Diary of a Sword Swallower (Part 2)

by The Queen of Swords


Do not try this on your own.


The things you are about to read should NEVER be attempted, 

These stunts if not done properly can cause harm or even be fatal.


Sideshow World it’s 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.


My friends and I spent the week wondering how exactly one starts sword swallowing. Carrot sticks? Pocky? Butter knife? Fencing sword? Very curious.  


Missed the throat! 

Adam and I arranged to hold the lesson in my lower east side apartment. After some heckling and loving encouragement from the guys I work with, I was able to slip out early to get home for my first session. Running late I called Adam from two blocks away, to let him know I was almost here. I saw a big man standing in the snowy twilight outside my house holding a long kevlar bag…obviously the guy. Standing at about 6’3” with a handlebar moustache, cowboy shirt, slicked back pompadour, and thick Buddy Holly glasses, Adam’s style undoubtedly said “barker.”


He began by speaking about the anatomical aspect of sword swallowing. The human body has five gag reflexes, five points within the act of swallowing that need to be controlled as the sword slides into your body. First there is the tongue. Most people have that one covered. Then there is the back of the throat—the bulimics best friend—most commonly known as the gag reflex. Next there is the voice box, which is a hard lump resting in between the collar bones. This is followed by the esophagus, which is unsettlingly close to your heart. And finally, there is the stomach, the last stop on the sword swallowing train. Each one of these gag reflexes will react accordingly as I swallow the sword, and each one will be a new challenge to overcome as I get further and further in my practice. By further in my practice, I mean of course, further into my body.


After explaining the various stages of “gag” that the sword swallower overcomes with each swallow, Adam demonstrated the act as I watched his posture, gestures, breath and timing. Before demonstrating he gave the disclaimer that sword swallowing, like riding a bicycle, is something you will never forget how to do, but if you are rusty, the first attempts will be “rough.” Adam hadn’t swallowed in about a month, so as the sword slid down his throat and into his body he retched and gagged, guttural sounds expelling from the sight. It wasn’t terribly pleasant. He pulled the sword out elegantly but with a final gag and said “so, you can see it takes a little practice to get back into it smoothly.” He assured me that you just get used to the gagging, its not a big deal, and just comes with the territory. He explained that a cold sword will also cause gagging, so its good to keep them in a warm place before practicing.


It was finally time for me to start my work. But with what? He pulls out of his bag a simple wire coathanger. Oh no, this seems a bit provocative, botched abortion, anyone? He bends the coathanger from the center bottom, pulling the shape straight like an outline of a blade with a hook at the top, the bottom curved and about an inch of space between the two wires. He gives me a green Brillo pad and some listerine mouthwash, saying that he is very careful about using these to sterilize his blades every time. He tells me about Heather Holiday, the young resident swallower at the Coney Island Sideshow. “She’ll let little kids touch them and put them on the ground and then she’ll swallow them immediately after. She doesn’t seem to mind. Me, I get a bit anal about keeping everything clean. I worry about infections and stuff.”


Part of the Maze


We thoroughly clean the tool, making sure to Brillo off any coating on the wire that could flake off in my body. Before starting he directs me to get out a trash bin, “just in case,” and I place it at my feet. I stand with my feet firmly planted, hip width apart. Shake my body loose, relax anything that could be tight internally. I lick along the length of the two-foot wire “sword” to lubricate the metal, and with a big breath in I lift my head and pull the wire as straight as possible above my mouth. Exhaling, I slowly lower the wire into my mouth, to the back of my throat. Trying to utilize body mindfulness and non-judgmental concentration of sensation, I feel the hard cold metal in the top of my throat, and then a little deeper, slowly proceeding to a few inches into my neck. Very quickly and involuntarily the sword comes out with a deep, body shaking gag.


It didn’t go very far. Adam assured me that was a good start, I went slowly, and mindfully, good posture, not forcing it. Then I was to do it again. Which seemed extremely unappealing, but alas, this is what I want to do. So I go again. Same motions, possibly went a touch further in, and then a retching expulsion of the wire coat hanger. Again. Again. Again. I felt like I was doing internal weight lifting, my esophagus exhausted with each repetition.


We stopped to discuss practicing. Adam said that I might benefit from taking a moment to breath, concentrate, and center myself before each practice, since I seem to work well with mindfulness practice. My homework was to swallow the wire coat hanger seven times in a row, three times a day. Twenty-one swallows a day until I got the entire 18” length of hanger down. Then I would be upgraded to an actual metal blade. That which is called the “goddess sword.”


We finished the class session by reviewing his sword collection as he explained how each one is used in performance.


“The Goddess Sword” A charming little thing, about 18” long, and less than an inch wide, has a sexy naked woman on the handle. He said this sword was his first sword he swallowed, and is how he starts his show. My first sword will be a similar sort of item.


The next one is a little longer, perhaps 28” in length, with a cheesy snake design on the handle. This sword is more impressive but still a good manageable size. He explains that this sword is light enough and short enough that he can get it lined up and then let it slide in hands free with a few gentle hops.


His show stopper is a pirate-y looking broadsword, with a blood groove running through the blade and a big brass sheath over the handle. Measuring in over three feet long and weighing a ton, this sword looks frightening to swallow. He attached a silky tassel on the end for flair, which I found sort of cute. He explained that this one was a challenge, it was long enough and heavy enough that if he let go after swallowing it would puncture through the bottom of his stomach. He also explained that the blood groove, a groove running down the center of the entire length of blade, was quite uncomfortable in the body.


After showing me a few other “tricks” he had laying around—human block head, a party-popper trick, etc—we bid farewell, agreeing to meet after I returned from India to work on advancing my skills. Now it was time to practice. Practice all the time.


Continue to Part 3


These New Old Traditions


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