BLADES IN MY
Diary of a Sword Swallower (Part 1)
The Queen of
Do not try this on your own.
The things you are about to read should NEVER be
These stunts if not done properly can cause harm or
even be fatal.
Sideshow World itís staff and all parties associated
with this site strenuously advises against self-teaching
or attempting the stunts in this article. We assume no
liability for injuries, damage or death sustained through
the personal use of information contained on this website.
initial inspiration for taking up sword swallowing was
somewhat underwhelming. It started with a phone call from my
sister who called to tell me that Michael, her boyfriend of,
like, eight years, had proposed to her, and that she was now
engaged. For no apparent reason, even to myself, I told her
that for her wedding I would learn sword swallowing and
perform at the ceremony. She responded negatively, saying that
if I did, she would kill me.
Over time, my flippant interest in sword swallowing formed
into a dedicated fascination with the talent, its "old world"
feel, the parallels with the yoga practice of "mind over
matter" and control of the senses, and that the accoutrement
of choice is the sword, a symbolically intricate icon.
Not to leave out the fact that it's totally freaky, which is
almost always great. Who doesn't like a little freaky here and
I started looking around for a place or person to learn sword
swallowing from. I never lived out my ?daring idiot?
potential, so I decided against self-teaching the art. After a
little research I discovered the Coney Island Sideshow school,
which covers most of the talents in the show, such as fire
eating, bed of nails, human block head, magic, etc. But, I
didn't really care for all those things, and wondered really
how in depth the school covered sword swallowing. Plus,
putting a three inch nail into my head isn't terribly
Swords in torso, fine. Nails in brain, no thanks.
I emailed the professor of the school asking about the
program, and checking to see if it would be possible to do
private lessons. It took several months before I heard a
reply. I figured it wasn't in my cards or they didn't want to
teach the talent, but after some time I finally heard back.
Adam (my teacher) had gotten the blessings from the other
Sideshow performers to teach sword swallowing privately, and
wanted to speak with me about my interest. It was at this
point that I realized I might actually become a sword
swallower, and all of a sudden it seemed totally weird.
When I initially spoke with Adam on the phone, he seemed
considerate but hesitant about my learning the art. He
explained that if I were to ask to learn fire breathing, for
example, he could guarantee I would learn it eventually. Sword
swallowing, however is a whole other beast. He said there was
no guarantee I would actually ever swallow swords, and that it
really depended on what was going on "internally." I asked him
if he meant psychologically, anatomically, or both. He asked
me if I had ever been a smoker. He said that the only way to
describe the difficulty of learning sword swallowing was to
compare it to quitting smoking. Your cognitive, conscious
brain is saying "I would really like to quit smoking," but
your body is addicted, so it's definitely not wanting you to
quit smoking. Additionally, your subconscious mind is also
emotionally and psychologically addicted to smoking, so it's
also not on board. Sword swallowing is in a similar vein, in
that your brain may think "Hey, this is weird and cool, I'd
like to swallow swords." However, your body, with its various
gag reflexes and innate objections to swallowing solids,
really doesn't want you to put a metal object down your torso.
On top of that, there is the subconscious (and conscious)
fears that go along with performing the feat of sword
swallowing. All of a sudden, practicing sword swallowing to
the point of success seemed much more far off than my original
intent. Suddenly, that "weird and cool" stuff doesn't quite
I spoke with him about my interest in yoga, meditation, and
general mindfulness practices. Once I explained that my
interest in sword swallowing was for its yogic qualities, the
mind over matter aspect of the talent, how its working with
opening the body past fear using control of the senses, Adam's
attitude changed completely. He told me that his teacher of
sword swallowing, the founder of the Coney Island Circus
Sideshow, had taught him that sword swallowing was a yogic
practice. His teacher would begin each lesson with
pranayama (breath control) and a short meditation. He
taught that the art of sword swallowing was all about
monitoring the movement of the sword with one pointed
concentration. He told me that he thought I would be a great
student, and we could start the following week.
Continue to Part 2
These New Old Traditions