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Sword Swallower Matty Blade Dies

March 27, 2014
Sword Swallower Matty Blade Dies


27 March, 2014 (SSAI) – Sword Swallower Matty "the Blade" Henshaw died in Perth Australia Tuesday.

Henshaw was raised in the US and Papua New Guinea, but spent most of his adult life in Perth Australia. Henshaw was born April 27, 1963. Infatuated with an interest in pirates from a young age, Blade learned the art of sword swallowing at the age of 27 in 1990 from a native American when Henshaw lived in the US.

Patrick Fraher of Arizona knew Blade before he got started sword-swallowing. "I knew Matty 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."

In 2000, Matty Blade set a Guinness World Record by simultaneously swallowing 14 swords with blades 60 cm long at the Fremantle Busker's Festival. That record was broken by another Australian sword swallower in 2008, but Henshaw reclaimed the Australian record by swallowing 21 swords at the Perth Tattoo Expo in 2010. Henshaw also made the 2002 Guinness Book of World Records for swallowing 14 swords while balanced on top of a 10 foot pole.

Henshaw also held the record for most swords swallowed in a year by swallowing 3782 swords in 2003. He also was featured in the 2007 Guinness World Record Book for swallowing a weighted sword weighing 20.1kg. In his act, Henshaw regularly swallowed 14 swords at a time, which earned 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."

Henshaw was a regular performer at Fremantle Prison's Torchlight Tours. One of Henshaw's final performances was at the Medieval Fayre at the Perth Supreme Court Gardens on Saturday, March 22, 2014. Henshaw died at the age of 50 in Perth Australia on March 25, 2014 of an apparent suicide. He is survived by a sister, Lily Gower.






Click to sign up to celebrate WORLD SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAY with FREE SHOWS at RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT on Saturday, February 23, 2013

World Sword Swallower's Day 2013
Saturday, February 23, 2013

Press Release President Proclaims World Sword Swallower's Day 2013
Science on the Cutting Edge
Contact Media Inquiries, Appearances, Press Interviews




CALLING ALL SWORD SWALLOWERS!
President Proclaims Sword Swallower's Day

Sword Swallowers celebrate by swallowing together
at Ripley's Believe It or Not locations worldwide!
MUNCIE, IN (SSAI) – On February 23, 2013, Sword Swallowers around the world will celebrate World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 by doing what they do best -- Swallowing swords!

Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) President Dan Meyer announced the 7th annual World Sword Swallower's Day to raise awareness of sword swallowers worldwide. Founded by SSAI and co-sponsored by Ripley Entertainment, World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 will be observed on February 23, 2013 in conjunction with February as National Swallowing Disorders Month.

In celebration of World Sword Swallower's Day, more than 30 sword swallowers are expected to "drop swords" at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums worldwide on Saturday, February 23rd at 2:23 pm. SSAI President Sword Swallower Dan Meyer at Ripleys Believe It or Not London

"We sword swallowers have been risking our lives to perform sword swallowing for over 4000 years," explains Meyer. "But many people either don't believe it's real, or they think the art has died out."

"We established World Sword Swallower's Day to promote this ancient art still carried on by a few dozen surviving performers -- to raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of medicine and science, to honor veteran performers, and to raise funds for esophageal cancer research and the Injured Sword Swallower's Relief Fund." Meyer explains.

"Most of all, we do it to correct myths and educate the public and medical professionals by doing demonstrations for the public and media around the world."

"Many of us have been performing for years, and we love our work," explains Meyer, a multiple Ripley's Believe It or Not who performs in 20 countries around the world. "World Sword Swallower's Day is a great opportunity for us to show the public what we really do!"

"Most people don't realize the contributions sword swallowers have made to the fields of science and medicine over the past 150 years." Meyer explains. In 1868, a sword swallower was used by Dr. Adolf Kussmaul in Freiburg Germany to develop the first rigid endoscopy. In 1906 a sword swallower underwent the first esophageal electrocardiogram in Wales.

Other sword swallowers have been prodded and examined by doctors and medical institutes over the past 150 years around the world without recognition.

"We want to change all that. That's why we celebrate World Sword Swallower's Day." Meyer explains.

In 2006, the first comprehensive medical study on sword swallowing, "Sword Swallowing and its side effects", was published by the prestigious British Medical Journal. Co-authored by Meyer and British radiologist Dr. Brian Witcombe, the historic two-year study was the first comprehensive medical research conducted on sword swallowers in the 4000 year history of the art. The research won its authors the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine at Harvard University.

Since some sword swallowers perform charitable work for the medical community to raise awareness of esophageal cancer, dysphagia, GERD, and other upper gastro-intestinal and swallowing disorders, SSAI encourages sword swallowers to perform demonstrations at medical facilities throughout the day. Sword swallowers will also perform at hospitals, nursing homes, and orphanages for those who would otherwise have difficulty getting to theaters to see live performances.

"Sword swallowers who participate in these activities find them rewarding," explains Meyer. "Many people who have never had the opportunity to see sword swallowing firsthand will finally have a chance to witness it!"

"Because sword swallowing is so rare, sword swallowers usually perform solo," Meyer says. "World Sword Swallower's Day gives us a chance to work together to be part of something bigger."

Why is Ripley co-sponsoring World Sword Swallower's Day? "Because it's great entertainment!" said Tim O'Brien, VP of Communications for Ripley Entertainment Inc. "Sword swallowers and Ripley go way back to the very first Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium set up at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. There, three performers, two of whom were ladies, mesmerized the huge crowds. Ripley's has been home to sword swallowers around the world ever since."

"It's a huge honor for us to carry on the tradition of sword swallowers who have performed at Ripley's Believe It or Not! museums over the years." Meyer explains.

"In light of this, SSAI is extending an open invitation to sword swallowers worldwide to join us in celebrating World Sword Swallower's Day by swallowing swords with us at Ripley's Believe It or Not Odditoriums around the world."

On February 23rd, sword swallowers will perform free live shows at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums in London England, New York Times Square, Atlantic City NJ, Baltimore, MD, Myrtle Beach, SC, Gatlinburg, TN, Orlando, St. Augustine, Panama City, and Key West FL, Branson, MO, Grand Prairie, TX, Hollywood and San Francisco CA, Newport, OR, Niagara Falls, Canada, and Genting Hills Malaysia.

The 2013 Big Swallow will take place on Saturday, February 23 (2/23/13) at 2:23:13 pm local time.

All Sword Swallowers
All sword swallowers are required to register and sign up for their desired Ripley's properties to be included in the event.

About Sword Swallowing
The art of sword swallowing originated over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to repress natural reflexes in order to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. There are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing around the world today.

About the Sword Swallowers Association International
The Sword Swallowers Association International, is an international organization comprised of sword swallowers from around the world who are dedicated to preserving and promoting the ancient art of sword swallowing. SSAI maintains a site with general information on sword swallowing at www.swordswallow.com.

About Ripley Entertainment
Ripley's Believe It or Not! (www.ripleys.com) is part of the Ripley Entertainment Inc. family of worldwide attractions, the global leader in location-based entertainment. More than 12 million people visit its 85-plus attractions in 11 countries each year. In addition to its 31 Believe It or Not! Odditoriums, the Orlando-based company has publishing, licensing and broadcast divisions that oversee the syndicated Believe It or Not! television show, best-selling books, and the popular syndicated cartoon strip, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, that runs daily in 42 countries. Ripley Entertainment is a Jim Pattison Company, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.

LOCAL SWORD SWALLOWERS AVAILABLE for interviews, comments, and medical demonstrations. For more information on World Sword Swallower's Day, or to schedule a sword swallower for an event in your area on February 23rd, please contact us.

# # # END # # #
Media Contact:
Dan Meyer
President
Sword Swallowers Association Int'l

(615) 969-2568
dan@swordswallow.com
www.swordswallow.org (SSAI)
www.swordswallow.com (General Info)
www.swordswallow.org/wssd/ (World Sword Swallower's Day)

Tim O'Brien
VP Communications
Ripley Entertainment Inc.

(615) 646-7465
obrien@ripleys.com


Press Releases
President Proclaims World Sword Swallower's Day 2013
Science on the Cutting Edge
(right-click to download)

Contact
Media Inquiries, Appearances and Press Interviews


SWORD SWALLOWERS:
Click below to SIGN UP for YOUR local Ripley's location:

Click to sign up to celebrate WORLD SWORD SWALLOWER'S DAY with FREE SHOWS at RIPLEY'S BELIEVE IT OR NOT on Saturday, February 23, 2013



Sword Swallowers Set Records on
World Sword Swallower's Day 2010

22 Sword Swallowers Swallow over 138 Feet of Solid Steel!

HARTSELLE, AL (March 3, 2010) – To celebrate World Sword Swallower's Day 2010, 22 brave and daring sword swallowers swallowed nearly 138 feet of solid steel at 10 Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums!

And according to all reports, all that steel went down the hatch without a scratch!

The 22, including four women, who performed this year, swallowed 84 swords in total, measuring 137.46 feet in length. It was one of the largest coordinated simultaneous gatherings of sword swallowers ever!

Highlights included:

  • Red Stuart swallowed a record 52 swords at one time at the Ripey's Believe It or Not! Atlantic City
  • George the Giant swallowed a 37-inch long sword at the Hollywood Believe It or Not!
  • Dan Meyer swallowed a giant straight razor and hedge clippers at the Dallas Believe It or Not!
  • Six swallowers, including two women, performed at the Times Square New York Believe It or Not!
  • Travis Fessler swallowed a sword with cockroaches crawling around in his mouth at the Gatlinburg, TN Believe It or Not! Odditorium.
  • Dai Andrews swallowed a sword with a record 120 degree curve at the Ripley's Believe It or Not Ocean City, MD
  • Mike Harrison swallowed a sword that was driven down his throat by the discharge of a gun at the Orlando Believe It or Not!

"We sword swallowers enjoyed showing the world that sword swallowing is still a thriving and very viable entertainment choice today" said Dan Meyer, President of the Sword Swallowers Association International. "After 4000 years, audiences are still amazed at what sword swallowers can do with the human body!"

"The amazing success of today's events proves that Ripley's Believe It or Not! is indeed, the global authority on the weird, strange, bizarre and the UNBELIEVABLE," said Tim O'Brien, VP Communications for Ripley Entertainment Inc. "Sword swallowers and Ripley go way back to the very first Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorium, set up at the Chicago World's Fair in 1933. There, three performers, two of whom were ladies, mesmerized the huge crowds. Ripley's has been home to sword swallowers around the world ever since."

