Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame

The Internet's most comprehensive list of sword swallowers past and present
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NAME PERIOD LOCATION BACKGROUND
Indian Fakirs Circa 2000 BC (India) Sword swallowing originated about four thousand years ago in India by fakirs and shaman priests who first developed the art around 2000 BC, along with fire-eating, fire-walking on hot coals, laying on cactus or a bed of nails, snake handling, and other ascetic religious practices, as demonstration of their invulnerability, power, and connection with their gods. Sword swallowing is still performed in certain parts of India today. Sword swallowers in India are known by the term "golewala" or "jholewale" (meaning "juggler" or "street performer") or "jagudar" (meaning "magician" or "miracle worker"), and there is said to be a tribe of sword swallowers in the state of Andhra Pradesh who pass on the art of sword swallowing from father to son. Seeking photos and more information.
Indian Sword Swallowers
Indian Sword Swallowers
Indian Sword Swallowers (1810 article)
Indian Sword Swallowers (1822 illust)
Indian Sword Swallower (1910 card)
South Indian Sword Swallower (1940s?)
Indian Sword Swallower (1950s?)
Indian Sword Swallower (1980s)
Indian Sword Swallower (1980s)
Sword Swallower in Jaipur, India
Sword Swallower in Jaipur, India
Greeks and Romans 1st centuries AD (Greece/Italy) From India, sword swallowing spread to China, Greece, Rome, Europe, and the rest of the world. Sword swallowing was often seen at festivals throughout the ancient Roman empire.
Mayan Indians 1st centuries AD Yucatan Peninsula
(Mexico)
In the Popul Vuh, the Maya myths, there is mention of the two main Mayan heroes doing stilt-walking and sword-swallowing. This suggests that the time of its transmission from oral to written history would have been about 2000 years ago.
Germans 410 AD Rome
(Roman Empire)
Swordswallowers are mentioned in 410 AD during the Teutonic fight for Rome.
Chinese 750 AD (China) The art and practice of sword swallowing travelled north from India into China around 750 AD.
T'ang Dynasty Illustration mid 8th century
Chinese Ling Troupe 1915
Chinese Sword swallower 1915
Chinese Sword swallower Shanghai 1920s
Chinese Sword swallower Shanghai 1920s
Sword swallower in Shanghai
Japanese 750 AD (Japan) Sword swallowing was popular in Japan in the 8th century and was often seen as part of an acrobatic form of entertainment known as Sangaku, which also featured juggling, tightrope walking, contortion, and other related skills. This type of performance art was "street theater" and the performers traveled throughout Japan. Sangaku, like other forms of drama popular in Japan prior to the 11th century, traced its origins to southern China and India.
Japanese engraving 1864
Japanese Sword Swallower
Dervish Rifai Sufis 1182 AD (Middle East) The Dervish Orders of the Sufis reflect the meeting of Islam and Hindu thought in the 8th century. Dervish is Persian for "beggar." Some Dervish orders wander, others beg alms, and others live in Sufi monasteries. Some are religious entertainers hired to chant the zikr dirge, and some only perform Dervish ceremonies on special occasions. Dervishes are known for working themselves into frenzies and committing great feats of strength (this is where we get the term "Whirling Dervishes"). One of the Dervish orders founded in 1182 was the order of Rifais who eat glass, walk on hot coals, and swallow swords.
Ancient sword swallower from Hittite Period in Anatolia
Europe 1200-1893 (Europe) Sword swallowing spread north from Greece and Rome into Europe at the hands of medieval jongleurs and other street performers who performed in public areas. In the Middle Ages, sword swallowers, like magicians, jugglers and other entertainers, were often condemed and persecuted by the Catholic Church. Still, in most places they were popular by the common folk, and the tradition of the wandering entertainer remained strong. By the mid-17th century, performers wandered more freely and became common sights on street corners and at festivals across Europe. Sword swallowing began to die out in Europe and Scandinavia in the late 1800s, when variety shows were formally outlawed in Sweden in 1893.
Sword Swallower on display 1857
Sena Sama
Senaa Samma
First Sword Swallower in America
Performed 1817-1843 Pepin's Circus
New York, NY
(USA)
Sena Sama (also spelled Senaa Samma) from Tamil Nadu, India was reported to be the first known sword swallower in America. A report for Nov. 11, 1817 states, "Senaa Samma appeared at St. John's Hall in New York City in a lovely exhibition of juggling and sword swallowing. Admission to see the performance was $1 for adults." Another report states that he put on America's first sword swallowing exhibition in New York City on Nov. 25, 1817. The newspaper account said that he swallowed "a sword manufactured by Mr. William Pye of New York as a substitute for the one lately stolen from him by some villain." He worked a short time with Pepin's Circus in 1818, but reports say he was already working previously in America doing cabaret work. He is mentioned in both "Annals of the American Circus, Vol.1. 1793-1829" by Stuart Thayer and "Freak Show: Presenting Human Oddities for Amusement and Profit" by Robert Bogdan. In 1833, Sena Sama and Hamed Ben-Alla published a 71 page booklet on magic entitled "The Whole Art of Legerdemain or Hocus Pocus" published by N.C. Hafis in NY. In 1843, the book "Proceedings of the American Antiquarian Society" mentions that sword swallower Sena Sama came to New York and swallowed a sword that measured 22 inches long.
Ramo Samee
Ramo Samme
Ramosamee
Performed 1819-50
Died August 1850
Salem, MA
(USA)
London
(UK)
An advertisement in the Salem Gazette of October 5, 1819, describes the "East Indian" magician and juggler Ramo Samee as having performed "for some time past in the metropolis of England, and before all the crowned heads of Europe, who have unanimously pronounced him to be the first master of the art in their dominions." Samee closed his act with a demonstration of sword swallowing. The inspiration for one of the Western world's fundamental puzzlers, the Needle Swallowing Trick, can probably be traced back to the genius of Ramo Samee. Samee first presented the Indian needle trick to Western audiences in the 1820's, where he would swallow a hundred needles. Samee is known to have performed at a benefit on February 28, 1825 at the Adelphi Theatre, and in August 1842 at the Theatre Royal. In the 1840's he was apparently swallowing beads and horse hair separately and then regurgitating the former threaded upon the latter. He created a sensation with this at the Garrick Theatre in London. According to an article published in Robert Merry's Museum on January 1, 1849: "The trick of swallowing a sword too (sic) feet long, or rather of thrusting it down his throat into the stomach up to the hilt, has become familiar to us by the public exhibitions of Ramo Samee and his companions, natives of India. Before the arrival in Europe of these jugglers, whose speculation, it is said, was most profitable, attempts had been made, but unsuccessfully, to induce other professors of the art to go to England for the purpose of exhibition." Samee also gets several mentions in Henry Mayhew's "London Labour and the London Poor", published from 1851 to 1862. According to a London press clipping, Samee died in late August, 1850 and was buried between August 28 and September 1, 1850 in London. Could this be Sena Sama? Seeking pictures and more information.
Article (Jan 1849)
Ramo Samee Obituary (1850)
Saib Khan Ing Performed 1822 Preston
(UK)
According to broadside scrapbooks kept by William Hay in England, one broadside announces the arrival of 'Saib Khan Ing' in Preston in 1822 to 'exhibit his astonishing performances' at juggling, sword swallowing, and, 'chang[ing] himself from an Indian juggler to a British Minister of State' (Hay 11.222).
P.T. Barnum's
American Dime Museum
Founded 1841
Burned 1865
Boston, MA
(USA)
In 1841, P.T. Barnum founded the American Dime Museum in Boston, which included oddities and freaks of nature, including working acts such as sword swallowers. The "American Museum" burned down in 1865, at which time Barnum retired from show business.
East Indian Sword Swallowers Performed Nov 27, 1845 Philadelphia, PA
(USA)
According to an article in the Philadeplphia "Pennsylvanian" newspaper dated November 27, 1845: "The rope-dancers, serpent tamers, and sword swallowers of Madras are celebrated throughout India. They will leap over elephants, and even five camels side by side; their bodies are so pliant that they will twine themselves like snakes up and down between the steps of a ladder; they walk over sharp swords; raise heavy burdens with their eyelids; and like Ramo Samee of old, are said to be able to float in the air without any visible support. Even the children exercise themselves in swallowing small sticks of bamboo, in order that they may eventually do the like with swords and daggers."
Miss Martha Mitchell
Champion Lady Sword Swallower
Martha Mitchell
Born June 12, 1858
Married 1873
Performed mid 1800s?
Died c 1887
England
(UK)
Martha Mitchell was a female sword swallower in England in the mid 1800s, known as England's Champion Lady Sword Swallower Miss Martha Mitchell. She was born in her father's traveling van in Coventry on June 12, 1858. In 1873, at the age of 16, she married showman Henry James Wallis who was a fairground proprietor and showman of the old school. Wallis was born in Liverpool on May 11th, 1854. At first Willis worked as a photographer on the fairgrounds, but he later became a riding master of some note, and was also the founder of Seaforth Fair and one of the founders of the Van Dweller’s Association, which later became the Showmen’s Guild of Great Britain. Martha Mitchell's brother was Charlie Mitchell, the famous bare knuckle boxer who fought J.L. Sullivan and Gentleman Jim Corbett. Martha Mitchell died by the age of 30, circa 1887. Seeking pictures and more information.
Martha Mitchell Birth Certificate
Lawson Peck Performed 1857 Peoria, IL
New York
(USA)
Sword swallower Lawson Peck was known to have performed at the Peoria Museum in 1857. According to the announcement in the Peoria Transcript, dated Oct. 27, 1857, "Shoaf has made engagement with Mr. Lawson Peck from New York, the greatest sword swallower living, to give two performances Friday and Saturday nights at the museum. The sword, 23 inches long, may be inspected by the audience. He will also bare his neck and swallow the sword up to the hilt, a feat never attempted by a living man before. No additional charge to the museum." (page 4, col. 1) In the 1950s, Thurman F. (Jack) Naylor collected a number of interesting photographs, including this rare photo of a sword swallower from the 1860s. Could this have been Sword Swallower Lawson Peck? Seeking pictures and more information.
Unknown Sword Swallower from 1860s
Sallementro
The Snake Swallower
Born c 1843
Performed 1861
London
(UK)
According to the 1861 "London Labour and the London Poor", Sallementro learned sword and snake swallowing at the age of 17 or 18 from his friend Clarke who was also a sword and snake swallower: "I swallow snakes, swords, and knives... It was a mate of mine that I was with that first put me up to sword and snake swallowing. I copied off him, and it took me about three months to learn it. I began with a sword first - of course not a sharp sword, but a blunt-pointed - and I didn't exactly know how to do it, for there's a trick to it. At first it turned me, putting it down my throat past my swallow, right down, about 18 inches. It made my swallow sore, very sore, and I used lemon and sugar to cure it. It was tight at first, and I kept pushing it down further and further. There's one thing - you mustn't cough, and until you're used to it, you want to very bad, and then you must pull it up again. My sword was about three-quarters of an inch wide. At first I didn't know the trick of doing it, but I found it out this way. You see, the trick is you must oil the sword - the best sweet oil, worth 14 pence a pint - and you put it on with a sponge. Then, you understand, if the sword scratches the swallow, it don't make it sore, 'cos the oil heals it up again. When first I put the sword down, before I oiled it, it used to come up quite slimy, but after the oil it slips down quite easy, and is as clean when it comes up as before it went down. The knives are easier to do than the sword because they are shorter. We puts them right down till the handle rests on the mouth. The sword is about 18 inches long, and the knives about 8 inches in the blade. People run away with the idea that you slip the blades down your breast, but I always hold mine right up with the neck bare, and they see it go into the mouth 'atween the teeth. They also fancy it hurts you, but it don't, or what a fool I should be to do it. I don't mean to say it don't hurt you at first, 'cos it do, for my swallow was very bad, and I couldn't eat anything but liquids for two months whilst I was learning. I cured my swallow whilst I was stretching it with lemon and sugar. I was the second one that ever swallowed a snake. I was about 17 or 18 years old when I learnt it. The first was Clarke as did it. He done very well with it, but he wasn't out no more than two years before me, so he wasn't known much. In the country there is some places where, when you do it, they swear you are the devil, and won't have it nohow. The snakes I use are about 18 inches long, and you must first cut the stingers out, 'cos it might hurt you. I always keep two or three by me for my performances. I keep them warm, and I give them nothing to eat but worms and gentles. I generally keep them in flannel or hay in a box. I've three at home now. When first I began swallowing snakes, they tasted queer like. They draw'd the roof of the mouth a bit. It's a roughish taste. The scales rough you a bit when you draw them up. You see, a snake will go into ever such a little hole, and they are smooth one way. The head of the snake goes about an inch and a half down the throat, and the rest of it continues in the mouth, curled 'round like. I hold him by the tail, and when I pinch it, he goes right in. You must cut the stinger out or he'll injure you. The tail is slipppery, but you nip it with the nails like pinchers. If you was to let go, he'd go right down, but most snakes will stop at two inches down the swallow, and then they bind like a ball in the mouth. I generally get my snakes by giving little boys ha'pence to go and catch 'em in the woods. I get them when I'm pitching in the country. I'll get as many as I can get, and bring 'em up to London for my engagements. When first caught, the snake is slimy, and I have to clean him by scraping him with a cloth, and then with another, until he's nice and clean. I have put 'em down slimy, on purpose to taste what it was like. It had a nasty taste, very nasty. When I exhibit, I first holds the snake up in the air and pinches the tail, to make it curl about and twist 'round my arm, to show that he is alive. Then I holds it above my mouth, and as soon as he sees the hole, in he goes. He goes wavy-like, as a ship goes, that's the comparison. I always hold my breath whilst his head is in my swallow. When he moves in the swallow, it tickles a little, but it don't make you want to retch. In my opinion, he is more glad to come up than to go down, for it seems to be too hot for him. I keep him down about two minutes. If I breathe or cough, he draws out and curls back again. I think there's artfulness in some of them big snakes, for they seem to know which is the master. I was at Wombwell's Menagerie of Wild Beasts for 3 months, and I had the care of a big snake, as thick 'round as my arm. I wouldn't attempt to put that one down my throat, for I think I might easier have done down his'n. It was a f'urren snake, all over spots, called a boa-constrictor." Seeking pictures and more information.
John Sheppard Performed 1863
(USA) John Sheppard was sword swallower with Gardner & Hemmings in 1863, and general performer with Thompson, Smith and Hawes in 1866. Seeking pictures and more information.
William George Drummond Stewart Born February, 1831
Injured October 19, 1868
Died October 26, 1868
(Scotland) William George Drummond Stewart was born in Grandtully, Perthshire, Scotland in February 1831. Stewart was a Scottish recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. Stewart was 26 years old, and a Captain in the 93rd (Sutherland) Highlanders when he was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions at Lucknow. On October 19, 1868, while at Hythe, Hampshire, Stewart was giving a demonstration of sword swallowing. His demonstration went fatally wrong and he died from internal injuries a week later, on October 26, 1868 at the age of 37. Stewart is buried in a vault at St. Mary's Church, Grandtully, Scotland. Seeking pictures and more information.
William Stewart Vault
James Erwin Born May 15, 1848
Performed 1864-66
Died January 3, 1885
Indianapolis, IN
(USA)
James Erwin was born in Dublin, Ireland on May 15, 1848, but came to America as an infant. Entered the circus business as a sword swallower for a few years around 1865 at about the age of 17. He then became an operator and manager of his own sideshow. During the Civil War, he was twice sentenced to be shot for dissertion; first time, as a mere boy, he was pardoned by President Lincoln; the second time, succeeded in escaping. In later years, he was considered one of the best shots in Indiana. Was married once, but the union was not a happy one. Died of pneumonia in Indianapolis, IN on January 3, 1885 at the age of 37. Seeking pictures and more information.
Signor Benedetti
Benny-Dizzy
The Great Sword-Swallower
Born 1849
Performed 1863-95
Royal Aquarium
Westminster Aquarium
Canterbury Hall
London
(UK)
Havana
(Cuba)
Signor Benedetti was an Italian sword swallower born in 1849, who began swallowing swords at the age of 14 in 1863. An article in the NY Times dated Dec 5, 1874 quotes a Havana, Cuban article dated Nov 29, 1874 stating, "A performance was given at the Tacon Theatre last Thursday evening, by the Schumann Troupe, to a packed house, for the benefit of the sufferers by the recent inundations at Mavari, Bayamo, and other towns of the Eastern District, particulars of which have already been forwarded to you. The Captain General was present, and the novelty of the evening was the feat of the sword swallower, Benedetti, who attempted to cram an umbrella down his throat. He swallowed His Excellency the Captain General's sword, a cane, and other articles, but could not stomach the umbrella." There is also a caricature cartoon of "Benny Dizzy, the Great Sword-Swallower" in the March 16, 1878 issue of the London "Punch" magazine mentioning "Mr. Benedetti's marvellous performance at the Royal Aquarium" at the age of 29. In 1895, the editor of a London magazine described Signor Benedetti who had just performed at the Westminster Aquarium and Canterbury Hall at the age of 46. According to the description, Benedetti stood 5 ft 8 inches tall, and swallowed a blade that was 30.25 inches long, and he had swallowed swords for at least 32 years. Seeking pictures and more information.
Benedetti article (1874)
Benedetti caricature (1878)
Kussmaul's Rigid Endoscope 1868 Freiburg
(Germany)
The first known mention of sword swallowing in medical literature is of an unidentified professional sword swallower, who while visiting the Wolfschlucht Gasthof in Freiburg, Germany in 1868, gave a demonstration of sword swallowing which was witnessed by a local Freiburg doctor. Dr. Keller was fascinated by the feat and persuaded the sword swallower to visit his clinic and have his throat examined with a laryngeal mirror. His colleague, Dr. Müller, examined the sword swallower and suggested to his professor that the sword swallower would make a suitable subject for esophagoscopy. Dr. Adolph Kussmaul (1822—1902) carefully observed the sword swallower, being especially interested in the way he positioned his head for the passage of the long straight sword, and decided to examine him himself. For this purpose, he had a local instrument maker fashion tubes 47 cm long and 13 mm in diameter, one being round and the other elliptical in design, the tubes fitted with conical wooden mandarins to facilitate insertion. Using the straight tube, mirrors and a gasoline lamp, Kussmaul inspected the esophagus and the fundus of the stomach, thereby performing the first successful esophagoscopy/esophagogastrostomy on a sword swallower. The sword swallower tolerated the long tubes well, but the examination was disappointing because the light was too weak to illuminate the field so far from its source. Also, despite washing out the stomach, fluid constantly collected around the tube and hindered the view. After considerable experimentation, Kussmaul and Müller managed to improve the light of their endoscope, and subsequently examined a number of patients. Kussmaul was so pleased with his success that he took the sword swallower with him to perform demonstrations in various clinics, and later enlisted other sword swallowers due to their ability to voluntarily relax the cricopharyngeal muscle and form a straight line from the pharynx to the stomach, allowing passage of the rigid endoscope. Today Kussmaul is recognized as being the developer of the first rigid endoscope. Seeking more information.
Dr. Adolph Kussmaul (1822—1902)
Dr. Adolph Kussmaul (early)
Dr. Adolph Kussmaul (later)
Dr. Adolph Kussmaul (late in life)
Sword Swallower Examination 1868 (?) According to an article in "The Youth's Companion" dated October 29, 1868: "When in our youth we were taken to see a juggler who performed the well-known feat of swallowing a sword, we were taught to believe that the weapon, instead of being a rigid rod of metal, was telescopic, and doubled into itself when it was introduced into the man's mouth. A famous French physician lately experimented upon a Chinese conjuror, who swallowed a sword nearly three feet long, and permitted an examination of his body while the blade was in its living sheath. Dr. Fourle (such was the anatomists's name) was thoroughly satisfied with the honesty of the operation. They traced the point along its downward course, and felt it thirty inches from the swallower's mouth. So we may set down sword and poker swallowing as genuine feats of gymnastics." Seeking more information.
Article (Oct 29, 1868)
First Known Photograph of
an Indian Sword Swallower
1863-1873
Madras
Tamil Nadu
(India)
The first known photograph of an Indian Sword Swallower was displayed in England at the South Kensington Exhibition of 1873 in an album of photographs entitled "Trades and Occupations of India" in response to English curiousity about the British Empire in India. Among the many photographers were Nicholas & Curths of Madras, Tamil Nadu, South India, who took a photo of an Indian sword swallower performing the feat sometime between 1863 and 1872. Seeking photos and more information.
Indian Sword Swallower 1863-73
Ling Look
(David Güter)
Performed 1870s Olympic Theatre
New York (USA)
David Güter performed as a sword swallower in the 1870s under the stage name "Ling Look". According to an article in the NY Times dated July 16, 1872, a novel performance was offered at the Olympic Theatre on July 15, 1872 by Ling Look, "who disposes mysteriously but satisfactorily of a blade ninety centimetres in length." For his premier number, he was known to swallow a red glowing sword. Seeking photos and more information.
NY Times article (1872)
Professor Costello Performed 1871
Sheldenburger & Co.
(USA)
Professor Costello was sword swallower with Sheldenburger & Co. in 1871. Seeking photos and more information.
Signor Wandana
Signor Wandanus
Signor Waudanus
"The Wonderful Sabre, Bayonet, and Sword-Swallower"
Performed 1870s
Died May 9, 1875
Midwest
Indiana/Missouri
(USA)
Signor Wandana was known as "The Wonderful Sabre, Bayonet, and Sword-Swallower" in the 1870s. Wandana died on May 9, 1875 of internal injuries sustained after a sword swallowing feat went wrong. His obituary was published in the Chicago Tribune on May 11, 1875 entitled "Death of a Sword Swallower":
"Calais, MO, May 10---Signor Waudanus, the sword-swallower, while performing last week cut himself internally. Inflammation occurred, and he died last evening."
This photograph was taken by Hugraham & Claflin's New Photographic Rooms, 32 1/2 East Washington St. Indianapolis, Ind, and is now part of the collection of sideshow historian and author Richard Flint of Baltimore MD. Seeking photos and more information.
Signor Wandana (1870s)
P.T. Barnum's
Greatest Show On Earth
Started 1871 Brooklyn, NY
(USA)
In 1871, P.T. Barnum established "P.T. Barnum's Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan, and Circus", a travelling combination of circus, menagerie and museum of "freaks". In 1872, P.T. Barnum and W.C. Coup's Circus travels on a special circus train, and by 1872 was billing itself as "The Greatest Show on Earth". It went through a number of variants on these names: "P.T. Barnum's Traveling World's Fair, Great Roman Hippodrome and Greatest Show On Earth", and after an 1881 merger with James Bailey and James Hutchinson, "P.T. Barnum's Greatest Show On Earth, And The Great London Circus, Sanger's Royal British Menagerie and The Grand International Allied Shows United", was soon shortened to "Barnum & London Circus". In 1881 Barnum & Bailey's first three-ring circus is staged in New York City. Barnum and Bailey split up in 1885, but came back together again in 1888 with the "Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth", later "Barnum & Bailey Circus", which toured around the world. Delno Fritz was the sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus from 1896 to 1899. In May, 1899, the Barnum and Bailey Circus went to Nottingham, England and travelled between cities on 4 huge trains, each with 17 carriages. Delno Fritz was the featured sword swallower in 1899. P. T. Barnum died on April 7, 1891. In 1900, Mlle Amy was the sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus in Germany. In 1901, Edith Clifford joined Barnum and Bailey in Vienna, and performed with the show through 1906. In 1905, owner James Bailey died. In 1907, Ringling Brothers bought Barnum & Bailey Circus, but the two shows continued to tour separately. In 1918, Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey Circus became one combined show, and performed their first combined show in New York on March 29, 1919. In the Spring of 1919, Harry Houdini came specifically to watch sword swallower Edith Clifford with the combined Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus, and wrote a raving review in his book "Miracle Mongers" published in 1920.

Known Sword Swallowers with Barnum and Bailey Circus:
1896: Delno Fritz and Young Herrmann
1897: Delno Fritz
1898: Delno Fritz
1899: Delno Fritz in England
1900: Mlle Amy in Germany
1901: Mlle Edith Clifford in Vienna
1902: Mlle Edith Clifford and Rob Roy
1903: Mlle Edith Clifford and Rob Roy
1904: Mlle Edith Clifford
1904: "Veno" Nelson C. Barned
1905: Mlle Edith Clifford
1905: James Bailey dies
1906: Mlle Edith Clifford
1907: Ringling Brothers buys Barnum & Bailey but tour separately
1918: Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey Circus become one show
1919: Houdini watches Edith Clifford perform with Ringling Bros B&B

Seeking more information on sword swallowers with Barnum & Bailey Circus

Lady Margurite
Lady Marguerite
Performed 1880s? Davenport, IA
(USA)
Lady Margurite was a female circus sword swallower who may have performed in the late 1800s. This photo was taken of her in Davenport, Iowa. Seeking photos and more information.
Lady Margurite
Lady Margurite (different scan)
Chevalier Cliquot
"The World's Greatest
Sword Phenomenon"
Fred McLand
Fred McLone
Frederick McLone
Born 1862
Performed 1878-1902+
Forepaugh Circus
Chicago, IL
(USA)
London
(UK)
First well-known North American sword swallower, Chevalier Cliquot was one of the most prominent sword-swallowers of his time and was known by the description "The World's Greatest Sword Phenomenon". In actuality, Cliquot was an American named Frederick McLone or Fred McLand who was born in Chicago, IL, although the story was perpetuated that he was a "French-Canadian" born in Quebec, Canada in 1862 who ran away from home in Quebec at an early age to join a travelling circus bound for South America. On seeing an old man swallow a small machete in Buenos Aires, he allegedly took up learning sword swallowing around 1878 at about the age of 16 (Photo reportedly of Cliquot holding two swords taken in Montevideo Uruguay on July 18, 1880). In January 1894, while swallowing 14 nine-inch swords at once in New York, Cliquot had the misfortune to have a skeptical audience, one of whom, a doctor who should have known better, rushed forward and impulsively pulled out the swords, inflicting injuries on Cliquot which incapacitated him for months. A NY Times article dated Jan 21, 1894 stated, "'The Chevalier Cliquot' astonished doctors at the Metropolitan Throat Hospital. When he seemed in pain with fourteen swords down his throat, Dr. Hope yanked them out in a bunch. McLone in bed under morphine's influence. 'Oh, I'm all right,' groaned Frederick McLone, "the Chevalier Cliquot" sword swallower, as he tossed uneasily on a bed in Room 66 of the Union Square Hotel last evening, when his manager, William Howell asked him how he was getting along. McLone was under the influence of morphine administered by Dr. William Shannon, who believes his exhibition of sword swallowing at the Metropolitan Throat Hospital at 351 West Thirty-fourth Street on Friday brought about slight inflammation of the stomach and oesophagus, and that there are slight lacerations of the throat. McLone is a handsome little man, with a physique that is like that of Rowell, the walker. He was born in Quebec in 1862, and when a schoolboy became fascinated with a circus show and ran away from home to become an acrobat. A family of saltimbancos attached to a circus took an interest in him, and taught him to tumble and do feats of strength. He had just become expert enough to be worth a salary when he saw Battin the sword swallower perform some of his feats, and detected him in trickery. McLone experimented with himself, first with a wire with a knob at the end, until he had overcome the muscular and nervous resistance of his throat. Then he practiced with a sword until he was able to swallow a blade of about twenty inches up to its hilt. Constant practice made his throat callous to or familiar with intrusion, and fourteen years ago, when the United States man-of-war Lancaster was at Algiers, and a minstrel show was given on board, he appeared as the "American Acrobat" and gave an exhibition of sword swallowing without using a "sheath" or any device to lessen the severity of the ordeal to which his throat was put. His pseudonym was given him two years later in a Paris cafe, after a bottle of "The Widow's" had been splashed over him. He last appeared in public in Pittsburg three weeks ago and was to appear in Montreal to-morrow, but the date has been canceled. To kill time, he and his manager had gone to Boston, and his ability to swallow almost anything, except an insult, was demonstrated before Dr. Bowditch, Professor of Physiology at Harvard College, and others in B.F. Keith's office in the Gaiety Theatre. Dr. Bowditch, at the end of the exhibition asked: "Can you swallow anything?" "Yes," replied McLone. "Then swallow my cane." "I will if you'll wipe the ferrule." This was done, and the cane was pushed 22 inches down the Chevalier's throat, and the spectators marveled. The staff at the Metropolitan Throat Hospital deny that McLone was invited to appear before them. They say that he was brought there by his manager. They are familiar with the feats that a throat accustomed to distension will endure, and say that, physically considered, what McLone did on Friday was startling, but not especially wonderful. He first caused the 22 inch blade of a Chassepot sabre to disappear up to the hilt, and then swallowed four sword blades twenty inches long. The swords were made for the purpose, and the hilts were in the same plane as the blades, which fitted into each other like a nest of spoons. Then, taking the sabre, Cliquot fastened at right angles to the hilt a hollow rod of iron, four feet long, and to each end of the rod attached a dumbbell maker "14 pounds." Then, raising the rod until the point of the sabre was in his mouth, he swallowed it again, as he had done when nothing was attached to it. While the sabre was in his oesophagus McLone gave the bar a half twist, something he had never before attempted, according to Manager Howell. The doctors were asked if they wished to see a fowling piece attached to the bar and discharged while four inches of the sabre were out of the juggler's mouth, so that the sabre would force the blade down to the hilt, but they declined, and McLone prepared to do the next feat, that of swallowing fourteen swords, the blades of which were like those used in the second feat. Howell admits that when the sabre with the bar and the dumbbells was drawn from its living sheath, McLone appeared to suffer and retched, and that he should have then desisted, or have been made to do so. The fourteen swords were swallowed like the bunch of four, and the ordeal was little more severe, except that the distention of the throat was greater. Before swallowing the swords, McLone said that if any one wanted to draw them, it should be done one by one and not in a bunch. The swords were not half their length in McLone's economy when he appeared to be suffering and turned pale. Howell had turned his back when they were beginning to disappear, and he heard one of the doctors say, "My God, this is going too far." He turned to see Dr. G. B. Hope grasp the swords by the butts, and sharply withdraw them, instead of pulling them out quickly, one by one, as a card player deals cards, and as McLone does on stage. McLone gave a groan and leaned forward. He appeared to be in great agony, and could not speak for several moments. He then complained of severe pain in the stomach and throat. After a hypodermic injection of morphine had been given to him he was taken to his hotel in a cab. It was at first feared that either his throat had been lacerated or that there was a puncture of the stomach, and that an operation would be necessary, but there was no hemmorhage, and his condition had so far improved yesterday afternoon that he was able to drink some kumyss. Manager Howell was convinced that the new trick of turning the sabre with the bar and dumbbells attached was too great a strain for organs that had been strained and stretched to fit them for abnormal uses. He expected, however that McLone would be able to go to Toronto to fill an engagement at the end of this week. His wife, who aids him in his performances, was so satisfied with his condition that she went out for a walk with a friend. The staff of the hospital say they were not responsible for McLone's collapse. Before he gave his exhibition, his throat was examined, and while it was found to have become distended, it appeared to be healthy. McLone admitted that frequently after he had been idle for some time, he swallowed food with difficulty, and had several times been almost choked by food. He also suffered from dyspepsia when not "in practice", but found relief when he swallowed a sword. He was advised not to attempt any feat that would tax his throat more than it had been, and to keep it exercised." A follow-up story in the NY Times dated Jan 22, 1894 stated, "Frederick McLone, the sword swallower known on the stage as Chevalier Cliquot, who is suffering from inflammation of the stomach through the twisting of a sabre he had pushed down his throat at an exhibition, had greatly improved yesterday. Dr. William Shannon, his physician, says McLone may sit up in bed today." Cliquot swallowed up to 22 inch blades nearly every day for over 23 years at least until 1902 and possibly beyond that. Cliquot could swallow a 22-inch cavalry sword without difficulty, and his act included swallowing an electric light bulb connected to an 8-volt battery, up to fourteen 19-inch bayonet swords at one time, and his major trick was to swallow a bayonet sword, weighted with a cross-bar and two 18-pound dumbbells. In another feat, he would partially swallow a bayonet weighted with a crossbar, and allow the rest of the blade to be "kicked" by the recoil of a rifle which was fixed to a spike in the center of the bar and then fired by his sister. Cliquot told Houdini that Delno Fritz was his sword swallowing pupil in the early 1890s. Cliquot was known to have performed with the Forepaugh Circus, did lectures before physicians and students at the Rush Medical College in Chicago and the University of of Liverpool in England, and finally "reformed" and ended up as a music hall agent in England. Seeking photos and more information.
Cliquot in Uruguay front (1880)
Cliquot in Uruguay back (1880)
Cliquot injury article 1 (1894)
Cliquot injury article 2 (1894)
Cliquot injury article pdf (1894)
Chevalier Cliquot (1896)
Chevalier Cliquot (1896)
Cliquot with Forepaugh Circus
Cliquot Poster (1899)
Cliquot Poster (1902)
Harry Parsons Died December 20, 1880 Cleveland, OH
(USA)
According to an obituary in the NY Times dated Dec 24, 1880, "Harry Parsons, a professional sword-swallower, fatally injured himself while performing the feat in Cleveland, Ohio, on Monday." Seeking photos and more information.
Harry Parsons obituary (1880)
Gustaf Westerlund
Brothers Westerlund
Born Sept 26, 1854
Performed 1880
Brothers Westerlund
(Finland)
Gustaf Westerlund (born Sept 26, 1854) and his brother Alexander Westerlund (born Sept 6, 1859) performed together in Finland under the name "Veljekset Westerlund" (Brothers Westerlund) doing an acrobatic act which also contained sword swallowing. An advertisement from August 5, 1880 states "...swallows in wonderful accuracy 24 inch long iron swords". Seeking photos and more information.
Alexander Westerlund
Barnum & Baileys Circus 1881 New York, NY
(USA)
Barnum and Bailey's first three ring circus is staged in New York City in 1881. Barnum and Bailey split up in 1885, but came back together again in 1888 with the "Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show On Earth", later "Barnum & Bailey Circus", which toured around the world. P.T. Barnum dies in 1891.
Unknown Sword Swallower Performed Dec. 20, 1883
Died Dec. 28, 1883
(USA) According to the book "Bizarre Medical Abnormalities", in 1883 Gussenbauer gives an account of a juggler who had an accident on December 20, 1883. When the juggler turned his head to bow an acknowledgment of applause while swallowing a sword, he thus brought his upper incisors against the sword, which broke off and slipped into his stomach. To relieve suffocation, the sword was pushed further down. Gastrotomy was performed, and the piece of sword 11 inches long was extracted; as there was perforation of the stomach before the operation, the patient died of peritonitis on December 28, 1883.
Ringling Brothers Circus Founded in 1884 Baraboo, WI
(USA)
John Nicholas Ringling starts Ringling Brothers Circus in Baraboo Wisconsin in 1884.
Unknown Sword Swallower Died 1885 (USA) According to the book "Bizarre Medical Abnormalities", in 1885 Gross speaks of a man of thirty who was in the habit of giving exhibitions of sword-swallowing in public houses, and who injured his esophagus to such an extent as to cause abscess and death.
Niels Le Tort
Niels Edvard Jacobsen
Born April 29, 1856
Performed 1887
Died Feb 7, 1929
(Denmark/Sweden) Niels Edvard Jacobsen was born April 29, 1856 in Tröröd, Sölleröd Sogn, north of Copenhagen, Denmark. He started poor, and after military service, he studied hatmaking with a hatmaker in Copenhagen. He was married in 1881, and upon his first child's birth in 1883, he gave up his hatmaking occupation for the life of an artist. It is known that by 1887 he was working as a sword swallower (his seven swords are preserved in a collection). In 1893, he showed a banner at a fair, and at this point became a sideshow tent owner. In 1895 he displayed a giant woman, and in 1896 he traveled around with a "hairy woman", but he also continued to work as a magician. In 1896, he and his wife were divorced. In 1891 Jacobsen requested from the king that he be allowed to take the name "LeTort". At first he was known as Niels Edvard Jacobsen Letort. There was also a magician named Professor Joseph H. Le Tort who had been performing since 1880, and there is speculation that the two magicians met and Niels got to buy some of J. Le Tort's props, and even his name, which was not an uncommon practice at the time. Letort travelled around Denmark, and in 1899 he toured further into Malmö and other areas of Sweden, where he became very popular. In October, 1900 he returned to Denmark, but didn't receive as much publicity there as he did in Sweden. He returned to Sweden, and toured as far as Finland, where he didn't receive quite the success that he did in Sweden. He even performed at the Follies-Bergère in Paris (he was well-known even in France and could speak some French). Letort was very elegant - tall, with pointed mustach, white tie with diamond pin, and rings on his fingers. At a performance in Gävle, Sweden in 1901, Letort met a French engineer, showman, fellow magician and mechanic, Joseph Couprant, who was showing "living picture" films. They decided to join up, so Couprant could strengthen Letort's program by showing films. They opened a business for photographic articles in Stockholm, where they started the "American Theater", Stockholm's first "standing theater". Letort thrived here also, together with his second wife and assistant, Miss Hetty Dené Moore, who was English, 22 years younger than Letort, whom he had met during a tour to England, fell in love with, and married. In May 1902, Letort and Couprant moved to Göteborg, where they opened the first cinemagraphic theater in the city and combined variety acts with film. Letort and Couprant returned to Stockholm where they continued their photo business. 1904 Letort moved to Malmö and became the city's movie pioneer. After a while, be moved back to Copenhagen, where he also became a movie pioneer. Letort had made good money as a magician, but had even better success with the new film industry. Around 1910, Letort and his wife moved to her homeland of England. In 1924 the couple moved back to Odense, where Niels died on February 7, 1929 at the age of 73. His wife lived until May 12, 1962. Seeking photos and more information.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show Toured US 1883
Toured Europe 1903-06
Toured US 1907-1911
(USA)
(EUROPE)
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show first tours the US in 1883. James Bailey becomes involved in 1898, and begins employing sword swallowers starting in 1898-1899. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show tours Europe from 1903 to 1906.

Sword Swallowers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show:
1903: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1904: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1904: Mighty Ajax in Europe
1905: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1906: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1907: Professor Charles E. Griffin

Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with BBWWS.

