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DISCLAIMER

The contents of this section are dangerous. More importantly, misuse of this information may result in harm or death. Sideshow World and it's Staff WARN you against and are not responsible for any harm or death that may  be a result  to you or someone else by using the information contained in Slim's Manuscripts or on Sideshow World.

 

You should not attempt any of these Acts without the direct supervision and training from  a responsible and trained professional. 

 

by Slim Price

Sword Swallowing

I was eager, young, and wanted to know it all! I was passable at fire-eating, loved the snakes, had good hands as a magician, understood the principals of the human dynamo act, was able to talk, (I loved the mike) grind, and do a myriad of other jobs on the show, but as a sword Swallower I was the king of the mediocre.

I never got good enough to do anything but work the bally, and the fire-act was much more dramatic. I learned the basics from a performer on another show, named the “Mighty Ajax” a huge man who spoke broken English. He gave me a bayonet, which was the only “sword” I ever had.

Often, I’m asked where does the sword go by skeptics who would rather look for trickery, than just to accept that what they see is true. The sword enters the glottal chamber, passes the epiglottis, the pharynx, and enters the esophagus, must be pushed (a little) past the muscle that closes the stomach, and then as far as you will allow it. You’ll know how far you can go into the depth of the stomach once you first touch the inside of the bottom of your stomach, and will never forget the feeling!

The fundamentals.

The thing that separates sword swallowers from sane people is the ability to control the “gag-reflex” put there by whoever designed our wonderful bodies to prevent foolishness of this kind. Actually the gag-reflex is part of our system, there to prevent the ingestion of anything foreign. The first lesson then is to overcome it, and maybe to learn some control over the muscles that close the throat. No one can tell you how to open those muscles. It’s one of those things like wiggling your ears, and it’s also the secret of being able to re-gurgitate, another whole act. At that time I was able to swallow and return to my mouth fairly large objects. Excuse me for digressing, it seemed to fit here. Back to the wonderful world of gagging..

The reflex can be dulled by frequent abuse. Many times a day, you stick your finger down your throat, use things like bananas and cucumbers to make yourself choke, and anything else you can think of to set off the reflex, until it just quits working, or nearly. It took me about two weeks of trying until I finally was able to shove my finger down my throat without much response. The old rule was “seven times a day for seven days. By now, you have the idea that this is something you really, really want to do! Along with the gagging, you will also have a pretty sore throat. There is also the possibility of infection, I realize now, but then I was, of course, invulnerable. After all, I was in show biz! (A tip for your sore throat: Our cure for anything in the throat, like gagging, hoarseness or whatever was Horehound cough-drops. They are very soothing...)

A note. You must take your own responsibility for any damage you do to yourself. If you do this at all it has to be at your own risk.

The tools

Much attention has to be paid to whatever you stick down your throat. The slightest irregularity, even a dust particle can cause you to gag, which can at the least be embarrassing, and in the worst case fatal! Quit now, while you can, I lost two friends to accidents related to sword swallowing.

You must cultivate a strong habit of continually wiping the blade(s) you use. Stomach acid is extremely corrosive and will cause pits in almost any blade.

Any blade you use must be impossible to separate from the handle, be smooth without any etching, nicks, or filigree. The edges must be removed and rounded, and the “point” must also be removed and rounded to at least the radius of a five cent coin (a nickel) and ideally more. Without exception, the blade must be nickel-plated. Chrome plating is easier to get, but will peel and flake.

I learned much from Alec Linton when I finally got out on the road. The man was pure energy, and tattooed over nearly every inch of his body. He would routinely do a “sword-sandwich” of six blades, all full sized. There is a current performer who uses seven or more blades in his performance, but the blades are skinny. Alec had no such luxury. His feature was a trick he called the “Shimmy-Shawabble” which was a plated layout pin bent into a series of “S” curves, that made his Adam's Adam’s Apple visibly go from side to side when he passed it up and down his throat! One of the friends I lost was an East Indian named Shumpert Eko, who swallowed one of the earliest neon tubes. By the way, in spite of the claims that the whole

body shows the light, the only place it shows is at the larynx... one of the most elegant of today’s performers is Istvan Betyar,

who appears all over the world... He has the feeling of the old days, with the flair of today.

Sooner or later, some one will ask you what’s the trick. Ask them for a piece of dry spaghetti out of their own box, and pass it down your throat. It’s easy, proves that it won’t fold into the handle and makes you look like a star, unless, like I did, you break it off in your throat. I drank a lot of water that day...

X-ray of Istvan Betyar

Alec Linton

Adam's apple go from side to side in a manner not soon to be forgotten. Alec also used a scimitar with a curved blade, arching his body to accommodate it.

Now, on to the mechanics..

There is always the potential for gagging. Reduce it as much as you can, first by knowing THAT YOU CAN DO THIS.. Always keep a cloth at hand to wipe the blade, before you drop the blade down the ‘chute, and after to wipe the blade clean of stomach acids. Most pros like to use a chamois (Shammy) cloth for this.

Line up your throat by starting the blade into your mouth. and finding the opening. It’s impossible to get the sword in the wrong place. Align your body, push just a little, and the blade will go down. In most cases, you’ll find that it will go as a result of its own weight. The trouble most people have with swords is not tipping the head back far enough. After you do it for a while, you may discover that it will not go down far enough to suit you. Give your self a break for a few days, and try again.

Don’t believe the tales about swallowers dropping swords any longer than about 20 inches. Beyond this, you can get in real trouble.

Istvan Betyar

 


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