World Sword Swallower's Day, founded by Sword Swallowers Association International and co-sponsored by Ripley's Believe It or Not! is held each year on the last Saturday in February. Next year's event will be held at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditorums worldwide on Feb. 26, 2011. http://www.swordswallow.org/issad/

For downloadable photos, go to Ripley's Newsroom at www.ripleysnewsroom.com

Media Contacts  
Dan Meyer Tim O'Brien
President/Executive Director VP Communications
Sword Swallowers Association Int'l Ripley Entertainment
Dan@swordswallow.com obrien@ripleys.com
+1 (615) 969.2568 (GMT-6 Central Time) +1 (615) 646-7465 office
www.swordswallow.org   (SSAI) +1 (615) 496-5949 cell
www.swordswallow.com (General Info) www.ripleys.com


Video clips from World Sword Swallower's Day


World Sword Swallower's Day 2010 Ripley's Niagara Falls


World Sword Swallower's Day 2010 Ripley's Niagara Falls


World Sword Swallower's Day 2010 Ripley's Hollywood, CA


World Sword Swallower's Day 2010 Ripley's Branson, MO


World Sword Swallower's Day 2010 Ripley's Gatlinburg, TN


World Sword Swallower's Day 2010 Ripley's St. Augustine, FL


CNN Reports on World Sword Swallower's Day 2009


World Sword Swallower's Day 2009 Ripley's Times Square New York


Telegraph reports on World Sword Swallower's Day 2009 Ripley's London Picadilly Circus


World Sword Swallower's Day 2009 Ripley's London Picadillly Circus




# #   FOR RELEASE FEBRUARY 9, 2010   # #


President Proclaims World Sword Swallower's Day 2010

100 Feet of Solid Steel to be Swallowed at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museums Worldwide!

HARTSELLE, AL – Imagine sliding a steel sword down your throat. Now imagine 25 sword swallowers swallowing over 100 feet of solid steel! That's just one of many unbelievable sword swallowing stunts in the works for the 4th Annual World Sword Swallowers Day at Ripley's Believe It or Not! locations worldwide on February 27, 2010!

Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) President Dan Meyer proclaimed the 4th annual “World Sword Swallower’s Day” for the last Saturday in February, “National Swallowing Disorders Month”, with stunts occuring throughout the month culminating with World Sword Swallower’s Day on February 27. World Sword Swallower’s Day is co-sponsored by Ripley Entertainment, who with SSAI, is inviting sword swallowers around the world to put on incredible sword swallowing demonstrations at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! locations worldwide.

Why World Sword Swallower’s Day? “We sword swallowers risk our lives every time we swallow swords, but many people don't believe it’s real, or they think the art has died out," explains Meyer, a sword swallower and Ripley’s Believe It or Not himself. "We established World Sword Swallower’s Day to raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made to the fields of medicine and science, to honor veteran performers, to raise funds for esophageal cancer research and the Injured Sword Swallower’s Relief Fund (with donations matched by Ripley’s), and to correct myths by putting on sword swallowing demonstrations for the public and media around the world.”

Why is Ripley’s co-sponsoring the day? “Because it’s great entertainment!” said Tim O’Brien, VP of Communications for Ripley Entertainment. “Sword swallowers and Ripley’s go way back to the very first Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Odditorium at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. There, three sword swallowers, two of which were ladies, mesmerized huge crowds. Ripley’s has been home to sword swallowers ever since.”

On February 27 sword swallowers will perform worldwide, with some attempting to set individual or small group records at Ripley’s Believe It or Not locations around the world. "Most of us usually perform solo," Meyer says. "World Sword Swallower's Day gives SSAI members a chance to work together to be part of something much bigger, and performing at Ripley’s Odditoriums helps bring us all together!"

Just a few of the stunts scheduled for February 27 at Ripley’s Believe It or Not locations:

  • Hollywood, CA – World's tallest sword swallower George the Giant will attempt to swallow a giant 33 inch long sword
  • Ocean City, MD – Baltimore sword swallower Dai Andrews will attempt to swallow the dangerous curved sword!
  • Orlando, FL – Sword swallower Mike Harrison will have a bayonet shot down his throat with a rifle!
  • Atlantic City, NJ – Veteran sword swallower Red Stuart will attempt to swallow a WORLD RECORD 52 swords at once!

A variety of incredible stunts are scheduled for other Ripley's locations worldwide on February 27 and celebrities are invited to make surprise appearances to remove swords from the throats of sword swallowers, with details kept secret until the event.

All Ripley’s performances will take place on 2/27/10 at precisely 2:27:10 pm local time. At the end of the day, a tally of performances and stunts will be submitted for consideration in a future “Ripley’s Believe It or Not!” cartoon, book or film clip.

“It’s a huge honor for us to carry on the great tradition of sword swallowers who have performed at Ripley’s Believe It or Not! museums over the years,” Meyer explains. “In light of this, SSAI is issuing an open invitation to all sword swallowers worldwide to contact us to join us in swallowing swords at Ripley’s Believe It or Not locations on February 27th!"

Since some sword swallowers perform charitable work for the medical community during February “National Swallowing Disorders Month”, SSAI is encouraging all sword swallowers who are not near a Ripley’s Believe It or Not! location to perform medical demonstrations at local medical facilities throughout the day to help raise awareness of esophageal cancer, dysphasia, GERD, and other upper gastro-intestinal and swallowing disorders. Sword swallowers will also perform at hospitals, nursing homes and orphanages for those who would otherwise have difficulty getting to theaters to see live performances. “Sword swallowers who participate in these activities find them rewarding,” explains Meyer. “On February 27th, many people will have the opportunity to witness sword swallowing first-hand who would not otherwise have a chance to experience it."

“Many of us have been entertaining for years, and we love our work,” explains Meyer, who earned his place in the Ripley’s book by swallowing a sword while submerged underwater in a tank of sharks. “World Sword Swallowers Day is a great opportunity for us to show the world what we really do, and performing at Ripley’s locations helps us get the word out!”

The art of sword swallowing began over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshow over the past several decades, there are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the art of sword swallowing around the world today.

About the Sword Swallowers Association International
The Sword Swallowers Association International, founded in 2001 to preserve and promote the art of sword swallowing, is comprised of sword swallowers from around the world and maintains a site with general information on sword swallowing for the general public at www.swordswallow.com.

About Ripley Entertainment
Ripley Entertainment Inc. (www.ripleys.com), keepers of the venerable Ripley's Believe It or Not! brand, is a global leader in location-based entertainment, entertaining more than 13 million annually at its 80 attractions in 11 countries. In addition to its 31 Believe It or Not! museums, the Orlando-based company has publishing, licensing and broadcast divisions, best-selling books and the popular syndicated cartoon strip, Ripley's Believe It or Not!, that runs daily in 42 countries. Ripley Entertainment is a Jim Pattison Company, the third-largest privately held company in Canada.

Medical Facts and Trivia about Sword Swallowing – Believe It or Not!

  • Sword Swallowing is a 4000 year old art that originated in India around 2000 BC.
  • The average person swallows about 600 times per day – 350 while awake, 200 while eating, and about 50 times while asleep.
  • The average swallow uses 50 pairs of muscles and can take from 3-23 seconds to complete.
  • Sword swallowers use mind-over-matter techniques to repress the gag reflex in the back of the mouth, the peristalsis reflex in the throat, and the retch reflex in the stomach to "swallow" solid steel blades from 15-30 inches in length.
  • Sword swallowing can take from 2 years to 7 years to learn, and even after years of practice, some people never learn to master it.
  • SSAI reports that there are on average between 5-7 serious sword swallowing related injuries reported around the world each year that require hospitalization, with dozens more that go unreported each year.
  • Treatment of sword swallowing injuries can cost from $50,000-$80,000 per injury.
This might help explain why there are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers left actively performing around the world today! Believe It or Not!


CNN's Kyra Phillips reports on World Sword Swallower's Day 2009



Sword Swallower's Day 2009 at Ripley's London Piccadilly Circus



World Sword Swallower's Day 2009 in NewYork City


Media Inquiries

Media Contacts  
Dan Meyer Tim O'Brien
President/Executive Director VP Communications
Sword Swallowers Association Int'l Ripley Entertainment
Dan@swordswallow.com obrien@ripleys.com
+1 (615) 969.2568 (GMT-6 Central Time) +1 (615) 646-7465 office
www.swordswallow.org   (SSAI) +1 (615) 496-5949 cell
www.swordswallow.com (General Info) www.ripleys.com





February 8, 2010

Australian Sword Swallower Swallows 18 Swords

SYDNEY, AUS -- Sword Swallower Chayne Hultgren, the "Space Cowboy" set a new personal record by swallowing 18 swords at once!

The professional sword swallower set a new official Guinness World Record on February 7, 2010 by swallowing 18 swords measuring 72 centimetres long at the same time in Sydney, Australia.

The 31-year-old beat his own previous record of 17 swords, which he set in Melbourne, Australia on March 28, 2008.

But for all those wannabe sword swallowers out there, Mr. Hultgren warned that the stunt has taken years to perfect.

"It's amazing," Mr Hultgren said. "I've been preparing for this since I was 16."

"It is definitely one of my greatest achievements so far.''

Hultgren began practising the art of sword swallowing at the age of 16 when he swallowed his first hose.

A few years later he upped the ante and began using stainless steel blades.

He swears his latest feat is not dangerous, but the cheeky entertainer conceded that "it wasn't recommended by my doctor''.

"It's educated risk,'' he said.

"I don't just straight away grab 18 blades and shove them down my throat - you've got to practise a lot and build up to it."

"So I stretch my throat with hoses and use a few different techniques to basically enable me to do what, until now, has been impossible.''

Hultgren beat his own personal record of swallowing 17 swords - his official Guinness World Record - which he set in 2008.

Other sword swallowers who have swallowed large numbers of swords include Johnny Fox (16), Dai Andrews (15), Matty Blade (14), Natasha Veruschka (13), Edith Clifford (20 to 24 swords in 1899), and Red Stuart, who has swallowed 24 to 52 swords at a time between 2005 and 2009.

Stuart will attempt to break the official SSAI World Record that he set last year by swallowing 52 swords for World Sword Swallower's Day 2009.

Sword swallowers around the world are attempting to set new world records in sword swallowing during the month of February, National Swallowing Disorders Month on World Sword Swallower's Day, February 27, 2010.

Details and more Sword Swallowing Records

submit a sword swallowing news story





January 6, 2010

Sword Swallower Hypnotizes Himself in Mirror

Sword Swallower Helmut Kirchmeier put himself in a hypnotic trance

LONDON, ENG -- A SWORD SWALLOWING HYPNOTIST put himself in a trance for FIVE hours after practising in front of a mirror.

Sword Swallower Helmut Kirchmeier was found in the hypnotised state by his shocked wife Joanna at their home in London.

She had to call a mentor of her husband's to talk him round over the phone.

