Most people are under the impression
that a man who has had nine inches of cold steel through his body is of no
earthly use to anybody.
Chevalier Cliquot, however, is a
very substantial contradiction to the popular belief. For twenty-one years
he has had the almost daily experience of having considerably more than the
usual allowance of 9ins of steel through his body, and far from being of no
earthly use, he apparently thrives upon his remarkable performance. He can
comfortably show 22inches of fine hard steel in his interior, and come out
of the ordeal smiling.
None of us have swallowed Cliquot
with as much gusto as Cliquot swallows steel and other trifles, such as watches
41/2inches in circumference, and electric lamps, which are certainly hot, but
Twenty-one years ago Cliquot - he
was not Cliquot then, merely plain Fred McLane - had as much difficulty in
swallowing a hot potato as any other lad of his age. Just about that time,
however, he became circus mad and ran away from a comfortable home in Chicago to
join a circus en route for South America.
Cliquot may have aspired to become a
King of the Ring as a bareback rider, or mayhap he might have risen to the
glorious height of a tumbling clown with bad jokes and worse attire.
But in Buenos Ayres his
future was settled, for there he met a very respectable
sword swallower, and was so struck with the startling was in which the gentleman
disposed of feet or steel that he there and then determined to become a disciple
of the gentle art. He boldly asked the respectable of articles of war if he
would take him on as a apprentice, but, owing to the fact the Cliquot had not
the wherewithal to meet a demand for fees, the indentures were never signed.
Nether daunted, however, the young
enthusiast set to work with a long piece of thick silver wire, and succeeded in
the course of a few hours training in lacerating his esophagus to and extent
that a few days rest was imperative. He soon commenced again and presently
threw aside th ewire for something more bulky in the shape of a bayonet.
He started experiments in throat hardening, and soon found the correct gargle, a
mysterious mixture which includes whisky and glycerin, that made the progress of
the weapon he employed less painful.
In nine mouths he was able to get an
ordinary sword 14ins. down his throat, but much yet remained before he could
reasonably expect an engagement as a professional. Cliquot informed the
writer that it was only after five years hard and consistent training and
experiments that he felt thoroughly satisfied with his own performance. Of
course, in the meantime he had appeared in public, and with success, for then,
as now, the art of genuine sward swallowing was only followed by a few, and as a
novelty, was always in demand.
Cliquot's performance as it is one
of the most remarkable and extraordinary that has ever been given to the public.
The writer recently "assisted" as a member
of a committee, formed from amongst the audience as a guarantee that the
different facts were thoroughly genuine. Seated within a few feet of the
artist, the committee could not fail to notice if anything of a "faked"
character was introduced. There is not the slightest doubt that the "act"
was conducted throughout in a perfectly bona fide manner.
Medical authorities allow that the
passage of the throat will admit, upon demand, and with the aid of a little
gently persuasion at the hands of an experienced person, the introduction of an
instrument fourteen inches long, and three quarters of an inch in circumference.
Such a feat to Cliquot is as nought. It is not the smallest inconvenience
to him to introduce a sword twenty-two inches long, and he can very comfortably
swallow a watch no less than five inches in circumference. That is why the
medical profession regard him as a phenomenon of the age, and why its members
are always eager to persuade Cliquot to undergo examinations.
Cliquot takes much humorous
satisfaction out of a remark once passed by an astonished physician: "You
are outraging Nature. sir; she is probably biding her time; and sir, mark my
words," he continued darkly, her revenge will be all the more terrible when it
comes! Cliquot appears to think that, after a period of twenty-one years
it is not unreasonable to suspect that Nature feels she has been conquered
Amongst the many remarkable features
of Cliquot's performance is the swallowing of a bayonet -sword, 19inches long.
When this has reached its destination a rifle is fixed to the hilt, pointing
upwards, and fired. The performer sometimes allows the sword to remain
about half-way down until the rifle is fired, when the recoil of the weapon on
being fired promptly sends the sword upon the remainder of its journey. Being
curious to know what sensation this little "extra created I was informed by the
Chevalier that he felt no pain whatever.
Another striking effect is produced
by the performer swallowing a 22inch sword, across the hilt of which a bar
extends. Upon the ends of this bar are hung a couple of dumb bells, the
entire weight being 76lbs. Cliquot bears this burden as cheerfully as
possible, and seems rather sorry when, after the space of several minutes, the
weights are removed.
But one sword is apparently not
considered good enough for the swallowing capacity of the remarkable man.
He must needs to something to convince his audience of the extent to which his
throat can expand under pressure; and expand it certainly does when he inserts
as one time through a gaping month no fewer than four 19-inch swords.
These are no sooner settled down than he quick as lightning, snatches them, one
by one, and with no tender wrench, form his throat showering them about the
stage in a bewildering fashion.
The strangest thing about these
feats is that Cliquot, with nineteen inches of stiff steel run like a skewer
through his body, can bend about in a most infamous fashion. What happens inside
during these genuflexions is more than more people imagine. For a moment
Cliquot's interior must often feel intensely surprised at the liberties taken
with it in connection with this feat of becoming a sheath for tour sword at
once, Cliquot tells a story of a member of the medical profession who was
present at a private "show. Evidently incredulous that the act was genuine
the Didymusian medico dashed forward seized the handler of the four blades and
dragged them out in a bunch. Cliquot suffered very much in the unpleasant
episode, and was so injured that he was compelled to retire for months; his
life, in fact hanging by a thread. Of course the doubting one apologized,
but an apology is not soothing under such painful circumstances.
