Witness the Incredible

 

By KONRAD SUROWIEC

 

 KIMBERTON  Eighteen years ago Rick Dennis's strange career early came to a tragic end. While plying his craft of fire-eating during show in upstate New York in 1969, Dennis suffered third-degree burns it\30 percent of his body from the waist up. "Gasoline blew up in my face," he said.
 
People who witnessed the accident said the upper part of his body was ablaze for 10 seconds before a man in the audience put the fire out.
Dennis spent six weeks in the hospital intensive care unit and could barely breathe. Doctors wanted to do a tracheotomy to make breathing easier.
 
"I wouldn't let them cut me," Dennis said. "The cut in my throat would have ended my sword-swallowing career."
Dennis, 35, of Vestal, N.Y., operates the "Incredible Oddities Sideshow," one of only three full-time sideshows still running in the U.S. The sideshow, which costs $1 to see, is now playing at the Kimberton Community Fair.
 
Dennis, also called "Dr. Blood," has polished his skills as a knife-thrower, sword-swallower, fire-eater and magician through 12 years of criss-crossing the country with sideshows and 10 years running his own show.
 
Shelly Dennis, Rick's wife, is also a fire-eater, not to mention snake-handler and human target for her husband's penchant for throwing knives.
Dennis honed his knife-throwing skills as a teen-ager by using the brand new suit of clothes his parents gave him as a target. He figured if the clothes were damaged, he'd be in big trouble, so he quickly developed a sharp aim.
 
"That's how I practiced, throwing at my good clothes,'' Dennis said.
 
In the thousands of times Rick has thrown knifes at Shelly over the last 10 years, he has only "skinned" her twice. He says he has never cut her.
 
"It's more exciting to them (the audience) to do it real," Dennis said about the dangerous acts he performs. "You take the extra chance to show them it's real."
 
After inserting a sword down his throat, Dennis lets someone in the audience pull it out. He said some people are still skeptical that the acts for real.
 
"What more do they want?" Dennis asked.
 
Besides Rick and Shelly, the other three performers in the current show are Jim Singer, Mark Miller and Dean Guerney.
 
Singer apparently has earned his stage name, the "Human Blockhead." His act includes inserting nails, screwdrivers and ice picks into his nose.
 
Last night, after inserting a four-inch Phillip's head screwdriver in- j| side his right nostril and up his sinus *-passage,    Singer   turned   the   instrument and said, "I've got a few screws loose I have to tighten."
 
The performers pay a price for all the headaches, 
 

Photograph
by Liz Andrews Willow

Article: Reprinted from The Evening Phoenix July 24th 1987 Phoenixville PA, Submitted by Rick Dennis

 

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