Joanna said: "I was really shocked when I found him, he was just like a zombie staring at himself in the mirror. His pupils had gone really small, which is a sign of someone under hypnosis."

The hypnotist also known as Hannibal Helmurto became transfixed after looking into the mirror.

German-born Helmut, a performer with the touring Circus of Horrors group, learnt how to hypnotise himself so he could swallow swords.

The 38-year-old said: "I underestimated the techniques and how powerful they were. I put myself in a very deep state and lost all sense of time around me.

"It is a very pleasant feeling. Sometimes it is so pleasant that you literally forget the things around you and that is what happened to me.

"Your body is absolutely relaxed. You don't feel a thing. On the one hand your body is relaxed and floating and on the other hand your mind is extremely focused on something."

The last thing Helmut remembered before falling in to his daze was getting up at 10am to practise his hypnosis.

He added: "I have always been interested in hypnosis because I had seen it on TV and thought it was a right big spoof. I started reading and learning about it and it turns out it is not a big spoof at all.

"I got into it being a total disbeliever."

During his debut performance with the Circus of Horrors Helmut skewered himself with a 4ft long sabre and ended up in intensive care.

Read more: http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/news/2796782/Hypnotist-falls-under-own-spell.html


submit a sword swallowing news story





February 11, 2009

Australian Sword Swallower Dies

Australian Sword Swallower Ali Kabah

SYDNEY, AUS -- Australian Sword Swallower Aly Kabah (Gerry Holmes) died February 10th at his residence in Sydney Australia.

Holmes taught himself sword swallowing in 1942 at the age of 20, and had an illustrious career performing as a fakir and sword swallower around the world for over 40 years.

His funeral will be held next Tuesday in Sydney, Australia.

Our condolences go out to his family and friends.

Read more...


submit sword swallowing news story




February 6, 2009

Chinese Sword Swallower Punctures Esophagus with Curved Sword



Chinese Sword Swallowing Injury 2-06-09


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President Proclaims
Sword Swallower's Day

Sword Swallowers celebrate worldwide by swallowing together!

contact us
Add to deli.cio.us   Digg this!   Add to Technorati Favorites   Follow SSAI on Twitter

February 9, 2009

HARTSELLE, AL -- On February 28th, Sword Swallowers around the world will observe 'International Sword Swallower's Day' by doing what they do best - Swallowing swords!

Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) President Dan Meyer proclaimed the day to raise awareness of sword swallowers around the world.

Sponsored by SSAI, 'International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day' is set for the 28th in conjunction with February as 'National Swallowing Disorders Month'. This year, mayors, governors, and other governing bodies worldwide are requested to issue proclamations to officialize the day.

"We sword swallowers have been risking our lives to perform sword swallowing for over 4000 years, but many people don't believe it's real, or they think the art has died out," explains Meyer. "We've established this day to promote an ancient art that is still being carried on by a few dozen surviving practitioners, to raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made to the fields of medicine and science, to honor veteran performers, and to correct misconceptions and educate the public and medical professionals by putting on demonstrations for medical facilities and the media around the world."

Since some sword swallowers perform charitable work for the medical community to raise awareness of esophageal cancer, dysphagia, GERD, and other upper gastro-intestinal and swallowing disorders, SSAI is encouraging sword swallowers to put on demonstrations at medical facilities and research facilities during the day. Sword swallowers will also perform at universities, hospitals, medical clinics, nursing homes and other locations for those who would otherwise have difficulty getting to theaters to see live performances. "The sword swallowers who participate in these activities find them rewarding," explains Meyer. "On February 28th, we are offering the public the rare opportunity to witness sword swallowing firsthand, and for many, this will be their one and only chance of a lifetime to witness it!"

In 2006, the British Medical Journal published the first international medical study of the art entitled "Sword Swallowing and its side effects". Co-authored by Meyer and Dr. Brian Witcombe, the year-long study of sword swallowers around the world won its authors the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine at Harvard University. In March, the authors will appear on the 2009 Ig Nobel UK Tour at Oxford, Imperial College, Newcastle Science Centre for Life, and other venues in the UK in conjunction with National Science and Engineering Week sponsored by the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Until this study, sword swallowers' contributions to medical science over the past few hundred years had gone largely unrecognized. In 1868, a sword swallower was enlisted by Dr. Adolf Kussmaul in Germany for the first rigid endoscopy, and in 1906 a sword swallower underwent the first esophageal electrocardiogram in Wales. Other sword swallowers have been prodded and examined by doctors and medical colleges without formal recognition for years. "We want to change all that. That's why we're observing 'Sword Swallower's Awareness Day'."

"Many of us have been performing for years, and we love our work," explains Meyer, a Ripley's and multiple Guinness World Record holder. " 'Sword Swallowers Day' is a great opportunity for us to show the medical community and the rest of the world what we do best!"

On February 28th, sword swallowers will perform around the world, with some setting individual and small group records. Immediately after their events, sword swallowers will submit reports of their activities to SSAI for review and consideration for a group record. "As a rule, most of us usually perform individually," Meyer says. "'International Sword Swallower's Day' gives us a chance to all work together to be part of something much bigger."

The art of sword swallowing began over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshow over the past several decades, there are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International, founded in 2001 to preserve the art of sword swallowing, is comprised of sword swallowers from around the world and maintains a site with general information on sword swallowing for the general public at www.swordswallow.com.

LOCAL SWORD SWALLOWERS AVAILABLE for interviews, comments, and medical demonstrations. Contact us immediately for additional information on 'International Sword Swallowers Day' or to schedule a local sword swallower for events in your area for February 28th, or for the Ig Nobel Tour of the UK March 6-15, 2009.

Media Inquiries



Science on the Cutting Edge

Swallowing the Science of the Sword

by Tim Anderson, Medical Migrant

Feb 6, 2009

The medical community is abuzz - there's been a breakthrough.

You flip on the TV. Sure, you've seen them before, but there's something about press conferences you find irresistible. The throng of eager reporters, the normally reclusive scientists clad in impeccably pressed, pure white lab coats, exhibiting an air of exuberance befitting their first public sighting in five years. You're not sure what's up, but you can tell it's going to be big.

Pan right.

An intruder. A middle-aged man sporting a growth of whiskers smiles mischievously. He steps into the light, tosses back a cape, revealing a red and navy pirate outfit. Though flashy, the swashbuckler's colorful costume stands out in stark contrast to the sterile scientific environment of black and white. He draws a 3-foot sword from his scabbard, tilts back his head, and plunges the length of the blade down his throat. Sword Swallower Dan Meyer and x-ray

The scientists erupt in wild applause.

Science and swords may seem an odd pair. But, without the contribution of sword swallowers, we may not have some of today's most critical diagnostic tools. Sword swallowers rigorously train themselves to ignore the body's natural gag reflex, making them the perfect test subjects.

February 28, 2009 is annual International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day. In their honor, and to gain insight into their medical contributions, let's take a closer look at the development of the endoscope.

Today's flexible endoscopes are widely used by physicians to visually inspect various internal aspects of the body, including the esophagus, the nasal passage, the colon (yikes!), and the respiratory tract. Man's interest in getting a look inside the human body dates back centuries, and a prototype of an endoscope was discovered in the ruins of Pompeii.

But it was not until 1868 that a physician first peered through an endoscope directly into a human stomach. Eureka! Dr. Adolph Kussmaul, a renowned German physician, developed several innovative diagnostic procedures. But, when it came to fashioning a functioning endoscope, the challenge seemed beyond his reach.

He'd read of the development, by Antoine Jean Desormeaux in France, of a small tube to examine the urinary tract and bladder. He began work on a similar design for studying the stomach, but his progress soon faltered. Then, the hand of fate swept in. His assistant, while enjoying a pint at a local inn after a hard day's work, was captivated by the evening's performer – a sword swallower.

He gulped down his pint and raced back to tell Dr. Kussmaul what he'd witnessed.

Kussmaul quickly set about designing a prototype based on the sword swallower's act. He meticulously sketched out the specifications - a rigid 18-inch stainless steel tube, one-half inch in diameter. He'd illuminate it with an external alcohol-turpentine lamp, like Desormeaux. He took the drawings to an instrument maker, a skilled craftsman, and the resulting endoscope was perfect.

Kussmaul's device was revolutionary. Interest in peering into the very core of the human body spread quickly, and he was asked to demonstrate the endoscope in Freiburg at a meeting of the Society of Naturalists. But, how could he possibly do so? Where would he find someone capable of serving as a test subject? Yes, of course – he would take the sword swallower along.

This rudimentary beginning laid the foundation for the modern, flexible endoscope. Dr. Kussmaul and his sword-swallowing associate toured extensively, giving demonstrations at leading hospitals, and soon even Desormeaux was using an endoscope to examine esophageal disorders.

Men of steel. In 1894, sword swallower Chevalier Cliquot swallowed 14 swords at one time, stunning the physicians at New York's Metropolitan Throat Hospital so much, that one doctor impulsively rushed in and removed the swords at once, causing lacerations that left the performer incapacitated for months. In the 1930s Delno Fritz made the ultimate sacrifice for science. He died of complications from testing a bronchialscope. During the testing a screw came loose and lodged in his lung, resulting in pneumonia and his untimely demise.

Today there are less than a few dozen surviving sword swallowers left actively performing around the world. Gone are the days of the traveling sideshows where they plied their dangerous craft. Gone are the acts of daring that tantalize all, traumatize the young, and terrify the fainthearted. Gone are the magical days of covering one's face, not daring to look, but being unable to turn away.

Or, are they?

February 28, 2009 is International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day. Dan Meyer, Executive Director of the Sword Swallower's Association International (SSAI), said the day is being held in conjunction with February's National Swallowing Awareness Month.

"We sword swallowers have been risking our lives to perform the ancient art of sword swallowing for over 4000 years, but many people don't believe it's real, or they think that the art has died out," Meyer explained. "We have chosen this day to honor veteran sword swallowers, to raise awareness of the medical contributions that sword swallowers have made to the fields of medicine and science, and to correct misconceptions about the art by performing for medical facilities and the media around the world."

Meyer and his co-author Dr. Brian Witcombe are the recipients of the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine. The Ig Nobel Prizes are presented each year at Harvard for discoveries that, "first make people laugh, and then make them think." They won the award for their article, "Sword Swallowing and its side effects," published in the British Medical Journal in 2006.

The pair will make presentations at scientific events during the 2009 British Ig Nobel Tour in March during National Science and Engineering Week, and bring a bit of swashbuckler's magic to the otherwise scholarly gatherings.

