girlfriend Maggie.
- Elsa names Barbara in honor of famed historical sideshow performer Ruth "Ima Waddler" Pontico (AKA "Baby Ruth"), who performed with Ringling Bros. in the '30s and whose sexual exploits were legendary.
These are people that visited or stayed in the freak show temporarily. They are usually not performers.
Penny (real name Penelope), to avoid being sent to reform school, works as a candy striper. She is disobedient (wearing bright red lipstick against hospital rules) and insensitive (claiming that if she gave birth to a freak she'd drown it in the bathtub). At Elsa's invitation, she visits for a night of opium and group sex with human oddities. Upon sobering, she claims to have been drugged and ravished and she intends to tell authorities. After Elsa shows her film of the orgy she admits, though disgusted with herself, that she liked it.
Since then she and Paul The Illustrated Seal have been carrying on a secret affair, of which her strict father disapproves. She must contend with his threats, behind the barrel of a shotgun, in order to leave the house. When Paul is wounded by Elsa, Penny decides to move in and aid with his convalescence. When she returns to her family home to pack, she is waylaid by her father, who has hired a tattoo artist to disfigure Penny's face as to disown her. Penny is scarred with a reptilian face tattoo and a forked tongue. She returns to Paul as a fellow freak and outcast.
After Ethel Darling's death, Penny and the other female members of troupe grow vengeful of the treatment received from Penny's father and decide to take their revenge. Penny with the other female freaks break into her previous family home and kidnap Penny's father and take him to the strong man's caravan to torture him. After pouring hot tar and pillow feathers on her father, Penny is about to murder him with a kitchen knife when she is interrupted by Maggie and persuaded not to sink to the depths her father had sunk and that she has more to lose than gain if she is caught. Penny shows mercy and spares her father.
Penny begins to work as a freak at Fraulein Elsa's Cabinet of Curiosities along with Paul. Immediately after shooting Paul, Dandy kills Penny in Curtain Call. However, in Elsa's afterlife, she is back at the Freak Show married to Paul.
Mr. Haddonfield is a crotchety war veteran who owns the property currently occupied by the troupe and though Elsa has signed a one-year lease, he expects them to vacate after only two months for a Christian revival willing to pay in advance. He is further being pressured by Mrs. Haddonfield, who claims that the freaks are giving her nightmares. However, he is swayed to extend their welcome another month after an invite into Elsa's "palace".