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 terrible!

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 of him.


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