And at these scholarly events, if you listen carefully, you might hear the "schwing" of a sword being pulled from its scabbard…
And if you look closely, you may recognize a mischievous smile behind a hilt protruding among the white labcoats…

Science and swords… perhaps not such an odd pair after all…

To learn more about the art and science of sword swallowing, or to inquire about a demonstration on the 28th, visit the Sword Swallower's Association International website at www.swordswallow.org or contact us.

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If you've had an X-ray or Endoscope,
Thank a Sword Swallower on
"International Sword Swallower's Day"

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For Release February 28, 2008

HARTSELLE, AL -- If you've had an x-ray, an endoscopy, a fluoroscopy, or an electrocardiogram, you might want to thank a sword swallower!

And 'Sword Swallower's Day' on February 28th is just the day to do it!  

According to the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l (SSAI), February 28th is 'International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day', a day set aside at the end of February, 'National Swallowing Disorders Month,' when sword swallowers around the world will swallow swords all together to raise awareness of the contributions that sword swallowers have made, not only in the art of sword swallowing, but also in the field of medical science.

Medical Facts and Trivia about Sword Swallowing - Did you know?

  • Sword Swallowing is a 4000 year old art that originated in India around 2000 BC.
  • The average person swallows about 600 times per day – 350 while awake, 200 while eating, and about 50 times while asleep.
  • The average swallow utilizes 50 pairs of muscles and can take from 3-23 seconds to complete.
  • The average human stomach contracts about three times per minute.
  • Sword swallowers use mind-over-matter techniques to repress the natural gag reflex in the back of the throat, the peristalsis reflex in the esophagus, and the retch reflex in the stomach to "swallow" solid steel sword blades from 15-30 inches in length.
  • Sword swallowing can take from 2 years to 7 years to learn, and even after years of practice, some people never learn to master it.
  • The longest sword swallowed on record was 33" long swallowed by George the Giant.
  • The most swords swallowed at once was 25 swords swallowed by Red Stuart in 2005.
  • SSAI reports that there are an average of 4-8 serious sword swallowing related injuries reported around the world each year that require medical attention and hospitalization, with dozens more that go unreported each year.
  • Treatment of sword swallowing injuries can cost up to $23,000-$76,000 per injury.
This might help explain why there are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers left performing around the world today!

Medical History of Sword Swallowing over the past 140 years
1868 - Dr. Adolph Kussmaul enlists a sword swallower to develop the first rigid endoscope in Freiburg, Germany. 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.

1894 – Doctors at the Metropolitan Throat Hospital in New York are amazed when sword swallower Chevalier Cliquot swallows 14 swords at one time. When the sword swallower appeared to be in pain, Dr. G.B. Hope rushed forward and yanked out the swords at once, causing lacerations in the esophagus and injuring the performer, leaving him incapacitated for months. After recovery, Cliquot performed lectures for doctors at the Rush Medical College in Chicago, and the University of Liverpool in England, among other places.

1897 - Dr. Stevens, a Scottish physician, conducts experiments on digestion by enlisting a sword swallower to swallow metallic tubes pierced with holes filled with pieces of meat. After a length of time, the sword swallower disgorged the tubes and the doctor observed the degree of digestion that had taken place. This sword swallower also showed the doctors to what extent the pharynx could be stretched, resulting in the invention of the tube of Faucher, the esophageal sound, lavage, and illumination of the stomach by electric light.

1906 – Dr. Cremer performs first esophageal electrocardiogram on a sword swallower in Wales

1908 - In an article in the American Journal of Medical Sciences, Dr. Hald reports his observations in esophagoscopy in a sword swallower. The esophagus had been largely distended due to the sword swallower's practice, and the cricoidean zone of the pharynx was patent and larger than normal. There was an excoriation on the posterior wall of the cricoid cartilage. Surprisingly, the patient could not support the examination any better than other subjects, his esophagus apparently accustomed to flat foreign bodies, but not to cylindrical ones.

1930s – Sword swallower Delno Fritz dies of pneumonia developed as a result of a screw that came loose and lodged in his lung while testing a bronchialscope for doctors in Pennsylvania.

In 2006 the British Medical Journal published the first international medical study on sword swallowing entitled "Sword Swallowing and its side effects". Results of the findings showed that sword swallowing injuries are most likely to occur when multiple swords are swallowed, when performing unusual feats beyond the scope of a "regular" sword swallow, or after a previous minor injury when tissue is tender and swollen.

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine was awarded to sword swallower Dan Meyer, Executive Director of SSAI, and his co-author Dr. Brian Witcombe, SSAI Medical Advisor, at Harvard University in October for their paper "Sword swallowing and its side effects". In March 2008, sword swallowing will be featured on the 2008 Ig Nobel Tour of the UK at Oxford University, Imperial College and other locations around the UK as part of National Science and Engineering Week sponsored by the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

For 'Sword Swallower's Day' on February 28th, sword swallowers around the world will perform medical demonstrations for doctors, nurses and patients at hospitals, medical centers and universities to dispel myths about the art, to raise awareness about contributions sword swallowers have made to the fields of medical science, and to honor veteran sword swallowers, with some performers attempting to set individual and small group records. When the day is over, participating sword swallowers are asked to document their activities in reports to be submitted to SSAI for review and consideration for an SSAI group record.

The art of sword swallowing began over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes in order to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshow over the past several decades, there are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the ancient but deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International, founded in 2001 to preserve the art of sword swallowing, is comprised of sword swallowers from around the world and maintains a site with general information on sword swallowing for the general public at www.swordswallow.com.

To schedule a local sword swallower for a medical demonstration, interview or other appearance in your area for International Sword Swallowers Awareness Day on February 28th, contact SSAI at ssai@swordswallow.org.

To schedule a sword swallower for an event during the 2008 Ig Nobel UK Tour in conjunction with National Science and Engineering Week (March 6-15, 2008), contact Marc Abrahams at +1(617) 491-4437 or e-mail marca@improbable.com

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Sword Swallowers Association Announces Medical Advisor Appointment

Coincides with "International Sword Swallowers Day" and "Ig Nobel UK Tour"

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Feb 28, 2008

HARTSELLE, AL, Feb 28, 2008 – In conjunction with "International Sword Swallower's Day", Sword Swallowers Association Int'l (SSAI) Executive Director Dan Meyer today announced the appointment of Dr. Brian Witcombe of Gloucestershire Royal Hospital as SSAI's Medical Advisor.

"SSAI is extremely proud to welcome Dr. Witcombe to our staff," Meyer announced. "Not only does Dr. Witcombe come from a distinguished background in the British medical community, but he also brings with him a unique understanding of the ins and outs of sword swallowing. Two years of researching sword swallowing have given Dr. Witcombe a wealth of knowledge about the risks, injuries and side effects we sword swallowers face."

Witcombe, who qualified from St Thomas Hospital in London in 1966 and undertook his radiological training in Oxford, served in academic posts in Cape Town Africa and Denver, Colorado before accepting a post at the University of Manchester, where he became Senior Lecturer in Radiology. In 1980, Witcombe was appointed to his present post of Consultant Radiologist at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital, where he maintains an interest in paediatric radiology, cross-sectional imaging and gastro-intestinal radiology.

Witcombe's interest in sword swallowing was stimulated when he realized that little about the patho-physiology and side-effects of sword swallowing was documented in medical literature.

In 2005, Witcombe began researching the injuries and side effects associated with sword swallowing, and in the process, struck up an acquaintance with sword swallower Dan Meyer, Executive Director of the Sword Swallowers Association International.

After exchanging hundreds of e-mails on sword swallowing with Meyer over nearly two years of research, Witcombe submitted an exploratory article on the subject to the British Medical Journal. In December 2006, the BMJ published their penetrating article, "Sword Swallowing and its side effects". Several months later, the team and their paper were awarded the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine at Harvard University.

"The fact that Dr. Witcombe comes to us with years of research on sword swallowing gives him a depth of understanding of our unique field of sword swallowing that other doctors don't have," said SSAI Associate Director Travis Fessler. "The fact that Dr. Witcombe has been published in the prestigious British Medical Journal and honored with the Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine for research on sword swallowing are honors that have special meaning to us as sword swallowers!"

"Not only does Dr. Witcombe come to us with a distinguished background in the medical field, but he also has the distinction of being recognized internationally as one of the top medical experts in the field of sword swallowing injuries, side effects and treatment," Meyer elaborated. "We are highly honored that he has accepted the role of Medical Advisor for SSAI."

"And now Dr. Witcombe has the unique added distinction of being the only SSAI member who is not a sword swallower!" Meyer added with a smile.

Witcombe credits his sword swallowing research with stimulating a broader interest into culinary radiology and applied anatomy in the entertainment industry. "The research I conducted for the article made me aware of the unique challenges sword swallowers face in their occupation, and the medical complications and side effects they risk every day they perform sword swallowing," Witcombe explained. "It has also opened my eyes to the misconceptions held by the general public about sword swallowing, and how little is known about sword swallowing injuries in the medical community today."

"Because of my study of sword swallowing injuries, I am now keenly aware of the ins and outs of sword swallowing, and seem to have become a magnet for attracting information about injuries from both sword swallowers and the medical community. I hope to be able to use this role to compile and disseminate more accurate information on sword swallowing injuries in both medical and general literature."

Dubbed the "Doctor of Sword Swallowing", Witcombe has been invited to share his expertise on sword swallowing injuries on the March 2008 Ig Nobel Tour of the UK at Oxford University, Imperial College, Newcastle Centre for Life, and the Guardian Newsroom as part of the British National Science and Engineering Week sponsored by the British Association for the Advancement of Science.

Witcombe plans to retire from practice in spring 2008 allowing him more time for his three grandchildren and his interests of hill-walking and vegetable gardening. However, he will retain contact with the medical community through membership in local scientific and professional societies and as Chairman of the league of Friends of Gloucester Hospitals.

"I'm excited about working closely with SSAI, and I look forward to meeting more sword swallowers and learning about their injuries," Witcombe explains. "I hope to be able to use my medical background, not only to help SSAI by providing a link to the medical community, but also to help facilitate communication with the medical community when injuries occur, and to coordinate medical demonstrations and research to further study swallowing disorders, dysphagia, oesophageal cancer, and other upper GI disorders."

The Sword Swallowers Association International was founded in 2001 to preserve the ancient art of sword swallowing, and is comprised of sword swallowers from around the world, and maintains a sister site with general information on sword swallowing for the general public at www.swordswallow.com.   Contact us immediately to schedule a sword swallower for medical demonstrations, interviews and events in your area for "International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day" on February 28, 2008, or to schedule Witcombe and Meyer for speaking engagements on the Ig Nobel Tour of the UK March 6-14, 2008 and other events.

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Association Honors Veteran Sword Swallowers on Sword Swallower's Day

Sword Swallowers celebrate worldwide by swallowing together!

