In memory of John Hayes Mabley, Director of Psycho Management from 1991 – 2023. Best know as ‘Doctor Haze’, John passed away from cancer in May 2023. John had a huge impact in the entertainment world, devising and producing circus shows, discovering and routining new talent, and writing and performing with his band. He will be most loved for his creation The Circus of Horrors, which has toured the world for almost 30 years. His wish was nothing more than to return to the stage performing his ringmaster role in his beloved circus show.
John was a master of many trades, including songwriting, magic and illusion, visionary, singer, performer, and a collector of bizarre human acts . If ever there was a modern day Greatest Showman then surely Dr Haze would be right up amongst the front runners. In fact, London’s Time Out once quoted ‘Barnum would be proud’ when describing Dr Haze and The Circus of Horrors.
Dr Haze was born in a circus but brought up in Preston, where he lived on Avenham Road. His family, performers themselves, travelled with the Winship Circus to Scotland when he was a new born. However, when John was just six months old, his lion-trainer father left the family to pursue his next adventure. They reconnected when John was 12 years old and moved to London to join his father for a more settled life. Then, John began his journey as a fire-eating act in a new circus in Ireland.
Dr Haze never forgot his Lancashire roots regularly visiting his old school friends and passionately supporting his beloved Preston North End watching them play whenever he could.
At 16, John learned to play the guitar and started writing music influenced by rock and roll and his idol, Marc Bolan of T Rex fame. The 1970s were a time of incredible rock bands like Slade, The Stones, and Alice Cooper. John fed off the sales and appetite for records in that period and was inspired by Bolan’s swagger, song writing talent, and dream of being a world rock star. He was also drawn to the punk scene and the rise of horror in cinema, with films like Don’t Look Now, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and The Exorcist To all of this Haze added his unique sense of humour in everything he did.
Haze formed his first band Flash Harry in the late 70s bringing rock theatre to small venues, often appearing out of a coffin at the start of the show and ending it with spectacular fireball blow outs to amazed pub audiences. Then during the 1980s and 90s, John performed with his band Haze Vs The X factor and incorporated elements of circus and horror into their performances for dramatic effect. They played The Marquee Club in London, and John created the title Circus of Horrors for one of their acts. It wasn’t until 1995 that he returned to his circus travelling roots with a new troupe under this new wave of circus production.
A tragic twist of fate brought him back to Lancashire in December 1994. His godson died in a circus
accident at Blackpool Tower Circus, this is when renowned circus owner Gerry Cottle, a close friend of the family met John and discussed ideas for a new brand of circus. Along with Circus Archaos’ creator Pierrot Bidon, The Circus of Horrors was born, debuting at the Glastonbury Festival in the summer of 1995.
Despite sceptics who predicted the Circus of Horrors would not last, the show continued to reinvent itself and discover new performers worldwide for over two decades. Dr Haze scoured the planet for unusual people who could do extraordinary things, including the man with the stretches skin in the world, one of the smallest men in the world, and no less than seven sword swallowers.
Dr. Haze brought together an incredible line-up of performers, including Hannibal Helmuerto sword swallower who could swallow everything from a lit neon tube to the leg of a chair, a hair-hanging diva who flew above the audience suspended only by her hair, and Captain Dan the demon dwarf who used parts of his anatomy to lift weights.
The contemporary, glamorous blend of sword-swallowing, voodoo acrobats, face-piercing, and other stomach-churning, bizarre human acts — all performed to rock music which was an integral part of The Circus of Horrors — has since travelled the world visiting places such as Japan, Holland, Germany, Russia, Argentina and Chile to name but a few played the London Palladium and even finals on ITV’s Britain’s Got Talent.
Dr Haze’s Circus of Horrors was a unique blend of circus, cabaret, and horror, featuring performers who amazed and shocked audiences with their death-defying stunts and macabre acts. The show included fire-eaters, sword-swallowers, contortionists, acrobats, and other performers who pushed the boundaries of acceptable entertainment truly brining the extreme to the mainstream.
Dr Haze and his business partner Patrick run Psycho Management who also handled publicity for several touring circus productions and music artists.
Dr Haze together with his business partner Anthony Anderson formed The European Entertainment Corporation and this company remains to date, to be a leader in the Circus Entertainment industry in Europe and for many years have produced and toured ground breaking productions and in more recent times Circus Berlin, Circus Ukraine and Circus Extreme. The latter of which an 8 part series was made for Amazon prime fittingly named “The Real Greatest Showman”
Obviously, due to the pandemic, shows, theatre productions, Download Festival and many others – his tour programme was cancelled entirely. Along with most of the entertainment industry, Circus of Horrors came to a standstill, with the performers left out of work for an undetermined period but yet Dr Haze has still looked after his circus family. The turn in the tide came in the late summer 2020, when after peaceful protests outside Downing Street, outside circus under the Big Top was given the green light to go ahead under strict new Covid measures for performers and audiences.
John said at the time “Our opening show in Eastbourne ended in a standing ovation, such was the appetite for entertainments. It is very humbling for me to still have that.
“I feel fortunate to be in a job I love every day, entertaining people, performing, writing music and songs that people have bought and played time and time again. If anything, the pandemic has put a spotlight back on the arts and is demonstrating just how important they are’
Dr Haze worked tirelessly to create new acts and improve the Circus of Horrors, and his efforts paid off with a loyal following of fans who appreciated his unique vision. Dr Haze will be remembered as a pioneer in the circus and cabaret, and his legacy will live on through the Circus of Horrors and the many performers he touched.
Since Haze took ill with oesophagus cancer, Anastasia IV and his The Circus of Horrors family made sure that ‘The show must go on’ and supported him in the way he wanted.
Sadly after bravely fighting the cancer for over a year on a Morpheus trial, Haze passed away peacefully with his partner of 16 years Stephanie Bates by his side, who had supported him throughout his illness.
Doktor Haze left us on the 13th World Circus Day 2023 a fitting tribute to an amazing character and showman.
Rest in Power and Rock ‘n’ roll Dr Haze
Obituary in the Lancashire Evening Post