Francis Doran & The Neon Tube
by Charles Keeler
Life became very interesting in the
Astro Hall. We were open by 12 and had to work until about an
hour before the first Circus performance. The first 2 weeks they
wouldn't let the Astrodome tours into the Astro Hall. Business was
We had the entrance, a slight intermission, the interval between
first and second show and shows end. After the second week they
made many changes. The tours were allowed to come into the Astro
Hall which now made for a full day. Now we had a morning tour, the
circus, another tour, the blow off and second circus.
Between shows when it was slow we visited with the sideshow
people. We all became pretty close friends.
One day Francis Doran, the sword swallower, was celebrating his
birthday quite early and every one was helping him. The 12 hour
days were getting a little boring during the slow period. My help
and I were standing outside my joints, when we heard this scream
from the sideshow. We ran over right away as it was a different
scream from that of the guerrilla crowd. Francis had tried to
swallow a neon tube in the show and in his inebriated condition
had some how bent his body and broke the tube inside. We laid him
down and sent for 911 they arrived and took him to the hospital.
All the performers were shook up. They had tried to talk him out
of swallowing the neon tube as he had been drinking all day. He
had done the act before but he had also had one break before, but
he insisted he was able to do it. Anyway they took him to the
hospital and they removed the glass and three days later he was
back here again. It was a while before he was able to work again
but not long. After that life went on as though nothing out of
the ordinary happened.
Post Script: Francis Doran learned to swallow swords from Ward
Hall in 1960. At that time he asked Ward to teach him, Ward told
him he would as long as he never tried to swallow neon. Francis
died in 1979 from lung problems. His lungs filled with fluid from
an accident he had years before when a neon tube exploded inside
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