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Feb 28, 2008

World Sword Swallower's Day 2008

HARTSELLE, AL -- On 'Sword Swallower's Awareness Day' February 28th, the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) will honor veteran sword swallowers to help raise awareness of sword swallowers around the world by doing what they do best - Swallowing swords!

Sponsored by SSAI, 'International Sword Swallower's Awareness Day' is set for the 28th in conjunction with February as 'National Swallowing Disorders Month'. "We established 'Sword Swallower's Day' to raise awareness of the medical contributions sword swallowers have made to the fields of medicine and science, and to honor veteran performers who have contributed to our field over the years. Today we're honoring the two oldest sword swallowers alive, Jim Ball and Johnny Meah, with SSAI Lifetime Achievement awards."

Born into the sword swallowing family of Prince Lucky Ball and Estelline Pike, Jim Lucky Ball II learned to swallow swords from his mother in 1948 while in the 7th grade at the age of 12, which earned him the billing of "the world's youngest sword swallower". "I was raised in a show-business family, and since I couldn't sing, dance or play the piano, and my knife throwing was so erratic and very few people were willing to stand for me, I was trained to swallow swords." Ball explains. "This just goes to show what some people will do to be in show business!"

In 1958, Ball and his mother performed together with Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus at Madison Square Garden. The duo later stumped panelists on the TV program "What's My Line?". At the age of 72, Ball has held the distinction of being the world's youngest sword swallower, the world's oldest sword swallower, and the one who has performed it the longest at over 60 years.

Johnny Meah began learning sword swallowing in 1955 while clowning with the Hunt Brothers Circus, but didn't start performing professionally as a sword swallower until 1957. During the next two decades, Meah 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. 

Swallowing swords enabled Meah to develop his presentation skill, which ultimately enabled him to expand his performance career beyond conventional sideshows. "I've always gone more for laughs than sensational stuff", says Meah.

  His advice for new entertainers learning any of the sideshow arts is simple. "Pushing the envelope is fine if you're putting together a routine of juggling. If you screw up and drop something in your juggling act, you get a few "boos", and can recover with some quick-witted patter.  But with sword swallowing, you must have 100% confidence in your ability to do whatever you claim you're going to do." Meah advises. "If you mess up, your throat is a poor substitute for the floor where dropped juggling props wind up, ...and the recovery time is a LOT longer!"

  At 71, Meah is semi-retired and living in Safety Harbor, FL with his wife, Mary, where they enjoy the theater and studying Eastern philosophy.  "I've enjoyed performing as a sword swallower for over 5 decades, and I look forward to continuing the age-old art for many more years," Meah says. "I'm proud to be honored by SSAI, and I commemorate SSAI on putting together 'International Sword Swallower's Day' to help raise awareness of what we sword swallowers do, and to promote sword swallowing for future audiences," Meahs says.

"All together now, heads back, swords up and... swallow!"

The art of sword swallowing began over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshow over the past several decades, there are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International, founded in 2001 to preserve the art of sword swallowing, is comprised of sword swallowers from around the world and maintains a site with general information on sword swallowing for the general public at www.swordswallow.com.

LOCAL SWORD SWALLOWERS AVAILABLE for interviews, comments, and medical demonstrations. Contact us for additional information on 'International Sword Swallowers Awareness Day' or to schedule a local sword swallower for events in your area for February 28th, or for the Ig Nobel Tour of the UK from March 6-15.

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SSAI Sword Swallowers Set
New Guinness World Record

Nine SSAI Sword Swallowers broke the 2002 SSAI and Guinness World Record by swallowing a total of 52 swords at midnight September 2, 2005 at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering and SSAI Big Swallow in Wilkes-Barre, PA. From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Veruschka, Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt the Knife Cassiere, and Charles Crispy Knight set the new Guinness World Record by swallowing 52 swords at once
From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Veruschka,
Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt the Knife Cassiere, and Charles "Crispy" Knight
set the new Guinness World Record by swallowing 52 swords at once.

Nov 7, 2007

NASHVILLE, TN – The Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) announced today that it has set another official Guinness World RecordTM in sword swallowing. The record was set when nine sword swallowers, eight men and one woman, simultaneously swallowed a total of 52 swords at one time on September 2, 2005 at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering and SSAI "Big Swallow" in Wilkes-Barre, PA. The SSAI World Record has now been certified as an official Guinness World RecordTM.

Keith Nelson, John Metz and Dan Meyer getting ready to attempt to break the 2002 Worlds Record According to SSAI Executive Director Dan Meyer, the original Guinness World RecordTM for mass sword swallowing had initially been set in 2002 during SSAI's first “Big Swallow” when 19 sword swallowers simultaneously swallowed 50 swords before an audience of sideshow industry experts, historians, fans and media at the first Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention. The new 2005 record is considered even more of an accomplishment due to the fact that there were fewer sword swallowers participating than in previous years.

“The 2002 world record was awarded for 19 sword swallowers swallowing 50 swords at once,” Meyer explained. “But this new record is even more incredible when you realize that we broke the old record with less than half the number of sword swallowers –- This time only 9 sword swallowers managed to gulp down a total of 52 swords at once -- 2 swords more, but with 10 sword swallowers less than we had in 2002!”

Natasha Veruschka, Matt Cassiere and Dan Meyer are elated after breaking the old Guinness World RecordSome of the record breakers were veteran sword swallowers, while others had been swallowing swords only a few months. “I'm proud to have been part of this historical record-breaking event" explained Travis Fessler of the Pickled Brothers Sideshow of Florence KY. "Just being on stage with legends like Natasha Veruschka, Red Stuart and Keith Nelson was very humbling. To actually be part of helping break a world record was the event of a lifetime,” beamed Fessler who set his personal best by swallowing two swords during the event. “The old record that I wasn't part of was 50 swords; the new record I am part of is 52. Even though I only swallowed two swords, I feel like my participation really helped put us over the top!”

Sword Swallower Dan Meyer set his own personal record by swallowing 7 swords at once while helping break the standing world record. During the event, Meyer set his own personal record by swallowing 7 swords at once, with blades measuring 16 to 24 inches (40-61 cm) in length and 3/4 to 1 inch (1.9-2.5 cm) in width. New York Belly dancer Natasha Veruschka swallowed a whopping 11 swords, and was ready to add two more to match her own 2004 Guinness World RecordTM of swallowing 13 swords at once. But sideshow veteran Red Stuart of Philadelphia, PA topped everyone and set his own personal record by swallowing 25 swords at once -- a 32 inch (81.28 cm) broadsword along with 24 other swords measuring at least 18 inches (45.7 cm) long by one half inch (1.27 cm) in width. SSAI regulations require the blades to be at least 15 inches (38.1 cm) in length and at least one half inch (1.27 cm) in width, with all swords being measured and verified by officials as being in compliance.

Certification of the SSAI group record by GuinnessTM indicates that Stuart's feat was recognized by Guinness as an individual world record. "The closest any one person has come to swallowing that many swords at once was when Edith Clifford was reported to have swallowed 20 swords in 1900..." explains SSAI Director and historian Dan Meyer. "What an honor it was to be standing next to Red and watch him make history by breaking a 105-year-old record!"

The sword swallowers who set the new world record were Red Stuart of Philadelphia, PA who swallowed 25 swords at once, Natasha Veruschka of New York city (11 swords), Dan Meyer of Hartselle, AL (7 swords), Keith Nelson of New York (3 swords), Travis Fessler of Florence, KY (2 swords), Roderick Russell from Vermont (1 sword), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere of Rhode Island (1 sword), John Metz from Iowa (1 sword), and Charles "Crispy" Knight who swallowed one sword after making the long drive from Denver, Colorado. The number of swords and swallowers was audited by a local accounting firm, witnessed and verified by veteran sideshow owners and former sword swallowers Chris Christ and the late Slim Price, and confirmed by sideshow historian James Taylor.

From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Verushka (obscured), Emcee Aye Jaye, Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt the Knife Cassiere, Charles Crispy Knight. Photo by Susan Fessler
From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Verushka (obscured), Emcee Aye Jaye,
Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt "the Knife" Cassiere, Charles "Crispy" Knight.
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

From left:  Travis Fessler (2),  Keith Nelson (3),  John Metz (1),  Dan Meyer (7),  Natasha Veruschka (11), John
From left: Travis Fessler (2), Keith Nelson (3), John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Natasha Veruschka (11),
John "Red" Stuart (25), Roderick Russell (1), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere (1), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1).
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

From left:  Travis Fessler (2),  Keith Nelson (3),  John Metz (1),  Dan Meyer (7),  Natasha Veruschka (11),  John
From left: Travis Fessler (2), Keith Nelson (3), John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Natasha Veruschka (11),
John "Red" Stuart (25), Roderick Russell (1), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere (1), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1).
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

From left:  Travis Fessler (2),  Keith Nelson (3),  John Metz (1),  Dan Meyer (7),  Natasha Veruschka (11), John
From left: Travis Fessler (2), Keith Nelson (3), John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Natasha Veruschka (11),
John "Red" Stuart (25), Roderick Russell (1), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere (1), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1).
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

Back row from left:  John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Roderick Russell (1), Travis Fessler (2), Matt Cassiere (1), Front row: Keith Nelson (3), Natasha Veruschka (11), Red Stuart (25), Charles Crispy Knight (1). Photo by Susan Fessler
Proud SSAI and Guinness World Record Holders
Back row from left: John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Roderick Russell (1), Travis Fessler (2), Matt Cassiere (1)
Front row: Keith Nelson (3), Natasha Veruschka (11), John "Red" Stuart (25), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1)
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

The art of sword swallowing began over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes in order to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches long down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshow over the past few decades, there are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the ancient but deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International was founded in 2001 to preserve the ancient art of sword swallowing, and is comprised of sword swallower members from around the world.

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Sword Swallower Receives 2007 Ig Nobel Award
in Medicine at Harvard University

Sword Swallower Dan Meyer receives the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine
Sword Swallower Dan Meyer receives the 2007 Ig Nobel Prize in Medicine

October 5, 2007

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- On October 4, 2007, Dan Meyer became the first sword swallower ever to receive the coveted Ig Nobel Prize when he was presented the 2007 Ig Nobel Award in Medicine at Thursday's Ig Nobel Awards Ceremony at Harvard University. Meyer, co-author of a year-long research study article on sword swallowing published in the prestigious British Medical Journal, wanted to thank the presenters for honoring his work. To really make the point, he thanked them with a sword still in his throat.