Another little item of the programme
is the swallowing of a watch and chain. Cliquot swallows anybody's watch
if it does not exceed five inches in circumference. At the word "Go" the
watch disappears, together with most of a long chain.
For no less than three minutes the
watch remains "downstairs," and during this time the Committee amuse themselves
by putting their ears to Cliquot's chest to hear the ticking, and undoubtedly it
is heard. Meantime, the performer, holing the end of the chain between his
teeth, calmly puffs away at a cigarette.
The bon borche of the
programme, in every sense of the word, is the descent into Cliquot's interior of
a sword, at the point of which is fitted a sixteen-candle power electric lamp.
All the lights in the house are turned out to allow the audience to be edified
by the glow of the lamp which penetrates through the throat and the upper part
of the chest. The lamp is worked by an 8-volt battery on the stage.
Cliquot offers to forfeit L5
if he fails to swallow any ordinary sword, and this announcement made from the
stage each evening does not fail to attracts those who would grasp the good red
gold. In Sunderland a man rose in the audience and defied Cliquot to
swallow a sword which the stranger displayed. It was handed upon the
stage, when the Committee soon discovered that the weapon, a cavalry saber, had
been sharpened especially for the occasion. Now, Cliquot makes it no part
of the bargain to swallow a sword with a razor edge. The Committee
promptly protested, and when it was pointed out to the audience that the
gold-seeker had plainly sharpened the sword for "this occasion only," they were
very indignant, and the stranger had a bad quarter of an hour in consequence.
However, to put an end to the unpleasantness Cliquot got hold of the sword and
it went on the usual journey of exploration. Needless to say the audience
responded to a man.
Some years ago Cliquot was
travelling from Denver, Colorado, to San Francisco, a straying cow got on the
railway line. It "was bad for the coo," of course, but the train was
derailed. Cliquot had to complete the journey in a derailed car, and,
having to open the same night, he found, to his horror that his baggage had been
left behind. He was compelled to go on for his act in his ordinary
clothes, while the implements of his profession had to be substituted by a
collection of swords form a neighboring military barracks.
This was bad enough, but after his
weapons were in good condition a little strange in size and weightless were
capable of being swallowed.
Much more serious difficulties ever
have arisen, and more Cliquot has found himself within a
more able distance of a serious mishap.
On one occasion the sword he was
using proved to be a worthless piece of metal, little better than a big iron. He
had swallowed it pretty much up to the hilt, and as is his want he moved about
while acting as sheath to the weapon.
In some unaccountable way and
owning to the inferior quality of the steal suddenly bent. The moment Cliquot proceeded to draw it out realized the unfortunate position he was in.
The slightest movement of the weapon caused the most intense suffering.
But it had to come. Gradually, infinite care, and in spite of terrible
agony, the treacherous blade was withdrawing and although the pain was great,
Cliquot was happy to discover that no really serious injury had been dome to
Ostriches are credited with a
marvelous capacity for stowing away within there manner of curious and
wonderful things. Cliquot makes no pretence to emulate these big and
somewhat foolish birds in the sense of swallowing, for the purpose of digestion
or otherwise, such things as they might relish. Upon one occasion,
however, he involuntarily came nigh to having a distinctly unwholesome morsel to
digest in the shape of a watch. He had borrowed it in the usual way, and
after examining it, quickly popped it into his mouth, and, retaining a hold of
it by the chain, he swallowed it. Presently he proceed to draw it out from
its strange resting place when in some extraordinary manner, it became detached
from the chain, and was soft sticking in Cliquot's esophagus.
The position was distantly critical,
and the removal of the watch proved to be a very difficult task. In
another adventure with a watch, and an even more unpleasant - although possibly
not so dangerous - an experience as the one I have just related.
He had swallowed an ordinary
peaceful and harmless looking watch. Suddenly for no reason that he can
explain, the glass broke. Possibly the sudden warmth shivered it.
Yet no other glass had behaved in the same way. It need scarcely be said
that whatever the cause was, Cliquot has no desire to go through such an
The other night Cliquot enjoyed the
unique privilege of swallowing a sword that had done good service in the battle
While fulfilling an
engagement at Ronacher in Vienna, Cliquot attended a special gathering of
doctors and professionals from all the hospitals in the Austrian capital.
He went through his performance, and, needless to relate, he
said that if any one wanted to draw them, it should be done one by one
and not in a bunch. The swords were not half their length in Cliquot
economy when he appeared to be suffering and turned pale. His manager had
turned his back when they were beginning to disappear, and he heard one
of the doctors say, "My God, this is going too far." He
turned to see Dr. G. B. Hope grasp the swords by the butts, and
sharply withdraw them, instead of pulling them out quickly, one by one,
as a card player deals cards, and as Cliquot does on stage. He
gave a groan and leaned forward, and appeared to be in great agony, and
could not speak for several moments. He then complained of severe pain
in the stomach and throat. After a hypodermic injection of morphine had
been given to him he was taken to his hotel in a cab. It was at first
feared that either his throat had been lacerated or that there was a
puncture of the stomach, and that an operation would be necessary, but
there was no hemmorhage, and his condition had so far improved as of yesterday
1899 by H.J. Holmes