Human Volcano Finds His Fame
LONGVIEW, Texas (NEA)-The
tall, lanky man walks over to the table, pours himself a
cup of lighter fluid and promptly goes up in flames.
With a short gust of breath, he blows himself out.
Dressed in solid black, a stark contrast to his fair
features, he pauses for a drink - of water this time - and
slides a cigarette out of a pack.
With a sly grin, R.T. Eby admits he doesn't need a light.
He says he knows all the fire jokes.
He seems to be a relaxed person, casual and talkative. He
is as sure of himself in conversation as he apparently is
in his work.
He has to be.
A mistake in most professions might cost you a job. In
Eby's profession, it can cost you your life.
He is living proof that he doesn't make mistakes.
Billed as "The Human Volcano" with Waller International
Circus Sideshow, Eby literally bursts into flames while
He says he is one of only 12 professional fire-eaters in
Immediately he qualifies the term "professional."
"I'm not one of these guys who blows a little flame and
says, 'Wow, look at that.' I am a showman and I'm very
proud of my act."
Eby says he is the only professional fire-eater who
performs the "Double Volcano," which involves grasping a
flaming torch between his teeth and igniting two other
If he ever fails at that stunt, he probably won't get a
second chance to succeed.
"Breathing in kills you," he
"The fire singes your lungs."
The risks of a bad burn and
possible death - are simply part of the job for a
fire-eater, he explains.
"I'm always getting little burns," he says, pointing to
his blistered mouth. "It's part of the business. It;s
part of the act. You do it enough and you quit feeling
But he adds that he does nothing that he cannot control.
"You learn to control it and keep burns down to a
minimum," he says.
Jack Waller, who owns the sideshow, was Eby's "fire
Eby knew Waller personally. The aura of excitement around
fire-eaters prompted Eby to ask Waller to teach him the
tricks of the trade.
"You start out with dry
torches and learning the moves, the breathing techniques,"
Eby explains. "At least half of it is breathing technique,
combined with moving the torches."
A former journalist, the 32-year-old Eby has an associate
degree in journalism from Fresno, Calif., City College
and a bachelor of music education degree from the
University of Colorado at Denver.
"I wouldn't trade it," he says in comparing fire-eating
to other professions. "I want to notoriety it gives me.
I like the things it does for me. I require attention. I
want to do something sensational.
"I'm gonna live. I'm not afraid to try things and I want
to live and experience things if it interests me.
"I'm not gonna say, 'I could've.' But I'm not out to kill