The 2007 Ig Nobel Prizes were presented Thursday at the 17th Annual Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony in Sanders Theatre at Harvard University. The Ig Nobel Prize was designed to honor achievements “that first make people laugh, and then make them think”, and is intended to celebrate the unusual, honor the imaginative, and spur people's interest in science, medicine, and technology. Ten Ig Nobel Prizes were awarded in the subjects of Medicine, Physics, Public Health, Chemistry, Engineering, Literature, Psychology, Economics, Peace, and Biology. The winners were selected from a pool of over 7000 new nominees in addition to an enormous pool of thousands of nominees from past years. Prizes were presented by Nobel Laureates before a standing-room-only audience of 1200 esteemed scholars, scientists, Nobel Laureates, past winners, families and press.

“It's ironic that I never really cared much for science in school;” said Meyer, 2007 Ig Nobel Laureate in Medicine. “But now, as a sword swallower, I swallow iron and use scientific principles such as physiology and an understanding of the human body on a day-to-day basis in my work! I'm passionate about preserving this dying ancient art, and feel extremely honored that our research paper on sword swallowing was nominated for an Ig Nobel Prize out of over 7000 nominations!”

Meyer, Executive Director of the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) and a multiple record holding sword swallower himself renowned for swallowing swords underwater in a tank of sharks and stingrays, is co-author of a year-long research study entitled “Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects” published in the December 2006 issue of the British Medical Journal. In 2005, Meyer and Dr. Brian Witcombe, a British radiologist with an interest in swallowing disorders, collaborated on the article on the medical complications of sword swallowing. As part of their research, Meyer undertook a comprehensive study by contacting 110 known current and ex-sword swallowers around the world, and received detailed information from 48 sword swallowers in 16 countries. Chest X-ray of Sword Swallower Dan Meyer published in December 2006 British Medical Journal

Over the course of a year, Meyer collected detailed data about each sword swallower's height, weight, age, their history of sword swallowing, age they learned sword swallowing, how they learned, years they had been swallowing swords, length, width, and types of swords swallowed, maximum number of swords swallowed at once, number of swords swallowed in the previous three months, history of injuries and side effects, diagnosis and treatment of those injuries, and longterm effects of sword swallowing.

Forty-eight sword swallowers completed the survey, forty-six consented to information being published (40 men and 6 women), and their average age was 31 years. On average, it took most of them from 2 to 7 years to learn to swallow a sword. The average age they learned sword swallowing was 25, and nine learned as teenagers. Average height was 5'9” (176 cm), average weight 174 lbs (79 kg), and the longest sword swallowed averaged 24” (60 cm). There was no apparent correlation between the length of the longest sword each person could swallow and their height or weight.

Nineteen sword swallowers described side effects such as “sword” throats, usually while they were learning to swallow swords, after performing too frequently, or when swallowing multiple or odd shaped swords. Lower chest pain, often lasting days, followed some performances and was usually treated by abstaining from practice. Six suffered perforation of the pharynx or esophagus. Three had surgery to the neck. Three others also had probable perforations, one of whom was told that a sword had “brushed” the heart, and one had pleurisy and another pericarditis after injury. One had a breadknife removed transabdominally. Sixteen mentioned intestinal bleeding, varying in quantity from finding some blood on a withdrawn sword to large hematemases requiring blood transfusion. No sword swallowers in the study died from sword swallowing, but the cost of medical care was a concern with three receiving medical bills ranging from $23,000-$70,000 US.

The results of the findings: A previous minor injury may lead to a more severe major injury, and injuries occur more often when multiple or unusual swords are used, or when a distraction causes the performer to lose focus. Occasionally a sword is difficult to advance or retract, presumably due to spasm or dryness related to nervousness or soreness. Over forceful efforts to move the sword may cause trauma, which can result in esophageal perforation. Several cases of perforation or severe hemorrhage occurred when swallowers used multiple or unusual swords or when a technical error was committed, often due to distraction. One swallower lacerated his pharynx when trying to swallow a curved saber, a belly dancer suffered a major hemorrhage when a bystander pushed dollar bills into her belt causing three blades in her throat to scissor, and one of the authors lacerated his esophagus and developed pleurisy after being distracted by a misbehaving macaw on his shoulder while swallowing 7 swords at once.

“The study and its acceptance by the international medical community is historical as the first ever of its kind in the 4000 year history of sword swallowing,” explains Meyer. “Even though the study may seem quirky to some folks, it is extremely important to us sword swallowers and the doctors who treat us for injuries. We are so glad that it is now available to the medical community worldwide!” The British Medical Journal article received widespread international coverage in the press, including ABC News, New York Times, London Times, Science Daily, Scientific American, BBC and other media, and led to the Ig Nobel nomination.

The Ig Nobel Board of Governors receives more than 7000 new nominations each year which are added to the enormous pool of nominees from previous years. The winners are selected by the Board of Governors which is comprised of scholars, scientists, Nobel Laureates, science writers, and other individuals of greater or lesser eminence. The Board sifts through the nominations and narrows the list to a small group of finalists. The Board then investigates whether each of the finalists actually exists and has actually done what the nomination claims. On the final day of deliberations a random passerby is invited to help make the final decision.

Free public lectures by the 2007 Ig Nobel Winners were presented at MIT to a packed audience in the iconic MIT lecture hall located directly underneath the Great Dome. The Ig Informal Lectures were limited to five minutes each. Witcombe presented a powerpoint synopsis of the team's research, while Meyer demonstrated sword swallowing and answered questions from the audience and press.

The art of sword swallowing started over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes in order to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. There are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the ancient but deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International (www.swordswallow.org) is comprised of sword swallower members from around the world. Meyer is available for media appearances and interviews through Cutting Edge Innertainment at http://www.cuttingedgeinnertainment.com. Call (615) 969-2568 to schedule interviews and appearances.

Dan Meyer swallowing a 22 inch sword at the 2007 Ig Nobel Ceremony
Dan Meyer swallowing a 22 inch sword at the 2007 Ig Nobel Ceremony

2006 Nobel Laureate Dr. Craig Mello watches the acceptance speech in disbelief as Dr. Brian Witcombe stands by
2006 Nobel Laureate Craig Mello watches the acceptance speech in disbelief as Dr. Brian Witcombe stands by

Nobel Laureates Dr. William Lipscomb, Robert Laughlin and Dudley Herschbach analyzing the speech
Nobel Laureates Dr. William Lipscomb, Robert Laughlin and Dudley Herschbach analyzing the speech

Dan Meyer gives a pointed acceptance speech (Click to listen to one minute acceptance speech)
Dan Meyer's brief but pointed Ig Nobel acceptance speech: "Thang oou wewwy mudge!"
(Click to listen to one minute audio of acceptance speech and audience reaction)



1976 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Dr. William Lipscomb removes sword
from 2007 Ig Nobel Laureate in Medicine Dan Meyer



Legendary Sword Swallower Capt. Don Leslie
Lived a Colorful Sideshow Life


Captain Don Leslie

June 5, 2007

CHICO, CA -- (June 5, 2007) Legendary Sword Swallower Captain Don Leslie lived a colorful life performing with most of the top circuses of his day. His death signals the end of a golden era in the old-fashioned circus sideshow.

Donald Paul Leslie was born on December 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, Don did run away and joined the King Brothers Circus where he ran the pony ride. The pony ride was right across the midway from the bally stage for the sideshow. In 1953, while the circus was performing in Washington D.C., Don got one of his first tattoos from Carol Nightingale when he was just 15 years old.

In 1954, Don first learned fire-eating at the age of 16, and later sword swallowing from the Argentinian fire eater Carlos Leal while working with the Christiani Brothers Circus. Carlos taught Don to cough and gag and make a big production to add drama to his sword swallowing act.

In 1955, when Don's family spent the winter in Los Angeles, Don 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 many different jobs in concessions, animal care and general labor, Don eventually became a circus sideshow performer. He worked with the Christiani Circus from 1956 to 1959. During the off-season when the circus was in winter quarters, Don made a name for himself 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.

Don hung up his swords when he was 18 and did a brief stint in the Marines. In about 1957 at the age of 19, he returned to the circus life and picked up where he left off. In 1957, Harry Doll of the famous Doll Family of performing midgets introduced 19-year-old Don to legendary sword swallower Alex Linton who was in his late 40s or early 50s at the time. Linton gave Don some valuable tips on sword swallowing and taught him to swallow swords smoothly and how to add 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 1981. Harry Doll also christened Leslie with the name "Captain Don" after telling the young sword swallower he needed a catchy stage name.

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 (1979-89). 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 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. He was performing before a packed house in Seattle, WA at the Center for Contemporary Arts 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 almost killed him. After his 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 the Conklin Amusement Carnival Shows for $60,000 which he took on tour in Canada. Capt. Don managed the show and performed everything 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 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" (1990) with John Ritter, and "Beloved" (1998) with Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover (Don's banner painting).

Up until 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 California 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 on Capt. Don Leslie

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 on Capt. Don Leslie




Sword Swallower Swallows Sword
Underwater in Tank of Sharks and Stingrays

Dan Meyer swallows a sword underwater in a tank of sharks and stingrays as a stingray brushes by at the Ripleys Aquarium Myrtle Beach May 18, 2007. (Photo by Tim OBrien)
Dan Meyer swallows a sword underwater in a tank of sharks and stingrays
as a stingray brushes by at the Ripleys Aquarium Myrtle Beach May 18, 2007

May 18, 2007

MYRTLE BEACH, SC -- On Friday, May 18, 2007, sword swallower Dan Meyer made history by being the first person in America to swallow a solid steel sword while submerged underwater in a tank of live sharks and stingrays at Ripley's Aquarium in Myrtle Beach, SC.

The event occurred during Myrtle Beach's "Bike Week" which was also set around the pirate theme "Cruisin' the Coast", drawing over 300,000 motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world May 11-20. "We wanted to present an event to amaze and entertain Bike Week visitors while making a connection between pirates and the undersea world," explained VP Tim O'Brien. "Having a swashbuckling pirate like 'Captain Cutless' swallow a sword underwater was the perfect fit!"

"Captain Cutless", better known as Dan Meyer, is a professional sword swallower from Nashville, TN who has been featured in numerous documentaries, articles and medical studies for swallowing swords around the world. As the Executive Director of the Sword Swallowers Association International, Meyer is widely recognized as one of the foremost authorities in the world on the ancient art of sword swallowing.

To stretch the boundaries of the art, Meyer swallowed a 30-inch long solid steel sword while submerged 15 feet underwater surrounded by more than 80 sharks and stingrays in 85,000 gallons of salt water.