Julian Putzkewitsch Performed Lübeck
(Germany)
According to a German postcard from Lübeck Germany, Julian Putzkewitsch performed as "Der russische Schwertschlucker Konkurrenzolos auf dem ganzen Kontinent im Wild West Zirkus Bill Daberkow", ("The Russian Sword Swallower concurrently running the entire continent with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Circus". The postcard shows a sword swallower in Russian costume. Putzkewitsch was apparently billed as coming from from Russia and may have toured on the European tour of Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1906. Post card was printed in Lübeck Germany.
Seeking photos and more information on sword swallower Julian Putzkewitsch with BBWWS.
Professor Griffin
Yankee Yogi
Mons. F. Le Costro
(Chas. E. Griffin)
(Charles E. Griffin)
(Charles Eldridge Griffin)
Born June 16, 1859?
Born Dec. 17, 1862?
Performed 1889-1907
Died Jan 3, 1914
Hilliard & DeMott's Circus
Paris Pavilion Shows
Pullman & Mack's Circus
Sells Brothers Circus
Hurlburt & Hunting Circus
Bob Hunting Circus
Frank A Robbin's Circus
Ringling Brothers Circus
Buffalo Bill's
Wild West Show
(United States)
(Europe)
Charles Eldridge Griffin was born on June 16, 1859 in St. Joseph, MO. (Some accounts claim he was born in New York City on December 17, 1862). Throughtout his lifetime, Griffin performed as an magician, illusionist, conjurer, yogi, ventriloquist, contortionist, fire-eater, sword swallower, hypnotist, and lecturer with a variety of shows, including Bob Hunting Circus, Ringling Brothers Circus Sideshow and Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. While he was a child, his family moved to Albia, Iowa. His father John Griffin was Monroe County Superintendent of schools and county clerk of courts. His mother Fanny was a musician, and Charles and his 3 siblings were outgoing extroverts with a penchant for performing (his brothers later worked in the circus business and his sister became a popular platform speaker). At the age of 16, Griffin toured school houses, town halls, and county fairs with his own "one man valise troupe" where he probably began to perfect his talents as a magician and ventriloquist. In 1881, Griffin joined Hilliard & DeMott's Circus as a magician and lecturer. After it folded, he traveled to France to become general manager of the Paris Pavilion Shows. Then he joined the Pullman & Mack's Circus as "The Comic Yankee Conjurer" from 1884-1885. In 1885 he joined the Sells Brothers Circus as a "lecturer in side show and featured in concert (Fire Act)." In 1886, he left Sells Brothers to become a member of of the newly formed Hurlburt & Hunting Circus in New York City (later known as the Bob Hunting's New York Circus). In 1889, at the age of 26, Griffin performed as "Professor Griffin, the Yankee Yogi, Magician and Sword Swallower" on the Bob Hunting Circus according to the 1889 Hunting route book, and he was also listed on the Bob Hunting Circus program as "Manager All Privileges". On the front of the program, it offers for sale a "Large book, 10 cents" that Griffin wrote that teaches "Magic, Ventrioloquism, Fire Eating, Sword Swallowing, and Hypnotism". In the 1892 Hunting route book Griffin is listed as the "Illusionist and Ventriloquist", and he was also known to have performed as a fire-eater. In the 1890s, Griffin published the "Showman's Guide", the "Showman's Book of Wonders", and he was the founder of Griffin's Conjuring College in New York City. In 1896, he published a booklet entitled "How To Be A Contortionist! Bending Made Easy: A Practical Self-Instructor by a Well-Known Professional". Griffin worked with the Hunting Circus for 12 years from 1886 to 1898 where he eventually owned and operated the sideshow. In 1898, he held a similar position with the Frank A Robbin's Circus. In 1899, Griffin became stage manager with the Ringling Brothers Circus Side Show based in Baraboo, WI where he worked for 4 years from 1899 to 1902 as magician, ventriloquist, as well as "Lecturer and Sword Swallower". His wife Octavia, was billed as "The White Witch" or "The Serpent Enchantress", worked with him as a snake charmer, as well as his brothers Frank and Fred, and Fredi's wife Julia as a mind reader. In June 1902, at the end of the 1902 season, James A. Bailey, who was a major owner of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show, visited the show and asked Griffin and his family to tour with the Wild West Show in Europe. In December 1902, the Buffalo Bill Show sailed for England. Griffin and his family joined them in March 1903. After landing at Liverpool England, Griffin and his family joined the show in Manchester where Griffin began performing his "Yankee Magic" in the sideshow as the "Yankee Yogi and Conjuror", with his wife and son working with him. In 1904, Griffin took over as manager of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. In April 1905, the show opened in Paris through June 4, 1905. From November 1905 through March 1906, the show wintered in Marseilles France. The final season in Europe opened in March 4, 1906 and toured Italy, Hungary, Russia, Germany, and Belgium. In 1906, Chas. Eldridge Griffin is listed as "supt. of side shows" with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published on July 7, 1906. After coming back to the US in late October, 1906, Griffin began writing the book "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill". Shortly after arriving back in the US, Griffin suffered a mild stroke. However, he rejoined the Buffalo Bill Show for the 1907 season. In the fall of 1907, Griffin returned to Albia, Iowa, where he focused on writing and publishing, occasionally entertaining local residents with performances at Albia's Opera House. In 1908, he finished writing the book "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill", of which 500 copies were published in Albia, Iowa in 1908. Griffin suffered a more serious stroke and died in Albia, IA on January 3, 1914 at the age of 54. Griffin's name also appears in the list of persons associated with Buffalo Bill Cody, referencing Sarah J. Blackstone's book "Buckskins, Bullets, and Business: A History of Buffalo Bill's Wild West" (Greenwood Press, 1986), though he and his autobiography are only briefy mentioned there. More substantial information was found in the William F. Cody Collection in an article from Palimpsest by H. Roger Grant, based on interviews with Charles Griffith's nephew, John W. Griffith. It is titled "An Iowan, with Buffalo Bill: Charles Eldridge Griffin in Europe, 1903-1906., is 13 pages long, and references Griffin's stage and pen name of Mons. F. Le Costro. In the booklet, Griffin gives instructions for both fire eating, and nine books listed that he authored for vaudeville acts. Seeking photos and more information.
Professor Griffin (1889)
Professor Griffin with Ringling Bros early 1900s
Charles E. Griffin (1907)
A.E. Welsh
Circassian Sword Swallower
Performed 1880s-90s? New York, NY
(USA)
"Circassian" Sword Swallower A.E. Welsh was photographed by Charles Eisenmann in New York, probably in the 1880s-1890s. While it was somewhat common to see "Circassian" women who worked as snake charmers in the late 1800s, it was extremely rare to find a "Circassian" who worked as a sword swallower. Could this photo of an unknown Circassian sword swallower be a later photo of A.E. Welsh? Seeking photos and more information.
A.E. Welsh
A.E. Welsh (enlarged)
A.E. Welsh (face close-up)
A.E. Welsh signature
Unknown Circassian Sword Swallower, later A.E. Welsh?
Patrick Mulraney Died June 29, 1891 Columbus, OH
(USA)
According to an obituary in the NY Times dated June 29, 1891, "COLUMBUS, Ohio, June 29, 1891 -- Patrick Mulraney, a juggler and sword swallower, injured himself fatally yesterday during his performance at Olentangy Villa. Instead of using the slender sword he was accustomed to, Mulraney took for use in his sword swallowing act a violin bow. Twice he essayed to swallow this, but failed each time, desisting on account of the intense pain caused by inserting the bow in his throat. He immediately commensed vomitting blood, and continued to have these paroxysms until this morning, when he died." Seeking photos and more information.
Patrick Mulraney obituary (1891)
Annie Roy
Anna Roy
Annie Wiser
Anna Elizabeth Wright
"Albino Sword Swallower"
"White Madagascar Moor"
Born March 15, 1863
Performed c 1893-1897
Died Nov 8, 1941
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Ringling Brothers Circus
(USA)
Annie Roy was one of the first female sword swallowers with Ringling Brothers Circus and Barnum and Bailey circuses in the mid 1890s. Born an albino as Annie Wiser on March 15, 1863 of John and Martha Wiser (probably in Cochran Mills, PA), Annie was the sister of albino entertainer Louis Wiser (born 1865 in Cochran Mills, PA), who may have later reinvented himself to become known as "Unzie The Albino". In 1891 at about the age of 28, Annie was married to an albino gentleman of Scotch-Irish descent named Rob Roy, who was said to have been "The First Albino Born in the US". In 1893, Annie was listed in the Barnum and Bailey Circus route book as the "White Madagascar Moor". Other photos show Anna and Rob Roy together in 1893 and 1894. In 1894, Rob Roy was listed with Ringling Brothers Circus, and a photo of Annie and Rob was included in the Ringling Brothers World's Greatest Shows route book. On March 26, 1894, the albino couple had their first and only son, also albino, who they named King Charles Roy. Rob Roy performed as "The Albino Dislocationist" with Barnum and Bailey Circus between 1894-1897, and then performed with Barnum and Bailey in Europe from 1897-1901. (Delno Fritz was featured as the sword swallower with Barnum & Bailey during this period in Europe, and there is no mention of Annie Roy during this period). In a May 21, 1903 article in "The Realm Magazine of Marvels", Rob Roy and sword swallower Mlle Edith Clifford were featured together with Barnum and Bailey Circus, and in 1904, Rob Roy and Mlle Edith Clifford were featured together on a Barnum and Bailey poster in Madison Square Garden, NY. (No further information on Rob Roy found after 1904). In 1912, Anna Roy bought a farm in Crawford County, PA which she later gave to her son King Charles Roy. King Charles Roy was known as "The First Albino Child Born of Albino Parents in the US.". He performed with various circuses as an "Albino Contortionist", and was good friends with Frank Lentini, the "Three Legged Man". There is a story that one of King Charles Roy's children was born on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train which later had a wreck at 4am on June 22, 1918 in Ivanhoe near Hammond IN, and King Charles was presumed dead, (although he later turned up alive. In fact, King Charles' oldest son was born in a hospital, and the rest were born at home, and King Charles Roy's bags made it on the train, but he somehow missed the train which led to the speculation of his demise in the accident). In 1926 King Charles Roy was married to Minnie Bell Wiser (born 1904 in Apollo, Indiana County, PA). The firstborn child of King Charles and Minnie Roy was Prince Everett Roy who was born on August 28, 1927 at Dreamland Circus Side Show, Coney Island, New York. (This information came from Minnie's own journal written in her own hand-writing that she kept from 1927 until 1932). King Charles and Minnie bought a house in Jamestown, PA in 1928, and retired from the circus in 1932. King Charles Roy had 9 children, 6 of whom were albinos and 3 who were not. In 1938-39, Annie Roy moved in with her son King Charles Roy. According to her obituary, Annie died at 10:30am on November 8, 1941 in Jamestown, PA at the age of 78. Her obituary and the deed to the Jamestown house list her name as "Anna Elizabeth Wright". King Charles Roy owned several businesses including a barbershop and the Jamestown Bait Hatchery, and died on February 26, 1980 at the age of 86. Annie Roy had two sets of swords and bayonets, one with a pearl handle, and another etched with a lion's head. Annie's swords were sold by Glenn Roberts around 2002 or 03 in Sharon PA in a time of hardship to pay bills, and they are now owned by Lyle Tuttle. Seeking photos and more information.
Annie Wiser Roy
Annie Roy
Louis Wiser at 30
"Unzie The Albino"
Rob & Annie Roy, Ringling Routebook (1893)
Chicago World's Fair 1893 World's Columbian Exposition
Chicago World's Fair
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Between May 1, 1893 and October 31, 1893, an estimated 27 million people attended Chicago's World's Columbian Exposition -- officially planned to celebrate the European discovery of the New World -- and marvelled at the Exposition's neo-classical vision of ordered community, cultural displays, and artistic exhibits. The World's Columbian Exposition, situated on a 1.3 mile long strip in Jackson Park, Chicago, and introduced a wealth of inventions to America and the world. It was at the 1893 Chicago World's Fair that sword swallowing was first introduced to America at large, and it was here that sword swallowing first became accepted as popular in America by being one of the hit features of the fair. The Chicago World's Fair was so popular in 1893, that it was later replicated again with the Chicago World's Fair of 1933-1934 where sword swallowing was again one of the most popular highlights.
Albert Heiling Born 1874
Injured Jan 26, 1895
Muskegon, MI
(USA)
According to an article in the NY Times dated Jan 27, 1895: "MUSKEGON, Mich., Jan. 26 - Albert Heiling aged twenty-one, while practicing a sword-swallowing act, drove the sword into his stomach beyond his reach. Physicians were called and cut him open as the only means of recovering the sword. Heiling may die." Seeking photos and more information.
Albert Heiling injury article (1895)
P. Widowski
"World Champion Sword Swallower"
1890s? (Germany?) P. Widowski was known as "World Champion Sword Swallower" of his time (also labeled "Schwertschlucker" or "Sword Swallower" in German). Seeking photos and more information..
P. Widowski (1890s)
W.H. Turner
William H. Turner
One-Armed Sword Swallower
Born c. 1845
Photo July 1, 1938
Gettysburg, PA
(USA)
After serving in the Union Army and working with the circus, one-armed Union Army veteran sword swallower W.H. Turner was still amusing audiences by swallowing swords at the age of 93 on July 1, 1938 at the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Originally from Lebanon, MO, Turner was a former circus performer. Seeking photos and more information.
WH Turner (1938)
WH Turner (info)
Bizarre Medical Abnormalities Published 1897 (USA) According to the book "Bizarre Medical Abnormalities" published in 1897: "There are many cases on record in which injury to the stomach has been due to some mistake or accident in the juggling process of knife-swallowing or sword-swallowing. The records of injuries of this nature extend back many hundred years, and even in the earlier days the delicate operation of gastrotomy sometimes with a successful issue, was performed upon persons who had swallowed knives. The physiologic explanation of sword-swallowing is quite interesting. We know that when we introduce the finger, a spoon, brush, etc. into the throat of a patient, we cause extremely disagreeable symptoms. There is nausea, gagging, and considerable hindrance with the function of respiration. It therefore seems remarkable that there are people whose physiologic construction is such that, without apparent difficulty, they are enabled to swallow a sword many inches long. Many of the exhibitionists allow the visitors to touch the stomach and outline the point of the sabre through the skin. The sabre used is usually very blunt and of rounded edges, or if sharp, a guiding tube of thin metal is previously swallowed. The explanation of these exhibitions is as follows: The instrument enters the mouth and pharynx, then the esophagus, traverses the cardiac end of the stomach, and enters the latter as far as the antrum of the pylorus, the small culdesac of the stomach. In their normal state in the adult these organs are not in a straight line, but are so placed by the passage of the sword. In the first place the head is thrown back, so that the mouth is in the direction of the esophagus, the curves of which disappear or become less as the sword proceeds; the angle that the esophagus makes with the stomach is obliterated, and finally the stomach is distended in the vertical diameter and its internal curve disappers, thus permitting the blade to traverse the greater diameter of the stomach. According to Guyot-Daubès, these organs, in a straight line, extend a distance of from 55 to 62 cm., and consequently the performer is enabled to swallow an instrument of this length. The length is divided as follows:

Mouth and pharynx.....10 to 12 cm.
Esophagus.................25 to 28 cm.
Distended stomach.....20 to 22 cm.
Total..........................55 to 62 cm.

These acrobats with the sword have rendered important service to medicine. It was through the good offices of a sword-swallower that the Scotch physician, Dr. Stevens, was enabled to make his experiments on digestion. He caused this assistant to swallow small metallic tubes pierced with holes. They were filled, according to Reaumer's method, with pieces of meat. After a certain length of time, he would have the acrobat disgorge the tubes, and in this way he observed to what degree the process of digestion had taken place. It was also probably the sword-swallower who showed the physicians to what extent the pharynx could be habituated to contract, and from this resulted the invention of the tube of Faucher, the esophageal sound, lavage of the stomach, and illumination of this organ by electric light."

Diagram of Sword Swallower (1897)
Enno Strauss-Hassan
Enno Strauss-Hanson
"The World's Youngest Sword Swallower"
? England
(UK)
Enno Strauss-Hassan (or Hanson) was one of England's greatest sword swallowers, and at one time, was known as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". He was one of the first to experiment with swallowing glass neon tubes which eventually killed him. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Miss Victorina
(Kitty Fisher)
Joe Van Victorina
Kar-Mi

(Joseph B. Hallworth)
Performed 1890-1902 (USA) A performing husband and wife team in the 1890s, husband Joe Van Victorina (Joseph B. Hallworth, also known as "Kar-mi") and wife Miss Victorina (Kitty Fisher, a native of Berlin) both swallowed swords in their act - Kar-mi would swallow a loaded gun barrel, and while it was down his throat, would shoot a cracker off a man's head, while Miss Victorina was said to have swallowed a record 16 swords at once around the turn of the century. In 1899 the Victorinas put out a "Text Book On The Art of Sword Swallowing - Explaining How To Do It Sixteen Different Ways" with some mythical tips on how to swallow swords, some written in an untranslatable ancient script! The Boston Herald of December 28th, 1902, described Victorina's performance: "By long practice she has accustomed herself to swallow swords, daggers, bayonets, walking sticks, rods, and other dangerous articles. Her throat and food passages have become so expansive that she can swallow three long swords almost up to the hilts, and can accommodate a dozen shorter blades." On one occasion, while sword-swallowing in Boston, a sword pierced a vein in her throat. The blade was half-way down, but instead of immediately pulling it out, she pushed it further in. She was laid up in a hospital for 3 months after this performance. In Chicago she had an even narrower escape. One day while performing at a museum on Clark Street, Victorina passed a long thin dagger down her throat. In withdrawing it, the blade snapped in two, leaving the pointed portion some distance in her passage. Dropping the hilt on the floor, she leaned forward, and placing her finger and thumb down her throat, she succeeded in catching the end of the blade and pulled it out. Seeking photos and more information.
Miss Victorina (1890s)
Miss Victorina (1890s)
Miss Victorina (1890s)
Miss Victorina swallowing 10 (1890s)
The Victorinas? (1890s)
Victorina's Booklet (1899)
Kar-Mi Poster (1899)
Kar-Mi Poster (1899)
Joe Riley
"Sensational Sword Swallower"
Joseph Riley Fleming
Born c. 1866
Performed 1898-1914
Lived to 1929
Died ?
Andrew Downie Circus
Hillburn, NY
Ramapo, NY
Rockland County, NY
(USA)
Joe Riley was born as Joseph R. Fleming around 1866 in Hillburn, NY where he lived most of his life with the exception of when he was on the road performing either with his own show or on vaudeville. He started out as a pencil artist and did some of his best artwork around 1892. His first stage performance took place around the time of the Spanish-American War in 1898 when he was 32 years old. According to his pitch card, he was known as the "Sensational Sword Swallower", and his act was described as "presenting a realistic and thrilling scientific exhibition in the art of "Swallowing of the Swords", also carving-knives, daggers, shears, saws, cimeters (sic), curved swords, bayonets and other allied props and various other articles of steel without any deception at all." In 1905, the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published May 20, 1905 states that "Joe Riley is with the Andrew Downie Circus, doing his sword swallowing act in the side show, also his Irish specialty and rapid picture drawing act in the concert. He reports success, also that the show is doing a very nice business, despite the past recent cold and rainy weather." Riley's performing career ended in 1914 during World War I when his eyesight began to grow dim and he began to go blind. In 1929 when he was 63 years old and living in Ramapo, NY, an article was written about him that said that he was totally blind and had learned Braille, learned how to walk with a white cane, and was survived by only one brother. It is not known exactly when he died. Seeking photos and more information.
Joe Fleming art (1892)
Joe Fleming art (1892)
Joe Fleming art (1892)
Joe Riley article (1929)
Joe Riley article (1929)
Delno Fritz
Delmo Fritz
Born 1875-76?
Performed 1886-1932?
Died 1930s?
Huber's Museum
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Hagenbeck-Wallace
Al G. Barnes Circus
Wilkes-Barre, PA
Los Angeles, CA
(USA)
Delno Fritz was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA between 1875 and 1876. As a child, Fritz lost a leg while hopping a freight train in Wilkes-Barre, so he wore a wooden leg and walked with a cane the rest of his life. According to one story, Fritz studied sword swallowing under Cliquot in the early 1890s. According to an article in the NY Times dated Sept. 2, 1894 at, "Huber's 14th St. Museum - First apprearance here of LEONZO BROTHERS and their famous company of players in the grand local drama, The Dog Spy. A great production, curio halls, HINDOO GIANTS 8 feet tall, PRINCE TINYMITE, 19 years old and 21 inches high, MICHAEL Strong Man, Prof. HORN trained birds, DELMO FRITZ and MAUD CHURCHILL, sword swallowers, EMMA BROWN, spotted girl, ROSE CALLAHAN, bearded lady." In 1896, Fritz performed as a sword swallower with Barnum and Bailey Circus. On March 10, 1898, the Boston Medical and Surgical Journal published a story called "Two Curious Freaks" which was taken from the Feb 2, 1896 article published in the Lancet magazine, which included an "account of two sword swallowing performers (Delno Fritz and Young Herrmann) with the Barnum & Bailey Circus at the Olympia". In 1899, Fritz taught sword swallowing to 13 year old Edith Clifford. In May, 1899, the Barnum and Bailey Circus went to Nottingham, England and travelled between cities on 4 huge trains, each with 17 carriages, with Delno Fritz as the featured sword swallower. According to an article in The English Illustrated Magazine around 1899, Delno Fritz had already "been swallowing swords, bayonets, and such delicacies for 14 years. His first appearance, at the age of 11, was made with his father, for Fritz inherits his peculiar appetite, his father having been a famous swallower of swords, walking-sticks, and umbrellas. Fritz is a devoted cyclist, and something of an amateur baseball player." Fritz was photographed on Oct 3, 1899. Fritz was known for swallowing a bayonet attached to a rifle, which when fired, would drive the sword down his throat. Fritz was married to sword swallower Maude D'Lean or Maud D'Auldin. According to the May 20, 1911 New York Clipper, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin, performed as sword swallowers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1911. Also in this issue: "It is rumored about the show that Delmo Fritz has discovered the fountain of youth. He seems to be growing younger day by day. It may be caused by the recent purchase of a toupee that fits so well that it looks natural, which is rather unusual." In 1912, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin or Mlle. D'Aulin were booked as sword swallowers on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Sideshow where they performed "Sword and Gun Manipulation" together in 1912. In 1915, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin were booked as sword swallowers on the Al G. Barnes Circus. Fritz was also a personal friend of Harry Houdini, who in his 1920 book "The Miracle Mongers", wrote about Fritz, "Delno Fritz was not only an excellent sword-swallower, but a good showman as well. The last time I saw him he was working the 'halls' in England. I hope he saved his money, for he was a clean man with a clean reputation, and, I can truly say, he was a master in his manner of indulging his appetite for the cold steel." (During his time in the UK, Fritz actually bought a theatre in Scotland). In 1920, Fritz's wife Maude D'Lean died from a sword swallowing accident caused by a nicked blade during a performance onboard a ship before the King and Queen of England. Fritz then taught sword swallowing to his 20 year old niece Edna Price around 1920. In the 1920's, when his niece Edna wanted to go out on a date with someone that "Uncle Delno" did not approve of, Edna would hide his wooden leg in order to make her escape. According to circus route books, Fritz and Price performed together with the Al G. Barnes Circus during the 1920 and 1923 seasons, with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1923 and 1924. A Los Angeles Times article dated Dec 7, 1924 stated, "Los Angeles is to have a school for sword swallowers. Delno Fritz, internationally known eater of steel, has come to Los Angeles to settle down after years with circuses and carnivals. He is preparing to open a class teaching how to swallow. His primary classes for beginners will start with table knives and desk shears, with advanced courses to be given later in actual consumption of full-length army sabres. At present he is enrolling his classes at the World Museum, opposite the Rosslyn Annex on Main street, where he is also giving demonstrations in the art to curious spectators." Apparently his time in California landed him some movie roles in Hollywood. In 1925, "Delmo" Fritz was featured as the sword swallower in the Tod Browning film "The Unholy Three" with Lon Chaney, in 1928 in the film "The Man Who Laughs", and in the 1932 cult classic movie "Freaks". Fritz performed into the 1930s, and died from pneumonia which developed as a result of a screw that came loose and lodged in his lung while testing a bronchialscope for doctors in Pennsylvania. Delno Fritz was buried in the Fritz family plot somewhere around Wilkes-Barre, PA. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Delmo Fritz with Huber's (1894)
Delno Fritz and cane with Barnum/Bailey (1896)
Delno Fritz with Barnum/Bailey in England (1899?)
Delno Fritz (1899?)
Delno Fritz (1899)
Delno Fritz article (1924)
Delno Fritz (1932)
Delno Fritz (1932)
Barnum and Bailey Circus May 1899 Barnum & Bailey Circus
Nottingham
(England)
In May, 1899, the Barnum and Bailey Circus went to Nottingham, England and travelled between cities on 4 huge trains, each with 17 carriages. Delno Fritz was the featured sword swallower in 1899. Seeking photos and more information.
Mlle. Edith Clifford
Mille Edith Clifford
Nellie Clifford
Edith Clifford
Edith Morris
Edith Bauer
"Champion Sword Swallower of the World"
Born Nov 22, 1886
Performed 1899-1922
Died Sept 3, 1942
Barnum & Bailey
Great Wallace Shows
Gollmar Bros
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
Boston, MA
Canton, OH
(USA)
Edith Clifford was born in Boston Massachusetts on November 22, 1886 of John Clifford and Emily Rivers-Clifford, who emigrated from England to the US before Edith's birth. Young Edith began swallowing swords in 1899 at the age of 13 after learning from sword swallower Delno Fritz who was the sword swallower with Barnum & Bailey Circus. Clifford was said to be "generously endowed" and "possessed of more than ordinary personal charms, a refined taste for dressing both herself and her stage, and an unswerving devotion to her art", and she "perfected an act that found favor in the Royal Courts of Europe". Clifford performed under the name "Mlle. Edith Clifford, Champion Sword Swallower of the World", and was said to have swallowed 18 to 20 inch blades without a problem, and a longer blade up to 26 inches long, as well as 10, 16, and up to 24 swords at one time. In 1901, at around the age of 15, Clifford married 33-year old Thomas Holmes who worked for Barnum and Bailey Circus under the stage name "James Morris" or "James Maurice" as the "Elastic Stretch Man". They adopted the stage name "The Cliffords", and in 1901, they joined Barnum & Bailey Circus in Vienna Austria, where Clifford became famous for swallowing razor blades, scissors, saw blades and bayonets. They worked with the Barnum Show for five years from 1901 through 1906 and had two daughters, Edith and Margaret, before Thomas Holmes died in 1910. In a May 21, 1903 article in "The Realm Magazine of Marvels", Clifford and albino sword swallower Rob Roy were featured together in the Barnum and Bailey Circus, and in 1904, Clifford and Rob Roy were featured together on a Barnum and Bailey poster in Madison Square Garden, NY. According to the February 24, 1906 New York Clipper, "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, and James Morris, Elastic skin man, have signed with the Great Wallace Shows for next season." In the February 23, 1907 New York Clipper: "Notes of Gollmar Bros' side show for next season: The side show for next season will be much larger and grander than Gollmar Bros. have ever attempted in the past. As the side show is strictly in keeping with the big show, everything is gilt edged. Our top is 60 feet, with two 30s, twelve feet stage, fourteen paintings and three boxes. Roster includes: James Morris, elastic skin man, and Mille Clifford, sword swallower, who is a feature. Conceded by press and public of both hemispheres to be the greatest act in her line ever seen. Side show band will consist of 6 mouth pieces and 2 drums. Taking into consideration that Gollmar Bros.' Shows consists of 25 cars, this undoubtedly will make the strongest side show ever carried by a firm of this size." In 1908, the Cliffords worked again with Gollmar Bros Circus with James Morris as the elastic skinned man, and with "Mlle. Clifford, sword swallower, in gorgeous costume". In 1909, "Nellie Clifford" performed as sword swallower with Gollmar Bros Circus. In 1910, the Gollmar Bros Circus featured the sword swallower as "Edith Morris" (since she was married to Thomas Holmes, also known as "James Morris"). Then in 1910, according to the New York Clipper, dated March 19, 1910: "Thomas Clifford, husband of Edith Clifford, the sword swallower, whose death was noted in last week's Clipper, passed away Feb. 22, 1910 at the ?? Hospital, South Boston, Mass., from paralysis of the bladder and kidney trouble. He was born in New York State, forty-two years ago, and for twelve years he traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and for years with the Wallace Show. Under the name of James Maurice, "the elastic skin man," he traveled for the past three years with Gollmar Bros.' Show, and was re-engaged with them for the coming season. In private life he was known as Thomas Holmes. Interment was in the family plot at Pawtucket, R.I. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, four brothers and three sisters."

In 1912, Clifford was married in her second marriage to Karl Bauer, a German circus trapeze artist, who served as Edith's assistant when the couple married, performing together under the stage name "The Cliffords". In 1912 and 1913, The Cliffords worked for Gollmar Bros Circus. Together they traveled the world, including spending time in Stuttgart, Germany where Edith posed for a photo swallowing 3 swords. Edith's two daughters Edith and Margaret grew up with an aunt in Pawtucket, RI. In the spring of 1919, Barnum & Bailey Circus combied with Ringling Brothers Circus to form the combined Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus with their big debut in New York City featuring sword swallower Mlle Edith Clifford. Harry Houdini visited the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus to see one of Clifford's performances where she swallowed a bayonet that was shot down her throat with a gun. By this time, she had been sword swallowing for over 20 years. Clifford's show so impressed Houdini that he wrote about it in 1920 in his book "Miracle Mongers and their Methods": "The sensation of her act was when the point of a bayonet 23 1/2 inches long and fastened to the breech of a cannon was placed in her mouth and the cannon discharged with the recoil driving the bayonet down her throat". Clifford worked with the new combined Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1919, 1920, and 1921. It wasn't until she retired from performing in 1922 at the age of 36 after swallowing swords for 28 years that she and her husband Karl took her daughters home to live with them in Canton, OH.

After moving to 3rd Street NE in Canton, OH, Clifford went by her married name Edith Bauer and she and her husband Karl ran a corner grocery store. Clifford did not mention her circus history to most of her neighbors, but she received lots of visitors whenever Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus came to Canton in the 1930s and circus performers and sideshow acts would roam in and out of their home on Third Street NE. According to her death certificate, at the time of her death Clifford lived at 221 36th St. NW in Canton OH. She died at Aultman Hospital on September 3, 1942 at 7:48 am at the age of 55 of a "cancerous right ovary" that she had been treated for since May 1, 1942. She was buried on September 7, 1942 in West Lawn Cemetery in Canton OH. According to her obituary, Clifford was active in the Women's Republican Club and other interest groups, but the obituary mentions nothing about her circus background. Her husband Karl Bauer was born in Germany in 1887 and died in Canton, OH in 1962. The couple was survived by two daughters Edith and Margaret from Pawtucket, RI, and three grandchildren: Paul Spinden (deceased), Karl Spinden (now living in Massillon, OH), Grace Spinden (married name Underbrink, now living in California), Gloria Spinden (deceased, married name Lensman), and Delores Spinden (married name Belt). Clifford's grandson Karl Spinden, from Massillon, OH doesn’t remember his grandmother ever talking about her past in show business, and he never saw her swallow a sword. He worked in his grandparents' grocery store as a child, and knew her mostly as a typical nice, sweet grandma, but he keeps one of her swords in a closet at his home.

Edith Clifford-Bauer swallowed a variety of swords, bayonets, a serpentine blade, large straight razor, saw, and a sword sandwich of up to 24 swords at once. The full collection of Clifford's swords, bayonet, saw, photos, and death certificate are owned by sword swallower Dan Meyer and reside in the archival collection of the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l Museum and Hall of Fame. Clifford's swords and artifacts were featured on display in an exhibit entitled "Science and the Circus" at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT from September 25, 2010 to January 9, 2011. Clifford was immortalized in a documentary called Mysteries of Magic: The Impossible Made Possible, filmed in 1997 and put out in 1999 by the Discovery Channel featuring sword swallower Amy Saunders who played the part of Clifford. Seeking photos and more information.

Edith Clifford Timeline:
1886: Edith Clifford born in Boston
1899: Learns from Delno Fritz at 13
1900: Performs with Barnum & Bailey in Germany
1901: Marries Thomas Holmes at 15
1901: Joins Barnum & Bailey in Vienna at 15
1902: Barnum & Bailey
1903: Featured with Rob Roy on Barnum & Bailey
1904: Featured with Rob Roy on Barnum & Bailey
1905: Barnum & Bailey
1906: Great Wallace Shows
1907: Gollmar Bros
1908: Gollmar Bros
1909: Gollmar Bros
1910: Gollmar Bros
1910: Husband Thomas Holmes dies
1911: Gollmar Bros
1912: Marries Karl Bauer
1912: Gollmar Bros
1913: Gollmar Bros
1919: Harry Houdini visits on Ringling Bros B&B
1920: Ringling Bros B&B
1921: Ringling Bros B&B
1922: Retires to Canton OH
1942: Dies September 3 in Canton OH

Edith Clifford swallowing 10
Edith Clifford
Edith Clifford
Edith Clifford face
Edith Clifford with saw
Edith Clifford with saw
Edith Clifford on Messer's Chewing Gum (1910)
Edith Clifford with teddy bear
Edith Clifford bloomers
Edith swallowing 3 swords
Edith Clifford autograph
Edith Morris with Gollmar Bros (1910)
Edith Clifford face (1910)
Edith Clifford/Bauer's death certificate (9-3-1942)
Edith Clifford/Bauer's swords
Grandson Karl Spinden with sword
Amy Saunders as Clifford swallowing razor blade (:43 mpg)
Deodata Performed 1900 (Italy) Deodota, an Italian magician, was also a sword-swallower of more than average ability who performed around the turn of the century. He finally succumbed to the lure of commercialism, and ended up in the jewelry business in the "downtown district" of New York City. Seeking photos and more information.
Mlle. Amy
Amy Murphy
Born c. 1885?
Performed 1900-1914
Barnum & Bailey Circus
Hagenbeck Circus
Forepaugh-Sells Show
J.T. McCaddon's Show
John Robinson Big Shows
Hagenbeck-Wallace Show
(USA)
In 1900, the Barnum and Bailey Circus performed in Germany, and published the book "Das Buch der Wunder" ("The Book of Wonders"). Barnum and Bailey produced editions in every country they visited, and the book was sold for double the price of a program, and half the price for a medium-priced seat at the show. Mlle Amy was featured as "the female sword swallower" in the edition published especially for Germany in 1900, and she was featured on the Barnum & Bailey Circus posters in Germany in 1900. In 1905, the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published January 21, 1905 states that "Mlle. Amy, sword swallower, formerly of the Forepaugh-Sells Show, has signed with J.T. McCaddon's Show for the European tour." However, the September 23, 1905 New York Clipper reported that the show was stranded for a few weeks in Grenoble, France, where the show was left in the hands of receivers, and many of the performers who saw ahead had already forsaken the show, including sword swallower Mlle Amy. In 1906, Mlle Amy is listed as the sword swallower with the Hagenbeck Circus in the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published on February 10, 1906 and July 7, 1906. In 1907 and 1908, Mlle Amy performed with John Robinson's Big Show Sideshow. In 1913, Mlle Amy performed with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Show again, and the 1914 Hagenbeck-Wallace Show route book lists "Amy Murphy". Seeking photos and more information.
Mlle. Amy Timeline:
1900: Barnum and Bailey Circus
1901-1904? Forepaugh-Sells Show
1905: J.T. McCaddon's Show
1906: Hagenbeck Circus
1907: John Robinson's
1908: John Robinson's
1913: Hagenbeck-Wallace Show
1914: Hagenbeck-Wallace Show
Maurice Eugene
"Sword and Rifle Stylist"
Performed early 1929-1939 Al G. Barnes Circus
Cole Bros. Circus
(USA)
Maurice Eugene was known as the "Sword and Rifle Stylist". He was known for balancing swords and rifles and swallowing swords. In 1929, Eugene was the sword swallower with the Al G. Barnes Circus. In 1939, Maurice Eugene was featured as sword swallower with Cole Bros Circus. Seeking photos and more information.
Maurice Eugene
Eugene (1929)
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show Started 1898
Toured Europe 1903-06
(Europe) Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show first toured the US starting in 1883. In 1899, James A. Bailey of Barnum and Bailey Circus fame added his influence to the Wild West Show by hiring midgets, a giant, a snake charmer, a magician, and a sword swallower in the show for an additional admission charge. Professor Charles E. Griffin worked as the sword swallower and manager of the Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show sideshow when it toured Europe from 1903 to 1906, where he performed as the "Yankee Yogi and Conjuror", with his wife and son working with him. In 1904 the sword swallower with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in Europe was "The Mighty Ajax". At some point in the European tour, Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show employed Russian sword swallower Julian Putzkewitsch. After returning to the US in 1907, Griffin authored the book "Four Years in Europe With Buffalo Bill" which was published in 1908. Seeking photos and more information on sword swallowers with BBWWS.

Sword Swallowers with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show:
1903: Prof Chas E. Griffin
1904: Prof Chas E. Griffin
1904: Mighty Ajax
1905: Prof Chas E. Griffin
1906: Prof Chas E. Griffin
1906? Julian Putzkewitsch
Julian Putzkewitsch Performed 1905-06? (Russia)
(Europe)
Russian sword swallower Julian Putzkewitsch toured continental Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. Seeking photos and more information
Julian Putzkewitsch
Mons. Karlo Performed 1905 Campbell Bros Consolidated R.R. Show
(USA)
According to the New York Clipper dated June 17, 1905, Mons. Karlo was the sword swallower with the Campbell Bros Consolidated R.R. Show. Seeking photos and more information
"The Amazing Hernando" Performed early 1900s? Entertainment Troupe and Traveling Show
Lynchburg, TN
(USA)
According to a Jack Daniel's poster, the "Entertainment Troupe and Traveling Show" was scheduled to perform "starting Monday, June 16, for 6 days and nights in the square of Lynchburg, TN. (Courthouse chairs, 37 cents)" According to the poster, "The Amazing Hernando will shoot a gun while it is DOWN HIS THROAT! Hernando will load a gun with powder and ball, swallow the barrel two feet down his mouth, and then DISCHARGE THE GUN, breaking with a single bullet a small drinking glass placed upon the head of HIS OWN CHILD!" Note: This poster appears to be a fictional Jack Daniels promotional poster recreated to look like the traditional circus poster, but there is no proof the poster or "The Amazing Hernando" were in fact real. Seeking more information.
Paul Macini
Paul Mancini
Performed c 1890s-1910s (Italy? Germany?) Sword swallower Paul Macini or Paul Mancini was featured on a German postcard circa late 1890s or early 1900s. Seeking photos and more information.
Paul Macini (circa 1890s-1910)
Veno The Electric Sword Swallower
Nelson C. Barned
Performed 1904 Barnum & Bailey Circus
(USA)
Nelson C. Barned reportedly performed as "Veno" the Electric Sword Swallower with the Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1904. Seeking photos and more information.
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus 1884 Wallace Circus
1903 Carl Hagenbeck Circus
1907 Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
1938 closed
Peru, IN
(USA)
Carl Hagenbeck (1844-1913) founded the "Carl Hagenbeck Circus". Hagenbeck was an animal trainer who pioneered the use of rewards-based animal training as opposed to fear-based training. Benjamin Wallace, a livery stable owner from Peru, Indiana, and his business partner, James Anderson, bought a circus in 1884 and created "The Great Wallace Show". Wallace bought out his partner in 1890 and the name was changed to the "B. E. Wallace Circus". According to the February 24, 1906 New York Clipper, "The Cliffords, sword swallowers, and James Morris, Elastic skin man, have signed with the Great Wallace Shows for next season." In 1907, Wallace purchased the Carl Hagenbeck Circus and merged it with his circus. The circus became known as the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1907, even though Carl Hagenbeck sued to prohibit the use of his name, but lost in court. In the Wabash River flood of 1913, the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus lost 8 elephants, 21 lions and tigers and 8 performing horses. In 1913, Wallace sold his interest in the circus to Ed Ballard of French Lick, Indiana. On June 22, 1918, another tragedy struck the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus when a locomotive engineer fell asleep about 4am and ran his empty troop train into the rear of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus train in Ivanhoe near Hammond, Indiana. A fire broke out from the kerosene lamps used for lighting the sleeping cars of the circus train. The fire quickly spread through the wood-constructed cars. As a result of the collision and subsequent fire, 86 people died and another 127 were injured. (photo) Many victims were burned beyond recognition. Most are buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Forest Park, Illinois in a section set aside as Showmen's Rest. In the spirit of "the show must go on", several competing circuses, including Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey, lent equipment and performers to the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus so that only two performances were canceled as a result of the tragedy, the one in Hammond and the next stop in Monroe, Wisconsin. After the tragedy, circus entrepreneurs Jeremiah Mugivan and Bert Bowers acquired the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, adding it to a long list of circuses they owned, including Sells-Floto Circus and John Robinson Shows. A year later, Mugivan and Bowers asked Ballard to join them and the trio formed the American Circus Company. The successor company of the American Circus Corporation was sold by Jeremiah Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Ed Ballard to John Nicholas Ringling of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey in 1929 for $1.7 million, along with Al G. Barnes Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, John Robinson Shows, and Sparks Circus. In 1935, the circus split from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey and became the Hagenbeck-Wallace and Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus. It finally ceased operations in 1938. The building in Peru, Indiana that formerly housed the winter home of Hagenbeck-Wallace now serves as the home of the Circus Hall of Fame.

Sword Swallowers with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus:
1906: Edith Clifford with Great Wallace Circus
1906: Mlle Amy with Hagenbeck Circus
1907: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus merged
1912: Delno Fritz/Maud D'Auldin with Hagenbeck-Wallace
1913: Mlle Amy
1914: Amy Murphy
1918: June 22, train wreck, Hammond, IN
1920: Millie Dearcy
1921: Milly Dearcy
1922: Milly Dearcy
1923: Milly Dearcy
1923: Prince Laurie
1929: Bought by American Circus Corporation
1929: Bought by John Ringling, merges with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
1933: Señor Laraway the Sword Swallower
1934: Señor Laraway the Sword Swallower
1935: Charles Prester
1936: Closed - Circus did not tour
1937: Charles Prester
1938: Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus closes

Gollmar Brothers Circus 1891-1916 Baraboo, WI
(USA)
Gollmar Brothers Circus wintered out of Baraboo, Wisconsin from 1891-1916. Walter, Fred, Charles, Ben, and Jake Gollmar, were the proprietors. They were also known at one point as Gollmar Bros. and Schumann's Circus. According to the February 23, 1907 New York Clipper: "Notes of Gollmar Bros' side show for next season: The side show for next season will be much larger and grander than Gollmar Bros. have ever attempted in the past. As the side show is strictly in keeping with the big show, everything is gilt edged. Our top is 60 feet, with two 30s, twelve feet stage, fourteen paintings and three boxes. Roster includes: James Morris, elastic skin man, and Mille Clifford, sword swallower, who is a feature. Conceded by press and public of both hemispheres to be the greatest act in her line ever seen. Side show band will consist of 6 mouth pieces and 2 drums. Taking into consideration that Gollmar Bros.' Shows consists of 25 cars, this undoubtedly will make the strongest side show ever carried by a firm of this size." In 1908, the Cliffords worked again with Gollmar Bros Circus with James Morris as the elastic skinned man, and with "Mlle. Clifford, sword swallower, in gorgeous costume". In 1909, "Nellie Clifford" performed as sword swallower with Gollmar Bros Circus. In 1910, the Gollmar Bros Circus featured the sword swallower as "Edith Morris" (since she was married to Thomas Holmes, who was also known as James Morris). According to the March 19, 1910 New York Clipper: "Thomas Clifford, husband of Edith Clifford, the sword swallower, whose death was noted in last week's Clipper, passed away Feb. 22, 1910 at the ?? Hospital, South Boston, Mass., from paralysis of the bladder and kidney trouble. He was born in New York State, forty-two years ago, and for twelve years he traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus, and for years with the Wallace Show. Under the name of James Maurice, "the elastic skin man," he traveled for the past three years with Gollmar Bros.' Show, and was re-engaged with them for the coming season. In private life he was known as Thomas Holmes. Interment was in the family plot at Pawtucket, R.I. He is survived by his wife, two daughters, four brothers and three sisters." In 1912, Edith Clifford was married in her second marriage to a German circus trapeze artist named Karl Bauer, who served as Edith's assistant when the couple married, performing together with the Gollmar Brothers Circus under the stage name "The Cliffords" in 1912 and 1913.

Known Sword Swallowers with the Gollmar Brothers Circus:
1900: none listed
1907: Mlle Edith Clifford
1908: Mlle Edith Clifford
1909: Nellie Clifford
1910: Edith Morris
1911: none listed
1912: Mlle Edith Clifford
1913: Mlle Edith Clifford

John Robinson's Shows 1929 bought out by John Ringling (USA) In 1929, the John Robinson Shows were purchased by the American Circus Corporation and later sold by Jeremiah Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Ed Ballard to John Nicholas Ringling of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey in 1929 for $1.7 million, along with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, and Sparks Circus.

Known Sword Swallowers with the John Robinson Shows:
1905: Marie DeVere
1907: Mlle Amy
1908: Mlle Amy
1911: Great Lorenzo
1923: Fred Marcineau
1929: bought out by John Ringling

Al. G. Barnes Circus 1895 Stonehouse starts Al G. Barnes Circus
1929 Bought by American Circus Corporation
1929 Merged with Sells-Floto, John Robinson Shows, and Sparks Circus
1929 John Ringling merges with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
1931 Al G. Barnes Stonehouse dies
1938 Circus closes
Peru, IN
(USA)
Alpheus George Barnes Stonehouse started the Al G. Barnes' Circus in 1895 with a pony, a phonograph, and a stereopticon. In 1929, the circus was purchased by the American Circus Corporation and later sold by Jeremiah Mugivan, Bert Bowers and Ed Ballard to John Nicholas Ringling of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey in 1929 for $1.7 million, along with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, John Robinson Shows, and Sparks Circus. The circus finally ceased operations in 1938.

