John Trower - Mechanical Genius
John Trower was from
Cheboygan, Michigan. Always mechanically inclined, he became a
photographer while still in high school. Soon he was employed by
the local newspaper. One day he was given an assignment to cover
Mills Brothers Circus which had pitched the big top in town.
John was so enamored by the circus, he left town with them,
doing the only job available, cleaning up behind the elephants.
Soon he advanced to helping erect the big tent. Learning the
canvas man's trade quickly, he was soon employed by a competing
circus as the boss canvas man. During his career with circuses,
he has been the lot manager, truck mechanic, elephant and
chimpanzee trainer, airielist, illusionist, and other positions.
John married and settled down in San Antonio, Texas where he
married, and operated a business maintaining TV and radio
antenna towers. Part of his duties consisted of climbing the
fifteen hundred and two thousand foot structures to service the
warning lights at the top. He said it proved dangerous in that
when descending, an illusion seemed to cause the ground to be
closer than reality, giving him the feeling that he could step
to the ground when he reached a level two hundred feet up. It
was not fear of height, but domestic instability, and longing
for show business that returned him to the circus ring.
I had been friends with John (Red to his friends) for some years
before he joined a Hall and Christ show at Tulsa, Oklahoma in
1973. He remained in our company through 1987. During that
period, he designed and built some fine magic illusions and show
In 1982, he was the equipment superintendent on our "Wondercade",
a huge tented theatre with a musical illusion show. Jack Burke
was the electrician. During an evening performance, the sound
equipment failed, neither Jack or I were able to restore the
amplifier to working order. Red was passing by, so I hailed him
requesting his assistance to check it out and determine the
problem. He quickly made adjustments and the sound returned. As
John walked away, Jack commented that it was rather spooky the
way John seemed able to put his hands on a mechanical or
electrical device and cause it to work. His ability leaves no
doubt that he is indeed a mechanical genius.
During his tenure with us, he learned the art of sword
swallowing. Without doubt, he is the greatest sword swallower of
our time. He includes in his repertoire a stunt in which he
removes the wooden stock of a rifle, swallows the metal part,
and shoots the flame from a candle while the bar of the rifle is
in his throat, thus combing sword swallowing, and sharp
shooting. He also swallows an illuminated neon tube. As of 1990,
John is presenting a combination of his many talents as a one
man show at amusement parks and fairs.
Linocuts on Hosho from the
Magic/Circus series of 52 prints
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