Of course, there are the obvious dangers in attempting a feat like this -- Sword swallowing can cause serious injury and even death. "Swallowing a solid steel sword is incredibly dangerous enough as it is on dry land," Meyer explains. This time the dangers were multiplied with additional challenges besides the obvious risks of cuts, punctures and perforations. "The worst injuries occur when trying to swallow a sword when the throat is tender and swollen. I was really worried because I've had a 'sword throat' with swelling that had me really concerned and almost made me call it off this morning." Meyer said. "Then when I got in the tank, it was much more difficult to lean my head back and open my mouth fifteen feet underwater and surrounded by 85,000 gallons of salt water. When I opened my mouth to swallow the sword, the air rushed up out of my lungs. Not only did I have to focus on swallowing the sword correctly without impaling myself, but I had to contend with the sharks and stingrays not bumping into me while concentrating on not drowning," Meyer explained. "…And to top it all off, I managed to do it within 29 minutes after eating a full meal!"

The historic feat occurred on Friday, May 18th at Myrtle Beach aquarium in the 85,000 gallon "Ray Bay" exhibit that is home to over 80 sharks and stingrays. In 2006 "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin was killed on the Great Barrier Reef when a stingray stabbed him in the heart. "We didn't take any chances," explained Peter MacIntyre, General Manager of the aquarium. "We had divers in the water guarding Dan, and an ambulance with trained EMTs was standing by in case of emergency. Fortunately, everything went according to plan and we didn't need to use their services!"

Meyer swallowed two different sized swords during the feat - a smaller sword first, followed by a longer 30-inch sword with 24-inch long blade. The viewing audience included local and national media, Bike Week tourists, and a class of students who were visiting the aquarium on a field trip. "I thought it was really cool because nobody else could do that," said student Miller Long. "When he swallowed the little one, I wasn't scared," said Hannah Ferguson. "But when he did the big one I was kind of scared!"

Why would anyone want to attempt a feat this dangerous? "I've enjoyed performing stunts like sword swallowing for audiences around the world for several years." Meyer explains. "I also swam with sharks and stingrays when I lived on an island in the Bahamas for seven years. So I knew I could do each of them separately. It just seemed natural to put the two challenges together," Meyer explained. "The big question was: Would I be able to do BOTH of them at the same time and survive? I'm glad to be able to stand here afterwards and say I did!"

The feat makes Meyer the first person in America to ever swallow a sword underwater, and in a tank of live sharks and stingrays! "I'm so relieved everything went so smoothly and without a problem." Meyer beamed with a smile. The event was witnessed by over 20 million viewers on over 400 TV stations around the world on CNN, MSNBC and others.

The art of sword swallowing started over 4000 years ago in India, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes in order to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. There are currently less than a few dozen full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the ancient but deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International (www.swordswallow.org) is based in Nashville, TN and is comprised of sword swallower members from around the world. Meyer is available for media appearances and interviews through Cutting Edge Innertainment.

Watch Videos of the Underwater Sword Swallow




I've got a very Sword Throat

Hannibal Helmurto
Hannibal Helmurto

January 18, 2007

LONDON, UK – A CIRCUS sword swallower has skewered himself in front of a live audience in London.

Hannibal Helmurto, 30, the newest "freak" to join the infamous Circus Of Horrors, tried to force a four-foot long sabre down his throat.

But the German performer accidentally stabbed himself when his sphincter failed to open correctly because of a throat infection.

He was rushed to St George's hospital in Tooting where surgeons decided whether or not to operate.

The gruesome accident happened at the Croydon leg of a tour in November.

For one audience member who fainted, the shock was just too great, and the interval had to be extended for half an hour as paramedics were called.

Former tax inspector Helmurto was kept in intensive care under observation for three weeks and was unable to eat or drink.

The blade had pierced the inside of his respiratory tract.

But doctors decided to let the throat repair itself rather than operate.

Friday will see the entertainer in Hayes, taking to the stage for the first time since receiving his self-infilicted injury.

Helmurto, who has more than 200 tatoos, said: "The accident was just one of those freak moments and it certainly hasn't put me off performing."

Hailing from Germany, he has spent ten years "modifying" his body after seeing the Circus of Horrors in his home town of Munich in 1996.

"I was working for the German government at the time," he said. "I did not have one tattoo or piercing, but after seeing the show I knew I had to join it."

And now the performer boasts there is more ink on his skin than blood running in his veins.

He also has giant yoyos fitted inside his earlobes and his tongue has been sliced with a laser to ensure it is permanently forked.

His stage show sees him insert huge hat pins through his face then drink water and squirt it out through the holes.

The "self-taught" Bavarian staples £10 notes to his forehead and dangles himself from just two meat hooks rammed through his back.

The 50-date tour starts at the Beck Theatre in Hayes, Middlesex, on Friday.




Down the Hatch

Decatur car salesman swallows swords to seal sales at dealership

Car salesman Dan Meyer swallows a sword in the showroom of Honda of Decatur. Meyer performs the feat for people who buy cars from him. He worked three years to learn sword swallowing and can handle blades up to 24 inches long.
Car salesman Dan Meyer swallows a sword in the showroom of Honda of Decatur.
Meyer performs the feat for people who buy cars from him. He worked three years
to learn sword swallowing and can handle blades up to 24 inches long.
January 7, 2007

DECATUR, AL – So, you think you want to be an entertainer.

Would your thoughts change if you had to select between fire eating and sword swallowing?

That’s a decision Dan Meyer of Hartselle had to make.

Explaining his choice to swallow swords, Meyer said: “I wanted to be different.”

Different he is. According to the Sword Swallowers Association International, he’s one of between 12 and 24 people worldwide who actively swallow swords.

“The blade feels cool,” he said, matter of factly.

Meyer, a salesman at Honda of Decatur, has turned what he calls a “sideshow” into a regular occurrence at the dealership.

Every time he sells a vehicle, he swallows a sword for the customer.

“It’s pretty impressive,” Manager Kevin Allison said. “The first time he told me about it, I thought it was a trick. But it’s real. I’ve seen him do it several times.”

Meyer decided to bring his sideshow to the dealership when his manager told him to make the buying experience one that customers won’t forget.

After finalizing the sale, he retrieves his leather bag that carries about six swords with various looks.

With a sword in hand, he massages his throat. He moistens the sword by running it across his tongue on both sides.

“I’m looking for nicks to make sure I don’t catch the sword on anything when I’m pulling it out,” he explained.

Meyer rocks his head backward, and within five seconds, the point of a 24-inch sword is in his stomach.

“Sometimes, I let the customer pull the sword out,” he said.

On this day, Meyer swallowed five different swords, including two simultaneously.

The shows at the dealership are included with the purchase of a vehicle. Away from work, you can book a show that includes other entertainment such as fire eating and sword swallowing for between $1,000 and $1,800.

To you, it may seem strange that a 49-year-old man would want to swallow swords. But, to understand Meyer’s love for what he does, you have to go back to Indiana where as a young child his parents always carried him to circus sideshows.

He was a teenager when he paid 50 cents to watch a man swallow a sword. He thought it was a gimmick.

Passage to India

Then in 1978, while working as a missionary in India, he saw Indian fakirs eating fire and swallowing swords.

“This made me realize it was no trick,” he said.

Meyer began his career in variety entertainment in clown ministry, juggling and fire-eating while in college in 1977. As an entertainer, he performed juggling and fire-eating for over 20 years, but said he decided to take up sword swallowing when he realized every city had two or three fire eaters.

One is not enough: Dan Meyer swallows a pair of swords at the Honda of Decatur showroom. In 1998 while in Nashville, Meyer met “George the Giant,” a world-known sword swallower. He sought and got two tips from George.

“He told me it was dangerous, and not to do it,” Meyer recalled.

But it was what George said last that really motivated Meyer to try sword swallowing.

“He said there were less than a dozen (sword swallowers) left around the world,” Meyer said. “This was my real challenge.”

For the next three years, Meyer contacted every sword swallower he could find and collected more than 500 photographs of sword swallowers, some dating to the mid-1800s.

He researched, and starting with a 15-inch stainless steel dagger, began practicing the craft.

“At first, the farthest as I could get the dagger was to the back of my throat,” he said.

It took him three years to swallow his first sword. He didn’t want to give details for fear that young people might try it, but he said the first step is to get the sword past the gag reflex.

“It’s mental and physical,” he said. “It’s playing Russian roulette, but this is what I like to do.”

During his first sword swallowers’ convention in 2002, Meyer was among 19 people to swallow 46 swords simultaneously. The group set two Guinness world records.

Nine sword swallowers broke one of the records in 2005 when they swallowed 52 swords at one time. Meyer swallowed seven.

“That’s the most I had done at one time,” he said.

Meyer’s knowledge of the art has garnered worldwide attention and led him to co-author an article for the British Medical Journal.

With radiologist Brian Witcombe of England, the article sought to legitimize sword swallowing in the medical community.

The article pointed out some of the injuries and dangers of the art such as when the sword passes within millimeters of the heart, aorta and other vital organs.

Witcombe and Meyer conducted a comprehensive study on every known sword swallower around the world willing to participate in the study for about 18 months before writing the article.

X-rays of a sword in Meyer appeared with the article.

Sword swallowers have helped the medical community since 1868, when a swallower helped a doctor develop an endoscope by using a straight tube, mirrors and gasoline lamp.

“Basically, I enjoy what I’m doing,” Meyer said.

"Decatur car salesman swallows swords to seal sales" (Decatur Daily, Jan 7, 2007)




Sword Swallowing Risks Hard to Stomach

Dangers of Sword Swallowing Are as Real as the Art Itself

December 22, 2006
An x-ray image shows a sword as it is swallowed by Dan Meyer, executive director of Sword Swallowers Association International. (Handout/Reuters)

Dec. 22, 2006 -- Many of us have witnessed this scene — sword swallowers passing long, cold, steel blades into their throats, with their necks arched back and their stance completely still. Our hearts pound with that of the sword swallower, and we are arrested in utter amazement at the hazardous display before us.

There is no doubt that sword swallowing is a dangerous profession, but to what degree? This is the question an international team of researchers sought to answer in a new study published in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal.

The verdict? Sword swallowers are more likely to sustain injuries when they use multiple or unusual swords, or if they become distracted.

It may not be a surprise that sword swallowing is a dangerous pastime. But the new information could help save the lives of devotees to this rarefied art form.

"There is little information out there on sword swallowing for doctors or emergency medicine personnel," said Dan Meyer, executive director for Sword Swallowers Association International, an author of the study — and a sword swallower himself.

"A lot of times, sword swallowers would have an injury and go to the hospital, but the doctors won't know how to treat them."

Forty-six sword swallowers participated in the study. Among them, six had suffered perforation of the throat and esophagus, and one was told that the sword "brushed" the heart. Nineteen sword swallowers had throat pain while learning the art, and many experienced lower chest pain following performances, the study says.

Of the six sword swallowers who punctured themselves, three underwent major surgeries to the neck.

