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