Known Sword Swallowers with the Al G. Barnes Circus:
1914: none listed
1915: Delno Fritz/Maud D'Auldin work as sword swallowers
1920: Delno Fritz and Edna Price perform together
1922: Bob Roberts works as sword swallower
1923: Delno Fritz and Miss Edna Price perform together
1924: none listed
1925: The Great Laurie
1926: The Great Laurie
1927: Ethel Price
1929: Eugene works as sword swallower
1929: John Ringling buys American Circus Corporation - Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, Sells-Floto Circus, Al. G. Barnes Circus, John Robinson's Circus, Sparks Circus & Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
1931: Al G. Barnes Stonehouse dies
1938: Al G. Barnes Circus closes

Professor A.J. Pierce
Albert J. Pierce
Performed 1905
Died May 30, 1909?
Bangor, Maine
New York, NY
(USA)
Professor A.J. Pierce was the star sword swallower of a show run for several days out of a vacant storefront on Harlow Street in Bangor Maine in 1905. "He runs swords and small saws and scissors and bayonets down his throat until it seems that it must slash his vitals; but he gets through all right and smiles at the frightened spectators. He chews and swallows glass, eats hot pitch and rosin and sealing wax, swallows tacks and does other stunts that cause the observer to wonder what his insides are composed of. ... He finished his stunt by swallowing about 16 inches of a snake," wrote a reporter for the Bangor Daily News on Nov. 11, 1905. Pierce performed with two other colleagues who performed similar feats of daring. LaCrosse, the Human Stone Crusher, let people break stones on his stomach with a sledgehammer, while Madame LaMonte, the Hindoo rope juggler, freed herself after being bound in 50 feet of hemp. The show took place in East Market Square (near where City Hall is today) in what the reporter referred to facetiously as "the tenderloin," a reference to urban neighborhoods known for vice and graft. The show was operated by Professor H.H. Perkins, a scholar of bizarre amusements like his partner Professor Pierce. An article in the NY Times dated May 30, 1909 states, "Albert J. Pierce of No. 2076 Lexington Avenue, a sword swallower, is in Harlem Hospital in serious condition. While doing his usual stunt in a Fourteenth-street show last night, the sword got too deep and cut the lining of his stomach. Dr. Cassini of the hospital says he is suffering from a gastric hemmorhage." Seeking photos and more information.
Albert Pierce injury article (1909)
The Great Lorenzo Performed 1911-22 Robinson's Famous Shows
Family Sideshow
Sells-Floto Circus
(USA)
According to the New York Clipper, dated May 13, 1911, The Great Lorenzo performed as fire eater and sword swallower with Robinson's Famous Shows Family Sideshow in 1911. In 1922, Lorenzo was featured as the sword swallower on the Sells-Floto Circus. Seeking photos and more information..
The Mighty Ajax
"Arabian Sword Swallower"
"The Pirate"
J.M. Ajax
Joseph Milana
Joe Milana
Born 1886
Performed 1904-1959
Died 1959
Miles Orton Big Southern Railroad Shows
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Hubert's Museum
Boyd & Wirth's Circus International
Dreamland Circus Sideshow
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
Coney Island, NY
(USA)
The "Mighty Ajax" was born in 1886 of Italian descent as Joseph Milana in Washington DC. He started his entertainment career as a pigeon trainer in "Dime Museums", and ended his career in show business as a Punch and Judy man. Ajax claimed to have taught himself sword swallowing, and he is first listed as the sword swallower with the Miles Orton Big Southern Railroad Shows in the New York Clipper Directory of Show People published on March 5, 1904. Later in 1904, the Mighty Ajax toured Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show at the age of 18. The earliest known photo of the Mighty Ajax, The Arabian Sword Swallower was taken around 1905, after having just returned from touring Europe with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. When he performed his sword swallowing act, he would stand on the bally, swallow a sword, and put it back in its scabbard. When audience members would claim, "Fake, fake!", Ajax would offer them a challenge: "If anyone doubts that I'm really swallowing a sword, bring me your own sword, and I'll swallow it, with the provision that if I swallow it, I get to keep it!" When Ajax performed for King George V of England, King George did not believe Ajax really swallowed the sword. So Ajax offered him his challenge. King George produced a sword, which Ajax carefully swallowed. As a result, the King was convinced, and Ajax was allowed to keep the King's sword. Ajax's first wife Marie Milana also performed fire-eating and "double knife cutting" with him. Ajax's first son by his first wife Marie was named Bernie, who died of a head injury as a young man when he fell from a ladder and injured his head. Ajax performed in Vaudeville with Al Jolson and Eddy Cantor. In 1917, Ajax performed with the Dave Rosen Show and the Dreamland Circus Sideshow at Coney Island NY. Ajax was famous for his long run season after season at Coney Island's Dreamland Circus Sideshow. Ajax's Coney Island banner read, "Robert Ripley says, 'The only man in the world who can swallow a red hot sword!' " Ajax would heat up a sword in a charcoal fire until the sword was red hot, then put the sword in a scabbard and swallow both the sword and the scabbard at the same time. Ajax had to remove the sword quickly before it transferred the heat to the scabbard. According to reports, other sword swallowers later died while trying to imitate Ajax's feat. While living in Brooklyn and working at Coney Island, Ajax met his second wife Sarina Emmanuel, and they married sometime between 1917-1921, when Ajax's second son, Victor Milana was born. Victor lived until the 1970s, and is survived by his wife Vivian. In 1923, Ajax and Sarina gave birth to their third son, Richard Milana, when Ajax was about 38 years old. In 1928, Ajax performed for Hubert's Museum in NY, and had an x-ray taken with a sword down his throat. In 1932, Ajax the Sword Swallower was featured with Boyd & Wirth's Circus International. In 1939, Ajax was also known as "The Pirate" due to his distinctive trademark pirate bandana that he was known for wearing. The Feb-March 1939 issue of "Your Body" magazine featured an x-ray of Ajax with sword down his throat. In the 1940s, Ajax swallowed up to 5 swords at one time, and in 1948, he taught Slim Price how to swallow swords in a doorway between shows. Ajax also performed for Robert Ripley's Believe It or Not in the mid-50s. According to a 1955 Ripley's article, "Mrs. Ajax also swallows hardware, but hers has jagged metal edges". According to his son, Richard, the most swords Ajax ever swallowed simultaneously was 7 swords at once. According to his son, Ajax was very careful while sword swallowing, and he claimed he never had any sword swallowing injuries. Ajax willed his swords to Jimmy Lucky Ball II, and his wife Sarina "sold his swords to a young fellow sword swallower" when his son Richard was in the military service. Ajax died in Brooklyn NY in 1959 at the age of 72 after performing over 54 years, and is buried next to his wife Sarina in Calvary Military Cemetery in Brooklyn. Some info courtesy Ajax' son Richard E. Milana and his wife Natalie Milana; other info courtesy of grandson Van Milana. Seeking photos and more information.
Ajax (1905)
Ajax and wife Marie (early)
Ajax (early)
Ajax at Hubert's (1928)
Ajax X-ray (1928)
Ajax x-ray (1939) Ajax swallowing 5 (1940s)
Ajax at Ripley's (1955)
Ajax (video c.1958?)
David Berlino
(David Bäck)
Born 1886
Performed 1905-20
Died 1972
(Sweden) David Bäck was born in Brevik, Skaraborg, Sweden in 1886, and performed throughout southern Sweden under the names "David Beck" and "David Berlino" as sword swallower, fire-eater and juggler with a circus he half-owned between about 1905 to about 1920. He died in Stockholm in 1972 at the age of 86. Sök efter fotos och upplysningen.
1st Esophageal Electrocardiogram 1906 (Wales) Dr. Cremer records the first oesophageal electrocardiogram performed in Wales which he achieved in 1906 after enlisting the help of an unnamed professional sword swallower. Seeking more information..
Ringling Brothers Circus 1907 (USA) Ringling Brothers buys Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1907, but tour separately until 1918.
Oesophagoscopy
in a Sword Swallower
1908 Philadelphia, PA
(USA)
According to an article in the American Journal of the Medical Sciences published in Philadelphia, PA in November 1908: Hald reports his observations in oesophagoscopy upon a sword swallower. The oesophagus had been very largely distended in consequence of the professional feats, and the cricoidean zone of the pharynx was patent and much larger than normal. There was an excoriation upon the posterior wall of the cricoid cartilage. Curiously, the patient could not support the examination any better than ordinary subjects, his oesophagus seeming to have become habituated to flat foreign bodies, but not to cylindrical ones. The mucous membrane was of a deep violaceous red, the result of chronic inflammatory condition, likewise the result of his sword swallowing. The tube could be introduced 45 cm. without reaching the cardia. Seeking more information..
Article (Nov 1908)
Edward Smith
Edward Bernard Smith
Edward Berner Smith
Born c 1890
Performed early 1900s
Died 1946

Barnum & Bailey Circus
NJ
(USA)
Edward Bernard (or Berner) Smith was born around 1890 either in New Jersey, or Buffalo, NY. His parents were both killed in a train crash en route to the New Jersey Shore circa 1893. Sometime later he ran away from his adoptive family and joined Barnum & Bailey Circus as a water boy, maybe in or around Buffalo, NY. As he grew up with the circus, he learned to perform as a trapeze artist (catcher), tightrope walker, sword swallower, fire eater and juggler. He was also self -taught on 6 musical instruments. He was very young when his parents died and he never really remembered if his name was from birth, an adoptive name, or one the circus people gave him. At a later time (early 1900’s) he may have worked as a cowboy roping cattle in the off-season (perhaps when Barnum & Bailey returned to the US in 1902 and headed west in 1905?). When he left the circus, Smith went into Vaudeville with a partner. He had a daughter who said he was very strong with dark features, and taught her to walk a tightrope when she was a child. He also used to juggle milk bottles in the kitchen. He died in 1946 at about 56 years of age. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Otto Stiefel Performed 1908 Edon, OH
(USA)
Otto Stiefel was from Edon, OH, and was featured as a sword swallower and blade walker in the Feb 29, 1908 New York Police Gazette. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Milo Milse
Prince Milo
"World's Greatest Sword Swallower"
"World's Greatest Enegma and
Fire King"
Born March 6, 1881
Performed c 1910?
Dreamland
Coney Island
New York, NY
(USA)
Milo Milse (also known as either Milo or Milse) and according to one pitchcard, was born in Russia on March 6, 1881, and started swallowing swords at the age of nine (around 1890?). He was billed as the "World's Greatest Sword Swallower" for swallowing up to 9 swords at once when he performed at the Dreamland Circus Side Show, Coney Island, New York, possibly around 1910(?). From the back of this pitch card, apparently his address at the time was 1043 Washburne Ave, Canal, NY. Another pitchcard bills him as "The World's Greatest Enegma and Fire King". This pitchcard states that he had "traveled around the world 3 times" and had "mystified over 50,000,000,000 people". It also states that he swallowed swords from 16-24 inches, and up to 24 swords at once. Seeking photos and more information.
Milse at Coney Island Dreamland
Milse signature and address
Milse pitchcard front
Milse pitchcard props
Milse pitchcard back
William Meltons
"Schwertkünstler"
Performed 1910 (Germany) William Meltons performed in Germany as a "Schwertkünstler" ("Sword Artist") around 1910. Seeking photos and more information.
William Meltons (1910)
Allen J. Price Born c. 1868
Died July 16, 1913
Bismarck, ND
(USA)
According to his obituary in the Atlanta Constitution dated July 17, 1913: Sword Swallower Dead - Bismarck, ND, July 17, 1913 - Allen J. Price, 45 years old, sword swallower and snake charmer, died here yesterday from drug poisoning. It was learned some time ago that he sold his body to be delivered after death to a university at Baltimore. His widow lives in New York city. Seeking photos and more information.
Allen Price obituary (1913)
Lawrence Bowden Performed December 1913 LaSalle, IL
Kenosha, WI
(USA)
Sword Swallower Lawrence Bowden of LaSalle, IL made it on the front page of the Kenosha Evening News on Dec. 29, 1913. Accordint to the article, on Saturday evening, Dec. 27, 1913, Bowden dropped into a downtown saloon and began entertaining his fellow imbibers by swallowing pieces of metal found in the establishment. They were in awe, and Bowden decided to pass the hat so his new friends could show their proper appreciation. It was about this time that a police officer walked in and decided to haul Bowden in for vagrancy and for not having a license for his free show. Bowden was well dressed and had money in his pocket for the fine, but he declared that swallowing a sword was not a crime. The night sergeant at the desk convinced him to sleep it off in lockup, and, because Bowden was a little tired, he complied. On Sunday morning, Police Chief Owen O’Hare came to the station and saw there was an inmate booked on a charge of “sword swallowing.” He immediately had Matt Zievers, the desk sergeant, send Bowden up from his cell. The newspaper reported what happened next: “‘Well, get busy and let’s see you swallow some swords,’ the chief yelled, and without a sign of hesitation Bowden gulped down an old-fashioned broad sword and followed it with an army bayonet. “The police were mystified, but Bowden declared that he had only begun. “He continued to crowd away in his esophagus any number of things metallic, and finally he made the proposition to the chief that he would swallow eight swords at once, if liberty was guaranteed to him. “‘Get right to swallowing!’ was the only reply of the chief, and Bowden picked up eight swords, and laying them blade for blade, he put them away in his gullet. “‘I guess there is no doubt but that you’re a real sword swallower,’ declared the chief, and he got up and gave Bowden the hearty hand clasp of a brother and sent him on his way rejoicing.” Seeking photos and more information.
Max Schlepsig Performed 1913
(Germany)
(Albania)
In 1913, at the time when Albania was looking for a king and hoped that prince Halim Eddine (Halim Etti), nephew of the sultan of Constantinople, would agree to ascend the throne, a 42 year old German, Otto Witte, circus clown and magician by profession who happened to resemble the prince, arranged to have a telegram sent from Constantinople to the head of the Albanian army announcing the arrival of the prince by boat. Witte and his accomplice, Max Schlepsig, a sword swallower promoted to "aide-de-camp" in the interest of the cause, disembarked at Durazzo (Durrës) dressed up in theatre uniforms, and inspected the Albanian guard who presented arms to them. A few days later, after establishing a harem of 25 women, the versatile circus performer and usurper Witte succeeded to be crowned King Otto the First of Albania on August 13th, 1913. The hoax lasted five days. The truth came out when Halim Eddine sent a telegram from Constantinople in which he said he was astonished to be crowned king of Albania without even being aware of it. With the assistance of the young women of the harem, Otto Witte and Max Schlepsig managed to flee from the palace just in time to escape on a fishing boat to Bari. Witte died in Hamburg, Germany exactly 45 years later on August 13th, 1958. Seeking photos and more information..
Borovik
B. Ivanoff
B. Ivanhoff
"World Champion Sword Dancer"
Performed 191?s-30s
Russian Royal Circus
[Russia]
Russian Tea Room
New York, NY
[USA]
Seeking information on Borovik, who performed as a sword swallower with the Russian Royal Circus and apparently left Russia at the fall of the Czar in 1917. It is not known for sure if he moved to or performed in the US.
However, there was also a Russian Sword Swallower named B. Ivanoff or B. Ivanhoff, who was known as a "World Champion Sword Dancer" with a troop of Russian Cossacks known for their demonstration of horsemenship and dancing, who performed at the Russian Tea Room in NY in the 1920s. Could this have been the same person? Or was this the "Flaming Dagger Dancer" Dimitry Matvienko who performed at the Casino Russe, 157 W. 56th St., located in the Carnegie Hall Building in New York City. Seeking photos and more information.
Unknown Russian SwSw (1926)
Russian Cossack B. Ivanhoff (1926)
Russian Cossack B. Ivanoff
Flaming Dagger Dancer Dimitry Matvienko
Alexander Joseph Dourof Born 1881
Performed 1917?-40s?
Died Jan 12, 1949
Russian Royal Circus
(Russia)
(Wales)
London
(UK)
Alexander Joseph Dourof was born in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1881 into the well-known Dourof circus family. The Dourofs were initially animal trainers, and Alexander Dourof was allegedly one of the first trainers to train a bear without breaking its back. "The Dourof Family" performed as part of a non-staterun circus in Russia, and in the Russian Royal Circus until the Russian Revolution in 1917 when they escaped as refugees to the UK, settling for a short period in Wales. Their first performance in the UK was with a circus in Barmouth, Wales, and after a short time (the circus came to an end in Wales around 1925), the family later moved to England. Alexander was married to Sophia Elsa Dourof, who was born in Russia in 1888 and died in the UK in 1967. They had ten children who were born in various countries, with the eldest five becoming UK nationalized citizens, including a daughter named Sarah, and a son named Harry Phillip Dourof who was born in the UK and died in 1986. When they first landed in the UK, both Alexander and Sophia entertained British troops, as she was a tight rope walker and the eldest two children were performing acrobats in the ring. After immigrating to the UK, Dourof was required to join the military and was recruited into the Light Cavalry, where as an animal trainer, he handled horses with great skill, and as a sword swallower, he was a master with the saber. The Dourof family traveled together as a family circus and eventually settled down in Peckham England, where they were well-known and well-liked. There was a book written in Russian about Alexander and the Dourof family, but it is out of print and unavailable in English; There is also a plaque commemorating Dourof the sword swallower's assistance in the development of the stomach pump at the renowned Guys Hospital near London Bridge. The original 1943 film "The Man in Grey" (starring James Mason), featured Alexander Dourof in the background swallowing a sword during a carnival scene, although the original film was ruined, and the later version released on video does not include Dourof's scene. Dourof died in England at the age of 68 on January 12, 1949, and he and his wife Sophia are buried in Camberwell Old Cemetery in Honor Oak Park in southeast London. On his headstone, Dourof is hailed as being "A Great Showman and the Last of the Sword Swallowers". Seeking photos, dates, and more information
Alexander Dourof - gravesite
Alexander Dourof - headstone
Alexander Dourof - face
Sophia Dourof - headstone
Sophia Dourof - face
Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus 1918 (USA) In 1918, Ringling Brothers Circus and Barnum and Bailey Circus combine to become one combined show, Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus (RBB&B). On March 29, 1919, the combined "Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Combined Shows" debuted in New York City. The posters declared, "The Ringling Bros. World's Greatest Shows and the Barnum & Bailey Greatest Show on Earth are now combined into one record-breaking giant of all exhibitions." John Nicholas Ringling purchased the American Circus Corporation for $1.7 million, thereby absorbing five major shows: Sells-Floto Circus, Al G. Barnes Circus, Sparks Circus, Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, and John Robinson Circus. On July 6, 1944, the Hartford Circus Fire happened while RBB&B was performing in Hartford, CT. In 1951, Lady Patricia Zerm was filmed as the sword swallower with the 1951 edition of the Ringling Brother B&B Circus in Cecil B. DeMille's film "The Greatest Show on Earth" which was filmed on location with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1951 and released in 1952. In July 1956, RBB&B ended its last season under canvas. In the spring of 1957, RBB&B begins performing in auditoriums. In the fall of 1967, Irving and Israel Feld buy the RBB&B circus from the North and Ringling family interests for $8 million. In 1968, RBB&B eliminates the sideshow and menagerie when RBB&B Circus moves into the new Madison Square Gardens above Penn Station. 1968, Irvin Feld establishes "Clown College."

Known Sword Swallowers with Ringling Brothers Circus:
1890s: Annie Roy
1898: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1899: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1900: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1901: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1902: Professor Charles E. Griffin
1907: Ringling Brothers buys Barnum & Bailey but tour separately
1918: Ringling Brothers, Barnum, & Bailey Circus become combined show
1919: Houdini watches Edith Clifford perform with RBB&B
1920: Edith Clifford
1921: Edith Clifford
1922: Ajax
1923: Delno Fritz and Miss Edna Price
1924: Delno Fritz and Miss Edna Price
1925: Edna Price
1926: Rubel
1926: John Ringling abolishes animal acts
1927: Ajax and Edna Price
1928: Balmung
1928: Edna Price
1929: Glendol
1930: Edna Price
1931: Edna Price
1932: Edna Price
1933: ?
1934: ?
1935: Gendol
1936: Mimi Garneau
1937: none listed
1939: Miss Patsy
1939: Patsy Smith
1940: Alex Linton
1941: Miss Patricia Katts
1942: Miss Patricia
1943: Miss Patricia
1944: Miss Patricia
1944: Miss Louise Long
1944: Hartford Fire July '44
1945: Lady Patricia Zerm
1945: Alex Linton
1946: Alex Linton
1947: Alex Linton
1948: Lady Patricia Zerm
1949: Alex Linton
1950: Lady Patricia Zerm
1951: Lady Patricia Zerm filmed
1952: "Greatest Show on Earth" movie released
1952: none listed
1953: Lady Beth Betty Bancroft
1954: Lady Beth Betty Bancroft
1955: Ricky Richiardi
1956: Ricky Richiardi
1956: Alex Linton
1956: Last season under canvas ends July '56
1957: RBB&B begins working in auditoriums
1957: Estelline Pike at Madison Square Gardens
1958: Estelline Pike/Jim Lucky Ball II at Madison Sq Gardens
1959: Estelline Pike
1960: Estelline Pike
1961: Estelline Pike
1962: Estelline Pike
1963: Estelline Pike
1964: Estelline Pike
1965: Estelline Pike
1966: Estelline Pike
1966: Sir Thomas Thomas
1967: Estelline Pike
1967: Irving & Israel Feld buy RBB&B
1968: RBB&B Sideshow is eliminated 1973: Lady Sandra Reed
1977: Francis Doran
1978: Francis Doran

Seeking more information on sword swallowers with Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus

Maude D'Lean
Maud D'Auldin
Maud Churchill
Born c. 1878
Performed 1894-1920
Died 1920
Huber's Museum
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
Al G. Barnes Circus
Brook's Museum
(USA)
Maud Churchill or Maude D'Lean or Maud D'Auldin was first known for sword swallowing in 1894 with Delmo Fritz. According to an article in the NY Times dated Sept. 2, 1894 at, "Huber's 14th St. Museum - First apprearance here of LEONZO BROTHERS and their famous company of players in the grand local drama, The Dog Spy. A great production, curio halls, Hindoo Giants 8 feet tall, PRINCE TINYMITE, 19 years old and 21 inches high, MICHAEL Strong Man, Prof. HORN trained birds, DELMO FRITZ and MAUD CHURCHILL, sword swallowers, EMMA BROWN, spotted girl, ROSE CALLAHAN, bearded lady." At some point between 1894 and 1912, Maud was married to sword swallower Delno Fritz. In 1912, they performed an act known as "Sword and Gun Manipulation" together with the Hagenbeck Wallace Sideshow. In 1915, Delno Fritz and Maud D'Auldin were booked as sword swallowers on the Al G. Barnes Circus. An article in the Los Angeles Times dated Feb 1, 1916 states, "Mrs. Francis Fritz (38 years of age) who makes her living by shoving swords down her throat at Brook's Museum, No. 116 South Main street, early last night swallowed one sword too many and landed in the Receiving Hospital. The sword swallower declared last night that for twenty years she had been entertaining people by swallowing swords and knives and never before injured herself. But last night, after she had swallowed and then pulled a long sword from her throat, Mrs. Fritz discovered that she had been injured, and was taken to the Receiving Hospital and later to the County Hospital, and according to doctors, she is in a serious condition." Maude died in 1920 at the age of 42 after she and Delno gave a command performance onboard a ship before the King and Queen of England. It was her practice to pass out her sword to the crowd for examination so they could see that it was real. Apparently someone in the crowd nicked the blade which resulted in an injury that led to her death. Their niece Edna Price took up sword swallowing and continued the act with "Uncle Delno" starting in 1920. Seeking photos and more information.
Maud Churchill with Huber's (1894)
Mrs. Fritz injury (1916)
Lorenzo the Sword Swallower Performed 1922 Sells Floto Circus
(USA)
Lorenzo was the sword swallower with the Sells Floto Circus on May 27, 1922 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Cuban Mack Performed 1924 Sells Floto Circus
(USA)
Cuban Mack was the sword swallower and knife thrower with the Sells Floto Circus on June 8, 1924 in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Herschel Allen Performed 1920s
Pennsylvania
(USA)
Herschel Allen was a sword swallower with a circus in Pennsylvania in the 1920s. Seeking photos and more information.
Anastasia Humeniuk
Anastasia Lewchuk
Performed 1920-1968?
Died January 2005
N.P. Lewchuk Sideshow
Saskatchewan
(Canada)
Anastasia Humeniuk married sideshow operator Nicholas Paul Lewchuk in 1916 and learned to swallow 7 swords. Their N.P. Lewchuk Sideshow Midway was Canada's largest travelling sideshow and performed around Canada from 1920 to 1968. Anastasia died in January 2005 in Canora, Saskatchewan. Seeking photos and more information.
Anastasia Humeniuk
Bruno E. Sankala Born 1890?
Performed 1920s-30s
Died 19??
Kemi (Finland) Sankala was born around 1889 and performed as a magician and fakir around 1920-30's. Timo Tuomivaara met Sankala in Kemi's old-age home in 1959. Sankala was then approximately 70 years old.
Curly Brown
Curley Brown
The Sword Swallower
Born c. 1892
Performed 1922-28
Died April 2, 1943
E.E. Bonham Circus
Prairie du Sac, WI
(USA)
Curly Brown was the sword swallower and fire-eater for the E.E. Bonham Circus from 1922-1928. According to his obituary in the April 13, 1943 Chicago Daily Tribune entitled "Circus Pals To Bury Curly in Own Valhalla": "Curly Brown the Sword Swallower, is to get a burial today with the great and near-great of the circus and carnival world instead of an unmarked Potter's field grave to which his remains were apparently destined before some of his pals learned of his death. By action voted yesterday by directors of the Showman's League, Curly will be interned in Showman's Rest, a huge plot in Woodlawn cemetery maintained by the league as sort of a Valhalla for distinguished members of the outdoor showman's profession. It is a 600 grave plot whose boundaries are marked by four huge granite elephants and 300 veterans of the sawdust rings and flying trapeezes of the outdoor circuits already are buried there. Curly died of pneumonia 10 days ago in a South State street hotel and his body was taken to the county morgue. Curly, 51, was alone in the world and there were no claimants to the body. Preparations for a Potter's grave burial were taking their routine course when members of the league heard of his death. Pall bearers will be clowns, performers, press agents, and bill posters who remember Curly as one of the best sword swallowers of them all." Seeking photos and more information.
Peter Kortos Performed 1925 (USA) In 1925, Peter Kortos was featured as the sword swallower in the Tod Browning film "The Unholy Three". (1925, MGM 76mins. 7 reels. BW. silent with tinted sequences, US). Seeking photos and more information.
Professor Wishart
"Sword Swallower Extraordinaire"
Born c 1845
Performed 1926-1929?
Adelaide
(Australia)
"Professor Wishart" was born around 1845 and performed sword swallowing in Adelaide Australia in 1926 at the age of 84 under the billboard "Professor Wishart, Sword Swallower Extraordinary, Entertainer to the Royalty and Crowned Heads of Europe and the East". In 1929, Wishart was described as a thin old man with long gray whiskers who "dressed flashily, with glitter trousers, a red cummerbund and a green velvet jacket". He finished his act by swallowing a large tent peg. Wishart is mentioned in the book The Boy From Buninyong - The Life of an Australian Showman by Angela Badger. Seeking photos and more information.
Birkenshaw Performed 1926-1929? Adelaide
(Australia)
Birkenshaw was an English escapologist and sword swallower who worked in Adelaide, Australia around 1926-29. He would escape from padlocked trunks and then swallow up to 5 swords at once. He taught Owen Lloyd how to swallow swords around 1926-27. Birkenshaw is mentioned in the book The Boy From Buninyong - The Life of an Australian Showman by Angela Badger. Seeking photos and more information.
Owen Rutherford Lloyd
"The Boy From Buninyong"
Born 1907
Performed 1926-79
Died 1980s
Buninyong
(Australia)
Owen Rutherford Lloyd was born in Buninyong, Australia in 1907. In the mid 1920s Lloyd turned to busking for his livelihood. He worked first as a fiddler with Dr. Richard Rowe and Mystic Mora, where he learned the skills of street busking. Then around 1926 at around the age of 19, he moved to Adalaide where over the course of a month he learned sword swallowing from the English escapologist and sword swallower "Birkenshaw". Lloyd learned how to swallow up to three swords at once, and eventually added swallowing a lit "narrow electric lightbulb" to his act. Lloyd and Birkenshaw performed together in Adelaide from around 1926 to 1929. During the course of his life Lloyd also learned fire-eating, illusions, animal training, and virtually every other act associated with show life. In the 1940s Lloyd toured with a circus to Durban, South Africa, and after returning, travelled to New Zealand, where he performed under the stage name "The Baron" and was both celebrated as a healer and condemned as a devil worshipper. Lloyd spent the last years of his life in Sydney, Australia busking by the El Alamein Fountain in Kings Cross. In 1979 he won the ABC "Best of the Buskers" competition, and in the early 1980s retired to Papakura, Auckland, New Zealand to spend his last few years living happily with his children. He later moved to Gisborne where he lived with his daughter Elizabeth until his death. He is buried in the Taraheru Cemetary in Gisborne, New Zealand. In 1993 a book was written about his life called The Boy From Buninyong - The Life of an Australian Showman by Angela Badger. It is known that he is survived Kupu Lloyd, and a granddaughter Patricia Lloyd. Seeking photos and more information.
Owen Llloyd book
Unknown Performed 1927 Christy Brothers Minstrel Show
(USA)
The Christy Brothers Minstrel Show roster included a sword swallower in 1927. Could this have been Delno Fitz? Seeking photos and more information.
Balmung Performed 1928 Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
(USA)
Balmung performed as a sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in 1928. Seeking photos and more information.
Little Prince
(John H. Smith)
Performed late 1920s? Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey
(USA)
The Little Prince performed as a snake charmer and sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus in the late 1920s or early 1930s. His real name was John H. Smith, he was African-American, and he performed with Ringling Brothers Circus when he was 12 years old, approximately in the late 1920s, and other shows after that. He also performed with a monkey named Bobo. Seeking photos and more information.
Ludvig Larsson Born 1894
Performed ?
Died 1980
(Sweden) Ludvig Larsson was a Swedish sword swallower born in 1894 and died in 1980. Seeking photos and more information.
Olga Boyd Performed 1920s (USA) Olga Boyd was a female sword swallower in the 1920's. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Olga Boyd
Nelson the Sword Swallower
J.P. Nelson ?
Performed 1927 Sparks Circus Sideshow
(USA/Canada)
Nelson was the sword swallower on the Sparks Circus sideshow during the 1927 season. Could this be J.P. Nelson the sword swallower? Seeking photos and more information.
William Miller
Sonny Miller
Sonny the Sword Swallower
Performed ?
Miller Circus
(USA)
William "Sonny" Miller was a sword swallower and founder of with the Miller Circus along with his brothers Earl and Claude. His wife Rose was the snake handler and gypsy fortune teller who went by the stage name "Madame Minge". Seeking photos and more information.
Jack Lilja
(Johann Lilja)
Performed 1920s-30s (Australia) Johann Lilija was a colorful character who came to Australia from his native Sweden in the early 1900's (around 1916?), where he became known as Jack Lilja. He became known as an accomplished circus performer and entertainer, sword swallower, knife thrower and part time tattooist, and performed into the 1930s. Seeking photos and more information.
Johan Lilja
Johan Lilja
Johan Lilja
The Great LaCardo
Capt. Fritz Lacardo
Capt. Fritz Lecardo
Performed 1920s-40s? (USA) Fritz Lecardo performed as a sword swallower in the 1920s under the name "Capt. Fritz Lecardo", and possibly on into the 1940s under the name "The Great LaCardo". He was known for swallowing a sword and hanging a chair over the hilt of the sword, and later for swallowing a neon tube. Seeking photos and more information.
Fritz Lecardo with chair (1920s)
Fritz Lecardo with chair (1920s)
Fritz LaCardo banner
Lady Vivian
Miss Vivian Dunning
Performed 1920s-40s A.J. Budd's Shows
Harry Lewiston's Big Circus Sideshow
Ripley's Believe It or Not!
(USA)
Lady Vivian performed in the 1920's and 1930's under A.J. Budd's Shows. Lady Vivian swallowed multiple swords, and would partially swallow a sword with a pistol mounted on the end of it which, when shot, would ram the sword down her throat. She was seen in a number of photographs swallowing swords with her contemporary, Mimi Garneau. Vivian performed with Harry Lewiston's Big Circus Sideshow in Warren, PA on July 2, 1940, with the Johnny J. Jones Exposition, and with Ripley's Believe It or Not! in Canton, OH on Feb 7-8, 1941, where she swallowed neon tubes. Seeking photos and more information.
Lady Vivian (1920s-30s)
Lady Vivian with Mimi Garneau (20s-30s)
Lady Vivian with Mimi Garneau (20s-30s)
Warren Times-Mirror PA article (July 2, 1940)
Leo
The Italian Sword Swallower
1920s-30s?
(USA)
Seeking photos and more information on Leo the Italian Sword Swallower.
Leo the Italian Sword Swallower
Chief Willie Bowlegs
Chief Willey Bowlegs
Willy Bowlegs
Born Jan 31, 1896
Died Dec 5, 1964
Everglades, FL
Ringling Brothers
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Willie Bowlegs was a Seminole Indian, alligator wrestler, sword swallower, knife thrower, and juggler who was born in the Florida Everglades on January 31, 1896 (or possibly 1894). His father was Willie Cornelius and his mother was Florida Tommy, who later became a Juvenile Judge in Illinois. He married his wife Irene Bowlegs Pyawassit in the Everglades, and they had one son named Buddy who died tragically in Louisiana in 1944. He performed as Chief Willie Bowlegs and traveled with various medicine shows and circuses including Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus out of Kansas. Bowlegs also peddled a remedy that had his picture on the bottle, as well as other items from the trunk of his Cadillac, from Chicago to Del Rio, Texas. Although he was said to be Seminole, he dressed like a plains Indian, and was said to walk around in his Native American attire and full head dress in Cook County, IL. He and Irene lived in Chicago, IL for many years until his death on December 5, 1964. After a 35 year marriage to Bowlegs and 12 years after his death, his wife Irene was remarried to Wallace Pyawassit in 1976. Seeking photos and more information.
Willie Bowlegs
Willie Bowlegs
Prince Lucky Ball
(John Gregory Lucky Ball)
Born Dec 29, 1898
Performed 1920's-50's
Died May 1978
Broadbeck Circus
Clyde Beatty Circus
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Claysville, NY
Utica, NY
(USA)
Lucky Ball was born John Gregory Lucky Ball in Claysville, NY on December 29, 1898. Ball began sword swallowing in the 1920's after being injured in a big cat act, and began working under the name "Prince Lucky Ball". Over the years from the 1920's through 50's he worked with a number of travelling sideshows and circuses from Broadbeck to Clyde Beatty Circus. Ball married Estelline Lovin (better-known later as Estelline Pike) in Hoxie Kansas on August 16, 1928, and taught her sword swallowing there in 1928. In the 1930's he taught Alex Linton how to swallow swords. On June 28, 1935, his son Jim Lucky Ball II was born to Estelline Pike in San Diego, CA. In 1937, Lucky appeared with Shirley Temple in the 20th Century Fox film "Wee Willie Winkie" under the stage name "Mohammed Ali" where he swallowed 3 swords at once. He later swallowed a record 16 swords in 1937, and was featured in the May 1937 "Look" magazine. In 1937, he was also photographed with actor George Bent. He was known for swallowing swords up to 26 inches in length, the large cork screw, neon tubes, and for sword swallowing while sitting down, and was recognized by his colleagues as "The World's Greatest Sword Swallower". Lucky Ball died in Wadsworth Ohio in May 1978. He is survived by his son, sword swallower Jim Lucky Ball II, and 2 daughters. Seeking photos and more information.
Lucky Ball in Wee Willie Winkie (2-11-1937)
Lucky Ball with George Bent (1937)
Lucky Ball (postcard)
Lucky Ball (pitchcard)
Fred Marineu Performed 1923
John Robinson's World of Wonders
Peru, IN
(USA)
According to the official John Robinson's Circus staff list, Fred Marineu was the sword swallower with John Robinson's Circus World of Wonders sideshow in 1923. Seeking photos and more information.
Bob Roberts Born c 1875
Performed 1922-1936
Died June 5, 1936
Al G. Barnes Big 4 Ring Wild Animal Circus
Carnival Sideshows
Jacksonville
Illinois
(USA)
Bob Roberts performed as a carnival sideshow sword swallower for 14 years from 1922 to 1936. According to the 1922 Official Season Route Book and Itinerary of the Al G. Barnes' Big 4 Ring Wild Animal Circus, Bob Roberts worked as the sword swallower with the Al G. Barnes' Big 4 Ring Wild Animal Circus during the 1922 season. As part of his act, he would swallow a shotgun barrel and ignite a fuse, causing an audible explosion. He died at the age of 61 on June 5, 1936 in Jacksonville, IL from injuries sustained after his feat went wrong. His obituary was published in the June 5, 1936 Chicago Tribune entitled "Sword Swallower's Gun Fuse Backfire: He Dies": "Jacksonville, Ill, June 4 -- (AP) Bob Roberts, 61, sword swallower for a carnival, died today when his major trick backfired. His widow said that for 13 years he entertained crowds by swallowing a shotgun barrel and igniting a fuse that caused an explosion audible within the side-show tent. Tuesday night something went wrong and Roberts' stomach was burned." Seeking photos and more information.
Mimi Garneau
(Hazel Jude Thomas)
Born Jan 27, 1894
Performed 1923-70s
Died Feb 22, 1986
Chicago World's Fair
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus
Gran Circo de Variedades
Ripleys Believe It or Not
Tampa
(USA)
Hazel Jude 'Mimi' Thomas was born January 27, 1894 in Bloomberg, PA, just outside Philipsburg, PA. She began sword swallowing around 1923, met and married Fred Garneau in the late '20's, and was known as "the first woman to swallow the neon tube" in the late 1920's. She performed with Ripleys Believe It or Not in the 1933 Chicago World's Fair "Century of Progress", and with Ripleys Believe It or Not in the California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego in 1935-36. Later in 1936 she was the featured sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. In 1937, Mimi performed with Ripleys Believe It or Not in Cleveland, Ohio at the "Great Lakes Exposition" from May 29 to Sept 6, 1937. She worked with Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus in the 1930s and with Cole Brothers Circus in 1938, and spent winters working in Hawaii in the late 1930's. After Fred Garneau's death in 1941, she teamed up with Woodrow Dutton. In 1945, she worked for Douglas Aircraft for a brief period of time before returning to perfoming. In 1946, she worked with the Hippodrome Pan American Show and with the Folks Celebration Shows where she did lectures for Bessie Bessette, "The Russian Wonder". On March 5, 1952, Mimi worked with the Gran Circo de Variedades in Cuidad Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. In January 1955 she was living and performing in Hawaii, later in Kauai, Hawaii from 10/27/55 to 11/10/55 with the EK Fernandez Show, and she lived in Honolulu up to at least November 1956. Sometime in the 1950s, she taught sword swallowing to Toni Del Rio and gave her some of her swords. In 1961, Mimi worked with the Dick Best Show at the Canadian National Exhibition, and later in '61 was on the Steve Allen Tonight Show where she swallowed swords and was interviewed by Steve Allen. Mimi traveled for many years with her own Flea Circus, and did many remarkable things in her long life, including living and working in Hawaii and Dominican Republic, Venezuela, and other areas of Central and South America. Mimi stopped performing in the mid '70's, and died at the age of 92 on February 22, 1986 in Tampa, Florida, where she had resided for many years. She had three sons, Billee Joseph Hamilton, who was lost in World War II, Edwin Hartshorne, who died in the influenza pandemic in the late teens or early twenties, and Harmon Thomas Hartshorne who in his 90s and living in Tampa. One of Mimi's swords is in the archival collection of the SSAI, while most of the rest of her swords and photos are in the private collection of a documentary producer. Seeking photos and more information.
Mimi Garneau & unknown male SwSw (1920s)
Mimi Garneau & Lady Vivian (20s-30s)
Mimi Garneau & Lady Vivian (20s-30s)
Mimi Garneau early neon (20s-30s)
Mimi Garneau San Diego (1935)
Mimi Garneau saw (1935)
Mimi Garneau San Diego (1935)
Mimi Garneau San Diego (1935)
Mimi Garneau neon (1935)
Mimi Garneau Ringling postcard (1936)
Mimi Garneau Ringling composite (1936)
Mimi's Great Lakes Expo pass (1937)
Mimi Garneau poster (pre-1940)
Mimi Garneau with banner (1940s)
Mimi Garneau on Hippodrome (1946)
Mimi Garneau with props (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau with saber (1940s)
Mimi Garneau with saber (1940s)
Mimi Garneau with bayonet (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau with saw (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau 4 swords (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau 5 swords (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau pitchcard (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau X-ray (1940s-50s)
Mimi Garneau sideshow (March 1952)
Mimi Garneau neon (March 1952)
Mimi Garneau Dom Republic (March 1952)
Mimi Garneau with props (1960s?)
Mimi Garneau retired with Fat Lady (1970s?)
"Stoney" St. Clair
Leonard St. Clair
Born Nov 9, 1912
Joined Cole Bros in 1927
Performed until 1950
Died Dec 3, 1980
Cole Bros. Circus
(USA)
Born on November 9, 1912 in West Virginia, and wheelchair bound with arthritis at 4 after a bought with rheumatoid arthritis in 1916, Leonard "Stoney" St. Clair joined the Cole Bros Circus in 1927 and learned sword swallowing at the age of 15 from a drunken German sword swallower named Gretchen. Stoney got hired on the Cole Bros Sideshow in 1927 at $75/week, with stateroom on the train, two meals a day. Stoney swallowed 18 inch and 19 inch swords, and later sold his swords to Capt. Don Leslie. Stoney learned tattooing in 1928, and stayed on with the circus 33 years until 1950, when he became a well-known tattooer in the South until his death on December 3, 1980 in Columbus, Ohio. Book and film "Stoney Knows How" produced on his life of tattooing.
Cole Bros. Circus
Cole Brothers Circus
Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus
1884 Cole Brother Circus founded
1906 "Cole Bros Circus" name used
(USA) Cole Brothers Circus

Sword Swallowers with Cole Bros Circus and Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus:
1884: Cole Brother Circus founded by W.W. Cole
1906: "Cole Bros Circus" name used
1927: Edna Price
1927: Stoney St. Claire joins show
1934: Joseph Grendol
1935: Clyde Beatty featured with Cole Brothers Circus
1936: renamed "Cole Brothers-Clyde Beatty Circus"
1936: Alex Linton
1938: Mimi Garneau
1939: Maurice Eugene
1940: Joseph Grendol
1941: Leatha Smith
1940s: Henry Tommy Thompson (late 1940s?)
1950s: Capt Don Leslie
1959: Alex Linton
1960: Alex Linton
1961: Alex Linton
1962: Alex Linton
1963: Alex Linton
1964: Alex Linton
1965: Alex Linton
1966: Alex Linton
1966: Francis Doran
1966: Rick Dennis hired as world's youngest sword swallower
1967: Francis Doran and Rick Dennis
1968: Rick Dennis and Bill Unks
1969: Rick Dennis and Bill Unks
1974: The Baron Bill Unks
1976: Francis Durant
1978: Jackie Lynn Looney and Rick Dennis
1979: Jackie Lynn Looney and Rick Dennis
1979: Lady Sandra Reed
1981: Jackie Lynn Looney works with John Bradshaw
1981: John Pugh becomes President & Owner of Cole Brothers Circus
2004: May 22, 2004 CBCB Circus stops using elephants due to high cost

