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 equipment.
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.



Background Image
Sword Swallower
Kreg Yingst
Waukegan, IL

Linocuts on Hosho from the Magic/Circus series of 52 prints


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