Marie DeVere
Marie Ellmore
Born May 24, 1874
Performed 1905-1912
Died April 9, 1941
John Robinson's Ten Big Shows
Frank A. Robbins Shows
Hubert's Museum
Coney Island
New York, NY
(USA)
Marie Ellmore, cousin to Mae West, was born May 24, 1874, possibly in England or Ireland. She performed under the stage name Marie DeVere, strutted in chorus lines, acted in sketches, posed with her sisters in ads for Seven Sutherland Sisters Hair Tonic, and in 1905 at the age of 31, worked as a sword swallower with John Robinson's Ten Big Shows. According to New York Clipper, dated July 15, 1905, "Marie De Vere, at Burlington, Vt., in swallowing a glass sword, broke the sword off within her. Physicians successfully removed the broken part from her throat." In 1909, DeVere performed with Frank A. Robbins Shows which opened its twenty-ninth annual season at Jersey City, NJ. According to the New York Clipper, dated May 4, 1912, DeVere worked as sword swallower for the Frank A Robbins Shows again in 1912. DeVere was later employed as a sword swallower at Hubert's Museum, Coney Island, NY. Devere lived in Richmond RI from late 1909 until 1941. She and Helen Englehart, the great woman Fencer, and Barbara Rose the Barnum and Bailey Circus strong woman, purchased land together and set up a farm there. While living in Wyoming, RI, Marie Devere also gifted a statue of the Sacred Heart to St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Hope Valley in Hopkinton, Rhode Island. The statue was placed on one side of the altar, on a wall bracket which was shaped like the head of an angel, where it still stands today. Devere had one son named James G. Kennedy, who may have been adopted. Devere died at the age of 67 on April 9, 1941 at the Cranston State Infirmary after a long illness, and her swords were sold off after her death. Seeking photos and more information.
Marie DeVere (c 1905-1912)
Marie DeVere (c 1905-1912)
Estelline Pike
Estelline Ball Pike
Estelline Lovin
World's Greatest Lady Sword Swallower
Born June 5, 1908
Performed 1928-90
Died June 8, 1990
Hoxie, KS
Royal American Shows
Ringling Bros Circus
Hubert's Museum
New York, NY
(USA)
Estelline Pike was born in 1908 as Estelline Lovin, the daughter of a railroader in Amarillo, TX and raised in Hoxie, Kansas. Estelline graduated as valedictorian of her class at Hoxie High School, went to Brown-Mackie Business College in Denver, and was working for an attorney in Hoxie, KS when sword swallower Lucky Ball spent a winter in Hoxie around 1927 working for a local farmer and doing an occasional show locally. Estelline and Lucky met, he whisked her off her feet, they got married in Hoxie on August 16, 1928, where she learned sword swallowing from him there in 1928 at the age of 20. They went on the road together, and after about a year of married life, Estelline was "holding her own" like a veteran performer. She became so proficient at swallowing swords that she and Lucky began doing it together, and it was as a sword swallower that she gained her notoriety. On June 28, 1935, their son Jim Lucky Ball II was born in San Diego, CA. After divorcing Lucky Ball, Estelline later married D.W. Pike. In 1947-48, she taught her son Jim to swallow swords at the age of 12, and he was known as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". Pike moved to New York around 1954-55 at the request of Hubert's Museum on 42nd Street to ply her talent. She was a featured performer at Hubert's for many years, taking her vacation in the Spring to work with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus sideshow during their Madison Square Garden engagement for six weeks each Spring from 1957 to 1967, returning to Hubert's Museum for the remainder of the year. (She worked at Hubert's Dime Museum on Nov. 18, 1958). In 1958 she and her son Jim Ball appeared on "What's My Line?" as a sword swallowing team. Estelline Pike had the distinction of being the last American sword swallower to perform in Cuba before Fidel Castro took over on January 1, 1959. The revolution was in full progress while she was there, and at one point while she was performing, grenades were exploding in the parking lot. On March 2, 1959, a UPI photo was released of Estelline Pike eyeing four swords at Hubert's Museum: "With a confident grin, Estelline Pike, a sword swallower at Hubert's Museum in New York City, eyes four blades she plans to have as a midafternoon snack. This savorer of sabres is also a mother and grandmother. Her relish for cold steel is apparently hereditary -- her son, U.S. Army Pvt. James (Lucky) Bell, was a sword swallower, too, in civilian life. Now stationed in Korea, he has to limit his metallic munching to rifle cleaning rods, with an occasional Japanese officer's sword for dessert.". According to one article in 1961, at 53 years of age, "Mrs. Pike could smoothly slide a 22-inch sword down her throat". Her throat was so "educated" that it didn't gag when she came to the climax of her act -- swallowing six swords at once. She said, "The trick to sword swallowing is to be completely relaxed. You have to relax to control your throat and your emotions." A widow and a grandmother, Mrs. Pike had already been swallowing swords for 33 years. In 1963 she worked briefly with a circus sideshow operated by Sam Alexander in Hawaii, but the next year she returned to her regular schedule in New York. The last time Ringling Brothers had a sideshow at Madison Square Garden was in 1967, as the sideshow and menagerie were eliminated when Irving and Israel Feld bought the circus in 1967, and Ringling Brothers B&B moved into the new Madison Square Garden above Penn Station in 1968. Pike continued for several more years at Hubert's, and when the museum show closed, she remained to work as cashier for the arcade at the same location until the end of her life in 1990. Pike was known to say, "I don't want to go on the road - I love it here - I'm a New York girl!" Pike swallowed neon tubes, and up to six swords at once. She was also a jazz pianist, an accomplished songwriter who had written over 50 songs, and she enjoyed authoring numerous children's books in her spare time which were in demand by the publishers. Besides her son, sword swallower Jim Lucky Ball II, Pike also had two married daughters, Ramona and Melba, and five grandchildren when she died in New York on June 8, 1990 at the age of 82. Her Social Security number was 512-12-6319. Pike is buried in the Hoxie Cemetery in her hometown of Hoxie in Sheridan County, Kansas, and there is a photo on her headstone of Pike with her swords along with the inscription, "Estelline took her final curtain June 8, 1990. Remembered by many as the World's Greatest Lady Sword Swallower, Sadly missed by her son James, and daughters Ramona and Melba." Seeking photos and more information.
Estelline Pike (early)
Estelline Pike (Royal American)
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike
Estelline Pike (pitchcard)
Estelline Pike (pitchcard)
Estelline Pike (autograph)
UPI photo (March 2, 1959)
UPI photo back (March 2, 1959)
Estelline Pike article (May 15, 1961)
Estelline Pike (1961)
Estelline Pike (1962)
Estelline Pike article (1966)
Estelline Pike article (1966)
Estelline Pike article (1966)
Estelline Pike (headstone)
Estelline Pike (headstone detail)
Sylvester
The Sword Swallower
Performed 1930 (USA) In 1930, Sylvester was featured as the sword swallower in the Jack Conway remake of the film "The Unholy Three". (1930/MGM) 74mins. BW. US). Seeking photos and more information.
Sword Swallower Leroy Performed 1931 (USA) Sword Swallower Leroy was sued when his partner claimed he didn't get his fair share of the money in a "buried alive" stunt in 1931. Seeking photos and more information.
Prince Laurie
The Great Laurie
Laurie
Señor Laraway
The Spanish Sword Swallower
Milo Laraway
Milo Laroway
Milo Larway
Performed 1923-1934 Al G. Barnes Circus
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
(USA)
Prince Laurie performed as the sword swallower with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus in 1923. According to route books for 1925 and 1926, the sword swallower with the Al G. Barnes Shows in 1925 and 1926 was The Great Laurie, "the world's foremost sword swallower". Señor Laraway or Milo Laraway or Milo Laroway or Milo Larway or Laurie was the sword swallower on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus during the 1933 and 1934 seasons. Seeking photos and more information.
George Dixon Born 1869
Performed pre-1936
Lord Sanger's Traveling Circus
Pontypridd
(Wales)
George Dixon was born around 1869 and performed as sword swallower with Lord Sanger's Traveling Circus (which traveled the UK from 1853-1900). At the time this photo was taken on May 22, 1936, Dixon was 67 years old, retired from sword swallowing, and living in a stone hut in Pontypridd, Wales. He was unique at being one of the few negroid sword swallowers of his time. Seeking photos and more information.
George Dixon at 67 (1936)
Prince Neon
William G. Knoll
Born c 1909
Performed 1930s
Injured July 7, 1936
Reading, PA
(USA)
Prince Neon was one of the first sword swallowers to popularize swallowing neon tubes in the 1930s. Born William G. Knoll around 1909 in Reading, PA, 27 year old "Prince Neon" suffered an injury in Anderson, Indiana on July 6, 1936 when a neon tube burst inside him. According to the July 7, 1936 Oakland Tribune, Knoll was taken to St. John's Hospital in Anderson to have 12 inches of glass surgically removed from his stomach. The act included turning on the electricity in the tube, but Knoll didn't get that far before the accident occurred. According to Daniel Mannix' 1944 article "How to Swallow a Sword", a tube had broken inside of Prince Neon and he died in the hospital a week later. Seeking photos and more information.
Prince Neon injury article (1936)
Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
Century of Progress Expo
Chicago World's Fair
May 27-Nov 12, 1933
May 26-Nov, 1934
Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
Century of Progress Expo
Chicago World's Fair
Chicago, IL
(USA)
The 1933 Chicago World's Fair reflected a burst of optimism in the depths of a depression felt around the globe. Celebrating a Century of Progress, the 1933 Chicago World's Fair marked scientific triumphs including the telegraph, telephone, automobile, and airplane. For Chicago, the Fair proved, as did the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition fifty years earlier, that the city of Chicago had truly risen from the ashes of the Great Fire of 1871. In 1933, Mimi Garneau performed in the original Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium at the Century of Progress Expo. Additionally, sword swallower Edna Price also swallowed her neon tube at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, while Joseph Grendol and Chester Dolphin swallowed swords. The Chicago World's Fair was originally scheduled to open in May 27, 1933 and close November 12, 1933, but due to the popularity of the Century of Progress Expo, the fair reopened the next year on May 26, 1934 as an effort to earn enough money to help recoup some of its debts, with Joseph Grendol returning as sword swallower again with the 1934 Ripley's Odditorium. At the end of the 1934 show, the Century of Progress closed with a small profit, a rarity for ventures like these at the time, with a grand total of 48,769,227 attendees for the two years. As part of its legacy, the Chicago World's Fair inspired New York to mount its own New York World's Fair in 1939-1940.
Edna Price
Queen of Sword Swallowers
Edna Price Harris
Edna Irene Price
Born Sept. 12, 1899
Performed 1920-39
Died Oct. 17, 1987
Al G. Barnes Circus
Cole Bros Circus
Sam Wagner's World Circus Side Show
Coney Island
Ringling Bros Circus
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Chicago World's Fair

Wilkes-Barre, PA, Melbourne, FL
(USA)
Edna Irene Price was born on Sept. 12, 1899 in Ashley, PA near Wilkes-Barre, PA. She was niece to Delno Fritz and Maude D'Lean or Maud D'Auldin, and learned sword swallowing from her uncle Delno Fritz at the age of 20 in 1920, after her aunt Maude passed away from a sword swallowing accident in 1920 while performing onboard a ship during a command performance before the King and Queen of England. According to circus route books, Delno Fritz and Edna Price performed together with the Al G. Barnes Circus during the 1920 and 1923 seasons, with Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus in 1923 and 1924, and Edna alone with Ringling in 1925, part of 1927, 1928, and 1930-32, and with Cole Brothers Circus in 1927. Edna was a close personal friend of Major Mite and Harry Houdini. In the 1920's, when Edna wanted to go out on a date with someone that Uncle Delno did not approve of, Edna would hide his wooden leg to make her escape. Edna never performed in her hometown of Wilkes-Barre, PA, as a she had a phrase in her contract with Ringling Brothers that stipulated she would never be required to perform in her hometown so she could spend time with family and friends. Edna performed at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933, and Sam Wagner's World Circus Side Show swallowing neon tubes at Coney Island in 1937. Edna was known by Ripley's as the "first woman to swallow the 'white' neon tube"., and she would swallow up to 12 practice swords at the same time, removing the blades one at a time. She made it a practice to have her swords chromed each year to protect against nicks and scratches. Edna swallowed swords for about 20 years until she quit sword swallowing around 1939. She later worked with Ripleys in Atlantic City as a hostess, and later moved to Miami Beach, Florida where she worked as a hostess in the 1950s. In 1970 she moved from Miami Beach to Melbourne, FL. Price had four sisters, Margaret Price, Martha Price, Catherine Price and Anna Price Jones, and she later remarried a boxer named John "Jack" Harris. Edna Price died in Melbourne, Florida at the age of 88 on October 17, 1987. Her obituary in The Orlando Sentinel dated October 18, 1987 reports: EDNA PRICE HARRIS, 88, 1857 Harrison Ave., Melbourne, died Saturday (October 17, 1987). Born in Ashley, PA., she moved to Melbourne from Miami Beach in 1970. She was a retired sword swallower for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and was a Baptist. Survivor: sister, Anna R. Jones, Bethlehem, PA. Graveside services will be held at a later date in the Palmer Township in Pennsylvania. No visiting hours. Davis Funeral Home, Melbourne. Price is buried in the family plot in Easton, PA. Price's swords and neon tube were kept in a large trunk owned by her sister Anna, and were dispersed after her death. Seeking photos and more information.

Edna Price Timeline:
1920: Learned from Delno Fritz
1920: Al G. Barnes with Delno Fritz
1923: Al G. Barnes with Delno Fritz
1923: Ringling Brothers with Delno Fritz
1924: Ringling Brothers with Delno Fritz
1925: Ringling Brothers
1927: Cole Brothers
1927: Ringling Brothers
1928: Ringling Brothers
1930: Ringling Brothers
1931: Ringling Brothers
1932: Ringling Brothers
1933: Chicago World's Fair
1937: Coney Island

Edna Price with Major Mite (1920s)
Edna Price - Globe Swallower (1920s)
Edna Price with Cole Bros (video) (1927)
Edna Price Postcard (1930s)
Edna Price Poster (1930s)
Edna Price - World's Fair (1933)
Edna Price swallowing Neon Tube (1933)
Edna Price swallowing Neon Tube for Ripley's (movie) (1933)
Edna Price with great nephew (1969)
Gendol
Glendol
Grendol
Joseph Grendol
Performed 1934-40 Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium
Century of Progress Expo
Chicago World's Fair

Cole Bros Circus
C. E. Webb's Russell Brothers Circus
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Joseph Grendol was a sword swallower with Ripley's Odditorium at the 1933-34 "Century of Progress Expo". In his act, Grendol would swallow a bayonet attached to the butt of a rifle which when fired, would propel the bayonet down his throat. In 1929, "Glendol" performed with Ringling Brothers Circus, and in 1934, Grendol performed as sword swallower with the Cole Bros. Circus. In 1935, "Gendol" performed as sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Circus. In 1937, Grendol worked as sword swallower with C. E. Webb’s Russell Brothers Circus, and in 1940, he returned to work as sword swallower with Cole Bros. Circus again. Seeking photos and more information.
Grendol Timeline:
1929: Ringling Brothers
1933: Ripley's Odditorium, Chicago World's Fair
1934: Ripley's Odditorium, Chicago World's Fair
1934: Cole Bros. Circus
1935: Ringling Brothers
1937: Russell Brothers
1940: Cole Bros. Circus

Joseph Grendol (1934)
Joseph Grendol (1934)
Joseph Grendol (1934)
Chester Dolphin
Champion swallower of swords, carpenter saws and stove pokers
Performed 1933-1948 Ripley's Odditorium
Chicago World's Fair

Royal American Shows
Worcester, MA
(USA)
Chester Dolphin was a sword swallower, juggler, unicycle rider, and handbalancer who performed first with his brother in circuses and fairs in the mid 1930s as "Chester Dolphin, Champion swallower of swords, carpenter saws and stove pokers", and later in the late 1940s with his talented wife Charmon Dolphin as Chester Dolphin and Co. Dolphin was known for swallowing sabers, long scissors, a stove poker, and a 23 inch long toothed saw early in his career, and later for performing a free headstand balance trick with seven rings. The Dolphin brothers started out in Worcester, Massachusetts, and worked with circuses and fairs in the early 1930s. A third brother helped the other two brothers in making props, unicycle, and the balance globe. On October 28, 1934, Dolphin was featured with Royal American Shows in Biloxi, MS with 15 other acts who were brought directly from a successful run with the Ripley's Odditorium at the Chicago World's Fair Century of Progress of 1933-1934. The two brothers served in the military together in Weisbaden, Germany in the 1940s, and eventually traveled the world performing with their acts, since neither had any children. After the war, Dolphin performed with his talented wife, Charmon Dolphin. According to the Juggler's Bulletin 1948: "Chester Dolphin and Co. were at the Hipp Theatre the week of September 9th to 15th (1948). A customer was in my shop and told me there was a juggler there that had some great comedy, but did not do a lot of juggling. So I went over to see. The customer was right to an extent, the comedy and gags were terrific and kept the audience in howls all through the act, but the juggling was wonderful. After a comedy egg and cane balance, he did a three ball routine, four and five ball routine, and then a great gag on nine balls (not the old one of having the balls fastened together in threes) but something else of his own. Then the head stand bouncing four balls on drum while upside down. Some fine routines with three Lind clubs. A bottle balanced on his head is jerked to back of the neck, and he does a hand stand balancing bottle and picks up a glass of liquid in teeth back to feet, and drinks from glass as he jerks bottle back to top of head. Then does headstand on revolving globe ball and spins rings on each leg and each arm and one on stick in mouth. Company is Mrs. Dolphin who adds "cheesecake" to the act and a few comedy bits. Went over great, and was a delightful conversationalist as we had a bite together after the show." Seeking photos and more information.
Chester Dolphin (1934)
Chester Dolphin juggler/balancer (1940s)
Sid Marion
Sidney Marion
Born Sept 14, 1900
Performed 1934-35
Died June 29, 1965
Hollywood, CA
(USA)
Sidney "Sid" Marion was born September 14, 1900 in Massachusetts. He performed as the sword swallower in the films "The Mighty Barnum", (1934) and "Magnificent Obsession" (1935). He died June 29, 1965 in Hollywood CA of a heart attack. Seeking photos and more information.
Sid Marion signature 1959
Red Pepper Joe
Joseph A. Sweet (Souilliere)
Born ?
Performed 1934-1963?
Died?
Circus Shaw
Sweet Weldon Variety Co
Seils-Sterling Circus
Russell Bros. Circus
(USA)
Joseph A. Sweet (Souilliere) performed as a sword swallower under the name Red Pepper Joe. He performed with Circus Shaw, with Russell Bros. Circus on June 18, 1934 in Hudson, NY, and with the Seils-Sterling Four Ring Circus on August 23, 1936 in Ripon, Wisconsin. He was also known to have appeared in photos dated as late as 1963. Seeking photos and more information.
Joseph Sweet
Joseph Sweet
Joe Sweet with Russell Brothers (1934)
Joe Sweet with Russell Brothers (1934)
Joe Sweet with Russell Brothers (1934)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet with Seils Sterling (1936)
Joe Sweet swallowing sword
Joe Sweet with Poster
Joe Sweet with Indians (1963)
The Amazing Blondini
Mike Blondini

"World's Youngest Sword Swallower"
Born 1922
Performed 1935-50s
Died 1980s
Originally Ireland
British Fairgrounds
(Ireland/UK)
Mike Blondini was an Irish sword swallower who was born in 1922 as the son of a fairground strongman (The Mighty Atom), and took up sword swallowing at the age of 13 in the mid 1930s. At thirteen, it was believed that Mike had become the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower"; at fifteen he could eat flaming torches with ease. A book has been written about his life called "Bed of Nails- The Story of the Amazing Blondini", by Gordon Thomas, set in the British fairgrounds and first published in 1950, and later published by Allan Wingate in 1955. Blondini died in the 1980s.
Carson and Barnes Circus 1937 Carson and Barnes Circus founded Hugo, OK
(USA)
Carson and Barnes Circus

Sword Swallowers with Carson and Barnes Circus:
1937: Carson and Barnes Circus founded
1978: Jackie Lynn, Rick Dennis, John Stevens
1979: Jackie Lynn, Rick Dennis, John Stevens

Johnny Nugent
Johnnie Nugent
(John Adam Nugent)
Born 1915
Performed 1930s-70s
Died 1980
Johnny's "Claw and Fang"
Jungleland Zoo
Bartok Circus
Hoxie Brothers Circus
King Brothers Circus
Petersburg, VA
(USA)
Johnny Nugent was born in Petersburg, VA in 1915, and lived most of his life in the Colonial Heights/ Petersburg area when he wasn't on the road or off to war. There was a circus that quartered in the winter fairgrounds at Petersburg, and Johnny started hanging out there every winter as a teen, probably around 1927-29, just before the Great Depression. There was a sword swallower on the show and Johnny was really intrigued, and even carved some wooden bayonets to match what he'd seen. He either was taught sword swallowing by someone on the show, or learned enough to take it on himself. When the Depression hit, Johnny went off with the Circus. No jobs were available then, and the circus would at least get him from town to town and make sure he was fed, even if there wasn't any money to pay him. Times were really hard. He worked with various shows sword swallowing, and doing other acts until about 1936-38 when he formed his traveling reptile show, Johnny's "Claw and Fang" Jungleland Zoo. He then toured with various circus and carnival shows until WWII, when he was drafted into the Army, sold the show, and went to war. In WWII, he was injured severely in a munitions dump explosion, where he lost his right eye and his legs were so badly damaged they said he would never walk again. But he did walk, and didn't even have a limp. After the war, he started another reptile show for a few years, but got tired of traveling with it, and set up a permanent location in Colonial Heights, VA called "Johnny's Jungleland Zoo" which was open to the public. About 1955-57 he got tired of dealing with the public and closed down the Zoo. At this time, Nugent got a part time Civil Service job working at Ft. Lee, VA, and started working part time with circuses and sideshows during the show season, where he performed several different acts besides sword swallowing, including fire eating, knife throwing, magic, trick and fancy roping, whips and trick riding. Nugent generally didn't stay with the same show all season. He would travel out and meet up with a show headed toward Virginia, then travel with it for a while. When it would start getting too far away from home, he would head back and connect with another show passing up or down the eastern seaboard, a few weeks at a time with each show, sometimes big tops, sometimes sideshows or carnivals. Nugent never married or had any children. When asked why he never married, he would always respond, "I was in one damn war, that was enough!" According to a White Tops circus report, "Johnnie Nugent" filled in as a sword swallower with Hoxie Brothers Circus in 1961. He was known as the "Expert Snake Catcher" as well as under the nickname "Bobo" when he semi-retired from the sideshow business in the mid-1970s, died in 1980 at around age 65, and is buried in the family cemetery plot in Petersburg, VA. He is survived by a brother in Sevier County, just outside Gatlinburg, TN, and a nephew who used to perform with him. Seeking photos and more information.
Johnny Nugent snake handler (1950s)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent postcard (1960-61)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1961-62)
Johnny Nugent with horse (1970)
Johnny Nugent swallowing sword (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent's swords (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent with swords (1975)
Johnny Nugent (1975)
Johnny Nugent eating fire (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent knife thrower (1974-75)
Johnny Nugent at home (late 1970s)
Johnny Nugent article (1979)
"Prince Tracey"
"World's Smallest Sword Swallower"
Gilbert (Bob) Tracey
Gilbert Tracy
Bob Tracey
Bob Tracy

Performed 1930s-40s
Coleman Brothers Circus
Texas
(USA)
At 4 foot 2 inches tall, Gilbert (Bob) Tracey performed in the 1930s and '40s as "Prince Tracey", the "World's Smallest Sword Swallower" on the Coleman Brothers Circus Midget Sideshow with his brothers Leonard Tracey and Arthur Tracey. Gilbert swallowed a large scissors and a number of Masonic Knights of Columbus swords, and Leonard and Arthur performed as the midget boxers "Mo" and "Ko" of the "Mo and Ko Boxers". Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Sword Swallower Gilbert Bob Tracey
Tracey Brothers with Coleman Midget Sideshow
Prince Gilbert Bob Tracey
Charlie Prester
Charles Prester
Born 1913
Performed 1935-38?
Died 1990
Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus
Forepaugh-Sells Sideshow
Fort Pierce, Florida
(USA)
Charles Prester was born in New Jersey in 1913 of Hungarian parents. He married his wife Anne in Chicago, IL around 1935. Anne was born in Springfield, MA in 1917 of Russian heritage. Charlie was a sword swallower, Anne was a contortionist. Charlie displayed his props on two sword shields that contained swords, knives, long nails, fire pokers, and bayonets. Charlie and Anne performed with the Hagenbeck-Wallace Forepaugh-Sells Combined Circus Sideshow between 1935-38. In 1935, the circus split from Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey and became the Hagenbeck-Wallace and Forepaugh-Sells Bros. Circus, which finally ceased operations in 1938. Charlie and Anne moved to Fort Pierce, FL in 1938 when Charlie was around 25 years old and Anne was about 21. Charlie and Anne had one daughter named Annette, who they raised in Fort Pierce where they lived the rest of their lives. Charles and Anne were married for 55 years before Charles died in Fort Pierce in 1990. Anne passed away on December 15, 2006. Survivors include their daughter, Annette McMullian (1954) of Fort Pierce, three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. Seeking photos and more information.
Charlie & Anne Hagenbeck Circus (c1935-38)
Charlie Prester Sword Shield
Charlie Prester Sword Shield
Patsy Smith Performed 1939 Ringling Brothers
Barnum & Bailey
(USA)
Patsy Smith performed as a female sword swallower with the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus Sideshow in 1939. Seeking photos and more information.
Maria Cortez Performed 1930s-40s? (USA) Maria Cortez swallowed a variety of swords in a miniature video. Seeking photos and more information.
Maria Cortez video (low res 1.4M .wmv)
Maria Cortez video (hi res 15M .wmv)
Jimmy Kuhn
Jimmy Gene Kuhn
James Gene Kuhn
"World's Youngest Sword Swallower"
Born April 9, 1931
Performed 1945-1970s
Died October 23, 1979
Carmi, IL
(USA)
Jimmy Gene Kuhn was born in Carmi, IL on April 9, 1931. Kuhn started sword swallowing around 1944-1945 at the age of 13 to 14 years old, was billed as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower", and performed with circus sideshows as a fire-eater and sword swallower for many years. Kuhn was married in 1951 to Betty Jean Holland (born 1934, died Nov 13, 2009 in Cisco, GA), and they had two children, a son, Jimmy Ray Kuhn (born February 13, 1952, died Nov 1994), and a daughter, Tyronta Kuhn (born in 1953). Kuhn performed for around 25 years until the late 1960s or early 1970s. He died on October 23, 1979 in Gooding, Idaho at the age of 48. Seeking photos and more information.
Alex Linton
Alec Linton
"The Young Ajax"
"Prince of Swords"
Born 1904
Performed 1920s-60s
Died Sept 2, 1972
Ringling Bros
Clyde Beatty Circus
Cole Bros Circus
Hubert's Museum
Sells & Gray
Cavalcade Variety Shows
Sarasota, FL
(USA)
Alex Linton (sometimes spelled "Alec Linton") was originally born in Roscommon, Boyle County, Ireland in 1904, and moved with his family to the United States soon after. Linton claimed to have first learned sword swallowing at the age of 12 from his father who was a sword swallower who died at the age 84. Linton also claimed to have learned sword swallowing from Lucky Ball in the 1930's, and his first booking was with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Early in his career, he performed under the stage name "The Young Ajax" to capitalize on the reputation of the renowned sword swallower "The Mighty Ajax" (Joseph Milana) who had become popular in the early 1900s. During his early career, Linton performed with a sword shield of 20 different swords. In 1936, Linton performed as the sword swallower with the Cole Bros Circus. During World War II, Linton was enlisted at Camp Bowie, Brownwood, TX as "Pvt. Alex Linton", where he put on a sword swallowing show for his buddies of the 27th Signal Construction Battalion in 1944. Linton performed with Ringling Brothers in 1945, '46, '47, and '49, and with Clyde Beatty Circus in 1948 and the early 1950s, with the Cavalcade Variety Shows in 1953-1954. Linton was married to Betty Broadbent, the tattooed lady with Ringling Brothers Circus and other shows. Linton appeared in the film "Nightmare Alley" in 1947, and taught sword swallowing to Bobby Reynolds in 1948-'49 and Capt. Don Leslie in 1953-'54. Linton was known to have performed at Hubert's Dime Museum in New York from Dec. 5, 1956 through April 3, 1957. Bill English, manager for Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus and Sells and Gray Circus hired Linton for the Beatty sideshow in 1959. Linton worked on the Beatty show from 1959 until 1966, when English hired him for the Sells and Gray show. Linton apparently retired officially in 1966, but continued to swallow swords up until his death in 1972. Linton was well-liked by many circus and sideshow performers, and was a close friend to "Half Man" Johnny Eck. "He was a quiet, little guy, always pleasant, and with never a bad word about anybody," English claimed. Linton was 5' 3" tall and "pure energy", and tattooed over nearly every inch of his body. Linton performed many unique feats in his day that were innovative for his time. He was known as a Guinness World Record Holder for swallowing four 27" blades: "The longest length of sword swallowed by a practiced exponent is Alex Linton who was 5-foot-3-inches tall and swallowed four 27-inch swords at one time." Linton would routinely do a "sword-sandwich" of six blades, all full sized, and he was known for swallowing as many as 7-8 thick-bladed swords. His feature was a trick he called the "Shimmy-Shawabble", which was where he swallowed a plated layout pin bent into a series of "S" curves that made his Adam's Apple visibly wobble from side to side when he passed the pin up and down his throat. Linton liked to finish his act by throwing his final sword into a block of wood on the stage, a nice no-comment way to say it was real. Linton lived in Sarasota Florida on Beeridge Road with his friend, tattoo artist Capt. Al Wrigglesworth, neighbors to the famous "Doll Family" who lived next door to Linton. Linton's close friends continued to call him by the nickname "Ajax" until his death. Prop hand and ticket seller Dave Delaney helped Linton in his later years up until his death. In spite of the fact that he had been bleeding internally for many months, Linton continued to swallow swords up to his death. Some sources claim that Linton died on June 6, 1971 on the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus. However, his obituary in the Naples, FL Daily News dated Sept 19, 1972 reports that Linton died of a stroke on September 2, 1972 in Sarasota where he lived. He was 68 years old. The Sarasota County Sheriff's Dept, and the County Medical Examiner's Office began a search for relatives to claim his body, but Linton's remains laid in the Sarasota Hospital Morgue over a weekend and police said it appeared that he would be claimed by the county anatomical society for medical research and a pauper's grave. (It was said that Linton had a son in New Jersey, but details were uncertain). However, a local organization of retired performers called Show Folks of Sarasota called a meeting at the hospital and voted to underwrite expenses to insure that Linton received a proper burial. Seeking photos and more information.
"Young Ajax" (early footage 5.8Meg .rm file)
Early Alex Linton eating razor blades
Early Alex Linton with 20 swords
Early Alex Linton
Alex Linton playing cards
Alex Linton article (12-17-1947)
Later Alex Linton swallowing 5 swords
Alex Linton tattooed on Capt Don's hand
Alex Linton Obit (Sept 1972)
Melvin Burkhart
The Human Blockhead
Born Feb 6, 1907
Performed 1930s-1989
Died Nov. 8, 2001
Conroy Bros Circus
Ringling Bros Circus
James E. Strates Shows
Hubert's
Ripley's
Coney Island
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Melvin Burkhart was born Clarence Melvin Burkhart, in Louisville, KY in 1905 (or Atlanta, GA on Feb 6, 1907?). He began working with sideshows in the 1930s in a variety of roles. Over his long career, he performed as a sword swallower, fire-eater, snake wrestler, and knife thrower, but he is best known for his acts as the Human Blockhead and the Anatomical Wonder. For thirty years from 1955 to 1985, Burkhart was the emcee for both Slim Kelley's Museum of Natural Mistakes and Sutton's Circus Sideshow, the ten-in-one shows of the James E. Strates' Shows midway, where he would introduce himself as four of the acts. During his 60+ year career, he performed with numerous circuses and sideshows including Conroy Brothers Circus, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus, James E. Strates Carnival, Hubert's Museum, Ripley's Believe it or Not Odditorium, and Coney Island Sideshow. He retired to Gibsonton, FL where he died on Nov 8, 2001.
Paul Le Merveilleux Performed 1940s
Died mid 1990s
Montreal
(Canada)
Paul Le Merveilleux had a long, unpopular career and in the 1940's would climb the surface of buildings as a precursor to Spiderman. Gaston Auger, a talent agent, once saw him inside a cage featured as the wild man. Besides doing climbing stunts and eating fire, Paul also swallowed swords and bayonettes but never became great - just a local talent who hung around for years. Seeking photos and more information.
Ray "Heavy" Case

Heavy Case
Ray Case
Raymond Case
Performed 1940s
James E. Strates Shows
(USA)
Ray "Heavy" Case was the head tentsman, strongman, fire-eater and sword swallower with the James E. Strates Shows in the mid 1940s. He later married one of the burlesque dancers who went by the name Leilani, and lost a leg by the 1970s. Seeking photos and more information.
Unknown Sword Swallower Performed June, 1942
Sama Bar
Montreal
(Canada)
Actress Angela Lansbury performed in June 1942 at the age of 16 at a Montreal nightclub called the "Sama Bar" with a Yugoslavian singer, a Spanish dancer, a slavic band, and an unknown sword swallower. Could this have been Paul Le Merveilleux? Seeking photos and more information.
Prince Yucon
Algerian Mystic
Performed 1941 Ripley's Auditorium
Chicago World's Fair
San Antonio, TX
(USA)
According to a San Antonio Light article dated February 10, 1941: Prince Yucon, The Algerian Mystic was treated at the Robert B. Green Hospital Monday after collapsing at the corner of Crockett and Press Streets. Attendants said his weakened condition had been caused by influenza. The prince said he climbed ropes, swallowed swords, and ate fire at Ripley's Odditorium at the Chicago World's Fair. He stated he was visiting here after a trip to California. Seeking photos and more information.
Curly Frisby
Curley Frisbie
Curly Frisbie
(Lowell E. Frisby)
Born 1927
Learned 1942
Performed 1942-?
Died May 29, 1987
Roberts Bros Circus
Ringling Bros Sideshow
Preacher and Deacon Monroe's
10-in-One Shows
Peter G Hennen's Hells Belles Show
Dean Potter's Circus of the Fantastic
Jeff & Sue Murray's World's Fair Freaks
Harmur Sideshows
Freso, CA
(USA)
Lowell E. Curly Frisbie was born around 1927. His career began at the age of 15 around 1942 in his family's Roberts Bros Circus. Frisby was later employed by Ringling Brother Circus Sideshow as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". He was a well-known all-around sideshow performer and performed fire-eating, fire-breathing, human blockhead, pincushion, and was known as a one-time holder of the "World Championship in Sword Swallowing". He was also associated at various times with Preacher and Deacon Monroes's 10-in-One Shows, Peter G. Hennen's Hell's Belles Show, Dean Potter's Circus of the Fantastic, and Jeff and Sue Murray's World's Fair Freaks. He was last associated with Jeff and Sue Murray on Harris Amusement Lucky Land Shows in California and Nevada, having worked with Jeff and Sue Murray from 1983 until his death in 1987. He died in Fresno at the age of 60 of complications following heart bypass surgery on May 29, 1987, and his remains are located there at the Belmont Memorial Park. Seeking photos and more information.
Curley Frisby fire-breathing
"Miss Patricia"
"Lady Patricia"
"Neon Tube Artist"
"Neon Tube Swallower"
Patricia Katts
Patricia Zerm
Patricia Zurm
Patsy Zerm
Patsy Zurm
Patsy Nellie Kennedy
Born Sept 1, 1910
Performed 1939-77
Died January, 1986
Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus Sideshow
Reynolds and Wells World of Today Shows
Mickey Mansion-Stanley Baebet Sideshow
Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders
Tampa, FL
(USA)
Patricia "Patsy" Nellie Kennedy was born on September 1, 1910. In 1939, she have performed under the name "Patsy Smith" with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey sideshow. From 1942-1944, Patricia performed as the sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey sideshow under the name "Patricia Katts" or "Miss Patricia", although she was later often billed as "The Neon Tube Swallower" or "The Neon Tube Artist". Patricia worked as the sword swallower with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus sideshow in 1942, 1943, 1944 and 1945. In 1944, Ringling Brothers route book listed "Miss Patricia" under the billing of "Neon Tube Artist" since they also featured Lady Louise Long as their main sword swallower in 1944. In 1945, "Miss Patricia" married Ringling ticket seller and assistant manager Charles Zerm, who was at one time the manager of the 10-in-1 sideshow for the Worthan & Rice Show in 1918. After getting married, there was an effort to change her stage name from "Miss Patricia" to bill her as "Lady Patricia", although the stage name of "Miss Patricia" was often used interchangeably as well and stuck with her throughout her entire career. To her friends she was simply known as "Patsy". In 1946 Charlie and Patsy had the sideshow on the Reynolds and Wells "World of Today Shows" with Harry Leonard. When their route closed in Sept 1946, Leonard joined Dailey Bros Circus where they met Ward Hall. In 1947 Charlie and Patsy were with the Mickey Mansion-Stanley Baebet Sideshow and left about halfway through the season. "Miss Patricia" went back to work with Ringling Brothers B&B in 1948, 1950, and 1951. In 1951, she was filmed as the sword swallower with Ringling Brother B&B Circus in Cecil B. DeMille's film "The Greatest Show on Earth" which was filmed on location with Ringling Brothers and released in 1952. In February 1955, Patricia worked the Tampa fair for Bobby Hasson on Royal American. In the next couple of years the Zerms had an office owned show on Lloyd Serfass "Penn Premier Shows". Sometime between 1958 and 1968 Charlie Zerm died. Lady Patricia later worked with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonder Show from 1969 to 1975, where she also swallowed neon tubes. According to Ward Hall, "Miss Patricia was known for always wearing beautiful gowns. Patsy was a great cook and she always cooked for Chris and me and Emmett Blackwelder, The 'Turtle Man' ". Ward says in his book "My Very Unusual Friends" that Patricia said she was going to retire on her 65th birthday on September 1, 1976. Patricia owned a home in Gibsonton, as did her sister whose late husband had been a carnival electrician. After she retired, Patricia moved from Gibsonton to Tampa, FL "never venturing near a show again". Patricia and her sister both sold their homes and moved into an apt at the Baptist retirement home in central Tampa, where they lived out their lives. They had both become devout Christians and didn't associate with their old friends. Patricia Zerm died in Tampa, Florida in January 1986 at the age of 76. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Patricia Katts RBBB (1944)
Lady Patricia banner RBBB (1948)
Lady Patricia Zerm
Rita Roselle Performed 1943 Coney Island Freak Museum
Riverview Park
(USA)
According to a June 27, 1943 article in the Chicago Tribune, Rita Roselle was a blonde model turned sword swallower who worked with the Coney Island Freak Museum at Riverview Park in 1943. Could this be the Rita Roselle who was in the 1931 film "Beauty Secrets from Hollywood"? Seeking photos and more information.
Chicago Tribune article (1943)
"The Great Zadma"
Daniel Mannix
Daniel Pratt Mannix IV
Born October 27, 1911
Performed 1944?
Died January 29, 1997
Sunnyhill Farm
Malvern, PA
(USA)
Daniel Pratt Mannix IV was born on October 27, 1911 in Bacton Hill, Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania. Mannix was a Philadelphia blue blood whose paternal grandfather was one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Mannix' first job after college was traveling with a carnival sideshow where he was a fire-eater and sword swallower, and a journalist who wrote with the help of his actress-writer wife, Jule Junker Mannix, books on a variety of subjects, from carny life to big-game hunting to the history of torture. Mannix grew to be over 6'5" tall, and he and his wife Julie travelled the world, hunted with eagles and falcons, raised exotic animals, and wrote numerous books and magazine articles:
  • "Raiders of the Night" in St. Nicholas Magazine (Aug 1930)
  • "Two Texas Goblins" in St. Nicholas Magazine (June 1933)
  • "Gladiators of the Gods" in The Saturday Evening Post (May 25 1935)
  • "Hunting Dragons with an Eagle" in The Saturday Evening Post (Jan 18 1941)
  • "Death on Swift Wings" in The Saturday Evening Post (Nov 8 1941)
  • "We're in the Money" in The Saturday Evening Post (Jan 16 1943)
In the 1940s, Mannix served in World War II in the Armed Forces as a Naval Lieutenant with the Photo-Science Laboratory in Washington DC. In the early 1940s, Mannix worked with a carnival sideshow as a fire-eater and sword swallower under the name of "The Great Zadma" (possibly 1943 or early 1944?) as described in articles co-written with his wife Jule Junker Mannix entitled "How to Swallow a Sword" by " 'The Great Zadma' as told to Jule Junker Mannix" which was published in "Colliers" magazine (July 22, 1944 and again on Dec 2, 1944). In the article, Mannix claims to have held the American record for the longest sword swallowed (26 inches) for many years, due to his height. He also claimed to have simultaneously swallowed a 16 inch pair of scissors, a bayonet and 2 sabers at the same time, but there are no photos or proof to back up his claim. Variations of this article also appeared in other magazines around that time, including "Fire-eating is Fun" by "The Great Zadma" published in the UK in the Pocket Book Weekly (Feb 3, 1945) and "How to Swallow a Sword" by "The Great Zadma as told to Julie Junker Mannix" which was published in the March 1945 issue of Reader's Digest magazine. The story was later expanded into the book "Step Right Up" (1950), reprinted as "Memoirs of a Sword Swallower" (1964) available at Amazon.com. Mannix also wrote the article "Tracked by Bloodhounds" in The Saturday Evening Post (Apr 9 1949), and his book "King of the Sky" (1953) was made into the movie "King of the Sky" (1953) with Mannix credited as Writer, Director, Producer and Actor playing himself as "Bird Trainer". His wife Jule Mannix wrote the book "Married to Adventure" (1954) as her autobiography about her adventurous life married to Mannix. In 1957, Mannix was one of the 16 charter members who founded the Munchkin Convention of the International Wizard of Oz Club. Mannix also continued to write other books:
  • the non-fiction "Those About to Die" (1958) which was the inspiration for the movie "Gladiator"
  • "Killers of Kilimanjaro" (1959)
  • "The Hell Fire Club" (1959)
  • "A Sporting Chance, Unusual Methods of Hunting" (1967)
  • and the children's book "The Fox and the Hound" (1967, reprinted 1981) on which the Disney film "The Fox and the Hound" was based.
Mannix was sent a membership card from Anton LaVey's Church of Satan, although like Marcel Duchamp and Groucho Marx, he was not a joiner, preferring to remain staunchly independent. From 1950 onward, Daniel and Jule Mannix lived in the same house in East Whiteland, near Malvern, Pennsylvania, where Mannix retired and wrote the book "Freaks: We Are Not As Others" (1990). Jule Mannix died May 25, 1977. Daniel Mannix died on January 29, 1997, at the age of 85. He was survived by his son, Daniel Pratt Mannix, V, and a daughter, Julie Mannix Von Zernick, (born 1944, Redbook article about daughter Julie Mannix Von Zernick), three grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren, after having written over 20 books and at least two movies. Seeking photos and more information.
Daniel Mannix
Daniel Mannix X-ray
"How to Swallow a Sword" (March 1945)
Lady Louise
Miss Louise
Louise Long
Performed 1944 Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey
(USA)
Louise Long was listed as the sword swallower with the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus Sideshow in the 1944 Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey route book. According to the 1944 route book, Fred Smythe was Manager, Charles A. Zerm, Assistant Manager, Ticket Sellers were Chas. A. Zerm, Geo, Johnson, Robt. Ellis, Jack Elkins; Lecturer was Judson L. Langill. Other attractions on the 1944 sideshow were Senorita Carmen, Snake Trainer; Mr. and Mrs. Fischer, Giant and Giantess; Freda Pushnik, Armless and Legless Girl; Mo-Lay, Comedy Juggler; Miss Patricia, Neon Tube Artist; Kutty Singlee, Fire Proof Man; Baby Thelma, Fat Girl; Egan Twist, Rubber-Armed Man; Hanka Kelter, Long Haired Girl; Alex Demeroff, Arabian Gun Spinner; Percy Pape, Living Skeleton; Nabor Feliz, Pueblo Indian Sculptor; Tinytown, World's Smallest Performers; and Joseph Nawrath, Midget Musician. Louise Long was also featured on a Colgate Palmolive card dated 1946. Seeking photos and more information.
Louise Long pitch card (1944)
Louise Long card (1946)
Louise Long
Bill Baldwin Performed 1945? Bartholomew Fair
(USA)
Bill Baldwin was the sword swallower at the Bartholomew Fair featured in the Jack Dadswell book "Hey There, Sucker!" published in 1946. Seeking photos and more information.
Bill Baldwin (1945-46?)
Tony Marino
Tony Mareno
Tony Moreno
(Tony Cuellar)
Born 1913
Performed 1947-60's
Injured 1947
Died December 1997
Circus of the Fantastic
The Pike
Long Beach, CA
Harry Lewiston Show
Royal American Shows
Worlds of Wonder
Dallas, TX
(USA)
Tony Cuellar was born in Bastrop County, Texas in 1913, and served in WWII in the early 1940's. An article in Time Magazine dated Monday, July 7, 1947 entitled "Something He Ate" reported: "In Detroit, Sword Swallower Tony Marino gulped a two-foot length of lighted neon tube, glowed at his appreciative audience, bowed, thereupon went out like a light, and was hustled to a hospital for removal of the shattered tube." This incident happened while Marino was working on the Harry Lewiston Show according to Harry Lewiston's autobiography "Freak Show Man". In 1949, Marino met and married Ruby Wallace in Detroit, MI, and they briefly lived in Ponce, PR. They moved to Long Beach, CA in the 1950's and lived there in the early 1960's, where Tony worked with various shows swallowing swords and neon tubes under the name Tony Marino, Tony Mareno, and Tony Moreno. In 1957, while working as the manager of The Pike at Long Beach, Marino swallowed swords and neon tubes, taught tattooist Lyle Tuttle to swallow his bayonet, and hired the Amazing Vanteen as magician. He also worked in the Dominican Republic and Florida and throughout much of the US and Canada. Besides performing as a sword swallower, Marino also performed as a fire-eater and knife thrower, and he performed in an episode of Bonanza in the 1960's. Marino later moved to Dallas, TX where he worked at the Texas State Fair in the late 60's and early 70's in October of each year, performing one season with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonder Show. He retired from US Cement Pipe at age 70, and died at his home in Dallas, Texas in December, 1997 at the age of 83. He is survived by 5 children: Lawrence, Victor, Gail, Toni and Nancy. Seeking photos and more information.
Tony Marino (at 16)
Tony Marino
Tony Marino w Harry Lewiston
Tony Marino
Tony Marino
Tony Marino
Leatha Smith
Letha Smith
Performed 1939-1964 Cole Brothers Circus
Clyde Beatty Circus
San Antonio, TX
(USA)
Letha Smith was married to Marvin Smith who performed as the "Anatomical Man", and together they performed with sideshows for many years. In 1941, Leatha was featured as the "lady sword swallower" with the Cole Brothers Circus. In 1948, they worked together on the Clyde Beatty Circus Side Show. In the mid to late 1960's, they lived in San Antonio, Texas, where they attended the Trinity Assembly Church. Leatha's swords and two dresses are in the collection of the Witte Museum in San Antonio, TX. Seeking photos and more information.
Letha Smith
Letha and Marvin Smith
Letha Smith (1960s)
Letha Smith (1960s)
Letha Smith display at Witte Museum (2004)
Slim Price
(Jerry Pickard)
Born January 29, 1935
Performed 1948-1949
Died June 13, 2006
Coney Island
Cavalcade Variety Show
El Cajon, CA
(USA)
Jerry Pickard was born January 29, 1935, and started in the sideshow business at the age of 14 as a shill for a show on Coney Island. He was eager, young, and wanted to know it all. He performed under the stage name "Slim Price" and claimed he was passable as a fire-eater, loved snakes, had good hands as a magician, understood the principals of the human dynamo act, was able to talk and loved to work the mike on the grind, and did a myriad of other jobs on the show. Even though Shumpert Eko was their inside sword swallower, Price learned the basics of swordswallowing around 1948 from the Mighty Ajax, a huge Irishman who worked as sword swallower on another show. The Mighty Ajax gave Price some tips on sword swallowing as well as one of his own bayonets, which was the only "sword" Price ever used in his act. Price also worked with Alex Linton for a time when they were both working with Walter Wanous where Price learned some additional sword swallowing tips from Linton. As a sword swallower, Price claimed, "I was the king of the mediocre; I never got good enough to do anything but work the bally, and the fire-act was much more dramatic". Price mostly worked as a bally talker, and only performed sword swallowing occasionally for a limited time around 1948-1949. In October 2000, at the age of 65, he married his 27 year old bride Krista from England. In August 2005, Slim and Krista left their apartment in El Cajon, CA to tour the United States, attending the Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA over Labor Day weekend September 1-4, 2005, where he was presented the honorary "Lifetime Achievement Award" by the Sword Swallowers Association International. As the Moderator of Slim's Sideshow Digest, Price always reminded others to "keep the candle burning" for the sideshow arts. Slim Price died on June 13, 2006 at the age of 71, and was remembered by sword swallowers and other sideshow performers in a special candle light memorial tribute at the 2006 Sideshow Gathering.
Bobby Reynolds
"Greatest Showman in the World"
Born Oct 5, 1931
Performed 1948-51
Hubert's Museum
Coney Island
Filmore, CA
(USA)
Bobby Reynolds was born on October 5, 1931. In the 1940's, he worked at Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus in New York, where he learned the art of being a "talker", eat fire, and more. He learned sword swallowing from Alex Linton around 1948-49 and worked as a sword swallower in his early years. After working with various circuses in the 1950s and 60s, Reynolds opened his own show at Coney Island with a partner in the 1960s. He went on to manage several sideshows over the years, and later taught sword swallowing to George the Giant McArthur. Bobby Reynolds is now semi-retired and lives in Filmore, CA. Seeking photos and more information.
Duke Alphonse
Alphonse Curatolo
Performed 1948-1960 Ringling Brothers Circus
Cristiani Brothers Circus
Chicago, IL
(USA)
A Chicago Daily Tribune article dated May 19, 1960 states, "Alphonse Curatolo, known in circus life as "Duke Alphonse", fire-eater, sword swallower, and escape artist, will get out of University of Illinois next month with a degree in architecture. Since he was 11 years old, he has worked with circuses to help pay his tuition. Curatolo, who lives at 1446 Polk St., graduated from Crane Technical High School. Curatolo picked up his first job in 1948 with Ringling Brothers Circus. A master of sleight of hand, he was billed as the "world's youngest magician." His friends taught him to eat fire and swallow swords. Duke Alphonse's most sensational stunts today are his escapes from straightjackets, handcuffs, and locked safes. He learned these tricks from Harry Hardini, a safe expert, and former rival of Harry Houdini. Curatolo once considered being a professional boxer. As an amateur, he won 49 of 52 bouts - 11 by knockout - and was the 1955 Golden Gloves champion in the featherweight division. Curatolo won a scholarship to the Art Institute and later enrolled in the University of Illinois at Navy Pier. He transferred to the Urbana campus in 1957. As a student at Urbana, Curatolo only performed once when he entertained at a university fine arts club dance, to the amazement of the students. Between semesters this year, Curatolo flew to California and appeared on Art Linkletter's television show. Next summer, he will perform with Cristiani Brothers Circus. Curatolo is the son of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Curatolo of the Polk Street address. His brother is a juggler and tumbler with the Cristiani Brothers Circus." Seeking photos and more information.
Chicago Trib article (1960)
Lucky Ball II
Jimmy Ball
James Ball
(Jim Lucky Ball)
Born June 28, 1935
Learned 1947
Performed 1948-date
Riverview Park
Hubert's Museum
Ringling Brothers
Oakley, KS
(USA)
Born into the sword swallowing family of Prince Lucky Ball and Estelline Pike in San Diego, CA on June 28, 1935, Jim Lucky Ball II learned to swallow swords from his mother Estelline Pike in 1947-48 while in the 7th grade at the age of 12, earning him the billing of "the world's youngest sword swallower". In 1953, Ball worked as sword swallower for Dick Best at Riverview Park in Chicago, and in 1955-56, Ball worked as manager of Riverview Park. In 1957, Ball was billed at Hubert's Dime Museum in New York, where his mother Estelline Pike was working. When the Mighty Ajax died in 1958, he willed his swords and sword board to Jimmy Ball. In 1958, Ball worked with his mother Estelline when she performed with Ringling Brothers at Madison Square Garden, and appeared with her on the TV program "What's My Line?" as a sword swallowing team. In 1959, Lucky served with the US Army in Korea. On March 2, 1959, a UPI photo was released of Estelline Pike eyeing four swords at Hubert's Museum: "With a confident grin, Estelline Pike, a sword swallower at Hubert's Museum in New York City, eyes four blades she plans to have as a midafternoon snack. This savorer of sabres is also a mother and grandmother. Her relish for cold steel is apparently hereditary -- her son, U.S. Army Pvt. James (Lucky) Bell, was a sword swallower, too, in civilian life. Now stationed in Korea, he has to limit his metallic munching to rifle cleaning rods, with an occasional Japanese officer's sword for dessert.". In 1960, Ball worked for Dick Best's Side Show for Royal American Shows in 1960 as the talker and sword swallower. In 1965, Jimmy Ball's wife Judy also swallowed swords, when Ball, his wife Judy, and his mother Estelline Pike were known as "the world's only sword swallowing family". In 2005, Ball was invited to perform on a recreated version of "What's My Line?" in Hollywood, CA where Ted Lange removed the sword from his throat. Ball currently works as an independent life and health insurance agent in Oakley, KS, and occasionally still performs sword swallowing. At the age of 72, Ball holds the distinction of having been the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower", the "World's Oldest Sword Swallower", and the "Longest Performing Sword Swallower" by performing over 60 years. On "International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day" February 28, 2008, Ball was inducted into the Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame and awarded the SSAI Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sword Swallower's Association International for his years of service to the art of sword swallowing.
Jimmy Ball II (1950s)
Jimmy Ball II (1956)
Jim Ball II
Jim Ball II
Jim Ball II
Jim Ball II (2005)
Judy Ball Born June 1, 1941
Performed 1964-70s
Bob Hammonds Traveling Shows
Dick Best's Side Show
Riverview Park
Cut 'n Shoot, TX
(USA)
Judy Ball was born in Minneapolis, Minnesota on June 1, 1941, and graduated from Wayzata High School in 1958. In 1963, while working as an exotic dancer under the name of "Zuzette" in a New Orleans club on Bourbon Street, Judy met sword swallower Jim “Lucky” Ball who was performing in the club at the time. Judy noticed him and "fell in love". The pair left New Orleans and toured with Bob Hammonds traveling shows in the summer of 1963. During the winter of 1964, they lived in a travel trailer in Wichita, Kansas, where Jim Ball taught Judy how to swallow a 26 inch curved calvary sabre. Because the trailer was so small, Judy had to get on one knee on the floor to be able to put the sword down her throat. Jim said he taught her with the most difficult sword first so that she would later be able to swallow just about any sword. In 1965 Judy Ball was the bally person and swallowing swords on Dick Best's Side Show in Riverview Park in Chicago. She also was the inside talker announcing the acts, and performed as Electric Woman and worked the Sword Box and a Head on a Ladder illusions, with Jim "Lucky" Ball managing and doing the talking, and Jim's mother, Estelline Pike swallowing swords on the inside. Jim and Judy Ball toured for many years with numerous traveling carnivals. Jim and Judy Ball and Jim's mother Estelline Pike were billed as the "Worlds Only Sword Swallowing Family". During this time, Judy also worked with Strecho, Hoyt Shoemaker, Armless and Legless Wonder, Sadie Anderson the Leopard Skinned Woman, Pop-Eye, Tommy Thompson, Vernon Goins the Tattooed man, Ester Blackman, the Alligator Skinned Woman, Yvonne and Yvette the Siamese Twins. The only injury Judy sustained was not a sword swallowing injury. At one time, while she was on the bally in Chicago with Pop-Eye, a black performer who could pop his eyeballs out of their socekts, a racist threw a brick at the performers. The brick bounced off Popeye and hit Judy on the temple. The performers didn't react until they got off the stage and saw that she was bleeding. After Jim and Judy were divorced, Judy traveled by herself and with her two sons, Scott Ball and Paul “ Red” Ball, and eventually quit sword swallowing. When Estelline Pike's swords were stolen in New York, Judy Ball sent her swords to Estelline. Judy Ball was one of the first women in the Lions Club International, with a 19 year membership in the Cut ‘n Shoot Family Lions Club. She is also the Trustee for the "Lions Project for Canine Companions" in Texas, and in 2007, was awarded the title "Trustee of the year" nationwide by LPCCI. Judy Ball is now retired and living in Cut 'n Shoot, TX with her grandson Chain Ball and her three great grandsons. She enjoys raising border collies, is the author of several nationally sold cookbooks, and is in the process of writing her life story. Ball has 5 grandchildren and 8 great grandchildren. Seeking photos and more information.
Frank Lyons Performed 1940s? Washington DC
(USA)
In an August 23, 1952 article in the Saturday Evening Post, Drug Agent Gon Sam Mue writes, "I knew Frank Lyons was pushing (drugs), and I was deeping chagrined when, after stripping him naked, I couldn't find a single grain. In talking to him, I noticed a small red spot between his teeth, at the gum line. Then I remembered that in palmier days, Frank had been a circus sword swallower. Examining the red spot closely, I found that it was red string. Hooking the red string out of his mouth, I found on the other end a rubber finger stall, full of hop, which he had swallowed." Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Sat Evening Post (1952)
Clifford "Butch" Trout Performed 1940s-60s Royal American Shows
Degglar Amusements
Ringling Bros Circus
(USA)
Clifford Trout was a sword swallower in the 1940's to late 60's. He worked a sword swallower and also had a knife throwing act and traveled with Royal American Shows, Degglar Amusements, Ringling Brothers Circus in Madison Square Gardens, and performed at least up to the Orlando, FL fair in 1969. Seeking photos and more information.
Ricko the Great
Ricky Libhart
(Fredrick Hiram Libhart
Frederick Hiram Libhart)
Born Sept 12, 1929
Performed 1950s-60s
Died March 1, 1990
West Coast Shows
Butler Shows
Foley and Burke Shows
Vancouver, WA
Santa Rosa, CA
Port Angeles, WA
(USA)
Fredrick Hiram Libhart was born September 12, 1929 in Duluth, MN. He worked with carnivals on the west coast and in the Pacific Northwest as a sword swallower and fire-eater under the stage name Ricko the Great. After Libhart dropped out of school in the sixth grade, he joined a circus, where he learned to eat fire and swallow swords. At the age of 16, he joined up with a carnival around 1945, which is where he met and became friends with the carnival fat lady, "Jolly G", (Gladys Laverne Ruoff, who was born November 1, 1929 in Port Angeles, WA). Ricky and Gladys were married on September 02, 1950. They worked with carnivals around Ohio during the 1950s, with Butler Shows for 1 year, with West Coast Shows from 1951 to 1957 in Eugene, Salem, and Portland OR, and for 3 years with Foley and Burke Shows in California at the end of their career in the late 50's from 1957 to 1960. In his show, Libhart swallowed up to 3 swords at once. One evening, just after he had finished eating a cherry pie for dinner, the announcer called him to come out and perform his act. Libhart did not want to perform because he knew his dinner had not digested yet, but the announcer was persistent, so Libhart came out and swallowed his sword. When he went to pull the sword out, it was stuck. So he pulled a little harder, and out came the the sword along with 3 half-digested cherries. This ended up making it into a news story in the local newspaper. Ricky and Gladys had to leave the carnival business in 1960 when Gladys became pregnant. The Libharts moved to Orchards WA, a suburb of Vancouver WA, where Gladys gave birth to a set of twin boys, Curt and Carl on Sept.7, 1960, and later another son Rick on January 26, 1963 in Vancouver, WA. Because Gladys was so large (at one time weighing 621 lbs), they had to hypnotize her for the births. Ricky and Gladys did not talk much about their circus/carnival careers. Ricky said he did not want his children to travel with a carnival and refused to teach his sons sword swallowing. Ricky contracted tuberculosis around 1962 and was treated at the VA Hospital in Livermore, CA around 1964. Eventually, the family moved to Santa Rosa, CA, where Gladys died on August 11, 1976 at the age of 46. Ricky moved that night after the funeral, but lived with his sons in Santa Rosa for a year after Gladys' death. To support his family, Ricky became a male nurse in Santa Rosa CA, after graduating from Sonoma State University. Around 1977, Ricky and the boys moved to Port Angeles, WA. During a trip to Vancouver WA, Ricky met Maxine Ross, whom he later married and lived with until his death in Vancouver, WA on March 1, 1990 at the age of 60. One of his swords is owned by his son Curt Libhart. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Gladys Ruoff and her father Carl Ruoff
Eli Radtke Performed 1949 Royal Bros Circus
(USA)
Eli Radtke was the sword swallower with the Royal Brothers Circus in 1949 until the circus closed in Montclair, New Jersey on July 6, 1949. Seeking photos and more information.
Amir Rahvis
The White Fakir
(Maurice Jarvis)
Performed 1949-57 West Ham, London
(UK)
Amir Rahvis performed from around 1949 to 1957 and was known for driving a 6 inch nail into his nose and swallowing an 18 inch neon tube. He underwent examinations at the Royal Cancer Hospital, where for two hours he swallowed objects for doctors while being xrayed, sliding a tube down his throat and into his stomach. He did this five times, retaining the tube internally for periods of from one to two and a half minutes while being xrayed. He would also lay on a bed of nails and allow three women to stand on top of him. He was also featured in the 1954 edition of "Would You Believe It!" He originally came from West Ham, London, his real name was Maurice Jarvis, and before he was a sword swallower, he was an Income Tax official at Bow. He said that lighted 18-inch neon tubes were a lot easier to swallow than some of the tales he was told by the tax dodgers, and far more profitable. Seeking photos and more information.
Amir Rahvis (Maurice Jarvis)
Amir Rahvis bed of nails
Amir Rahvis (Maurice Jarvis)
Shumpert Eko Performed 1950-1951 Cavalcade Variety Show
Coney Island, NY
(USA)
Originally from East India, Shumpert Eko had 2 wives and swallowed neon tubes. He worked with Cavalcade Variety Show as well as Coney Island Sideshow in NY. Seeking photos and more information.
Yrjö Lehvonen Born 1938
Performed 1950-64
Died 19??
(Finland) Yrjö Lehvonen was born in Finland in 1938 and was possibly the best-known sword swallower in Finland, performing from around 1950 into the 1960's. In 1964 Lehvonen swallowed a 63 centimeter long blade to the hilt, which Kotiposti magazine claimed was a world record at the time for Finland. Lehvonen also performed as a contortionist. Seeking photos and more information.
Yrjö Lehvonen
Aly Kabah
Ali Kabah
"Fakir Magician Aly Kabah"
(Gerald Gerry Holmes)
Born March 29 1922
Performed 1942-1980s
Died February 10, 2009
Sydney
(Australia)
Aly Kabah was born in Melbourne Australia on March 29, 1922 as Gerald Holmes. At the age of 12, Holmes began experimenting with self-hypnosis, which enabled him to hammer a nail through his tongue and pierce his body with needles. In 1942 at the age of 20, he taught himself sword swallowing and learned to bow to the audience while the sword was down his throat. He combined fakir feats with magic and became known as the "Fakir Magician Aly Kabah" (sometimes "Ali Kabah"). In the late 1950s he began performing in hotels and clubs around Australia. In 1964 he began working overseas and performed in England, France, Germany, Lebanon, Cyprus, Italy, Pakistan, Iran, Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Sarawak, Liberia, Nigeria, Ghana, Tahiti, Noumea, Fiji, and New Zealand. In 1973 he performed in Canada and the US at the World Festival of Magic and Occult at Madison Square Gardens in New York. In 1977 he returned to perform in the US again at Richiardi's Festival of Witchcraft and Magic at Konova Hotel Miami. In the early 1980s he preformed a regular show at The Broadbeach International Hotel on the Gold Coast Australia. In 1983 he worked in Bahrain with frequent trips back and forth to Australia. He retired from performing in the late 1980s. His show was a combination of magic and mysticism, and included fire-eating, glass-eating, body piercing, and sword swallowing, where he swallowed a single 24 inch long sword. He was retired and living in Sydney, Australia. According to a death notice in the Sydney Daily Telegraph, Holmes died on February 10, 2009 at the age of 86. Seeking photos and more information.
Aly Kabah poster
Ali Kabah clipping (1973)
Aly Kabah photo
Aly Kabah video (1960s)
Aly Kabah video (1975)
Lennart Pettersson
Lenart Pettersson
Born ?
Performed ?
Died 1976
Umeå
(Sweden)
Lennart Pettersson was born in Umeå Sweden. He performed as a fakir, and swallowed swords, ate light bulbs, swallowed razor blades, drove skewers through his face, sewed his mouth shut, and had x-rays taken of his stomach with bits of glass inside. He lived his life in Umeå where he worked as a caretaker in a school. He had three children with his first wife Astrid - Inger, Lena, and Bengt. He had two other daughters, Jenny and Sara, with his second wife. Pettersson died in his early 60's in 1976. Looking for photos and more information. Sök efter fotos och upplysningen.
Petterson as fakir with skewer
Petterson as fakir with skewers
Petterson sewing mouth shut
Last known photo of Petterson
Lady Louise
Louise Chavaynee
Louise Chavanne
Louise Chaveney
Louise Chevaney
Louise Chevanne
Louise Chivanne
Louise Chibanny
Lois Chibanny
Performed 1945-71 Johnny Bejanos Sideshow
Royal Crown Shows
Kelly-Sutton Show
James Strates Shows
Pete Kortes Show
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Louise Chevanne (sometimes spelled "Lois Chivanne", "Chevaney" or "Chibanny" or "Chaveny") was married to Jimmy Chevanne who was the front talker while she was inside lecturer on Johnny J. Bejanos Sideshow from the mid 1930s through 1945. At Bejanos' death, they took management of the office and owned the sideshow on Dolly Young's "Royal Crown Shows". After Jimmy's death, Louise was the sword swallower on the Kelly-Sutton Sideshow with James E. Strates Shows. She first swallowed swords after 1945 and performed in the late 1940's and early 1950's on the Sutton Show, and worked in the Kelly/Sutton Show as late as October 1968 before Sandra Reed started with the show in 1969. Her last season performing as sword swallower was with Pete Kortes in 1971. After a few remarks, Louise would first take a chrome fireplace poker and swallow that, than she would swallow a single sword or two, than she swallowed 2 swords at once and called it a "sword sandwich". Pulling them out, wiping them off, she concluded, "Sword swallowing is a lot of fun; you should try it sometime." In 1971 she recalled that on one or two occasions, the swords pierced her stomach, and she was rushed to the hospital, and made the news wire services. She was known by those she worked with as a very gracious, fine Southern lady. Her age and slightly matronly appearance gave her a grandmotherly persona that was charming and appealing. Chevanne lived in a trailor in Gibsonton, FL, died in the mid to late 70's, and is interred in one of the local Gibsonton cemeteries. Seeking photos and more information.
Louise Chevanne
Arthur Kliwert Performed 1950 Cumberland, MD
Frederick, MD
(USA)
According to a newspaper article in the Frederick Post dated December 30, 1950, sword swallower Arthur Kliwert of Cumberland, MD had recently arrived in Frederick to perform, when he was picked up by the police for being a vagrant. When he got to the police station, he proved he was not a vagrant by opening his suitcase and displaying two swords, a small dagger and a larger 20" sword, and a set of fire-eating torches. He swallowed the dagger first, and then the longer sword, and offered to eat fire, but the police were convinced. Because he had no money, they offered him a free night in jail, even though he was technically free to go on his own reconnaissance. Seeking photos and more information.
Arthur Kliwert article (1950)
Lady Beth
Buckskin Betty
Betty Bancroft
Elizabeth Jane Bancroft
Performed 1953-54 Fred Bancroft's Circus Side Show
Golden West Shows
John R. Ward Shows
Wallace Bros Shows
Royal Crown Shows
Blue Grass Shows
Dick Slayton Shows
Ringling Brothers
Barnum & Bailey
Forrest City, AR
(USA)
Fred and Betty Bancroft of Forrest City, Arkansas owned their own sideshow "Fred Bancroft's Circus Side Show" and traveled with several different circuses throughout the years, performing under the names "Colorado Fred, the Knife Thrower", and "Buckskin Betty", or under the combined name as the "Shooting Stars". The highlight of their early act was when "Colorado Fred" threw knives at "Buckskin Betty" while she was spinning on the "Wheel of Death". Besides being an "impalement artist" and target for Fred, Betty also performed as trick rifle sharpshooter, a rope spinner, and whip artist, and later as a sword swallower. In March, 1942 Fred Bancroft's Side Show performed in Louisiana; in June 1942, Fred and Betty Bancroft performed with the Golden West Shows in Minnesota. On October 16, 1942, their daughter Zoe Ann Bancroft married concessionaire William Brown. In 1943, Fred and Betty were signed to perform as the "Shooting Stars" as well as manage the office of their Side Show which toured Indiana and Illinois. On January 25, 1945, their daughter Zoe Ann was married to Thomas P. Mangos in Pensacola, FL, but Zoe Ann continued to work the sideshow with her parents while her husband was deployed overseas. In May 1945, Fred Bancroft's Side Show worked the John Marks midway with "Buckskin Betty" sharpshooting, "Colorado Fred" doing impalement, and daughter "Zo Anne" Bancroft working the blade box. From 1944-48, the Bancrofts worked with Wallace Bros Shows, Cetlin and Wilson Shows and John R. Ward Shows, and with the Royal Crown Shows in 1948. In 1949, the Bancrofts worked with the Blue Grass Shows in Kentucky. The first mention of Betty Bancroft performing as a sword swallower is in April of 1953 with the Dick Slayton show on tbe Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Sideshow. Betty Bancroft first appears on the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus route book as their sword swallower in 1953 while her husband Fred Bancroft appears as the knife thrower with Betty as his target. They returned again for a second season with Ringling Brothers again in 1954, when Betty performed as their sword swallower in Madison Square Gardens in New York under the stage name "Lady Beth". She was also known to swallow a neon tube. On April 11, 1954, Elizabeth Bancroft appeared on the TV show "What's My Line?" Their son, Harry L. Bancroft, was a tattoo artist and had a trained chimp named "Cheeta" who was supposed to have been the offspring of Cheeta on Tarzan, and another son, Raymond Bancroft helped out with the show. The Bancrofts' daughter Zoe Ann was later married to Jim Wolff. Seeking photos and more information.
Betty & Fred Bancroft
Betty & Fred Bancroft (1940s)
Lady Beth & Fred Bancroft RBBB (1954)
Lady Beth RBBB in NC (1954)
Lady Beth RBBB (1954)
Betty Bancroft swallowing neon
Marion Dempsey Performed 1953-56
(USA)
Marion Dempsey was the featured sword swallower in the films "Houdini" (1953) and Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Carousel" (1956). Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Abbdurama Performed 1954
(Sweden) Abbdurama performed as a sword swallower in Sweden in 1954. Sök efter fotos och upplysninging.
Carlos Leal
Carlos Lial
Born about 1914
Performed early 1950s
King Christiani Show
King Brothers Circus
(Argentina)
(USA)
Carlos Leal was originally from Argentina and worked mainly as a fire act on shows such as the King Christiani show. Leal taught Capt. Don Leslie how to swallow swords in the mid 1950's. In May of 1954, there is mention of Carlos Leal from Scranton, PA at the age of 40 working as fire-eater with the King Brothers Circus. The "The Times Recorder" article says Leal was pulling a house trailer and was "passing another auto on the West Pike some six and a half miles from Zanesville, OH, when it hit the median strip and went out of control careening into the ditch. The house trailer was demolished and the car damaged. Leal was not hurt, the patrol said." According to an April 1960 article on the King Bros Circus in the Bandwagon, "Carlos Leal does outside fire-eating and bally, and does fire and sword acts inside." Carlos Leal apparently had a brother named Joey F. Lial. Seeking photos and more information.
Carlos Leal fire-eating
Capt. Don Leslie
Donald Paul Leslie
Born Dec 26, 1938
Performed 1954-1994
Died June 4, 2007
King Brothers Circus
Christiani Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers
Ringling Brothers Circus
Tommy Hart Show
Kyle Taylor
Dick Best
Norman Brooks
Slim Kelly/
Whitey Sutton
Jeff Murray
Bill English
Ward Hall
Charlie Cox
Harmur Shows
O.C. Buck Shows
Reithoffer Shows
Coleman Bros. Amusements
Fiesta Shows
Murphy Bros. Shows
Conklin Amusement Carnival
Orig Boston, MA
Chico, CA
(USA)
Donald Paul Leslie was born on Dec 26, 1938 in Boston, MA. Like many kids of his day, he dreamed of running away from home to join the circus. In 1952, at the age of 14, Leslie ran away and joined the King Brothers Circus where he ran the pony ride which was across the midway from the sideshow bally stage. In 1953, when he was just 15 years old, Leslie got his first tattoo from Carol Nightingale while the circus was performing in Washington D.C.

In 1954, at the age of 16, Leslie learned fire-eating from the Argentinian fire eater and sword swallower Carlos Leal while working with the Christiani Brothers Circus. It wasn't long before Carlos taught Leslie how to swallow swords, teaching him to cough and gag and make a big production to add drama to his sword swallowing act. In 1955, while his family was wintering in Los Angeles, Leslie wandered into a tattoo parlor on Main Street where he got his "Rock of Ages" tattoo done on his back by Leroy Minugh. After working a variety of circus jobs in concessions, animal care and general labor, Leslie eventually worked his way into becoming a circus sideshow performer. He worked with the Christiani Brothers Circus from 1956 to 1959. During the off-season when the circus was in winter quarters, Leslie made a name for himself by working as a tattooist. In 1956-1957, while being tattooed by Lyle Tuttle in Californa, Leslie and Tuttle became friends, and Leslie taught some of the basics of sword swallowing to Tuttle with a stove poker. When he was 18, Leslie hung up his swords and did a brief stint in the Marines. In 1957 at the age of 19, he returned to the circus life and picked up where he had left off. In 1957, Harry Doll of the famous Doll Family of performing midgets christened Leslie with the name "Captain Don" after telling the young sword swallower he needed a catchy stage name. Doll also introduced 19-year-old Leslie to legendary sword swallower Alex Linton who was in his late 40s or early 50s at the time. Linton gave Leslie some valuable tips on sword swallowing, teaching him how to swallow swords smoothly while adding flair to his show. At the time, Linton held the record for swallowing four 30 inch swords at once until Don later broke his record by swallowing five 30 inch swords in 1979.

In October 1961, Capt. Don married his first wife Sherry in Key West, FL, and on November 22, 1962, their first son Don Lee was born in Ft. Lauderdale FL. On January 31, 1964, their second son Daryl Wayne was born in Dallas, TX.

In 1979, Capt. Don became known for swallowing a sword sandwich of five 30 inch swords with the blades perpendicular to the tongue instead of flat on the tongue, a feat he performed for 10 years from 1979 to 1989. For most of the 1980s, Capt. Don performed on the streets of Boston and was a regular on Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco.

In the late 1980s, after recovering from alcoholism, Capt. Don worked with Jeff and Sue Murray on the Harmur Shows. During this time, Capt. Don brought out his son and daughter from his second marriage who also worked the show with him in New England. From October 1988 into 1989 Capt. Don and sword swallower Lady Diane Falk did a boat tour of the Micronesian Islands and Guam in the South Pacific. Then in 1989, Capt. Don sustained his most serious injury while swallowing five swords while performing before a packed house at the Center for Contemporary Arts in Seattle, WA for the opening of the photo exhibit for the book "Modern Primitives". While performing his grand finale sword sandwich of 5 vertical blades, the blades scissored and lacerated his esophagus, causing a serious injury with internal bleeding that nearly killed him. After the accident, Capt. Don gave up sword swallowing and gave most of his swords to Lady Diane Falk. In 1990, Capt. Don performed in the Hollywood film "The Problem Child" with John Ritter. In the early 1990s, Capt. Don built a sideshow for $60,000 that he took on tour in Canada for the Conklin Amusement Carnival Shows. Leslie managed the show and performed all the acts but sword swallowing, so he hired Lady Diane Falk as his sword swallower.

Capt. Don found it hard to give up performing, and he started swallowing swords periodically again around 1997 at tattoo conventions, where he was known as a bit of a celebrity. Capt. Don semi-retired in Chico, California after having spent over 51 years with most of the major circuses and carnivals that trekked the US and Canada from the 1950's through the early 1990's. Over the course of his life, his acts included Sword Swallower, Fire-Eater, Human Pin Cushion, Human Blockhead, Escape Artist, Tattooed Attraction, Electric Chair, Bed of Machetes, Bed of Glass, Sideshow Manager, and Master of Ceremonies. Besides being known for his long circus and sideshow background, Capt. Don was also a musician and a songwriter (his first record was called "Tattoo Songs By A Tattooed Man"), and he was featured in two Hollywood feature films, "The Problem Child" with John Ritter (1990), and "Beloved" with Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover (1998) (Don's banner painting). Up to the last few weeks of his life, Capt. Don still made occasional appearances at tattoo conventions and other events, occasionally performing with his favorite 1863 saber. His last appearance was in CA in February 2007, but he didn't swallow his favorite bayonet. By then, he had been diagnosed with cancer of the throat and jaw, and doctors had given him only four months to live. He hung in for six months. Capt. Don Leslie died at the age of 68 at his home in Chico, CA on June 4, 2007, six months after being diagnosed with mouth and throat cancer brought on by decades of ingesting fire-eating fuel. He was a confirmed atheist, had no use for Christianity, and ran off anyone trying to convert him to the faith. It was said that "he smoked like a Frenchman, wore his hair long like a rock star and had more tattoos than a sailor". Capt. Don is survived by his ex-wives, Sherry and Joannie, four children, Don Leslie Jr. of Finland, Darryl Wayne Leslie of Phoenix, AZ, David Leslie of Boston, MA and Stephanie Leslie of Quincy, MA, and by six grandsons. According to his peers, his death closes the golden age of circus sideshow sword swallowing. Seeking photos and more information.

Capt. Don Leslie (1955)
Capt. Don Leslie (1955)
Capt. Don Leslie (1957)
Capt. Don Leslie (1960s)
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don Leslie
Capt. Don on the Midway
Capt. Don swallowing 5 30" swords (1983)
Capt. Don's Banner (1998)
Capt. Don's Banner
Capt. Don's back tattoos
Alex Linton tattooed on Capt Don's hand
Seeking photos and more information.
Timo Tuomivaara Born April 7, 1938
Performed 1955-58
Died Aug 3, 2004
Rovaniemi
(Finland)
Timo Tuomivaara was born in Finland on April 7, 1938, and lived his childhood in Posio, Finland. He performed his shows all over Finland so he lived in several places, but Rovaniemi was the city which was his base and where he lived most time of his life. Even though he was best known as an escape artist under the nickname the "Scandinavian Houdini" for his escapes and other stunts, Tuomivaara also taught himself sword swallowing in 1955 at the age of 17. He got the idea of swallowing swords from a magazine article and started practicing on his own. His first sword was a fencing foil, but he also swallowed a broadsword. He said that the last thing he swallowed was a rifle ramrod when he was in the Finnish army in 1958. He performed sword swallowing from 1955 until an accident caused him to give up sword swallowing in 1958. He helped teach Jari Tapanainen how to swallow swords. Timo died on August 3, 2004 at the age of 66. Seeking photos and more information.
Timo Tuomivaara (1955-58)
Linda Lopez ? TX
(USA)
Seeking photos and more information.
Rosita Reverdy
Queen of Swords
Performed 1950s? Hubert's Museum
(USA)
Rosita Reverdy was known as the "Queen of Swords" when she appeared at Hubert's Dime Museum in New York City. Seeking photos and more information.
George Dalton Born 1930s?
Performed 1954-55?
Hunt Bros Circus
(USA)
George Dalton worked as a sideshow canvasman for the Hunt Brothers Circus in 1954. The show had an American Indian fire eater and sword swallower in the sideshow (name unknown) whose family performed an act with the sideshow and who exhibited a menagerie of animals (foxes, raccoons, etc.). The family was quiet and kept to themselves, but they took Dalton under their wing and they taught fire-eating and sword swallowing to Dalton during the last half of the 1954 season. Sometime in 1954 or '55 Dalton was hospitalized with severe burns (possibly internal) while practicing fire-eating, and was never heard from again. Tom Mac Dermott worked as a peanuts and crackerjack butcher with the Hunt Brothers Circus in 1953-54, and Johnny Meah worked as a candy floss butcher with the show in 1954-55 before working his way into clowning and sword swallowing. Seeking photos and more information.
Alex Lang Performed 1950s-64
Died in 1964
(USA) Alex Lang held the Guinness World's Record for swallowing four 27-inch long swords at one time in the early 1960s. He died in 1964. Seeking photos and more information.
Jonda The Great
Henry Amedeo Burns
Born March 6, 1930
Performed 1950s-61
Died February 1989
The Pike, Long Beach, CA
EK Fernandez Shows
Honolulu, HI
(USA)
"Jonda The Great" was born as Henry Amedeo Burns on March 6, 1930 in San Francisco, CA. He was of Italian background, dark-haired, short-statured at about 5'6", had a pierced ear and an eagle tattooed across his chest, and performed as a sword swallower in the late 1950's and early 60's at the Pike in Long Beach, CA with Tony Mareno. In 1960, he worked in Honolulu Hawaii with the E K Fernandez Shows. Among other things, he swallowed a curved sword and a saw, but his claim to fame was swallowing neon tubes. It was also his claim to failure, as twice the tubes broke during performance and he was hospitalized. An article in the Holland MI Evening Sentinel dated February 22, 1960 described his second neon tube injury on Friday, February 19, 1960: HONOLULU (UPI) -- "It might be a good idea for sword swallower Henry Burns, billed as Jonda the Great, to seek a different profession. He was hospitalized Friday after swallowing an 18-inch neon tube and then making the mistake of bending over. It was his first performance since recovering from internal injuries -- suffered when he made the same mistake earlier." Burns quit sword swallowing professionally around 1961 after his second neon tube injury, but would perform impromptu acts for children and audiences on the beach on occasion. His competitive nature led him from sword swallowing into motorcycle racing and eventually yacht racing. He died in his sleep of a heart attack at the age of 58 in February 1989 on the sailboat that he called home for the last 10 years of his life in Long Beach Harbor, CA. He was buried at sea. His daughter Carolyn Bass Burns is writing a book loosely based on his life, entitled "The Sword Swallower's Daughter". Seeking photos and more information.
Henry Burns aka Jonda the Great
Henry Burns injury article (Feb 22 1960)
Aleksander Casso
(Johannes Hyvärinen)
Born June 2, 1933
Performed 1950s-60s
Died Nov 13, 1976
(Finland) Born Johannes Hyvärinen, Casso worked as a magician, learned sword swallowing from Yrjö Lehvonen, and performed sword swallowing from the 1950's to 60's. He started under the stage name Carambo. It is said that Casso swallowed a sword that was 63 centimeters long.
Johnny Eagle Performed 1950-60s London, England (UK) Johnny Eagle was a well-known Gypsy Strongman in 1950s-60s in the UK. He was known as the king of the showmen at the Lee Gap Fair, the Appleby Horse Fair in Cumbrian, and other fairs throughout the UK. He performed sword swallowing and other fakir stunts regularly on Tuesdays at Tower Hill in London during the late 50s and early 60s, and was probably in his 50s or 60s at the time. Seeking photos and more information.
Johnny Eagle in 1960s
Janet Roselle
"The Lady Sword Swallower"
Performed 1950s? Daly Brothers Circus Sideshow
(USA)
Janet Roselle performed as "The Lady Sword Swallower" with the Daly Brothers Circus Sideshow in the 1950s. Seeking photos and more information.
Lady Jean Performed 1960s? (USA) Lady Jean is featured as a sword swallower on a banner in the Baraboo Circus World Museum She had dark hair and swallowed neon tubes and a variety of swords. Seeking photos and more information.
Lyle Tuttle Born Oct 7, 1931
Performed 1956-90s
Ukiah, CA
(USA)
Lyle Tuttle learned the basics of sword swallowing on a stove poker from Capt. Don Leslie in California in 1956 when Tuttle was tattooing Capt. Don. Tuttle later learned the finer points of sword swallowing from Tony Mareno in 1957 at The Pike in Long Beach, California using Marino's WW I bayonet, which he still owns. Tuttle usually swallowed 24 inch blades, and occasionally neon tubes about a dozen times in his life, but did not make neon tubes a regular part of his act. In 1960, he opened a tattoo shop in San Francisco, CA, and in 1969, he was featured on the TV programs "What's My Line" and "To Tell The Truth" in New York. Tuttle is now mostly retired from sword swallowing, but still enjoys tatooing in Ukiah, California.
Lyle Tuttle
William Morgan
"The Yanqui Commandante"
William Alexander Morgan
Born April 19, 1928
Performed 1956-57
Died March 12, 1961
Cleveland, OH
(USA)
Havana
(Cuba)
Thirty-three years before his brutal execution in a desolate Cuban field, William Alexander Morgan was born in Cleveland, Ohio, on April 19, 1928. The son of affluent parents, Morgan was a particularly troubled teen-ager. He was expelled from four high schools, repeatedly ran away from home and was arrested on grand larceny charges, all before his 16th birthday. Shortly after his 17th birthday, he was arrested in San Antonio, Texas, where he had hitchhiked as a lark. He was returned to Toledo, Ohio, where police suspected him of armed robbery. One law-enforcement official later described the blond-haired, blue-eyed youth as "a superannuated juvenile delinquent." After he turned 18 years old, in a bid to begin anew, Morgan enlisted in the Army. He took basic and advanced infantry training stateside and then shipped out to occupied Japan, where he spent time at the Atsugi Army-Air Force base. After only a few weeks in Japan, Morgan married an attractive Japanese woman who worked in a nightclub. A short while later, he went AWOL at least twice, was court-martialed on Nov. 7, 1947, and thrown into the Kyoto stockade for three months. He promptly escaped after overpowering a guard and stealing his uniform and weapon. Recaptured, he was again court-martialed, found guilty of escape, assault and robbery, and sentenced to five years of hard labor. Declared a "recalcitrant military prisoner," Morgan was transported to the maximum-security disciplinary barracks at Camp Cooke, California (today Vandenberg Air Force Base). At Camp Cooke, he entertained other prisoners by spinning fanciful stories about his being a direct descendant of another William Morgan who, in 1826, became quite notorious after vanishing from his upstate New York home. Morgan's chatter soon earned him the nickname "Gabby." After his sentence was reduced to three years, Morgan was transferred to the federal correctional institution in Chillicothe, OH. There he was placed in solitary confinement for attempting to escape, fighting and refusing to work. He spent his last months of imprisonment at the federal facility in Milan, MI, and was released on April 11, 1950. A confidential FBI memorandum dated May 5, 1959, states that Morgan was given a dishonorable discharge from the Army in 1950, and that "he reportedly is [a] veteran of the Korean War and is described as a judo expert." Oddly, none of Morgan's surviving family remember his being in Korea. His brother-in-law, Edric Costain, said, "I don't know where that came from. He was an Army veteran, not one that anyone is very proud of, who had been in Japan, not Korea." Following his release from prison, Morgan headed back to Toledo, Ohio, where he had grown up. After a succession of menial jobs, he took up a nomadic lifestyle. Morgan's wanderings took him all over the US and included a stint as a sword swallower in a traveling carnival. He fell in love with the carnival's snake charmer, Teresa Bethel, who he married. By 1957, the couple had two children together, a son, William Jr., and a girl, Anna. But fatherhood did nothing to quell Morgan's wanderlust and, after failed attempts to work in electronics, he began disappearing for months at a time, leaving his family to live with his parents. About this time, Morgan reportedly developed a keen sense of righteous indignation and a longing for social justice. He is said to have despised the oppressive regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Baptista. In the 1950s, Havana served as a hedonistic playground for the world's elite, producing huge gambling, prostitution and drug profits for American Mafiosos, corrupt law-enforcement officials and their politically elected cronies. Morgan arrived in Cuba in late 1957, a precipitous time in the island's rapidly shifting political and economic climate. The conventional story about why Morgan journeyed there turns on the age-old tale of consummate adventurer drawn to the place of action, like a moth to the flame. But the real story is more involved than that. In 1956, Morgan began popping up in Tampa, FL and points further south in the Florida Keys. According to Michael Falcone, a former numbers runner for the Trafficante crime family, Morgan "was a familiar face around here in the mid-'50s. He was with the outfit that was running guns to Cuba, a pretty lucrative undertaking back then." Other sources confirm Morgan's gunrunning and say that for about 16 months, he traveled between Tampa and Miami, and occasionally to Houston, Texas, and Hope, Ark., arranging large shipments of Cuba-bound weapons. Morgan is also believed to have been involved in the arms-smuggling operations of Cleveland mobster and twice-convicted gunrunner Dominick E. Bartone. Morgan's first several months in Cuba are shrouded in mystery, but if one is to believe the highly fictionalized account of his life portrayed in Alex Abella's novel, "The Great American", an unwitting Morgan was literally recruited off Havana's streets for work with the CIA. It is more likely that Morgan was vetted for covert work while still in the United States. Indeed, in interviews with journalists in Cuba, Morgan vaguely alluded to contacts he had in Florida with the militant group Directoro Revolucinario, which operated with CIA support. Former intelligence officials say that while Morgan was in South Florida, he also had contacts with CIA operatives there that included future-Watergate burglars Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis, and Mafia go-between Johnny Rosselli. In February 1958, Morgan turned up in Cuba's lush highlands in the Escambray Mountains looking to join the anti-Batista rebels headquartered there. Former rebel Roger Redondo told a Time magazine correspondent that he suspected Morgan worked "for the CIA or FBI" but that Morgan was allowed to stay and assist with training. Within a few weeks, "the gringo from Ohio" was leading rebel bands in ferocious attacks against Batista's troops and was quickly promoted to the rank of major in the National Second Front of the Escambray. Fidel Castro praised Morgan at the time and said that he was "the kind of American that Cuba needs." As news of his exploits filtered out, Morgan became an international celebrity and media darling. Accounts of his exploits were sensationalized by New York Times reporter Herbert L. Matthews, who dubbed Morgan "the Yanqui Commandante." Matthews failed to mention Morgan's dismal Army record and dishonorable discharge and embellished Morgan's allure by telling readers that he was a master paratrooper and Korean War veteran, thus confusing even the FBI. Many young Americans idolized Morgan, including a Marine named Lee Harvey Oswald. Like Morgan, Oswald was stationed in Japan at the Atsugi base. Edward Jay Epstein has reported that in August 1959, Oswald's hero, as expressed to fellow Marine Nelson Delgado, was William Morgan. Oswald was especially attracted to Morgan's achievements as "a double agent." Further, Oswald suggested to Delgado that they both go to Cuba and "emulate Maj. Morgan." Delgado, a Cuban-American, reported that Oswald actually wrote to and visited the Cuban consulate in Los Angeles in pursuit of this objective. Gen. Fabian Escalante, former head of Cuban State Security and today an adviser to Castro, claims that he has a thick intelligence dossier on Morgan that firmly establishes he was a CIA agent under the control of the agency's former Western Hemisphere Division chief, Col. Joseph Caldwell King. However, Escalante says, Morgan's cover legend of being a chronic disciplinary problem for the Army and perennial outsider was too close to reality, and Col. King and CIA personnel operating out of the embassy in Havana were unable to control him. Writes Escalante: "Morgan was undisciplined and reported little, greatly displeasing the CIA station, which complained about him constantly." The CIA's displeasure soon prompted the agency to dispatch another agent to Cuba who could watch over the unpredictable American. That agent, operating under the alias John Maples Spiritto, was a former "special employee" of the Federal Narcotics Bureau. Morgan and Spiritto met on a regular basis at Havana's Capri Hotel. Paul D. Bethel, who was the press officer at the U.S. Embassy in Havana during Castro's rise to power, revealed in his 1969 book entitled "The Losers" that William Morgan produced great consternation among U.S. officials in 1959 when he began "keeping company with a very unwholesome American who lived at the Capri Hotel," whom others described as a "gangster." In September 1959, the U.S. State Department, at the insistence of Pennsylvania Rep. Francis E. Walter, revoked William Morgan's citizenship. Walter, chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee, demanded the action based on a section of the Immigration and Nationality Act that forbids U.S. citizens to serve in foreign armies. Morgan was said to be devastated by the action. He argued that he had never done anything against the interests of the U.S. But, several months prior, Morgan had publicly declared that he would "kill any American Marines" who attempted to invade Cuba or to interfere with Castro's objectives. Following Castro's takeover of Cuba – which was duly celebrated when William Morgan marched arm-in-arm with Che Guevara and Castro down Havana's main streets as thousands cheered – Morgan reportedly decided to settle down and raise a family. Earlier, in November 1958, Morgan had married a 23-year old Cuban rebel named Olga Rodriguez. With a $70,000 loan from Cuba's Agricultural Ministry, he and Olga began developing a frog farm. By early 1960, they had nearly a half million croaking frogs ready for export. But the past wouldn't leave Morgan alone. Morgan was ordered arrested by Castro on Oct. 16, 1960. The charges against him to this day remain vague but appear to have turned on his perceived betrayal of Castro. Some Cuban officials say bluntly that Morgan was "a traitor" to his adopted country, reminding people that the American had been officially bestowed Cuban citizenship by Castro. Victor Dreke, a former Cuban rebel who went on to fight with Guevara in the Congo, says that after Castro's victory Morgan "took up arms against the revolution." Further, Dreke claims that Morgan, at the direction of his CIA handlers, "murdered peasants and raped women during the war in the zone where the [Escambray Front] operated." Others, who knew Morgan and fought alongside him, deny this as "communistic nonsense" and say that Morgan was "a freedom fighter" who, for the sake of "political expediency," was "betrayed by [U.S. Ambassador to Cuba] Philip Bonsal." To support this charge, they point to once-secret State Department documents that reveal that, shortly before Morgan's arrest, Bonsal surreptitiously sent word to Castro that Morgan was organizing a secret army to push Castro from power. After his arrest, Morgan was confined to La Cabana prison in Havana, where he eventually was tried and sentenced to death. William Morgan was executed on March 12, 1961, one month before 1,500 US-backed counterrevolutionaries invaded Cuba at the Bay of Pigs. Fidel and Raul Castro attended Morgan's execution, which took place in the middle of the night. Over the years, there have been reports that Guevara was also present, but this has never been confirmed. According to eyewitnesses, Morgan was led out into an open field to face a firing squad of seven men. Standing with his hands tied behind his back, several floodlights were focused on him. A voice, out of the darkness, ordered him to kneel down. Morgan refused by shaking his head. "Kneel and beg for your life," the voice again commanded. "I kneel for no man," Morgan shouted back. Then an order was given, some say by Castro himself, and a member of the firing squad stepped forward and shot Morgan in his right knee. Morgan still did not go down, and another round was fired into his left knee. Morgan fell to the ground withering in pain. Forcing one of his wrists into his mouth, he bit down hard so as not to cry out in pain. With Morgan on the ground, the voice shouted, "There! You see, we made you kneel." Morgan spat blood in response, and another marksman fired a round into his right shoulder. When Morgan still made no sound, his left shoulder was shattered by another bullet. Then the captain of the firing squad approached and fired a full clip from his machine gun into Morgan's chest. Needlessly, another soldier fired five revolver rounds into Morgan's head. A local priest, Rev. Dario Casado, who helped bury Morgan's body in nearby Colon Cemetery, said that there was nothing left of Morgan's face. The location of Morgan's body, like that of the 19th century namesake he bragged about at Camp Cooke, is today unknown. Sometime after 1971, Morgan's grave was disturbed and his remains taken to an undisclosed site or destroyed. Morgan's Cuban-born wife, Olga Goodwin (she has remarried) announced that she was going to petition the Cuban government for the return of her husband's body. Goodwin, who today lives in Morgan's boyhood city of Toledo, Ohio, says she also wants the U.S. government to restore her husband's citizenship. Cuban officials have yet to respond to Goodwin because they say they "have received nothing official about Morgan from anyone." The State Department and the CIA are remaining silent about Goodwin's anticipated requests and refuse to discuss Morgan. One State Department spokesperson, who declined to speak on the record, said "Morgan is ancient history, and we'd like to see him stay that way." Seeking photos and more information.
Rahnee Matie Performed 1957
(USA)
Rahnee Matie was a female sword swallower featured in a sword swallowing article entitled "Cold Steel For Dinner" in the March 5th, 1957 issue of the magazine "Tempo", Volume 8, Number 5. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Rahnee Matie
Rahnee Matie
Rahnee Matie (Xray)
Don Ward Performed 1957-60s Pete Kortes Show
Arizone State Fair
(USA)
Don Ward worked for Helen Golden as the sword swallower for her Freakshow when they performed at the Arizona State Fair in Phoenix AZ in 1957. Ward was the inspiration for Stan Marye who learned sword swallowing from studying Ward's performance and from conversations with Ward. Stan Marye later worked with Don Ward again for a few days in 1964. Seeking photos, dates and more information.
Toni Del Rio
(Nilo Garrido)
Born April 2, 1924
Performed 1950s-60s
Died 1987
Tampa, FL
(USA)
Toni Del Rio was originally born into a Cuban family in Tampa, Florida on April 2, 1924 as Nilo Garrido. Nilo grew up as boy, but was a pseudo hermaphrodite, so before WW II, he worked with circuses and sideshows as a "half and half" as well as sword swallower. He was given a discharge from the Navy in WW II when his breasts began to grow, so he had a transgender surgery done and was the second person in the US to become transgendered. After WW II, he changed his name to Toni Del Rio and went back to working with circuses and sideshow. Toni learned sword swallowing from Mimi Garneau while in winter quarters in Gibsonton, Florida, and Mimi gave Toni some of her swords. In the 1950s and 60s Toni worked as a female sword swallower by swallowing a 17 inch bayonet. Toni worked with Johnny Meah on the Lou Walters show in the late '50's, and taught sword swallowing to Eddie Miller in the early 1960s (1963-64), and to Red Stuart in 1967. In 1969 she worked with the Johnny Howard Sideshow, and died in Tampa, Florida in 1987 at around the age of 63. Toni's sister gave her swords to Red Stuart after Toni's death. One of her swords was presented from Red Stuart to Dan Meyer and is now in the archival collection of the SSAI Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame. Seeking photos and more information.
Toni Del Rio
Count Desmond
Evel Knievel of the Sword
Spiderman
(Edward Benjamin)
Born July 30, 1941
Performed 1957-94
Circus Bartok
Royal Hanneford Circus
Worldwide Indoor Circus
Guinness World Records Museum
Gillett, PA
(USA)
Born "Edward Benjamin" on July 30, 1941 in Binghamton, NY, Count Desmond learned to swallow coat hangers in Binghamton, NY from King Brothers Circus sword swallower Stan Marye at about the age of 15 or 16 in 1956-57. It was 6 months before he was able to master the art. Once he was comfortable with coat hangers, he moved on to swallowing swords. His swords were handmade surgical steel swords measuring 26" from the lips down. He performed from about 1957 into the 1990s and retired around 1993-94. In August 1967, he was working on the Circus Bartok sideshow bally doing fire-eating and sword swallowing, as well as announcing in the big top and managing the show for Milton (Doc) Bartok, while his wife Loretta was a hair-hanging artist. In 1970-71 he worked for the March of Dimes in Binghamton, NY at various fundraisers with his assistant "Princess Eustasia". In 1975, he taught sword swallowing to Dale Pritchard, and during the winter of 1977, he taught sword swallowing to Rhea Roma. During the summer of 1979, he performed at The Bowery and the Guinness Book of World's Records Museum in Myrtle Beach, SC. An article in the Canadian "Globe and Mail" dated Saturday, March 22, 1980 with the headline "Stabs himself in sword act, man in hospital" reports his injury: "Guelph -- Count Desmond, a sword swallower, is in hospital after stabbing himself during a performance at the Royal Hotel here. The Count, whose real name is Edward Benjamin, was half-way through his act when one of the three-foot-long swords punctured his esophagus. A spokesman at Guelph General Hospital said yesterday that his condition is satisfactory but tests are being done to see whether fluids are leaking into the lungs. Steven Hindmarsh, a waiter at the hotel, said that when the sword swallower withdrew the blade, the last 10 inches of it was covered with blood. Mr. Benjamin attributed his bad judgment to an inflamed throat caused by a cold. He is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records three times for sword-swallowing feats. He said he began his career in Binghamton, NY at the age of 10 by swallowing coathangers." Count Desmond defied superstition by swallowing a sword up his throat while hanging suspended upside down under a helicopter 200 feet over Niagara Falls on Friday the 13th of June, 1980, making him Niagara Falls' only living aerial daredevil. Count Desmond swallowed coathangers (a record 18 at one time for Guinness), pool cues, canes, neon tubes, a frying pan handle, rat-tail file, and up to 13 swords at one time. He was known for being a three-time Guinness World Record holder - first for swallowing 5 swords and 3 coathangers, then for swallowing 10 swords, and finally for swallowing 13 swords at once a few weeks later once on July 6th, 1980. It was after he set this record 13 swords that Guinness closed the category for sword swallowing after Count Desmond removed his swords with blood on the blades. Other special feats he performed include swallowing a coat hanger while riding a mechanical bucking bull, and swallowing a "live" microphone to hear his heartbeat (first onstage with "Alabama" at the Bowery in Myrtle Beach). Among other appearances, he performed with Circus Bartok with his friend Rick Dennis in the late 1960's and early '70's and again in 1990, was Ringmaster with the Royal Hanneford Circus, performed with the Worldwide Indoor Circus, Von Brothers, and various carnival and nightclub shows across the US and Canada, sometimes appearing with his friend Rick Dennis. TV appearances included the "David Frost Guinness Special", "That's Incredible", the new "You Asked For It", a Soviet television interview, "20/20 News Magazine", "PM Magazine", "I've Got A Secret", and as one of the 15 top daredevils in the world on the "Saturday Top Special" in Japan where he swallowed a sword while spinning suspended upside-down. He was known professionally as the "Evel Knievel of the Sword", and over the years, he encountered a few injuries. At one time, a table knife accidentally slipped from his fingers into his stomach and had to be surgically removed. When doing live shows, part of his act consisted of allowing a stranger, preferably a skeptic, to come up on stage and push a blade down his throat while the Count was blindfolded. One time a young man jammed the blade down the Count's throat, brushing his heart and ripping his esophogus, sending him directly to the nearest emergency room. He has been described as being rather thin, with a red goatee and a huge red afro style hair style as big as a beach ball. He wore crimson, complete with a crimson cape even as street clothes when he was not performing, and he was known for his trademark 3" blinking medalion containing a spider with a sword through it with his blood mixed in with the spider's blood, which is how he got his nickname "Spiderman". He was seen mowing his lawn on his riding lawn mower while wearing his trademark crimson cape at his home in northern Bradford County, Pennsylvania, outside of Towanda. Count Desmond was seen doing a performance at Athens Area Middle School in Athens, PA in Bradford County in 1990. Count Desmond retired around 1994 and lives in northeastern PA, but still performs on occasion. On Sept 4, 2005, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l. Seeking photos and more information.
Count Desmond
Count Desmond on David Frost
Count Desmond's
1980 Guinness World Record Certificate
For Swallowing 13 Swords (1980)

Museum exhibit of Count Desmond
Johnny Meah
"The Czar of Bizarre"
Born 1937
Performed 1957-date
King Bros Circus
Christiani Circus
Hunt Bros Circus
O.C. Buck Shows
Ross Manning Shows
Ward Hall Show
Safety Harbor, FL
(USA)
Johnny Meah was born in Bristol, CT in 1937. In 1952 at the age of 14, he spent his summer vacation from school with the Zachinni family, traveling with the King Bros Circus and the Christiani Circus. In 1954, Meah joined the Hunt Bros Circus as a candy butcher where he sold candy floss. Two of the clowns, Ray Sinclair and Paul Kaye got Meah to participate in an act about a quarter of the way through the season. Meah was on the track with his floss and the clowns started clowning around him. He started to run, and one of the clowns grabbed the back of his breakaway pants, pulled them off, leaving Meah to run out the back door in his skivvies, still holding the board of floss cones over his head. During this time, Meah worked with George Dalton, who also worked as a candy butcher with the Hunt Bros Circus in 1954, and who began learning sword swallowing during that season. Meah continued learning sword swallowing in 1955 while clowning with the Hunt Brothers Circus, but didn't start performing professionally as a sword swallower until 1957 while employed by Leola Tracy who had the sideshow with Ross Manning Shows. He began painting sideshow banners in the late 1950s, and during the next two decades, he worked with numerous circuses and sideshows, but garnered the majority of his notoriety as a banner painter, forcing him to balance his focus between the two arts.  In 1980 Meah returned to performing full-time with the Hall & Christ Worlds of Wonders Show.  He worked for Ward for several years until 1994. Meah has been especially known over the years for both his sideshow banner art and sword swallowing, and he still enjoys clowning on an occasional basis. Meah wrote a novel about carnival life called "Polidore" (2003). Meah is semi-retired and living in Safety Harbor, FL with his wife, Mary, where they enjoy the theater and studying Eastern philosophy. On "International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day" February 28, 2008, Meah was awarded the SSAI Lifetime Achievement Award by the Sword Swallower's Association International for his years of service to the art of sword swallowing.
Harvey Eldred Injured 1958 Kalamazoo, MI
(USA)
A Chicago Daily Tribune article dated Aug 24, 1958 states, "Harvey Eldred, professional sword swallower, was in the hospital Saturday. He had a sore throat." Seeking photos and more information.
Chicago Trib article (1958)
Ricky Richiardi
Ricky Richardi
Born around 1932
Performed 1955-69
Died January 30, 1970
Ringling Brothers Circus
Hoxie Bros Circus
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Ricky Richiardi or Richardi was born in Atlanta, GA around 1932. He performed as a sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus in Chicago IL as early as July 23, 1955 at about the age of 23. Richiardi swallowed up to 4 swords at one time as early as 1958, was a friend of Mimi Garneau, and worked with Hoxie Brothers Circus from 1965 to 1969. According to some descriptions, he was "very good looking, very dark skinned, with black hair, and very smooth when he performed his act". Besides being known as a sword swallower, Richiardi also performed as a wire walker, cloud swing artist, and he was reputed to have done a great "Lionel The Lion Faced Boy" pit show. In the fall of 1969, he taught sword swallowing to Sandra Reed in Gibsonton, Florida, made Sandra's sword shield, gave her some of his old swords, and taught her how to put together a good act. Richiardi lived in Gibsonton, Florida, and was killed by a hit and run driver in a pickup truck while walking south of town near Moore Haven, Florida on January 30, 1970 at the age of 38. He was a member of the Greater Tampa Showman's Association, and the International Independent Showman's Association. He was survived by his parents, five brothers and two sisters, and his remains are interred at Showman's Rest in Tampa, FL. Seeking photos and more information.
Ricky Richiardi Pitch card
Ricky Richiardi
Ricky Richiardi with Hoxie Bros
Ricky Richiardi
The Baron
Baron Dudley of the Blades Baker
(Bill Unks)
Born about 1942
Performed 1959-91
Hoxie Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros
Coney Island Sideshow
New York, NY
York, PA
(USA)
Bill Unks began working with Amazing Vanteen's Circus of the Fantastic in January 1959 as their fire-eater. Later in '59, he joined Capell Bros. Carnival at their winter quarters in Coolidge, AZ. In May, 1960, he booked back on Foley and Burke with Gary Hearn. In 1960, Unks became a sword swallower at the age of 18, and continued to work with the show in 1964, '66, and '67, when he was featured in the film "She Freak". Unks continued to work with Vanteen and Lee through '69, until they had an altercation and Unks left the show in Sioux Falls, SD in 1970. Sometime in the 1960's during the off season, Unks happened to be working in a Los Angeles County Hospital where he found the sad and depressed sideshow performer Schlitzie had been committed. Schlitzie missed the carnival, missed his friends and the adoration of the crowds. Hospital authorities eventually determined that the best care for Schlitzie would be to make him a ward of Unks' employer, showman Sam Kortes, which they did until Schlitzie's death in 1971. Bill Unks worked under the stage name The Baron with Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus in '74, with Hoxie Brothers Circus in '76-'78 and into the '80s as sword swallower and fire-eater, and worked with Bobby Reynolds in the 1980s. In 1985, Unks attempted to teach Penn Jillette how to swallow a sword for the Penn and Teller Public TV show "Penn and Teller Go Public". In 1991, Unks visited and worked at Coney Island in New York. When he worked at Coney Island, he only swallowed swords while sitting down, as he had been partially retired from sword swallowing for a while after earlier injuring himself. Unks taught sword swallowing to Frank Hartman around 1994-95, and Hartman later bought some of the Baron's swords. Seeking photos and more information.
Baron Bill Unks with Hoxie Brothers
Bill Unks teaching Penn Gillette (video)
Sir Frances Durran
Sir Frances Doran
Francis Doran
Francis Duran
Francis Durran
Francis Durant
Frankie Dorn
Francis P. Doran
Born c 1918
Performed 1960-1979
Died 1979
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus
Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey
Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonder
(USA)
Francis Doran learned sword swallowing from Ward Hall in 1960, and performed with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders from 1960 to 1965, with Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus in 1966-67, with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders from 1967 to 1969. In June 1969, an article circulated the US with the caption "Francis P. Doran, 51, rests in a Houston hospital after neon tube exploded inside him." After recuperating from his injury, Doran worked with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders again from 1969 to 1973, when he taught Jimmy Rapp how to swallow swords on Rapp's first attempt while they were both working with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders. Doran then went on to work with Hoxie Brothers Circus, Ringling Brothers and John Bradshaw in 1977 and 1978. Lady Sandra Reed began working on stage with Doran in 1978 when Doran's health began to fail. In 1978, Doran also began teaching Lady Diane Falk how to swallow swords, and he gave most of his collection of swords to her. Doran died in 1979 at the age of 61 from an accident which had happened ten years earlier in 1969 when the neon tube exploded inside him, causing his lungs to fill with fluid. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Doran Banner
Francis Doran on stage
Francis Doran seated
Francis Doran swallowing 1
Francis Doran swallowing 3
Francis Doran swallowing multiples
Orchanté
(Tom Orchard)
Born 1943
Performed 1961-96
Doncaster
(UK)
Born part Maori in 1943 in Auckland, New Zealand, Orchanté began sword swallowing in 1961 at the age of 17, the youngest sword swallower at the time. He toured the length and breadth of the UK and Ireland at least twice a year, working in various clubs, discos, and hotels performing sword swallowing, fire-eating, blockhead, and the string out of the stomach routine from 1987 up to 1996 before retiring in Doncaster, UK in 1996. He currently lives in New Zealand, where he is in the process of writing the autobiography of his life.
Don Carlos Performed 1962 Sells and Gray Sideshow
TX
(USA)
Don Carlos performed as fire-eater and sword swallower on the Sells and Gray Circus Sideshow in 1962. Seeking photos and more information.
Chuck & Leila Fuller with SwSw Don Carlos (1962)
Mike Burford
Michael Burford
Born Sept 3, 1956
Performed 1962-?
Henry Valentine Shows
Austin, TX
(USA)
Mike Burford was born in Waterloo, Iowa on Sept 3, 1956. He grew up on the sideshow midway with his father, Henry Valentine, who had 3 different sideshows, an illlusion show, and many grind shows. Mike began to learn sword swallowing and fire-eating from his father at an early age, and was performing on stage as sword swallower and fire-eater by the time he had turned 6 around the year 1962. By the time Burford had reached his 15th birthday, he had played every major state fair in the US. On Sept 3, 1972, Burford celebrated his 16th birthday while working on the Hall and Christ Sideshow as the "World's Youngest Sword Swallower". A cake was presented to him onstage at the Ohio State Fair, and it went over so well that they repeated the stunt at every show that day - eight times in all. Burford later served in the U.S. Army in Korea and elsewhere in the Orient. Upon discharging from the service, Burford returned to a society he didn't fit into. The traditional carnival sideshows had just about died out, so Burford went in search of a new "midway" where he could put his "carnie education" to good use. His search eventually landed him in Austin TX, which was home to a sizeable "artist's community" and it was here where his experience with the carnival, and the knowledge gained from his old tattoo artist friends on the midway that he was to form a partnership with old time Carnie tattooist Singapore John Anderson, where he had the perfect opportunity to use his unusual life experiences in a whole new venue, on a brand new stage on a new kind of freak show. Mike and Singapore John opened their first studio, Singapore John's Tattoo Arcade. By 2001, Burford had 10 studios in Austin and one in San Marcos, TX. But the stress of managing the studios, along with Austin's urban sprawl, crime, and drug-abuse was taking its toll. So Burford closed down the shops, and took over management of a historic TX roadhouse, Henry's Hideout, located near the TX Renaissance Festival. Mike and Ed opened their first studio Ol Poop & Rudy's Olde School Tattoo and Professional Piercing, in Bryan, TX in Dec. 2003, and their second studio, Pinky's New School Tattoos and Exotic Piercing in College Station in May 2005. Burford now runs several tattoo parlors throughout TX. To view photos and read stories of Mike's days on his dad's shows, visit www.mburford.com
Seeking photos and more information.
Eddie Miller Performed c 1963-79? Toni Del Rio
Worlds of Wonders
John Bradshaw
(USA)
Eddie Miller learned sword swallowing from Toni Del Rio in the early 1960s (1963-'64), and did several acts such as knife throwing with a number of shows. Miller did his sword swallowing and knife throwing act with Ward Hall's "Worlds of Wonders" Show in 1973. John Bradshaw added Eddie Miller to his show as knife thrower at the Midsouth Fair in Memphis in 1979, and David Sweeney lectured for Eddie Miller on the John Bradshow shows in 1979. Miller dressed in a black western costume resembling Johnny Cash and had a very flashy knife act using butcher knives. In 1973, Miller had a pregnant woman assistant with him who was beginning to show her pregnancy and was ultimately too nervous to stand against the board that Miller threw his knives at. Because she and other women with the show were concerned about Miller's performing after drinking, it was difficult if not impossible to get a female assistant to be part of Miller's knife throwing act. So front talker Diego Domingo volunteered to be his assistant for an extra $10 dollars a week for his heroism. If Domingo tried to watch the knives being thrown towards him, he would flinch in the wrong direction, so he closed his eyes, and only moved when he felt Miller's hand on his shoulder indicating the end of the act so he could go back to working the front. Miller only filled in with sword swallowing on a few occasions, but when he did, it was memorable. He stepped foward with a sword and two knives. "It says on the tape that I swallow daggers, swords, and bayonets..." He swallowed the dagger, then the sword. "...and bayonets. Watch how high the bayonet goes..." He got down on one knee, swallowed the K-Bar, then flicked it with his thumb about eight feet in the air and stood up so the blade stuck in the floor between his feet. Sir Frances Doran commented that "...it was a pretty act". In 1981 Eddie Miller wintered in Gibsonton, FL with sword swallower Lady Diane Falk. It has been rumored that Miller was last known working at a telemarketing job sometime in the early 80's. Seeking photos and more information.
King Daredevil
(Danny Larsen)
Born Dec 18, 1943
Performed 1963-2003
Died Jan 29, 2008
Royal American
Independent Midways
Royal Canadian ThrillSeekers
Ringling Bros Sideshow
British Columbia
(CANADA)
Danny Larsen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 18, 1943. He learned sword swallowing in 1963 at around the age of 21 in the Vancouver area, and performed under the stage name King Daredevil. Larsen performed as a contortionist, fire-eater, fire-breather, and human blockhead. Larsen had his worst sword swallowing accident early in his career in a Vancouver nightclub around 1963-64 at the age of about 21 when someone surprised him while swallowing a sword, causing him to split his neck and vocal cords, and leaving him with a 14" scar on the right side of his neck. Larsen performed sword swallowing for over 40 years since 1963 with shows such as the Thomas West Coast Amusement Show, Royal American, Independent Midways, Ringling Brothers Sideshow, and his own Royal Canadian Thrill Seekers Show which he toured Canada with for many years. Over his career, Larsen swallowed neon tubes, the serpentine "snake" sword, long swords up to 30" in length, and multiple sword sandwiches up to 12 swords with 23" (58,4 cm) blades. In September 1979, Larsen performed on the TV show "Beyond Reason", where he set the Guinness World Record for swallowing twelve 23" long swords at one time, and for swallowing swords up to 30" long, both of which were admitted into the 1980 and 1981 Guinness World Record books. At one point in his life, Larsen was knighted by the King/Queen of his native Denmark. He resided with his wife Esther in Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada, where he worked as an advocate for the disabled until his death on January 29, 2008 at MSA General Hospital in Abbottsford BC of lung Cancer at the age of 65. Seeking photos and more information.
Charlotte Hoyer Unknown
Possibly 40s-50?
(Germany) Charlotte Hoyer was apparently a professional sword swallower in Germany. She was tattooed and may have also been a tattoo artist and photographer. Seeking dates. photos and more information.
Charlotte Hoyer
Edward Ernest Willis, Sr. Born July 4, 1924
Died Aug 14, 1995
Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus
Portland, OR
(USA)
Edward Ernest Willis Sr. was born on July 4, 1924 in Seaside, OR, and moved to Portland as a child, where he graduated from Raleigh Hills High School and later served in the merchant marine. According to his obituary in the The Oregonian (Portland, OR) dated August 17, 1995: EDWARD ERNEST WILLIS SR. Mr. Willis died Aug. 14 in Milwaukie at age 71. He traveled with the Barnum & Bailey Circus as a sword swallower before returning to Portland. He worked as a paramedic for Bucks Ambulance and then for Boeing Company for 20 years. He retired in 1986. He married Margaret Brackenbury on Dec. 28, 1964. They moved to Oroville, Calif., in 1987. Mr. Willis was a member of the New Life Christian Center in Thermalito, Calif. A funeral will be at 1 p.m. Friday, Aug. 18, 1995, in Bateman Carroll Funeral Chapel in Gresham. Interment will follow in Willamette National Cemetery. Survivors are his wife; sons, Leslie Bohrer of Deer Lodge, Mont., and Edward Jr. and Harold, both of Oroville, Calif.; daughters, Bernice Nolen of Portland, Jeannette Brackenbury of Fairview, and Cindy McKinnon, Sharon McKinnon and Nona Fox, all of Oroville; sister, Jeannette Schnelting of Fairview; 24 grandchildren; and one great-grandchild. Seeking photos and more information.
Stan Marye Born Oct. 18, 1937
Performed 1958-65
Glades Amusements
Helen Golden
AZ State Fair
Royal American Circus
James E Strates/Kelly/Sutton
Kitty Kelly
Johnny Howard
Pete Kortes
Noel Lester
Robie Del Mar
Jerry Lipko
Charlie Roark
Stu Miller
Vanteen & Lee
Ward Hall
RB Thomas Shows
King Brothers Circus
Kelly Miller Bros
Wellsville, NY
Binghamton, NY
Whitney Point, NY
(USA)
Stan Marye began learning sword swallowing at the age of 14 after reading the condensed version of the Daniel Mannix book "Step Right Up" in Reader's Digest. Marye ran away from home in Wellsville, NY in 1954 at the age of 16 and worked as a canvas tramp for Tiny Cowens with Glades Amusements. One of the first sideshow acts Marye learned was fire-eating, which he learned by using cotton as a wick on a coat hanger with acetone for fuel. Marye saw his first sword swallower, Don Ward, in 1957 when Marye and Ward both worked for Helen Golden at the Arizona State Fair for a week in Phoenix, AZ. There were actually two sideshows playing the same midway at the same time, with Helen Golden's sideshow on the side, and Pete Kortes' Freak Show on the back end. After watching and talking with Don Ward for a week, Marye studied the Mannix article "Step Right Up", the book Gray's Anatomy, and practiced with a coat hanger until he managed to swallow his first sword in 1958. He claims he "learned the art by trial and error - mainly error!" Marye first began sword swallowing professionally with a carnival at the age of 20 when he performed the bed of nails and fire-eating, and eventually worked in sword swallowing. At 6'2" and 145 pounds, he was known as "the only sword swallower who didn't swallow a sword", as he used to begin his act by swallowing a bent coat hanger, then a stove poker, a long handled spoon, and a bayonet, but not a full-sized sword. Eventually, he worked in swallowing a Toledo blade. He complained that working without a public address system sometimes gave him laryngitis, and he always stayed underweight, as "there are no calories in a stove poker." In 1958 Marye worked for Kitty Kelly on the James E. Strates/Kelly/Sutton Show in Garden City, KS. In 1958, he also worked as the sword swallower for Royal American Circus, sometime after Estelline Pike had left. Her son, Jimmy Lucky Ball II visited and performed once with Royal American Circus once during a visit in 1958. In 1959, Marye worked for Pete Kortes, and on Election Day 1959, he and two other sideshow performers were featured on TV on Art Linkletter's House Party which was televised live from the AZ State Fair. In 1959, Marye also worked for Ward Hall and Harry Leonard for one week in La Porte, IN, and for Vanteen and Lee at a street fair in El Paso, TX. In 1960, Marye worked for Jerry Lipko with Fat Lady Sword Swallower Vickie Pope who swallowed some of Stan's swords, including his 1860 Cavalry saber. Pope was billed as the "Fat Lady Sword Swallower", but both she and Marye swallowed swords with the show. In 1960, Marye started the year working for Noel Lester who did a mermaid illusion show on the James E. Strates show. In 1960 Marye met a girl in Whitney Point, NY and they got married in 1960. Together they worked carnivals with Jerry Lipko and finished the year out in November 1960 working a sideshow with Bill Chalcus in Jacksonville, FL. In 1961, they started the year working for Robie Del Mar in central Florida, then worked in Texas for Gary Hearn, and eventually worked for Johnny Howard on RB Thomas Shows. Marye swallowed a neon tube for a few years until one day in 1961 when he was performing a free show in front of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD. At the time, Marye had no extension cord for the transformer for his neon tube, so he set the transformer on a chair and had to get down on his knees to swallow the tube. As he was swallowing the tube, the light suddenly went out, and he knew something had gone wrong. After very carefully removing the tube, he began to check the tube to locate the crack, but was surprised when he found no crack at all. Apparently, the tube was not broken, but the cord has just pulled loose. After this scare, he was never able to swallow the neon tube again. From 1962-1965 he and his wife working for Charlie Roark with King Brothers Circus. In December 1962 through January 1963, they worked for Stu Miller who was sideshow manager for Kelly Miller Brothers Circus in Kingston Jamaica. According to a newspaper article, Marye was "an omnivorous gent who downed broadswords like they were oysters". As part of his show, he would swallow a parade sword with a blade length of 27 1/2 inches, a 20 inch stove poker, a 22 inch barbeque skewer, an 18 inch tri-cornered Civil War bayonet, an 18 inch broadsword that was 1.5 inches wide, and a 15 inch Army serving spoon. He would also swallow a "Hot Sandwich" of two swords with a lit cigarette wedged between them, then remove the swords and continue smoking the cigarette. He also swallowed a multiple sword sandwich of up to 5 swords, until he had an injury in 1962 while swallowing the 5 swords in Cadiz, KY. After this, he would swallow a sword sandwich of 3 swords - 1 wide broadsword with a blade 1 1/2" wide in the middle between two narrower swords. In 1965, he watched Count Desmond swallow his first sword in Binghamton, NY. In 1965, he got a "real job" in construction, but returned to show business in 1968 working with a tented theater in Bridgeport, CT. He and his wife moved back to Binghamton NY in 1972. In 1976 he was hired to work for 8 weeks as the tent manager for Disney for the largest tented circus in Johannesburg, South Africa, but the job stretched out longer and he and his family didn't leave until 20 months later. In 1987, he swallowed a coat hanger for the crew of "Kool and the Gang". He and his wife reside in Whitney Point, NY. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Stan Marye article
Harry Wagner Performed 1960 Bill Chalicus
(USA)
Harry Wagner worked as the sword swallower for Bill Chalicus in 1960. Seeking photos and more information.
Vickie Pope
"The Sword Swallowing Fat Lady"
Performed early 1960s Jerry Lipko
Jim Steinmetz
Goodings Magic Midway
Ward Hall
Worlds of Wonder
(USA)
Vickie Pope worked as "The Sword Swallowing Fat Lady" for sideshow manager Jerry Lipko in 1960 with sword swallower Stan Marye. Pope was billed as the "Fat Lady Sword Swallower", but both she and Marye swallowed swords with the show, and Pope swallowed some of Stan's swords, including his 1860 Cavalry saber. At one point, Pope's neon tube broke inside her, and after she removed it, she commented, "That's going to cost me $7 for another one!" (At that time, they only made about $5/week). Pope also worked for Jim Steinmetz on Goodings Magic Midway in the 1960's, and for Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders show in later years. Seeking photos and more information.
Vickie Pope as Fat Lady
Dingi
Cherokee Sword Swallower
Performed early 1960s Ward Hall
Worlds of Wonder
Oklahoma
(USA)
Dingi was a Native American Cherokee sword swallower from Oklahoma who worked with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders Show in the 1960s as an Indian fakir. Seeking photos and more information.
Dingi
Sir Thomas Thomas
Arthur Thomas
Born circa 1933-34
Performed 1961-66?
Dick Best's Side Show
Royal American Shows
Ringling Brothers Circus
East Rutherford, NJ
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Arthur Thomas worked on the canvas crew for Dick Best's Side Show for Royal American Shows in 1960 when Jim Lucky Ball II was the talker and sword swallower with the show. It is believed Thomas learned sword swallowing from Ball's mother Estelline Pike between 1960-62. According to an Appleton, WI Post Crescent article dated January 1, 1966, Sir Thomas Thomas had taught sword swallowing to Jim Scott of Crystal Falls, MI in Chicago in 1962, and in 1966 Sir Thomas Thomas was a sword swallower with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus. Seeking photos and more information.
Sir Thomas Thomas pitchcard to Estelline Pike
Lee Bradley Performed 1962 Hunt Brothers Circus
Bridgeport, CT
(USA)
According to the Bridgeport CT Post article dated June 18, 1962, Sword Swallower Lee Bradley with the Hunt Brothers Circus was "stuck" when a child ran off with his 14-inch silver sword. Seeking photos and more information.
Peanuts the Sword Swallower
(?)
Performed 1962-65 Sells and Gray Show
Bob Earl Show
(USA)
Peanuts worked as the sword swallower and fire-eater with the Sells and Gray Show in 1962, and as the sideshow operator for the Bob Earl Show in 1965. Peanuts lived in a Plymouth sedan with his dog. The entire back seat of the car was full to the windows with stuff, and he had a blade box lying on top of the pile about window level. That meant that Peanut's living space was the front seat of the car, which he shared with his dog. Peanuts was short several of the essential amenities of life, and he looked it. He was always unkempt. After many years of traveling without washing facilities, the dirt had ground into him and his skin was a swarthy color. In all the years that he had been a fire eater, he had burned out all his taste buds. When he came to the dining top cookhouse, he would sit down and start pulling from his pockets all kinds of bottles of hot sauce, which he would pour liberally on the food, just so he could taste something. Seeking photos and more information.
David L. Vaughn Born c 1916
Performed 1965
Christiani Wallace Bros Circus
Greensboro, NC
(USA)
David L. Vaughn of Greensboro, NC was swordswallower and contortonist with Christiani Wallace Bros. Circus in June 1965. Seeking photos, dates, and more information.
Wäinö Hamari Born April 29, 1943
Performed 1965-76
(Finland) Finnish magician Wäinö Hamari bought a sword from Aleksander Casso, and performed sword swallowing in Finland from 1965-1976.
Jim Scott Performed 1966 King Reid Shows
Kelly Miller Brothers Circus
Royal Canadian Shows
Vanteen and Lee
Crystal Falls, MI
Marquette, MI
(USA)
Jim Scott graduated from Crystal Falls, MI High School in 1962, and went to Chicago, where he learned sword swallowing from Ringling Brothers sword swallower Sir Thomas Thomas. In 1966, he was a junior at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI and worked on the summer show circuit where he performed fire-eating and sword swallowing. Before that, he had worked with King Reid Shows, Kelly Miller Brothers Circus and Royal Canadian Shows. In the summer of 1966, he was scheduled to work with Vanteen and Lee Sideshow, a part of Century 21 Shows on the west coast. According to a January 1, 1966 article in the Appleton, WI Post Crescent, "The learning process was slow," Scott said. "The hardest part was overcoming the impulse to gag when I'd lower something down my throat. I began by swallowing a small, flat iron bar. After I became accustomed to the bar, I next worked with bayonets, and then finally graduated to swords". He took his apprentice sword-swallowing from Sir Thomas Thomas, sword-swallower with Ringling Brothers. Through constant practice, Scott now can swallow four swords at a time. He also swallows an interesting variety of other articles including corkscrews, keyhole saws, giant shears, and neon tubes. "The thing I hate most to swallow is neon." Scott said. "I used tubes in one of my acts for a while, but there is always the great danger of one shattering when it is inside your mouth or body that it just isn't worth taking the chance." Seeking photos and more information.
Chris M. Christ Performed 1966-77 Hall & Christ
Worlds of Wonder Show

Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Chris M. Christ learned sword swallowing from Francis Doran in 1966-67 when he co-managed the Hall & Christ Worlds of Wonder Show with Ward Hall and performed as a sword swallower until about 1977. At one point while Christ was swallowing a sword, his dentures came loose and dropped down his throat, lodging the sword in place. With the help of sideshow electrician Red Trower (who later became a sword swallower himself), they managed to remove the sword and dentures from his throat. Over his long career in the sideshow business, he taught sword swallowing to Dale Pritchard, Edward Robinson/ Phoenix Blaze, Matthew Bouvier, and other sword swallowers. Together with Ward Hall, they produced sideshows for Circus Vargas, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, and countless state fairs over the decades. Christ continues to operate the Worlds of Wonders show with his partner Ward Hall out of Gibsonton, FL.
Doc Blood
Ricardo the Sword Swallower
Rick Dennis
Born June 5, 1952
Performed 1966-94
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros
Carson & Barnes Circus
Sells & Gray Circus
Circus Bartok
World of Wonders
New York
(USA)
Rick Dennis was born on June 5, 1952 and grew up in Vestal, NY where he started his career as a magician at the age of 10, and got hired on the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus lot in New York in the summer of 1966 at the age of 13 booked as "the world's youngest sword swallower". During the summer of 1966, he worked with and studied Francis Doran perform sword swallowing, and secretly taught himself how to swallow coathangers and eventually swords during the summer of 1966 at the age of 13. In the Fall of 1966, Dennis taught Joe Prosch ("De Lion") how to eat fire and swallow swords. Dennis worked with Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus again the following summers of 1967 to '69, where he got to work with and study sword swallowing with The Baron when they both worked with Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus in 1968 and '69. In about 1970, Dennis worked a short season with his fellow sword swallower Count Desmond for Circus Bartok before they began working night clubs together in the early 70s. In 1973, Dennis worked with the Sells and Gray Circus. According to a April 16, 1973 Circus Report, "Jon Friday, sideshow manager with Sells & Gray Circus reports they have the world's youngest sword swallower - he's 20 year old Rick Dennis." In the mid 1970s, Dennis worked with Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show under the "European Illusion Theater" around 1974-76. In 1977, Dennis put together his own 10-in-1 show which worked with Coleman Brothers in New England. Around 1978 Dennis taught John Stevens how to swallow swords and eat fire behind his garage. Dennis also worked with Jackie Lynn on Carson and Barnes Circus Sideshow in 1978-79 under Jim Steinmetz, and with several other shows until 1987. In 1988 Dennis put together four grind shows with fold-out panels and worked with J & J Amusements in Allentown, PA. Besides sword swallowing his favorite 22" nickel-plated blade given to him by Count Desmond, Dennis also did fire-eating, knife throwing, juggling, bed of nails, suspended straight jacket escape, low wire walk, was the sideshow talker, and occasionally the Big Show announcer. Dennis is semi-retired from sword swallowing, but still takes his shows out on the road about 6 months every summer. Seeking photos and more information.
De Lion
(Joe Prosch)
Performed 1966 Endicott, NY
Melbourne, FL
(USA)
Joe Prosch learned fire-eating and sword swallowing in the Fall of 1966 from Rick Dennis. Prosch went on to perform in his own night club act as a magician, fire-eater, sword swallower and stand-up comedian under the stage name "De Lion". He was known to have performed his sword swallowing as the Magic Bartender at the Glass Onion in Rochester, NY in the late 70s, and eventually owned his own large club in Syracuse, NY. He is now living in Melbourne, FL. Seeking photos and more information.
"Red" Stuart
(John Stuart XXVIII)
Born March 21, 1951
Performed 1967-date
Toni Del Rio
Johnny Howard
Pete Kortes
Gary Hearn
Wm D Stanley
Jimmy Dixon
Bernard Thomas
Ward Hall
Worlds of Wonders Show
American Dime Museum
Philadelphia, PA
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
John "Red" Stuart was born in Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on March 21, 1951. When he was 4, his mother put him up for adoption in Philadelphia, PA. He grew up in an orphanage and foster homes until he graduated from high school in 1967. After hitchhiking across the US, he got a job with Ted's Rides at a carnival in Choctaw, Louisiana on Easter weekend 1967. Red learned sword swallowing and fire eating from a gypsy sideshow owner named Toni Del Rio in 1967 at the age of 16, and performed with a number of shows over 40+ years including working for Toni Del Rio ('67-'68), Johnny Howard ('69), Pete Kortes ('69), Gary Hearn ('70), William D. Stanley Shows ('72-'73), Jimmy Dixon on Mighty Thomas Shows ('74), with Bernard Thomas Shows ('76-'78), Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show ('89-'91), and the American Dime Museum, and often wintered in Gibsonton, FL. In 1976, Red was known as Lizard Red, the caretaker and sleeping bag bedmate of Haa-Soo, the smallest of 8 Komodo dragons in captivity in the US (photo taken in Leithbridge Alberta, Canada in 1976). In 1977, the clown Skippy Siegel offered to sell Red an A-frame that he could use to lower a car axel down his throat, but Red couldn't afford the A-frame at the time. Instead Ward Hall got Red a Model A car axle, which Red swallowed on the World of Wonders 1977-78 season, and continued to swallow on Ward's World of Wonders Show until 1990. Red is known for swallowing multiple swords, kriss blades, wide broadsword blades, fire pokers, sword sheaths, and the car axle. He has taught sword swallowing to a number of other sword swallowers, including Charon Henning in 2002. On September 3, 2005, he swallowed 25 swords at one time, with each sword at least 18" long x 1/2" in width, which was recognized by Guinness World Records as part of the group mass swallow Guinness World Record (video). On Sept 4, 2005, Red was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award by Dan Meyer of the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l Red has now been swallowing swords for over 40 years, and is one of the top 20 oldest sword swallowers still performing in the world. Red retired from the road in 1996, and is now semi-retired in Gibsonton, FL when he is not performing with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders Show. Several of Red Stuart's swords and his car axle are in the archival collection of the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l.
Red Stuart, Fridley MN (1970s)
Red Stuart, Waterloo IA (1972)
Red Stuart with Komodo dragon (1976)
Red Stuart, Huron SD (1977)
Red Stuart, Lost Angeles set (1980s)
Red Stuart (1980-90s)
Red Stuart, Sideshow Gathering (2002)
Red Stuart, Sideshow Gathrinng (2002)
Red Stuart, Sideshow Gathering (2002)
Red Stuart swallowing Mimi Garneau's sword (2002)
Red Stuart swallowing serpentine (2004)
Rosemary Puente
Rose Maria Puente
Born Sept 3, 1943
Performed 1968
Injured February 25, 1968
Died February 27, 1968
King Reid Shows
Kelly Miller Brothers Circus
Royal Canadian Shows
Vanteen and Lee
Dallas, TX
(USA)
Sword swallower Rosemary Puente was married to Arthuro Puente, and they had two children, Aaron and Michelle Puente. Puente performed with King Reid Shows, Kelly Miller Brothers Circus, and Royal Canadian Shows with Vanteen and Lee. On February 25 1968 Rosemary Puente suffered a tiny quarter-inch injury in her esophagus while practicing with a bayonet at home for friends of her husband. After the accident, she laid down on a bed to rest while her husband went to work. When Arthuro later returned home from work, he found Rosemary laying in the same position, and discovered that she was dead and that rigormortis had already set in. According to a March 2, 1968 obituary in the Washington Post Times Herald: "DALLAS, Texas, March 1 (AP) -- An infection in a tiny cut in the throat caused the death of a sword swallower, Rosemary Puente, County Medical Examiner Earl Rese said today." An article in the March 1, 1968 Odessa American reported, "DALLAS (UPI) - A medical examiner said Thursday a tiny, infected cut in the esophagus caused the death of 25-year-old Rosemary Puente, a female sword swallower. The cut, less than a quarter-inch long, was inflicted during a sword swallowing practice session Sunday. Mrs. Puente was given an examination after the accident but showed no sign of Illness. The cut became infected and she later became ill and died. She was found dead Tuesday afternoon." Rosemary Puente died on February 27, 1968 at the age of 25. The death certificate stated the cause of death was "Acute purulent mediastinitis and infection of soft tissue of neck due to lacerated esophagus while demonstrating sword swallowing". Puente left two children, Aaron Garcia, who was 3 years, 2 months, and 18 days old, and Michelle, who was 20 months old. She is buried in a cemetary in Dallas, Texas, and is survived by her daughter Michelle, and her son Aaron, who lives in San Diego, CA. Seeking photos and more information.
Rosemary Puente
Rosemary & Arthuro Puente Wedding
Rosemary & Arthuro Puente
Rosemary Puente & Children
Dallas Location of Death
Bed that Rosemary Puente died in
Rosemary Puente Death Certificate
Rosemary Puente headstone
Rosemary Puente News Articles
Clinton Ross Born Jan 8, 1948
Performed 1969-1989
Plymouth, MA
(USA)
Clinton Ross was born on January 8, 1948 and learned sword swallowing from a book around 1969 at the age of 21. He swallowed a sword with 24 inch long blade for over 20 years. Ross retired from sword swallowing around 1989. "No photographs... only memories." The town of Plymouth MA has had "Sword Swallowing" listed as his profession for over the past 11 years. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Josef Zehetbauer
Joe Jagger
Born August 26, 1947
Died May 31, 2007
Reeperbahn, Hamburg
Mauerberg,
Garching an der Alz
(Germany)
Joe Jagger was born Josef Zehetbauer on August 26, 1947 in Mauerberg in Garching an der Alz Germany. During his career as a sword swallower and fire-eater, Jagger performed shows at the Reeperbahn in Hamburg, and had engagements as far away as Las Vegas Nevada. As proof of his art, he displayed x-rays of him swallowing swords, and he let audiences check out his sword before performances. The sword was forged from one piece. When he returned to the region after a long absence, he refused a bottle of beer at the tavern bar, shrugged his shoulders and shouted, "Hey bartender! I just got a degree in Las Vegas! Bring on a carton of whiskey and an arm full of bubbly!" That was Jagger at the height of his career. Years later, when his fame had faded, a table was placed in marquees where the art of sword swallowing was celebrated. If the Kapellmeister had not been there, he would have been totally drunk and fallen off the stage with his sword in his throat. When Jagger turned 40 years old, he began drinking again. He drank more than he could handle and eventually began missing engagements. His market value fell, and for a liter of beer he would make a fool of himself. Jagger also owned an ape and a python. The life of the primate came to an abrupt end when the monkey tried to feed the reptile, as he had always done when Jagger was on tour, and the snake caught and devoured the monkey. Jagger earned good money during his career, and would have been successful had he been more disciplined. During his last years, the sword swallowing did not matter to him. He began being seen wearing makeup, women's clothes, nylons, high heels, and riding a bicycle with a trailer on which a coffin was attached. This is how he presented himself at rural folk festivals. He traveled his last years with a coffin on wheels, pulled by the bicycle. His home was an old caravan which burned down at some point. He died at the age of 60, drowned in a shallow pond at Park Muhldorfer moat on May 31, 2007. No one knows exactly how he died, but one can only guess. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Joe Jagger
Joe Jagger
Article (in German)
Video
Tommy Dworzack Born c 1957
Performed 1969-?
Starr Bros Circus Sideshow
(USA)
Tommy Dworzack started sword swallowing at the age of 12, and now runs the sideshow for Starr Brothers Circus. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Crazy Horse Performed 1969-71 Laguna Beach, CA
(USA)
Crazy Horse was a towering street performing hippie sword swallower with Tomothy Leary's Laguna Beach Brotherhood in Laguna Beach, CA in the late 1960's who wore a safety pin through his nose. Seeking dates, photos, and more information.
Crazy Horse with Laguna Beach Police Officer Neil Purcell (1969)
Lady Sandra
Queen of Swords
(Sandy Conners)
(Sandy Reed)
(Sandra Reed)
Born 1945
Performed 1969-80
Kelly/Sutton Show
Ringling Bros
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros
Circus Vargas
Circus World
John Bradshaw
Ward Hall Show
Tampa, FL
(USA)
Lady Sandra Reed was an albino sword swallower known as "Queen of the Swords". Born in 1945 near the Adirondacks in New York state, Sandy Reed grew up in Hermon, NY. Along with her sisters, Rita and Doreene, Sandy got her start in the sideshow industry in 1969 at the age of 24 as an albino lecturer with the Slim Kelly and Whitey Sutton shows on the James E. Strates Shows. "I wanted something else to do," Reed reflected. After working with the sword swallower Louise Chibanny in the late 60s, Sandy began to learn the art of sword swallowing from fellow performer sword swallower Ricky Richiardi in Gibsonton Florida in the fall of 1969. Ricky made Sandra's sword shield, gave her some of his swords, and taught her how to put together a good act with a repertoire of feats. "The lady sword swallower, Lady Louise, had broken her ankle and couldn't perform," Reed recalls. Sandra was asked to fill in and soon was performing as a featured act. Reed had never heard of photographer Diane Arbus when the photographer and a male companion approached her before a carnival show in Hagerstown, Md., in 1970. "When I first saw them, I thought they were hippies," says Reed, recalling that Arbus was dressed entirely in denim. "She told me she was putting together a book, traveling around and seeking out people to photograph people doing things that people do." Arbus convinced Reed to pose for her and spent about 45 minutes photographing the sword swallower as she did her act in full costume in front of a billowing canvas tent. Although Arbus photographed several other performers the same day (including Reed's sisters, Doreene and Rita), her portrait of Lady Sandra entitled "Albino sword swallower at a carnival, Md. 1970," became the most well-known. Reed has fond memories of her brief encounter with Arbus and staunchly defends the photographer's methods and goals. "You wouldn't mind going out of your way to do things for her," says Reed. "She just had a way about her, very relaxed. She said, in essence, 'This is who you are, this is what you do, and this is what I want'." Sandra married Harold "Big Jim" Spohn while with the Ward Hall Show, worked with Hall/Christ and Ringling Brothers in 1973, then back with Kelly/Sutton on Strates in 1974-75, Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers, Circus Vargas, and Circus World, and at one time, Sandy and Harold were featured on the Dick Cavette Show. From 1975-1977 Sandra was featured in the Guinness Book of World Records for swallowing 5 swords at a time. In 1978-79, Sandra worked with Francis Doran on the John Bradshaw show. Hired as an albino lecturer, Sandra performed as a sword swallower only a few times when Frank Doran was ill. 1979 Sandra worked with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Brothers Circus. In her act, Sandy would swallow a French bayonet that had a point on the tip, and then swallow a WWII bayonet. She would then swallow 3 at a time, and eventually she would swallow 5 Japanese ceremonial dress swords, with the weight of the handles combined with the weight of the blades at about five pounds. Sandra also did a 7 sword sandwich with a little patter. The center sword was a Knights of Columbus sized sword, the outer swords were progressively shorter and made of thinner, more flexible steel. If the carnival crowds would start losing interest midway through her sword-swallowing act, Lady Sandra knew how to get their attention. With her head thrown back and a solid steel bayonet down her throat, she would suddenly and dramatically drop to one knee. "If the audience was asleep, it would wake them up," Sandra said with a smile. Reed retired in 1980 after Harold's death, and now lives modestly in Tampa, Florida. Although she no longer owns any swords, Reed proudly displays a small collection of photographs from her days with the carnival. Among her most treasured possessions is a poster found on a marquee in Rome by her agent, sideshow operator Ward Hall. The poster features multiple images of Reed simultaneously swallowing two swords, lifted from the famous 1970 portrait, "Albino sword swallower at a carnival, Md. 1970," by photographer Diane Arbus. Seeking photos and more information.
Sandy Reed (1970)
Sandy Reed with John Bradshaw on Sutton (1974)
Sandy Reed, Harold Spohn, John Bradshaw
Sandy Reed with CBCB (1979)
Sandy Reed with sister
Sandy Reed interview
Jackie Lynn
Jack Loonie
Jack Looney
Performed 1950-1986
Died Feb 6, 2006
Ringling Bros Circus
King Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros
Lewis Bros Cirucs
Worlds of Wonders
Toby Tyler Circus
Jenkins, KY
(USA)
Jackie Lynn Looney was born and raised in a small town in eastern Kentucky, joined a circus in his early teens in the 1940s, and as he would say, "never looked back". Early in his career, Jack went to work with Ringling Brothers Circus while they were still under canvas, and worked his way into clown alley working as a clown. During his years with Ringling Brothers, he learned sword swallowing on the Ringling Sideshow around 1950 (from Lady Patricia Zerm?). Jack worked with managers Jim and Sandy Windland, Kay Pittinger, and with the "World's Tallest Sword Swallower" and fire-eater Paul Adams (on the right in photo) with the King Brother's Circus in the 1970s. In 1978 and 1979 Jack did two tours with Rick Dennis on the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus as their sideshow sword swallower. He had dyed his hair a bright orange and would beat on a big bass drum on the bally to attract attention. During his sword swallowing show, Jack would pick a young pre-teen person from the audience and bring them on stage, and then he would swallow one sword all the way down and let the child slowly pull it out of him, while kneeling down on his knees at the child's level. Jackie also worked with John Bradshaw in the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus in 1981, when he claimed he had been swallowing swords for 31 years. Jack taught sword swallowing to Ricky Hargrove when they both worked with Lewis Brothers Circus in 1981-83. Jack had a big scrapbook loaded with newspaper clippings and photographs, which he was very proud of. If he liked you, he would pull it out and share stories from it, including his experience with the great Ringling circus fire in Hartford, CT on July 6, 1944, and the time he swallowed a neon tube on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Jack did not own a home of his own, so he tried to tour as much as possible. When he did have down time, he would go to Kentucky. In 1985 he was with Chris Christ on Circus USA. His last season on the road was with Ward Hall and Chris Christ's Worlds of Wonders Show with the Toby Tyler Circus in 1986. According to Ward Hall, Jackie "was also a good front talker, and great to have on the show. He knew how to put it up and take it down!" In the late '80s, Jack took out an advertisement in "Amusement Business" magazine, saying that he was confined to a state nursing home in Jenkins, Kentucky, and he was asking for donations. Rumor had it he had had a stroke and was unable to care for himself. Looney dressed up as a clown and entertained children in hospitals around KY-VA until about 2000 when he was unable to get around any longer. Looney lived in the retirement home in Jenkins, KY where he passed away Feb. 6, 2006 in Pikeville Hospitial. His sister Ardath L Looney-Ratliff and her children and grandchildren were his closest family and he loved them as if they were his own, as he had no children of his own. Looney was cremated and his ashes are buried at the Ratliff Family Graveyard at the old home place in Burdine, KY. Seeking photos and more information.
Jackie Lynn (1970s)
Walter Hall
Paul Adams
"Sir Walter Hall"
"Tall Paul Adams"
"Tall Tex"
"World's Tallest Sword Swallower"
Learned 1974
Performed 1974-90
Died c. 1990
King Brothers Circus
Ringling Brothers
Circus World
(USA)
Walter Hall was originally from Wilmington, Delaware. He worked on the Carr Show for Dean Potter as his "Cowboy Giant", then later for the Lamottas in their cookhouse. After sword swallower Toni Del Rio left the Carr Show, Walter learned sword swallowing in 1974 from Jadi Easton, who was Dean Potter's "Half and Half". Since Walter stood about 7 feet tall, when he worked as the "Cowboy Giant", Dean called him "Tall Tex", but he also performed under the stage names "Sir Walter" and "Tall Paul Adams", the "World's Tallest Circus Sword Swallower", although his real surname was Williams. He also worked as the "World's Tallest Sword Swallower" and fire-eater (fire-eater on the right in photo) when he worked with managers Jim and Sandy Windland, Kay Pittinger, and sword swallower Jackie Lynn on the King Brother's Circus in the 1970s. (Henry Thompson was sword swallower with King Brothers Circus the season before in Nov '73). Walter performed an act called "The Spider Web" where, after swallowing a multiple sword sandwich, when he pulled out and spread his swords, the saliva created the effect of a spider web. He died in California around 1990. Seeking photos and more information.
Sir Walter Hall
Dean Potter Born 1934
Performed 70s-80s
Died May 30, 2005
Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Dean Potter was a sideshow owner and sword swallower from Gibsonton, FL. Ward Hall first met Potter when he worked as a sword swallower and half-and-half for Woolsey in the 1950s before he framed his own show. In the early 1970's, Potter read an article about a snake that had killed its owner, and came up with the concept for the "Bloody Mama Snake Show" based on snakes that had injured or killed their owners. Red Stuart met Potter in 1976, and Toni Del Rio persuaded Red to sell a set of his swords to Potter, including a serpentine, a rapier, and other swords, which Potter had chromed. In 2004, Potter lost all of his big snakes, so Ward Hall gave him 2 big snakes, including a large albino python named Al that had previously belonged to Red Stuart. Potter had been on the road with his show for many years, developed diabetes, became unhealthy, and passed away in his sleep in Gibsonton, FL on May 30, 2005 at the age of 71. Seeking photos and more information.
John "Red" Trower Born Oct 31, 1939
Performed 1972-98
C.M. Christ Show
Ward Hall Show
Dailey Bros Circus
Houston, TX
(USA)
Born in Cheboygan, Michigan on October 31, 1939, the fifth of six children, John "Red" Trower ran away to join the circus in 1953 at the age of 14, again at 15, and 16, until he finally left for good at the age of 17. In the cIrcus, Johnny first began working with elephants and as an electrician, and later worked his way into the carnival and sideshow business as a sword swallower and knife thrower with his assistant Alexandria. On February 6, 1965, Trower was married to his first wife Eloise Cantu in San Antonio, TX; They divorced in 1969. Trower performed with the C.M. Christ and Ward Hall Show for many years starting in 1972. At one point while Chris Christ was swallowing a sword, his dentures came loose and dropped down his throat, lodging the sword in place. Noticing that Christ was struggling to remove the sword, Trower jumped into action and managed to remove the sword and dentures from Christ's throat. During his career, Trower swallowed swords, scissors, multiple swords up to 7 or 8 swords, as well as the neon tube, and a government bayonet that was shot down his throat with a pistol. According to a 1976 Circus Report, Trower performed as sword swallower with the Dailey Bros. Circus in Texas in 1976. In the late 1990s (circa 1998?), Trower sustained an accident when a neon tube broke inside him and he was rushed to the hospital. Details from a medical paper in the Texas Heart Institute Journal described, "An esophagogram established the diagnosis, and surgical repair was attempted. However, 19 days later, a persistent leak and deterioration of the patient's condition necessitated a transhiatal esophagectomy with a left cervical esophagogastrostomy. The patient recovered and resumed his daily activities at the circus, with the exception of sword swallowing." It wasn't until several years later when Trower was x-rayed for damages after falling out of a tree, that the x-rays revealed that he still had pieces of the electrical connectors for the neon tube left in his stomach. Red Trower is now retired and living in Houston, TX with his wife Alexandria, and his blades are now owned by Todd Robbins. Seeking photos and more information.
Red Trower (1970s)
Red Trower at Sideshow Gathering (2002)
(L-R: Rodderick Russell, Red Trower, Ward Hall, Dan Meyer, Toni-Lee Sangastiano)
John Bradshaw
Born March 20, 1947
Sideshows 1970-92
Died Dec 21, 2008
Hall/Christ Sideshows
Whitey Sutton on Strates Shows
Sideshows by the Seashore
Coney Island
John Bradshaw Shows
Richmond, VA
(USA)
John Bradshaw was born in Burkeville, VA on March 20, 1947. He had been working as a recruiter and organizer with Chavez in the formation of the farm worker's union in California until 1970, when he joined Ward Hall and Chris Christ's World of Wonder show in Gibsonton FL in the spring of 1970. This was Bradshaw's first experience with a sideshow. He was a very intelligent man who quickly learned all aspects of the sideshow. During his early years he performed as a sword swallower and taught several others how to swallow swords. Ward Hall called him, "a fine performer, a very good manager, a caring husband and father." In 1973 Bradshaw worked on Dick Johnson's unit of the Hall/Christ sideshows where Sandra Reed was sword swallower. In 1974 and 1975, he was with Whitey Sutton on Strates with Sandy Reed. In 1976, Bradshaw started his own 10-in-1 without a sword swallower, but hired "Sir Frances Durran" (Francis Doran) in 1977. Doran worked 2 seasons in 1977 and 1978, until his health began to fail. In 1979 Diane Falk started as Bradshaw's "Bally Girl", learned sword swallowing from Doran, and began filling in as Bradshaw's sword swallower later in 1979 under the stage name "Lady Diane". In Ohio, fat man Big John Conners and his wife Sandy Reed Conners joined Bradshaw's show. Reed was originally hired as an albino lecturer, not a sword swallower, and she only performed sword swallowing a few times when Frank Doran was ill. At the Midsouth Fair in Memphis in 1979, Bradshaw added knife thrower Eddie Miller, who had a flashy knife act using butcher knives, and who also filled in as sword swallower on a few occasions. The 1979 Bradshaw Sideshow line-up included 110 feet of banners, most by Snap Wyatt, John Bradshaw as Inside Talker, "Sir Frances Duran" as Sword Swallower, "Lady Diane" as Bally Girl and part time sword swallower, Eddie Miller as knife thrower, Otis Jordan, Albert Short, Big John Conner as Fat Man, and Sandy Reed Conner as Albino Lecturer and later sword swallower. Bradshaw also worked with sword swallower Jackie Lynn on Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros Circus in 1981. Over Labor Day weekend 1985, Bradshaw was booked as "The One Man Sideshow" at Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island, hired Louisa Jatoba as his snake charmer, and was a huge success. Bradshaw was then booked at Coney Island again for the 1986 season and created "Bradshaw's Circus of World Curiosities", a traditional 10-in-1 sideshow. Diane Falk worked as Bradshaw's sword swallower again in 1989 and 1990 at Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island. Tisha Vudie worked as Bradshaw's Sword Swallower and Human Pin Cushion at Coney Island in 1991 and in the 1992 Bradshaw road show. Bradshaw left Coney Island in 1991 after his young daughter was shot in the leg by a stray bullet near their home in Far Rockaway, and he took the sideshow banners with him. In 1996, Bradshaw taught sword swallowing to Natasha Veruschka, and later sold his swords to her. Bradshaw continued to run a small show on the road for a few years, but retired from sword swallowing. Bradshaw spent his last days in the intensive care unit at Chippenham Hospital in Richmond VA where he died of kidney failure on December 21, 2008 at the age of 61. He is survived by his wife Elisa, a 22 year old daughter Keshia Bradshaw, and an 8 year old adopted daughter Shin Bradshaw. Seeking photos and more information.
John Bradshaw with Sandy Reed on Sutton (1974)
John Bradshaw at Coney Island '80s
John Bradshaw with Sandy Reed
John Bradshaw at Coney Island with Melvin Burkhart
Skippy the Clown Performed ? Chuck Brown Shows
New York, NY
(USA)
Skippy The Clown was originally from New York, worked as a clown with Chuck Brown, and occasionally worked as a sword swallower. On a few occasions, he swallowed a car axle that was suspended from an A-frame tripod. Seeking photos and more information.
Henry Thompson
Tommy Thompson
Clarence Henry Thompson
Born May 12, 1923
Performed 1948?-1978?
Died June 12, 2008
Hagen Bros Circus
Kelly Miller Bros Circus
King Brothers Circus
Sells & Gray Circus
Hoxie Bros Circus
Clyde Beatty Circus
Ringling Brothers
Barnum & Bailey
Circus World Sideshow
Vicksburg, MS
(USA)
Clarence Henry Thompson was born May 12, 1923. He served in the Army in North Africa as a tank driver, before being transferred to the European campaign. He was in the Stars and Stripes in World War II, where he performed with Burt Lancaster, who was also an acrobat in the circus before serving in the U.S. Army in North Africa and Italy from 1943 to 1945. Thompson worked the Clyde Beatty Cole Bros Circus for many years and was a talker for the sideshow. He was a veteran sideshow operator who "swallowed swords, ate fire, threw knives, did Punch and Judy, and beat the bass drum for the cooch". He said that in several of the truck circuses of the 1950s, he could only work the cooch on the last show of the night. As the crowd came out of the marquee, they were greeted by Thompson and his spiel: "Wait a minute, wait a minute, look in the doorway, look in the doorway, see who you can see from TV land." He would gesture towards a dummy made up to look like Howdy Doody. "Wait just a minute. This is where you're going to see the mogul show, the after guy show, the old-time coochie-coochie show where we are going to shake it, break it, tear it down to the ground, but we're not going to drop it because it is so hot, boys and girls, we don't want to leave blisters on your hands. This is where you will hear the canon roar, see the flame, and smell the smoke. You're at the right place at the right time. Let all the short boys come down front where they can see the whole darn show." Once inside, there was a very brief sideshow performance and the pitch for the cooch blowoff, where Thompson collected the money for the after-show in a cigar box. After the girls did a short dance, he would come onstage and announce, "The girls are getting ready behind the curtain for the special dance of the night, but before they come out, and while you are waiting, we have some games for the men amongst you." Thompson and the cigar box disappeared behind the curtain and out of the tent. The dancers had already left. The grift got what they could, then the side wall was dropped, and the tent came down. Thompson's wife Saundra was from Springfield, IL. The Thompsons performed a knife throwing act together with Henry throwing knives at Saundra. They refered to their wheel of death knife act as "the girl on the flying saucer." The Thompsons were performing in Cuba in 1959 when Fidel Castro took over, and they barely made it out safely. Thompson worked as the kidshow manager with Hagen Bros. Circus in 1961, where he was also known for painting the scrollwork on the circus wagons. Thompson worked as the sideshow manager and circus painter with Al G Kelly Miller Brothers Circus in 1962 and 1963. He also worked as sideshow manager and sword swallower with King Brothers Circus in the 1972 and 1973 seasons, while Saundra sold tickets for her husband's sideshow. Thompson also worked as sideshow manager for the Sells & Gray Circus and Hoxie Brothers Circus. He also went by the name Tommy Thompson, and was known for swallowing a small 12" bayonet on the bally. Because his act was so short, he would say "Would you like to see that again?" and then quickly repeat the act. Thompson was renowned for painting the scrollwork on the circus wagons, one of which is in the Circus Hall of Fame in Baraboo, WI. The Thompsons performed their knife throwing act for over 20 years, but during that time Henry only hit Saundra once. Warren Torzewski learned sword swallowing from Thompson while working at Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus World Sideshow in Orlando, FL around 1978. Thompson worked with circuses for 30 years and retired in the late 1970's. Thompson lived the end of his life in Vicksburg, MS in poor health with emphysema. Thompson died without any children on June 12, 2008 at the age of 85. Seeking photos and more information.

Henry Thompson swallowing gun barrel (1940s)
Henry Thompson swallowing gun barrel (1940s)
Henry Thompson's wife and target, Saundra Thompson
Henry Thompson with Ruskins on Kelly-Miller Circus (1962)
Henry Thompson, talker with King Bros Circus, Enid OK (1972)
Henry and Saundra Thompson in retirement
Wayne Wade
"The Gay Blade"
Performed mid 1970s Gibsonton, FL
(USA)
Wayne Wade was a sword swallower known as "Wayne Wade, the Gay Blade" who taught sword swallowing to Dale Pritchard during winter quarters in Gibsonton, Florida in the mid 1970's. Seeking photos and more information.
Sammy Johnson
"Sammy the Sword Swallower"
Born c 1950
Performed 1968-81
Died before 1984
Children's Magic Circus
Clyde Beatty Cole Bros
Circus Vargas
Circus Genoa
Atlanta, GA
(USA)
Sammy Johnson was originally from Atlanta, GA. He started working for Jim Nordmark and Ralph Hood with The Children's Magic Circus in 1968, and learned to sword swallow shortly thereafter. He learned to swallow swords by himself with direction from George Allen, who never swallowed swords but had been around quite a bit. Sammy started with a doubled coathanger, and picked up tips from other sword swallowers along the way. He learned quickly, and almost immediately became part of the Children's Magic Circus show. He also clowned, made his own wardrobe, assisted in other acts and handled a big snake. His strong points were his ability to take a few pieces of cloth and a sewing machine and turn it into just about anything overnight. Sammy was good with people. He was decidedly quite gay, and had worked in drag shows and as a waiter. George Allen was straight, yet he and Sammy shared a trailer and made a team. Nordmark and Hood split at the end of 1969. Sammy and George stayed with Nordmark a while, then tried their own show for a while which was unsuccessful. A few years later, in the mid 1970s, Sammy was clowning on the Clyde Beatty Cole Brothers Circus the year that Johnny Frazier was running it. In 1975, Sammy performed as the sword swallower with Circus Vargas, was photographed while working with Circus Vargas in April, 1975, and toured with Circus Vargas in St. Catherines, Ontario, Canada, Buffalo, NY, Pennsylvania, and throughout the east coast of the US to Louisville, KY by October 1975. According to those who worked with him, he swallowed multiple swords, up to three swords at once, screwdrivers, scissors, neon tube, did fire-eating along with Cherokee Sammy, and had a chimp named Bobo the Chimp. He called himself "Deep Throat the Second". After he swallowed a sword, he would hold the tip of the blade to his lips, eye someone in the audience, usually male, and wink at them. Sammy made all of his own wardrobe which was very flashy, he loved to wear pantsuits with as much glitter, sequins, and rhinestones as possible, and always loved dramatic poses. In 1978 and 79, he worked as a clown for Carson and Barnes Circus 2 (owned by D.R. Miller and managed by Johnny Frazier) where he also did a rolla-bolla act, then Sammy continued on with Frazier in 1979 when the circus changed its name to "Circus Genoa". He also served as the circus barber and cut the hair for many of the performers on the show. He was on the roster as sword swallower and fire-eater with the Great American Circus in 1981. When he had free time in Atlanta, Sammy worked as a hair dresser and he would perform a dance act in drag shows, a funny routine where he pretended to be a Salvation Army woman. During the act he passed a tambourine and got a lot of tips. Sammy favored gin and coke, and was known for a quote that he would often use to admonish others, "Don't tear yourself down; There are always other people who will do that for you." Ralph Hood saw George Allen briefly in 1984, when George informed Ralph that Sammy had died of unknown causes sometime prior to 1984, but details were vague. Seeking photos and more information.
Sammy Johnson on Circus Vargas bally
Sammy Johnson (1970s)
Sammy Johnson (1970s)
Sammy Johnson (April 1975)
Sammy Johnson (April 1975)
Jimmy Rapp
Jimmy Rap
(James Hilpel)
(James Hilple)
Performed 1973-80s Hall and Christ Worlds of Wonders
Lexington, KY
(USA)
Jimmy Rapp was a former motorcycle gang member from Lexington, KY who began working with Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonder Show in the early 1970's as a backyard boy and all-around helper with the show. His real name was James Hilpel (or Hilple), but while traveling with the motorcycle gang, he adopted the nickname "Jimmy Rap", and later changed it to "Jimmy Rapp". At that time Francis Doran was the sword swallower with the Worlds of Wonder show, and Rapp became interested in his flashy swords. One day, Doran agreed to let Rapp try swallowing a sword after properly disinfecting it. To everyone's amazement, it slid right down, almost to the hilt, on his first try. Somebody started a rumor that Rapp had been practicing secretly late at night with Doran's swords, without permission, for some time before that, but it couldn't be proved or disproved. Rapp went on to be the sword swallower with Worlds of Wonders for about three years after Doran left, and did a pretty good job of it. Rapp later appeared as the sword swallower in the 1980 Jodie Foster movie Carny. Seeking photos and more information.
Dale Pritchard Born Dec 1950
Performed 1975-date
Circus Vargas
Mallory Square
Key West, FL
(USA)
Dale Pritchard was born in Modesto, CA in Dec, 1950. After returning from Vietnam, he worked with Circus Vargas as a stuntman cycle rider. During winter quarters in Florida, Pritchard worked with Chris Christ on the sideshow winter route, began adding sideshow stunts to his repetoire, and around 1975, he learned sword swallowing from Count Desmond and Wayne Wade in Gibsonton, FL, with tips and help from Chris M. Christ. During the winter of 1980-81, Pritchard moved to Florida. Pritchard taught sword swallowing to Joey Joey Colon in New York in the 1980s, and gave some of his 18" blades to Joey. Pritchard has been sword swallowing for over 30 years, and living in Key West for about 25 years, with the exception of a 3 1/2 year period starting in 1999 when he performed in San Francisco, then Hawaii, Japan, Bangkok, Thailand, Hong Kong, and elsewhere around the world before returning to Key West in December 2003. In the early days, Pritchard would start his show by performing some magic, then do fire-eating, then swallow an 8" blade, an 18" blade, a 25" blade, and then 5 18" blades. However, he now mostly performs with his favorite large eastern sword with 25" blade which he bought in Bangkok, Thailand and shipped home after 9-11. He is now retired from the American Stunt Man Association (ASMA), and enjoys living on his 57' ketch sailboat and performing on Mallory Sqaure in Key West, Florida. Seeking photos and more information.
Dale Pritchard, Key West (1990s)
Dale Pritchard, San Francisco (1999)
Dale Pritchard, Key West
Dale Pritchard, Key West (Feb 2005)
Dale Pritchard, Key West (2005)
Dale Pritchard, Key West (2005)
Dale Pritchard, Key West (2005)
John Strong
John Augustus Strong III
Born Oct. 16, 1958
Learned 1975-76
Performed 1976-date
Ringling Brothers Circus World
Big John Strong Circus
Brownsville, TX
(USA)
John A. J. Strong III was born in Hollywood, CA on Oct 16, 1958. His grandfather John Strong and father, John Strong II were both showmen, his grandfather doing acts like juggling and balance acts, and his father "Big" John Strong Jr. ran the Big John Strong Circus. In his early years, "Little" John performed magic, juggling, hat-juggling, fire-eating, plate spinning, the one-finger handstand, and other circus acts. John learned sword swallowing at around the age of 16-17 from watching an unknown sword swallower on his father's circus around 1975-76, and he learned additional tips from watching sword swallower Leo Greip, the Swami Amazo Benbota perform with his father's circus from around 1977 to 1979. In 1978, John worked as a manager at Ringling Brothers Circus World in Haines City, Florida, where he met magician and ventriloquist "Magic Mark" Young, who later learned sword swallowing there from sword swallower Warren "Ski" Torzewski around 1978-79. John held the Guinness Book of Records record for swallowing 11 swords at one time, and was the fire-breather and sword swallower in the 1992 movie Batman Returns. John swallowed a record 16 swords at one time around 1997. He was married to Tammy Wallenda of the renowned Wallenda circus family fame, and currently runs the John Strong Shows sideshow out of La Feria, TX.
Young John Strong swallowing sword
Young John Strong at 16 in 1972
Young John Strong handstand/plate spinning
John Strong hypnotizing girl caught by Magic Mark (1978)
Swami Amazo Benbota
Rollick Montebank
Rolick Montebanc
Rollick Montbanc
Rick Montbanc
(Leo Greip)
Performed 1976-80's
Originally Southgate, CA
John Strong Circus
Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Denver, CO
(USA)
Rollick Montebank or Rolick Montebanc or Rick Montbanc performed as fire-eater, sword swallower, and assistant ringmaster with Big John Strong's Circus from 1976-1979 as "Swami Amazo Benbota". He also claimed to be "the world's only dancing sword swallower". He swallowed swords that were 18.5 inches long. His real name was Leo Griep he was married to Marsha Greip and he lived in the Denver area, Colorado Springs areas. According to the November 15, 1976 Circus Report article about the John Strong Circus, "Another feature act on the show is Swami, the fire eater and sword swallower, whose performance draws standing ovations at every show." Leo and his wife, Marsha Kennington, performed with the John Strong Circus, and his wife Marsha, who was pregnant for much of the season, "did a great clown washer woman gag with Sparky, who was a very fine clown." According to John Strong III, in 1979, "the sword swallower and fireater was Leo Grip. He was a great act. He blew big fire balls and broke a block of cement on his chest." Greip was an inspiration for sword swallower Johnny Fox in the 1970s. At one time Greip may have run for Pueblo City Council in the 1980s. Greip now works for a radio station somewhere in Colorado, and his daughter Ginger Greip now performs an aerial act with Cirque d' Soleil's Delirium. Seeking photos and more information.
Rollick Montbanc Denver 5-31-77
Rolick Montebanc Denver 5-31-77
Rick Montebank Denver 5-31-77
Johnny Fox
"King of Swords"
Born Nov 13, 1954
Learned 1977
Performed 1977-date
New York, NY
(USA)
Johnny Fox was born on Friday, November 13, 1954. He learned sword swallowing from Leo Greip and Melvin Burkhart in 1977. Fox swallowed 16 swords on the Jonathan Winters' Comedy Magic Special in the mid 1980s, and couldn't swallow solid food for a week afterwards. Fox was also featured on a Maalox commercial eating glass. He has performed at Rennaisance Festivals in MD and throughout the east coast for several years, and he owned the Freakatorium sideshow museum in the upper East Side of NY for several years. Seeking photos and more information.
Johnny Fox face
Johnny Fox with snake
Johnny Fox swallows 16 swords
Johnny Fox
Johnny Fox
Johnny Fox
Johnny Fox
Johnny Fox
Johnny Fox
Johnny Fox with wife Valerie
Johnny Fox with friend
Rhea Roma
(Lucille Chiodo)
Born Dec 6, 1957
Learned 1977
Performed 1977-date
Hollywood, CA
(USA)
Rhea Roma was born December 6, 1957 as Lucille Chiodo and learned sword swallowing from sword swallower Count Desmond at the age of 19 in the winter of 1977. Rhea became Ms. Nude World '80-81. Her Sword and Fire Show includes swallowing two swords at the same time, and in her famous Suicide Show, she is blind-folded and a random audience member a shoves 22" sword down her throat. These shows were taught to Rhea by Count Desmond when they toured together in Deadwood, South Dakota in the winter of 1977. Rhea has been swallowing swords for over 28 years, and currently resides in Hollywood, CA where she is involved in film and other entrepreneurial projects. Seeking photos and more information.
Rhea Roma
Rhea Roma
Rhea Roma
Rhea Roma
Rhea Roma
Rhea Roma
Rhea Roma fire
Ski Torzewski
Warren Torzewski
Learned 1978
Performed late 70s
Ringling Brothers
Barnum & Bailey
Circus World
Sideshow
Orlando, FL
(USA)
Warren Torzewski learned sword swallowing from veteran sideshow performer Henry Thompson around 1978, and worked as a sword swallower under the name "Ski" Torzewski with Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus World Sideshow in Haines City, FL around 1979. He taught sword swallowing to magician and ventriloquist Mark Young around 1978-79, and may now be living in Davie, FL. Seeking photos and more information.
Zdenek Zahradka
(Ben Ghan)
Born c. 1954
Performed 1979

(Czech Republic)
Zdenek Zahradka, a 50 year old Czech fakir, "survived being buried underground in a wooden coffin for 10 days without food and water, setting what he claims is a new world record", local Czech media reported. Zahradka's real name is Ben Ghan, and he set several different records during his career. In 1979, he claimed he was the first in the world to swallow a sword that measured 55 centimetres long. Seeking photos and more information.
Mark Young
"Magic Mark"
Performed 1979-80 Ringling Brothers
Circus World
Oak Ridge, TN
(USA)
Mark Young worked as a magician and ventriloquist at Ringling Brothers Circus World in Haines City, FL around 1978-80. In 1978 he worked with "Little" John Strong III and learned sword swallowing from sword swallower Warren "Ski" Torzewski around 1979. His favorite sword was a bayonet that he would sometimes swallow in his magic act. Young now lives in Oak Ridge in east Tennessee, where he works as a school teacher and still performs magic as "Magic Mark". Seeking photos and more information.
John Strong hypnotizing girl caught by Magic Mark (1978)
John Stevens
Jack Stevens
Born c1954
Performed 1978-80s
Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonder
Carson and Barnes Circus
Venice Beach, CA
Florida
(USA)
Iowan John Stevens learned sword swallowing and fire-eating in Florida around 1978 from Rick Dennis, worked with Rick Dennis on Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonder with Carson and Barnes Circus around 1978-79, and performed as a fire-eater, chainsaw juggler and sword swallower at Westwood and Venice Beach, CA in the 1980s. Besides eating fire and swallowing swords, Stevens was also known for swallowing oil dipsticks. Los Angeles Magician Tom "Jorgini" Jorgenson worked with Stevens at a Steve Jobs' US Festival in Devore, California in the mid-1980s, before working his way into acting in Los Angeles. During his time in Los Angeles, Stevens was trying to make it in the L.A. film industry as a screenwriter and actor. He had written about 20 different screenplays, and acted in bit parts in the film "The Best of Times" with Kurt Russell, a film with Grace Jones, and a Kodak TV commercial. Stevens also wrote the 42-page manual "How to Eat Fire and Swallow Swords" in 1985. He later went by the name "Jack Stevens" when he learned there was another "John Stevens" in Hollywood. Seeking photos and more information.
Captain Nelson Performed ? O.C Buck Shows Carnival
Northeast
(USA)
Captain Nelson worked mostly in the Northeast US, once for Earl Myers on the O.C. Buck Show Carnival. Nelson's "Captain" title was valid, as he was a crew member of the "SS Pemiquid", a ferry boat that ran between New London, CT and Block Island, RI. Apparently, when he tired of sea life, he would return to show business for brief periods as a sword swallower. Seeking photos and more information.
Eric Tauber
(Joe Abrams)
Performed ? Hoxie Bros Circus
(USA)
Joe Abrams worked under the stage name Eric Tauber for Peter G. Hennen for several seasons and for Hoxie Bros Circus when Stu Miller managed the sideshow. Seeking photos and more information.
Billy Costello Performed ? Royal American Shows
Chicago Riverview Park
Chicago, IL
(USA)
Billy Costello worked for a large number of big operators over the years including Dick Best, both of Best's sideshows on Royal American Shows and his permanent operation at Riverview Park in Chicago, IL. Billy was known for his stacatto patter delivery and for swallowing multiple swords, and would finish his act by swallowing a neon tube. Seeking photos and more information.
Lee Courtland Performed ?
(USA)
Lee Courtland worked on many carnival sideshows, then quit his sword swallowing act and operated small grind shows and game concessions for a number of years. Seeking photos and more information.
Jim Judkins ? Circus Chimera
Hugo, OK
(USA)
Jim Judkins left college 26 years ago to cook for a circus, only to become a sword swallower, flame swallower, announcer, and now, owner of Circus Chimera. Seeking photos and more information.
Michael Harbison ? Ashton Circus
Adelaide
(Australia)
Michael Harbison was once a circus fire-eater, sword swallower, ringmaster, and tent manager at Ashton Circus. He is now Lord Mayor of Adelaide, Australia. Seeking photos and more information.
Butch Shutte Performed 1970s-90's Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonder
Gibsonton, FL
Kansas City, KS
(USA)
Butch Shutte lived in Gibsonton, FL, worked as a sword swallower in the 70's-90's with Jeff Murray, Rick Kale, Ward Hall ('93), and Dean Potter in the late '90's, and eventually moved to Kansas. One of Shutte's swords is now in the collection of sword swallower Alex Zander. Seeking photos and more information.
Lady Diane
(Diane Falk)
Born 1959
Performed 1978-90s
Ward Hall's Worlds of Wonders
Last American Freak Show
John Bradshaw
Coney Island, NY
Capt. Don Leslie Show
Washington DC/VA
(USA)
Diane Falk was born in 1959. In 1979, she got her start working in sideshows as John Bradshaw's Bally Girl at about the age of 20. She learned sword swallowing from Francis Doran in 1978 when they were both with John Bradshaw, and began filling in as Bradshaw's sword swallower later in 1979 under the stage name "Lady Diane". When she performed with Doran, they would both swallow a sword sandwich, each swallowing up to three swords at once. Doran gave Lady Diane some of his swords including his ceremonial Knights of Columbus swords, and after Doran died in 1979, Diane continued to use his swords in her act until they were stolen in the winter of 1981. From 1979 to 1981 Lady Diane worked on the road throughout the midwest with John Bradshaw. In 1981 she spent winter quarters in Gibsonton FL where she spent time with sword swallower Eddie Miller. Diane later went on to work for Ward Hall's World of Wonders Show, Coney Island Sideshows from 1987 to 1988. Diane did a boat tour of the Micronesian Islands and Guam in the South Pacific with Capt. Don Leslie from October 1988 into 1989 where she celebrated her 30th birthday in 1989. She worked as John Bradshaw's sword swallower again in 1989 and 1990 at Sideshows by the Seashore at Coney Island. In 1991 she worked with Coney Island Sideshows again, then toured Canada with Capt. Don Leslie's show into 1992. Capt. Don gave some of his swords to Lady Diane after he suffered a serious injury in 1992. Lady Diane also worked with Ward Hall's World of Wonders Last American Freak Show in 1994 and as recently as 2006. She became a photographer in 1993, and now lives in the Washington DC area where she works in medical supplies and still performs on occasion with Ward Hall and Chris Christ's Worlds of Wonders show. Lady Diane now has a new sideshow banner painted by Tony-Lee Sangastiano in 2008-9. When not in use on the road, it is displayed in a room in Lady Diane's house. Seeking photos and more information.
Diane Falk (early)
Diane Falk (early)
Lady Diane at Coney Island 87-91
Lady Diane tattooed on Capt. Don's hand
Diane Falk, York Fair 2006
Diane Falk with Chris Christ WoW 2007
Diane Falk with Ward Hall WoW 2007
Diane Falk relaxing at home 2007
Diane Falk's banner 2008-09
Diane Falk
Brad Byers Born 1960
Performed 1981 to date
Moscow, ID
(USA)
Born and raised in Moscow Idaho, Brad Byers began learning variety arts as a hobby starting with yo-yos, juggling, and chin balancing at age 15. Shortly after graduating from High School, at the age of 19, Byers joined a traveling circus as a juggler. Two years later, he learned sword swallowing in 1981 at the age of 21. Byers had never even seen a sword swallower, but borrowed a friend's college Anatomy book for research. After careful study, Brad began measuring swords at the local Moscow Army Navy Store. After finding a sword that appeared to be the right length, Byers asked the clerk if he could try the sword out. With only the store clerk in attendance, and never having watched anyone swallow a sword, Byers swallowed his first sword. His first national television appearance was on "That's Incredible" in the early 1980's. Byers represented the USA in the 1993 International Circus Festival in Verona, Italy. In 2000, Byers received a Guinness World Record™ for swallowing 10 28" swords inserted one at a time, and then twisting them 180 degress on August 13, 1999 in Hollywood, CA. Byers has appeared in 5 episodes of the Fox TV show Guinness World Records Prime Time and was featured on Late Nite with David Letterman. Byers performs over 20 different acts, including yoyos, juggling, top spinning, bed of nails, human blockhead with a drill, and other feats. Byers appeared on the Peruvian TV show Que Noche every night for a week and performed different acts each night. He also spins large items on the tips of his fingers. Byers trained and choreographed the actor Johnny Depp in his spinning routine for the motion picture "Benny and Joon". In 2009, Byers was featured on America's Got Talent Season 4 for inserting an 18 inch hook into his nose, through his nasal passages, and out his mouth, and swinging anchor attached to the hook. Byers has performed in over 20 countries for countless television shows and other venues. The country of Grenada has even pictured him swallowing swords on an official postage stamp. Taped performances of Byers are shown in Ripley's Believe It or Not museums arund the world. Byers swallows a curved sword, a serpentine sword, a keyhole saw, and a common wire coat hanger which he bends while it is in his esophagus. Byers holds several Guinness World Records, including swallowing 10 swords, then twisting those swords 180 degrees in his throat. Byers is the only performer to follow by taking a bow before removing those swords. Seeking photos and more info.
Brad Byers (early)
Brad Byers Guinness Record (2000)
Brad Byers swallowing 10 swords
Brad Byers swallowing 10 swords
Brad Byers x-ray
Byers swallowing 10 swords (video)
Howard Morgan
The Magic Man
Performed early 1980s Six Flags Magic Mountain
Orange County Fair
South Coast Actors Studio
Magic Castle
Costa Mesa, CA
(USA)
According to an April 16, 1982 article in the Los Angeles Times: "Howard (The Magic Man) Morgan, who has appeared at the Six Flags Magic Mountain park and Orange County Fair, has joined the teaching staff of the South Coast Actors Studio, 3303 Harbor Blvd, Costa Mesa. Morgan is associated with the Magic Castle in Hollywood, and has coordinated entertainment for United Way of Orange County. His specialties include sword swallowing and fire eating. An introduction to his series in solo performing will be held at 7:30pm Monday at the studio. Morgan has also performed for shows for Rotary, Disabled American Veterans, and Boys Club organizations and the Special Olympics held at UCLA." Seeking photos and more information.
Howard Morgan article (1982)
Mr. Tanskanen Performed early 1980s (Finland) Fakir Tanskanen swallowed a small sword in his fakir act in the early 1980's.
Miss Leane Performed 1980s to 90s? Södertälje
(Sweden)
Miss Leane lived in Södertälje and performed in Sweden into the '90s. Sök efter fotos och upplysningen.
Todd Knight Performed 1980s Coney Island, NY
(USA)
Todd Knight worked for John Bradshaw in Coney Island in the mid 1980s. Seeking photos and more information.
Slug
Enigma
The Enigma
Thenigma
Nigma

(Paul Lawrence)
Born Dec 20, 1968
Learned 1985
Performed 1991-date
Jim Rose Circus
Human Marvels
Seattle, WA
NJ
(USA)
Paul Lawrence was raised in Seattle, WA, and began studying music, piano, and dance lessons at the age of 6. He continued with piano and took up singing and flute lessons at age 9. Because he spent most of his time in the back seat of a car traveling to private lessons, his peers came out of comic books and late night television. In 1985 he began teaching himself sword swallowing at the age of 15 from the book "Thrilling Magic". (Early photo with sword before tattoos) Originally known as "The Slug", in 1991, he became known as "Engima" as a founding member of the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow, which he toured with until he left the show in 1998. The Enigma has undergone extensive body modification, including horn implants and a full-body jigsaw-puzzle tattoo. His tattooing process began on December 20, 1992, under the needle of "Katzen the Tiger Lady," heavily tattooed herself, whom he later married. The Enigma then toured with Katzen, playing music and doing sideshow performances under the moniker "Human Marvels." Being a founding member of the Lollapalooza sideshow (which toured the world 1992-1998), appearances included festivals around the world such as Lollapalooza in 1992, Edinburgh Fringe Festival in Scotland, the Adelaide Festival in Australia, Mydfyn in Denmark, Kalvoya (opening for David Bowie) in Norway, Pink Pop in Holland, Leysin in Switzerland, Skelefteå in Sweden, the Doctor Music Festival in Spain, Larote Fabric in Switzerland, and opening for Nine Inch Nails around the US, including two nights at Madison Square Garden in New York. Two books written about those years are "Freak Like Me", and "Circus of the Scars". In 1995, Enigma appeared on the television show The X-Files in an episode entitled "Humbug," where he played a character called "The Conundrum.". In June of 1995, Enigma was featured in National Geographic magazine. In 2004, The Enigma appeared with Mike Patton, Jane Wiedlin, Karen Black and Katzen in Steve Balderson's film Firecracker. The film had a very limited theatrical release but was released on DVD on July 4, 2006. In 2005, the Enigma appeared in toy form as "The Conundrum" in Palisades Toys' X-Files PALz action figure line. He has appeared on Penn & Teller's Sin City Spectacular, Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, Fox Files, Sally Jessie Raphael, Joan Rivers, Ricky Lake, Guinness Prime Time, World's Biggest Headlines (Japan), Record setters, Jeopardy (he was a question), Stephan Rob (Austria), Arabella (Germany), Donny & Marie, Ricky Lake, Rob Nelson, The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and Ripley's Believe it or Not Sideshow documentary. He has also appeared as a deformed monster at a dinner party in the music video of "Fallen Leaves" by Billy Talent , and as a "stranger" on the game show Identity. The Enigma and Katzen had a daughter together before they were divorced. Their daughter now resides with Katzen in Austin, TX. In 2005, Enigma began working alone, and then toured the US with Pigface as a guitar player. The Enigma plays keyboards and guitars, composes music as an ASCAP registered songwriter. As a sword swallower, he swallows a sword with 21 inch long blade and a neon tube, and is often featured at Knott's Berry Farm and various other haunted house attractions throughout North America. Seeking photos and more information.
Early photo with sword before tattoos (1985-91?)
Enigma in National Geographic (1995)
Enigma in Vienna (2002)
Enigma with guitar
Enigma swallowing with guitar
Tisha Vudie
Tisha Voodie
Tisha Vooda
Isha Vudi
(Elpidio Rivera)
Performed 1991-92 John Bradshaw Shows
(USA)
Tisha Voodie worked for John Bradshaw in 1991 and in his short-lived '92 road show. One of the best unadvertised attractions was the "Human Pincushion." Customers always paid an extra buck to see "Isha Vudi", the mystic from the Bronx, push hatpins through his eyebrows, cheeks, and lips and then allow disgusted spectators to pull them out. Seeking photos and more information.
"Sir James"
"Baron of the Blades"
"Sword Swaler"
(James Cook)
Born c. 1962
Performed 1986
Injured Sept. 7, 1986
Cavalcade of Oddities
Arlington, TX
Hutchinson, KS
(USA)
24-year old James Cook of Arlington, TX performed as a sword swallower under the stage names "Sir James", "Baron of the Blades" at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson, KS until he injured himself while attempting to swallow a decorative 24-inch Samuarai sword on Saturday, September 7, 1986. According to an Associated Press article dated September 11, 1986 and entitled "Sword Swallower Who Injured Himself Plans To Resume His Act": "WICHITA, Kan. -- A sword swallower recuperating after cutting a two-inch gash in his esophagus with a 24-inch-long Samurai sword says he plans to resume his act, but not with the same blade. James Cook of Arlington, Texas, was in fair and stable condition Thursday at St. Francis Regional Medical Center. Cook, 24, was injured Saturday while performing at the Kansas State Fair in Hutchinson. Surgery was required to close the wound and doctors expect to release him within a week, he said."No way I'll use that sword again. Not in my life," he said. Cook said the sword hadn't been used in his act before and wasn't sharp. He blamed the accident on grooves in the blade. "Only a fool would swallow a sharp blade," he said. "I won't go back to sword-swallowing right away," Cook said. "I'm going to lay off of it for a few days, rest, recuperate. I'll definitely go back."
A followup Associated Press article dated September 12, 1986 reports: Sore-Throated Sword Swallower Will Work Again - WICHITA, Kan. -- The "Baron of Blades" says he will be back to swallowing swords in The Cavalcade of Oddities, as soon as he recovers from a very sore throat. James Cook, 24, cut a two-inch gash in his esophagus last weekend when he swallowed a 24-inch Samurai sword in his state fair act. The Arlington, Texas, resident was listed in fair and stable condition today at St. Francis Regional Medical Center, where he was taken after experiencing throat and stomach pains. Cook, who bills himself as the "Baron of Blades" and "Sir James," said Thursday he will perform again, but not with the same decorative sword he was using for the first time when he was hurt. "No way I'll use that sword again. Not on my life," he said.
According to a Washington Post article dated September 13, 1986: Sword Swallower Recovering -- The "Baron of Blades," James Cook, 24, is recovering from a very sore throat after swallowing a 24-inch samurai sword in his Kansas State Fair act last weekend. The sword cut a two-inch gash in Cook's esophagus. The Arlington, Tex., resident was listed in fair and stable condition yesterday. He said he will perform again soon with a slight alteration in his act: "No way I'll use that sword again. Not on my life," he said. According to his hand-written business card, he was known as "Sir James, Sword Swaler". Seeking photos and more information.
Brad Stine Born 1960
Learned 1986
Performed 1986-90s
Brentwood, TN
(USA)
Brad Stine was born in Bremen, IN in 1960, and moved to California in his early years, where he lived for about 30 years. Stine started out performing magic, and in about 1986 at the age of 26 taught himself fire eating and sword swallowing from the John Stevens booklet "How to Eat Fire and Swallow Swords". Stine's act was mostly comedy magic, but he would end his act by eating fire and swallowing a wrought iron stove poker with leather loop, which he would invite the audience to pull out of his mouth with a rope that he tossed into the audience. He also swallowed a sai, and created a type of chair that had four sais as chair legs, one of which he swallowed. Stine worked at Knottsberry Farm in California doing a Halloween fright show as "Sado the Masochist" working with Zamora the Torture King right after Zamora’s book “Circus of the Scars” came out in 1998. Stine moved to Nashville around 2002, and is now booked by the William Morris Agency doing standup comedy around the country. Stine lives in Brentwood, TN with his wife and 2 children. Seeking photos and more information.
Emil Ondracek
Emil Ondrácék
"The Czech Fakir"
Performed 1989-2001
Died 2003
Prague
(Czech Republic)
Czech sword swallower Emil Ondracek taught himself sword swallowing in 1989 after the Czech "Velvet Revolution" when cut-backs were made on Czech state employees. Because Ondracek was disabled after one of his legs was amputated above the knee and he wore a prosthetic leg, he found it difficult to find work after the cutbacks. After teaching himself sword swallowing in 1989, he became a well-known sight at Prague's Wenceslsa Square where he performed sword swallowing and human blockhead for tourists while seated wearing a Metallica T-shirt. According to a 1996 article, he said: "I saw this number being performed before I learned to do it myself. I thought if somebody else can swallow swords, I can do it too. And I'm an invalid, and I needed to make some money - that was at the time of the political changes in 1989. I trained hard for a month, using a plastic pipe, which I had sort of adapted myself. Of course there was some injury when I was training, but that healed up a long time ago. As for the tourists who watch me, the Germans laugh, the Chinese like it but the Japanese run away when they see me swallowing swords. Most likely they're afraid I'd attack them or something. The Scots...the Scots clap, they take photos and film me, but really, a Scot who would actually throw me some money is a real rarity. The Poles are the most suspicious - they always want to check my swords, to see if they're real. After the floods, and with the metro system out of order, it's not just restaurants and bars that are hit, it's services like me too - my business is down around 70 percent. Why do I wear a Metallica t-shirt? Well, I bought it more for the picture, not because I'm a fan." In 1992, Ondracekt set his own personal record by swallowing 8 swords at once, which was included in a Czech book of records. In 2001, Ondracek developed serious back problems with his spine, and was hospitalized for a long period after surgery in 2003. The surgery was unsuccessful, and Ondracek relied heavily on pain killers. He died in 2003 from an overdose of drugs. His grave is in Prague, Czech Republic. Seeking photos and more information.
Emil Ondracek
Emil Ondracek (1994)
Emil Ondracek
Emil Ondracek
Emil Ondracek
Emil Ondracek (Business Card)
Emil Ondracek
Emil Ondracek
Jean-Francois
"Le Fakir"
Born ?
Performed ?

(France)
French sword swallower Jean-Francois has performed as a fakir doing bed of nails, chain escapes, and sword swallowing on television programs and around Europe. Seeking photos and more information.
Jean-Francois in Paris
Angelo Helay
"Angelo the Blade"
Alfred Healey
Born July 1, 1953
Learned around 1973
Performed 1973-1990's
Johnny Ryan Sideshows
Peter G. Henning
Hells Bells
Patty & Melvin Wise
J&J Amusements
Newport, NC
Morehead City, NC
(USA)
Alfred "Angelo" Healey was born into the world of entertainment in Dover, NJ on July 1, 1953. His grandfather Johnny Ryan owned sideshows and burlesque shows, and young Angelo grew up in the sideshow after his father left when he was about 1 1/2 years old. Around 1963 or '64 when he was about the age 10 or 11, young Angelo worked his first show for Peter G. Henning's Hells Bells at the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville, KY as "Spidora the Spider Girl" for about one or two days. He later worked for Patty and Melvin Wise for 8 years, then got his own show through J&J Amusements. Around 1973, while Angelo was working for Tim Deremer Productions, their regular sword swallower quit the show and Deremer was left with the banner of a sword swallower but without a real sword swallower. Angelo decided to learn the feat, and began teaching himself to swallow coat hangers in 1973 at about the age of 20-21. Eventually he worked his way up to swallowing bayonets, sais, British dueling swords, bridge bolts, keyhole saws, Philip's Head screwdrivers, and pool cue sticks. After deciding he needed a stage name, he came up with the stage name "Angelo Helay". He also performed fire-eating, fire-breathing, glass-dancing, the Human Blockhead, the Iron Tongue, outside talking, inside talking, and virtually all of the sideshow acts as a 1-man sideshow at county and state fairs across the US. At the prime of his career, he swallowed up to 5 swords at once, but refused to swallow neon tubes. His worst accident occurred at the Tampa State Fair while working for Tim Deremer when a Philip's head screwdriver punctured his stomach, and he was rushed to the emergency room with blood coming out of his eyes, ears, mouth, and rectum. He refused to stay admitted to the hospital and discharged himself by walking out against doctors' orders, and the next day climbed back onstage and performed shows the rest of the day. Helay worked as a fire breather and sword swallower with his sideshow on J & J Amusements in the 1990s. He performed at the Georgia State Fair with Tim Deremer Productions on the Amusements of America midway in Macon, GA Oct 15-20, 1990. Around 1992-93, Angelo was interviewed and photographed by National Geographic while performing at the "Nightmare" in Painsville, OH. During that run, his wife, who had spinal bifida, was crossing the road in her wheelchair when she was struck by a truck. On the final day of the show, Angelo was scheduled to perform his last show, when he was notified that his wife had died. With this sad news on his mind, he climbed up onto the stage and performed his final show of that run. A few years later, the photo of him sword swallowing was published in National Geographic's Carnival Edition, 2nd Volume, published in October, 1997. Helay retired from performing for about 10 years and worked as a painter. He lives in Newport, NC just outside Morehead City, NC, has come out of retirement and contines to perform today. Seeking photos, articles, and more information.
Angelo Helay fire-breathing in National Geographic at Painsville OH (1997)
David Earl Seawright Born c 1940
Died January 12, 1996
James E. Strait Shows
Syracuse, NY
(USA)
According to his obituary in the Syracuse Herald American (NY) dated January 14, 1996: David Earl Seawright, 56, of 550 S. Clinton St., Syracuse, NY died Friday (January 12, 1996) at Community-General Hospital. A Syracuse native, Mr. Seawright was a retired circus performer and spent many years traveling throughout the continental United States and Puerto Rico as a fire eater and sword swallower with the James E. Strait Shows. He was a volunteer with the AIDS Community Resources. Surviving are his mother, Helen Griffin of Liverpool; a sister, Estelle I. Smart of Clay; a brother, Russell Seawright of Liverpool; his friend and companion, Remo Bianco of Syracuse; and several nieces, nephews and cousins. Services are 2 p.m. Monday at Greenleaf Funeral Home, 503 W. Onondaga St., Syracuse. Private burial in Loomis Hill Cemetery. Seeking photos and more information.
Kelek Learned 1998
Performed 1998-1999
Injured 1999
Retired 1999
Oakland, CA
(USA)
Kelek learned sword swallowing in 1998 in Oakland, California. She had a serious sword swallowing accident and injury in 1999 which left her with a scar on her neck. She retired from sword swallowing in 1999. Seeking photos and more information.
Johnny Massacre
(John Doran)
Born 1976
Performed 1999-2003
Died July 18, 2003
Galway
(Ireland)
John Doran performed under the stage name Johnny Massacre throughout Europe, appeared regularly on TV, and was known around the world for performing a variety of circus and sideshow acts including bed of nails, fire-eating, juggling, and unicycle riding. He learned sword swallowing in 1999, and later became known for his specialty of swallowing a sword while riding a tall unicycle. Massacre died on Friday, July 18th 2003 at the age of 27 after being involved in a three car accident during the Galway Arts Festival in Galway, Ireland. The city of Galway went into a state of mourning, and photos and piles of flowers were placed on his patch where he had performed. There is now a plaque in memory of him displayed above his pitch in Galway. Seeking photos and more information.
Johnny Massacre
Johnny Massacre
Video of Johnny performing
Johnny Massacre Obituary
Pandora Pandemonium
Naomi Seraphina
Performed July 2002
Injured 2004
Retired 2004
Cirkus Pandemonium
Portland, OR
(USA)
Naomi Seraphina was known to be performing sword swallowing with Cirkus Pandemonium in the Pacific Northwest in July 2002 under the name Pandora Pandemonium. In her act, she would swallow a sword and do the splits. She encountered a near fatal injury while performing in 2004 when she punctured an artery in her stomach and nearly bled to death, but didn't realize it until the next morning after the accident. She received four complete blood transfusions after regurgitating blood over the nearby EMTs in the emergency room. She is now permanently retired as a sword swallower since her injury in 2004. Seeking photos and more information.
Pandora Pandemonium
Pandora Pandemonium
Pandora Pandemonium
Pandora Pandemonium
Pandora Pandemonium
Pandora Pandemonium
Matty The Blade

Matty Blade
Matthew Henshaw
Born April 27, 1963
Performed 1990-2104
March 25, 2014
Fremantle Busker's Festival
Perth
(Australia)
Matty "the Blade" Henshaw was born April 27, 1963. Infatuated with imagery of pirates from a young age, Blade was taught the dangerous art of sword swallowing by a native American in 1990 at 27 years of age. He was raised in the US and Papua New Guinea, but spent most of his adult life in Perth Australia. Patrick Fraher of Arizona knew Blade before he started sword-swallowing. "I knew Matty Blade during his time in the States. We worked security together at the Flamingo Hilton and he would entertain us at after shift parties with his magic," Fraher said. "He was just starting with his life's passion, but even then he could amaze a crowd." At the Fremantle Busker's Festival in 2000, Matty Blade set a Guinness World Record by swallowing 14 swords simultaneously with blades 60 cm long. That record was broken by another sword swallower in 2008, but Blade reclaimed the Australian record by swallowing 21 swords at the Perth Tattoo Expo in 2010. Matty also made the 2002 Guinness Book of World Records for swallowing 14 swords while balanced on top of a 10 foot pole (3 meters). Matty also held the record for most swords swallowed in a year, with 3782 swords in 2003, and appeared in the 2007 Guinness World Record Book after swallowing a sword that weighed 20.1kg. In his act, Blade regularly swallowed 14 swords at a time, which garnered him a Guinness World Record for the "Hungriest Sword Swallower". There is an exhibit in the Guinness World Record Museum in Los Angeles, CA with a sign that says "Matthew Henshaw swallowed 14 swords simultaneously on April 6, 2006 at Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia. The swords were 1.5 inches wide and almost 2 feet long, and weighed a total of about 15 pounds." Blade was a regular performer at Fremantle Prison's Torchlight Tours. One of Blade's final performances was for Medieval Fayre at the Perth Supreme Court Gardens on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Matty died on March 25, 2014 at the age of 50 in Perth Australia of an apparent suicide. He is survived by a sister, Lily Gower. Seeking photos and more information.
Matty the Blade
Matty Blade
Matty Blade Guinness LA
Claudio Borghi Born early 1950s
Performed 1976-2006
Died June 5, 2006
Florencia/Correggio
(Italy)
Claudio Borghi was born in the early 1950s and grew up in Florence, Italy. Originally trained as a church restorer, Borghi later turned to performing in the mid 1970s. Renowned as a fakir, fire-eater and one of only three known sword swallowers in Italy, Borghi performed at festivals, historical reenactments, and on the road throughout Italy and Europe for over 30 years, and was known as the last of the old-time sword swallowers in Italy. Borghi was short and stocky, but modest and well-loved as a very talented performer. Borghi swallowed swords, daggers, sabers, serpentine kriss blades, and katana swords up to 56 cm in length. He was a very controlled man - He claimed he never had to learn to overcome the gag reflex as a sword swallower. He worked "rough", with old swords wrapped in a rag which was often soaked in gasoline to wipe the blades down. To demonstrate the swords were made of metal, he would tap the tips of the blades on the street a few times then scrape them around him in a big circle to make a metallic grating sound (which also gnarled up the tips of this blades). As a fire performer, Borghi was known for blowing mammoth blasts from gasoline that created huge fire rings and spectacularly breathtaking deep orange fire balls in excess of five meters. Sometimes he would start a flame then twirl around on himself until the flame had made a complete ring of fire with a huge black plume above it. Borghi died on Monday morning, 5 June 2006 in Correggio, Italy. The visitation and funeral were held on Thursday, 8 June, 2006 at San Sebastian Hospital (Ospedale San Sebastiano in Via Mandriolo a Correggio). Several street entertainers attended his funeral, including Italy's last two remaining sword swallowers, Marco Cardona and Thomas Blackthorne. The performers sat outside on the grounds of the crematorium in a big circle on the grass. Planted in the center of the circle was one of Borghi's swords. After pouring a libation to Claudio, the performers passed around a bottle of wine and drank to his memory. Some said a few words. Someone had made a large white paper hot air balloon. Everyone signed the balloon and most wrote personal messages. Thomas Blackthorne drew a sword and wrote, "Claudio - A life lived to the hilt. We miss you, Thomas and your friends in the SSAI". A small flame filled the balloon and it lifted slowly into the air. As the balloon floated up and off into the distance, the group of street artists whooped and cheered in a final goodbye to Claudio Borghi.
Claudio Borghi
Claudio Borghi
Claudio Borghi
Sword Swallowing Study Published Dec 23, 2006 British Medical Journal
London
England
(UK)
The first comprehensive international medical study over the 4000 year history of sword swallowing ever recognized by the international medical community was conducted by SSAI Director Dan Meyer and Dr. Brian Witcombe of Gloucestershire, England using data from 46 sword swallowers around the world over a period of two years from 2004 to 2006. The study focused on the act of sword swallowing, its side effects, injuries, and treatment of injuries that occurred as a result of sword swallowing. The results of the study were published in the December 22-23, 2006 in the January 2007 issue of the British Medical Journal which was covered by the press and other including the USA Today, Newsweek, New York Times, London Times, The Guardian, ABC Medical News, the BBC, Scientific American, Forbes, and articles in dozens of other newspapers, magazines, radio and TV programs around the world. The authors were nominated for and received the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine at Harvard University on October 4, 2007 for their work.
Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects, January 2007 issue of the British Medical Journal

"Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects" (Dec 23, 2006)

Folke Vazir
Niklas Folkegård
Born May 20, 1971
Learned 1991
Performed 1992-2007
Retired 2007
Vazir Varieté
Gävle/Stockholm
(Sweden)
Niklas Folkegård was born in Gävle Sweden on May 20, 1971. He began teaching himself sword swallowing in 1991 at the age of 20 by studying a photocopy of "Handbok för fakirer" by Bercoman. In 1992, Folkegård co-founded the variety group Vazir Varieté, where he worked as performer, writer, and artistic head until 2007. During his career as a sword swallower, he swallowed swords up to 65 cm in length, and helped mentor apprentices Julia Strouzer (Jewels) and Martin Lundström (Fakiren Orthae) in 2003. Special feats included swallowing a flambard sword that got stuck in his throat every time he swallowed it, a magic card trick involving swallowing five meters of gauze bandage, but he was most well-known for swallowing a sparkstötting (Swedish kick sleigh) runner, which is now resides in the Sword Swallower's Museum and Hall of Fame. Folkegård retired from sword swallowing in 2007 under his doctor's advice due to an esophageal hernia, originally diagnosed in 2005, which made it impossible to swallow full length swords. On October 20, 2008, Folkegård was inducted into the Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame before the Swedish media, and his "sparkstötting sleigh" presented to the Sword Swallower's Museum. The event was featured in Expressen TV, Aftonbladet TV, Svenska Dagbladet, Gefle Dagblad, Arbetarbladet and others. Folkegård now works as a writer and standup comedian, and travels between Stockholm and Gävle, Sweden. Seeking photos and more information.
Svenska Dagbladet 10-22-08
Gefle Dagblad 10-22-08
Fakiren Orthae
Martin Lundström
Born June 21, 1977
Learned 2003
Performed 2003-date
Stockholm
(Sweden)
Martin Lundström was born on June 21, 1977. He did his first street performances as a firebreather, juggler, jester and fakir on the streets of Stockholm at the age of 16 around 1993. He learned sword swallowing by studying medical writings and x-rays, doing research on the Internet, consulting other sword swallowers, and studying the books "Handbok för självplågare" by Jaime Perez, "Trollare och andra underhållare" by Christer Nilsson, and others. In 2003 he studied sword swallowing under Niklas Folkegård, and in 2003 swallowed his first sword at around the age of 26. In his act, Lundström performs fakir feats such as fire-eating, blockhead, mental floss, mousetrap on tongue, crushing lightbulb by hand, glass-eating, walking on broken glass, sword swallowing, larva-eating, being shot by a pellet-gun, human pincusion, and lifting a mini-motorcycle with hooks in chest. Highlights have included pulling a 12 ton train cargo wagon using hooks in his back (shown in both Swedish and Norwegian television), as well as being featured on Swedish television programs such as "Vetenskapsmagasinet", "Outsiders", "Wimans", "O som i Ortmark", "TV Nord", "ID", "Rampljuset", doing a gastroscope on "Dr Åsa", and being featured on "Gogo" and "Äläkatsu" on Finnish TV. On October 20, 2008, Lundström was inducted into the Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame before the Swedish media, and one of his swords presented to the Sword Swallower's Museum. The event was featured in Expressen TV, Aftonbladet TV, Svenska Dagbladet, Arbetarbladet and others. On November 27, 2008, Lundström received his worst sword swallowing injury at a performance. Lundström lives in Bandhagen Sweden where he is the SSAI Regional Representative for Scandinavia, and he performs his fakir act around Stockholm and throughout Scandinvia. Seeking photos and more information.
Dan Meyer Born April 7, 1957
Learned 2001
Performed 2001-date
Injured 2005
Injured 2010
Cutting Edge Innertainment
Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus
Guinness World Records
Ripley's Believe It or Not
Ringling Brothers Circus
America's Got Talent
Stan Lee's Superhumans
Ig Nobel Award in Medicine
Upward Unlimited Awards
Muncie, IN
(USA)
Dan Meyer was born in Michigan City, Indiana on April 7, 1957. He first saw sword swallowers in the 1960s at mudshow circuses at Pullman Field in Michigan City and with Ward Hall's World's of Wonders Sideshow at the La Porte County Fair in the late 1960s, and later while serving as a Lutheran missionary in Tamil Nadu, south India in 1978. Meyer began teaching himself sword swallowing in 1997 at the age of 40 after reading "Memoirs of a Sword Swallower" by Daniel Mannix and studying "Gray's Anatomy". In 1998, he met George the Giant and Zamora the Torture King in Nashville, TN. On February 12, 2001, Meyer successfully swallowed his first sword after nearly 4 years of research and practice multiple times every day. In 2002, Meyer co-founded the "Sword Swallowers Association International" and the Sword Swallower's Hall of Fame Museum where he operated as President, Chief Executive Director, and Research Historian. In 2002 Meyer organized the first Sword Swallower's Convention in conjunction with the Sideshow Gathering in Wilkes-Barre, PA, and together with 20 other sword swallowers who attended from around the world, set the Guinness World Record for multiple sword swallowers swallowing swords at once. The event was covered by Jeanne Moos on CNN. In 2002 and 2003, Meyer toured with and opened for the CMA multiple-award-winning Country artists Brooks & Dunn's Neon Circus, Trick Pony, Dwight Yoakim, Rascal Flatts, and Cletus T. Judd. In April 2005, Meyer toured Ireland opening and performing in kilt with the Celtic pop/rock band Ceili Rain. In September 2005, Meyer and 8 other sword swallowers broke their previous Guinness World Record by swallowing a total of 52 swords between 9 sword swallowers, with Meyer swallowing 7 swords at once. A few weeks later on Friday, October 13, 2005, Meyer sustained his worst injury when he punctured his stomach when his stomach retched while swallowing 5 swords at once, sending him to the hospital and leaving him incapacitated and unable to eat solid food for nearly 4 weeks. Exactly one month later, Meyer climbed out of bed to shoot an episode of "Unwrapped" for Food Network. A few months later, his injury was featured in the Discovery Channel documentary "I Survived Impaling" and The Learning Channel documentary "99 Most Bizarre Self-Inflicted Injuries". In 2006, Meyer won 3rd place in the USA Networks national "You've Got Character" contest. On May 18, 2007, Meyer became the first person in America to swallow a 30" sword while submerged 20' underwater in a tank of 88 sharks and stingrays at Ripley's Aquarium Myrtle Beach, SC. On October 4, 2007, Meyer won the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine at Harvard University for the research study paper "Sword Swallowing and its side effects", with his co-author Dr. Brian Witcombe that was published in the December 2006 British Medical Journal. In 2008, Meyer was featured on multiple episodes of NBC's hit reality show America's Got Talent, making it to the Top 50 in the Las Vegas semi-finals, and ultimately to the live finals in Los Angeles. In 2009, Meyer received a standing ovation as the featured speaker at the International World Peace Conference in Huntsville, AL when he asked world peace delegates from three different countries to come together in cooperation and remove the "Sword of War" from his throat. In 2010, Meyer was featured on Stan Lee's Superhumans on History Channel for swallowing 7 swords at once, and for swallowing a sword heated red-hot to over 1500 degrees. A few weeks later, Meyer received two Guinness World Records for swallowing swords underwater on Lo Show Dei Record in Rome Italy. However, he was rushed to the hospital after perforating his esophagus, and remained in a hospital in Rome for 2 weeks. On November 14, 2010, Meyer swallowed 15 swords at once, and a 100-year-old saw owned by World Champion Sword Swallower Edith Clifford in the 1890s at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, which was featured worldwide as a Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon on April 8, 2011. Meyer has also been featured twice on NBC's The Today Show, The Learning Channel, The Discovery Channel, NTV (Russia), the Alan Titchmarsh Show ITV (UK), Aftonbladet (Sweden), "Go' Aften Danmark" TV2 (Copenhagen Denmark), and many other programs around the world. Meyer has swallowed swords with Ringling Brothers Circus, Cirque Eloize in Montreal, Canada, with sword swallower Tommy Breen on Ward Hall's World's of Wonders and 999 Eyes Sideshow, with Half-Boy Danny Frasier on John Strong's Sideshow at the Tennessee State Fair, with Leathal Weapon actor Danny Glover in the Bahamas, at Souq Waqif Festival in Doha, Qatar. Besides stilt-walking, juggling, fire-eating, glass-eating, and the Human Blockhead, during his career as a sword swallower Meyer has swallowed daggers, bayonets, rapiers, cutlasses, flamberge, sai, and other swords with blades from 15 to 30 inches in length and up to 15 swords at once. Special feats included swallowing a hedge clippers, a large surgical forceps, a serpentine sword, a giant straight razor, a giant saw, a curved sword, a flaming sword with blade on fire, a glowing light saber, and swallowing a 30 inch sword with 24 inch blade while submerged 20 feet underwater in a tank of sharks and stingrays at Ripley's Aquarium, Myrtle Beach, SC on May 18, 2007. This feat landed him in a Ripley's Believe It or Not cartoon syndicated in 43 countries, and in the 2008 Ripley's Believe It or Not book, as well as on programs such as ESPN and MTV. On February 23, 2013, Meyer pulled a 3700 lb Mini Cooper car encrusted in over 1Million Swarovsky gems by sword out of Ripley's Believe It or Not Baltimore for World Sword Swallower's Day 2013. Meyer performs at Ripley's Believe It or Not locations around the world, and his swords, photos and x-rays are on display at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditorium, London Piccadilly Circus, Ripley's Odditorium, Copenhagen Denmark, Ripley's Odditorium Times Square New York, and an exhibit of the underwater sword swallow in the shark tank displayed at the Ripley's Odditorium Myrtle Beach, SC. Meyer has been featured in appearances on over 700 TV stations, 800 radio stations, 1000 newspapers/magazines, and has been seen by over 700 million people in over 25 countries on 4 continents around the world. Meyer also performs science medical lectures around the world for Science Festivals, Medical associations, hospitals, TED Talks, colleges and universities including Harvard, MIT, Vanderbilt, Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial College (UK), for churches and large youth conventions, and Upward Unlimited Awards Night Celebration programs around the US. Seeking photos.

Guinness World Record, WKRN TV, Nashville (2002)
On tour with Ceili Rain in Ireland (2005)
Vanderbilt Juggleville (2005)
Food Network Unwrapped (2005)
Discovery Channel "I Survived Impaling" (2005)
Learning Channel "99 Most Bizarre Self-Inflicted Injuries" (2005)
Tennessee Crossroads (2006)
Absolutely Alabama (2006)
WHNT TV, Huntsville (2006)
999 Eyes Sideshow (2007)
Ripley's Believe It or Not Underwater in Sharktank (2007)
WPDE TV, Sharktank, Myrtle Beach, SC (2007)
ESPN First Take, Bristol, CT (2007)
Ripley's Odditorium Grand Opening, Times Square, New York (2007)
Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine at Harvard (2007)
NTV Russia (2007)
Alan Titchmarsh Show ITV UK (2008)
America's Got Talent, Atlanta audition (2008)
America's Got Talent, Las Vegas Semi-Finals (2008)
The Today Show (2008)
Aftonbladet Sweden (2008)
WBRC Fox News, Birmingham (2008)
Glass-eating on WGN (2009)
Swallowing Hedge Clippers (2009)
Wellcome Trust Foundation, London, UK (2009)
Ripley's Piccadilly Circus, London England (2009)
Ripley's Odditorium, Copenhagen Denmark (2009)
"Go' Aften Danmark" TV2, Denmark (2009)
Little Mermaid, Copenhagen, Denmark (2009)
Danish Documentary (2009)
Dutch Documentary (2009)
with Danny Glover, Bahamas (2009)
Cambridge University, UK (2009)
IAEWP International World Peace Conference (2009)
Cirque Eloize, Montreal, Canada (2009)
Sword removed by 9 Nobel Laureates, Harvard (2009)
Souq Waqif, Doha, Qatar (2009)
Red Hot Sword, Stan Lee's Superhumans (2010)
Swallowing 21 swords at once (2012)
Pulling car by sword, Ripley's Baltimore (2013)
TEDx Maastricht Netherlands (2013)



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Thanks to the many contributors and relatives of sword swallowers for helping supply, correct, and update the information on this page,
including Tom Hernandez, John Robinson, Jari Tapaneinen in Finland and D.B. Doghouse at showhistory.com

If you have any information, photos, corrections or additions to these or any other sword swallowers of the past, please contact us.

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