"Sword swallowing is not an illusion," said Dr. Brian Witcombe, consultant radiologist at Gloucestershire Royal Hospital in Gloucester, United Kingdom, and an author of this study.

How Do They Do It?
Sword swallowing goes against every reflex ingrained in the digestive system. A sword swallower must learn to suppress the gag reflex and control retching, or the consequences are unthinkable.

X-ray images show a sword as it is swallowed by Dan Meyer, executive director for Sword Swallowers Association International. (Sword Swallowers Association International) With this in mind, it should come as little surprise that it takes between three and seven years for a sword swallower to be able to successfully and consistently pass swords into his or her gut, according to Sword Swallowers Association experts.

And few living human beings have mastered this art.

"Currently, there are about 110 living sword swallowers in the world who have, at one point in their lives, swallowed a sword," said Meyer. "However, today there are only a few dozen surviving professional sword swallowers actively performing around the world today."

And there may be good reasons for this.

"Sword swallowing is one of the most uncomfortable things I have ever done in my life," Meyer admitted.

"I have to close down everything in my mind. I need to repress the gag reflex, find the right placement, in order to slide the sword through my upper esophageal sphincter, flip back my epiglottis, slide the sword down my throat while focusing on relaxing the peristalysis reflex in the esophagus, slide the blade past my heart, in between my lungs, and pass it through the lower esophageal sphincter into my stomach.

"Sometimes, I can feel the warmth of the blade going down if it has been out in the sun. Other times, the blade feels cool if the weather is cold," said Meyer. "And sometimes, it makes my eyes water.

"But the reward I get from seeing the looks on people's faces is worth it."

No Illusion — Risks Are Real
"The main risks of sword swallowing are perforation of the pharynx and esophagus, and bleeding," said Witcombe. "Some [swallowers] had torrential hemorrhage."

Researchers found that things get especially hazardous when swallowers use multiple or unusual swords.

One swallower in the study tore his throat while trying to swallow a curved saber. Another swallower — after getting distracted by a macaw on his shoulder — cut his esophagus and then developed pleurisy, an inflammation in the lining of his lung.

A female swallower who was also a belly dancer suffered major bleeding when an audience member pushed dollar bills into her belt, which caused the three blades in her esophagus to scissor.

"It is not a trick. It is an extremely dangerous feat," said Meyer.

Thinking about Trying Sword Swallowing?
For those daring souls contemplating sword swallowing, the experts have these words of advice for you.

"I would advise them not to do sword swallowing," said Witcombe.

"Don't do it. Don't even try it. The risk of getting injured or killed while sword swallowing is high," said Meyer.

So, why would anyone risk their lives to perform this art in the first place?

"On television today, we see so many gimmicks and illusions," said Meyer. "I do it because it's real.

"It's fun to watch the faces of people in complete disbelief. I enjoy demonstrating how incredible the human body is."

"Sword Swallowing Risks Hard to Stomach" (ABC News, Dec 22, 2006)






Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects in British Medical Journal

December 22, 2006

LONDON, UK – The British Medical Journal published an article in the December 22nd issue of the BMJ by British consultant radiologist Dr. Brian Witcombe and SSAI Executive Director Dan Meyer.

"Sword Swallowing and its Side Effects" (British Medical Journal Dec 22 2006)




Really Magazine Cites SSAI and BMJ Sword Swallowing Report

December 21, 2006

LONDON, UK – ReallyMagazine has published an article surrounding the November 6th exploratory article and the upcoming report in the British Medical Journal by British consultant radiologist Dr. Brian Witcombe on questions about sword swallowing.

"Controlled Gag Reflex" (Really Magazine Dec 21 2006)




British Medical Journal Cites Sword Swallowing Injuries

November 5, 2006

LONDON, UK – The British Medical Journal (BMJ) has published an exploratory article by British consultant radiologist Dr. Brian Witcombe on questions about sword swallowing.

The British Medical Journal is published out of London England, and reaches a viewership of several hundred thousand readers around the world.

"Sword Swallowing Uncertainties" (BMJ Nov 5 2006)



Sword Swallowers Honor Showman Slim Price

Jerry Pickard Slim Price
September 5, 2006

WILKES-BARRE, PA – A gathering of sword swallowers, fire-eaters and other circus and sideshow performers honored the late showman Slim Price in a special tribute at midnight, Saturday, September 4th at the 5th annual Sideshow Gathering.

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 performed under the stage name "Slim Price". He later 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 legendary sword swallower who worked 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 show. Price also worked with the legendary Alex Linton for a time when they were both 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 Price 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 tribute at the 2006 Sideshow Gathering where attending sword swallowers performed a tandem swallow around a picture of Slim and a candle on a pedestal.

He is survived by his wife Krista, a daughter Joyce, and a number of grandchildren.

Slim, we'll miss you, but we'll keep the candle burning for you.





SSAI Sword Swallowers Break Old Record
and Set Multiple New World Records

Nine SSAI Sword Swallowers broke the 2002 SSAI and Guinness World Record by swallowing a total of 52 swords at midnight September 2, 2005 at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering and SSAI Big Swallow in Wilkes-Barre, PA. From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Veruschka, Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt the Knife Cassiere, and Charles Crispy Knight set the new world's record by swallowing 52 swords at the same time.
From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Veruschka,
Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt the Knife Cassiere, and Charles "Crispy" Knight
set the new world's record by swallowing 52 swords at the 4th annual SSAI Big Swallow.

Sept 5, 2005

WILKES-BARRE, PA – At midnight in a small sleepy town in upstate Pennsylvania, nine sword swallower members of the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) broke the previous standing 2002 SSAI and Guinness World RecordsTM by swallowing a total of 52 swords at one time on Friday, September 2, 2005 at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering and SSAI "Big Swallow" in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

The previous world's record for mass sword swallowing had initially been set during SSAI's first "Big Swallow" at the first Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention on August 30, 2002 when 19 sword swallowers simultaneously gulped down 50 swords before an audience of sideshow industry experts, historians, performers, fans and international media. The feat was certified by Guinness World RecordsTM in London as an official Guinness World RecordTM in early 2005. This year's record increased the number to 52 swords swallowed at once, a feat made even more amazing by the fact there were fewer sword swallowers participating than in previous years.

Keith Nelson, John Metz and Dan Meyer getting ready to attempt to break the 2002 Worlds Record Some of the participants who broke the world record this weekend were veteran sword swallowers, while others have been swallowing swords for only a few months. "I'm proud to have been part of this historical record-breaking event. Just being on stage with legends like Natasha Veruschka, Red Stuart and Keith Nelson was very humbling. To actually be part of helping break a world record was the event of a lifetime," beamed Travis Fessler who set his personal best by swallowing two swords at once. "The old record that I wasn't part of was 50 swords, the new record I am part of is 52; Even though I only swallowed two swords, I feel like my participation really helped put us over the top!"

The sword swallowers who broke the world's records were Red Stuart of Philadelphia, PA swallowing 25 swords, Natasha Veruschka of New York city (11 swords), Dan Meyer of Nashville, TN (7 swords), Keith Nelson of New York (3 swords), Travis Fessler of Florence, KY (2 swords), Roderick Russell from Vermont (1 sword), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere of Rhode Island (1 sword), John Metz from Iowa (1 sword), and Charles "Crispy" Knight who swallowed one sword after making the long drive from Denver, Colorado for the event.

From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Verushka (obscured), Emcee Aye Jaye, Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt the Knife Cassiere, Charles Crispy Knight. Photo by Susan Fessler
From left: Travis Fessler, Keith Nelson, John Metz, Dan Meyer, Natasha Verushka (obscured), Emcee Aye Jaye,
Red Stuart, Roderick Russell, Matt "the Knife" Cassiere, Charles "Crispy" Knight.
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

From left:  Travis Fessler (2),  Keith Nelson (3),  John Metz (1),  Dan Meyer (7),  Natasha Veruschka (11), John
From left: Travis Fessler (2), Keith Nelson (3), John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Natasha Veruschka (11),
John "Red" Stuart (25), Roderick Russell (1), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere (1), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1).
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

From left:  Travis Fessler (2),  Keith Nelson (3),  John Metz (1),  Dan Meyer (7),  Natasha Veruschka (11),  John
From left: Travis Fessler (2), Keith Nelson (3), John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Natasha Veruschka (11),
John "Red" Stuart (25), Roderick Russell (1), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere (1), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1).
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

From left:  Travis Fessler (2),  Keith Nelson (3),  John Metz (1),  Dan Meyer (7),  Natasha Veruschka (11), John
From left: Travis Fessler (2), Keith Nelson (3), John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Natasha Veruschka (11),
John "Red" Stuart (25), Roderick Russell (1), Matt "the Knife" Cassiere (1), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1).
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

Sword Swallower Dan Meyer set his own personal record by swallowing 7 swords at once while helping break the standing world record. During the event, Dan Meyer of Nashville, TN set his own personal record by swallowing 7 swords at once, with blades measuring at least 16 to 24 inches (40-61 cm) in length and 3/4 to 1 inch (1.9-2.5 cm) in width. New York Belly dancer Natasha Veruschka swallowed a whopping 11 swords, and was ready to add two more to match her own 2004 Guinness World RecordTM of swallowing 13 swords at once. But sideshow veteran Red Stuart of Philadelphia, PA topped everyone by setting his own personal record and swallowing 25 swords at once -- a 32 inch (81.28 cm) broadsword along with 24 other swords measuring at least 18 inches (45.7 cm) long by one half inch (1.27 cm) in width. SSAI regulations require the blades to be at least 15 inches (38.1 cm) in length and one half inch (1.27 cm) in width, with all swords being measured and verified as being in compliance.

Stuart's accomplishment will also be submitted to GuinnessTM as an individual world record. "The closest any one person has come to swallowing that many swords was when Edith Clifford was reported to have swallowed 20 swords in 1900..." explains SSAI Director and historian Dan Meyer. "What an honor it was to be standing next to Red and watch him make history by breaking a 105-year-old record!"

Natasha Veruschka, Matt Cassiere and Dan Meyer are elated just after breaking the 2002 Worlds RecordThe event was witnessed and emceed by Aye Jaye, the original Ronald McDonald for 35 years and himself a sideshow carny. The number of swords and swallowers was audited by Certified Public Accountant Alphonse T. D'Amario of a local accounting firm, witnessed and confirmed by photographer and sideshow owner Susan Fessler, witnessed and verified by veteran sideshow owners and former sword swallowers Chris Christ and Slim Price, witnessed and confirmed by sideshow historian and author James Taylor, and witnessed by the media and hundreds of sideshow fans and enthusiasts in attendance for the historic event.

On Sunday afternoon, September 5, 2005, Travis Fessler set another personal record by cracking a bull whip 17 consecutive times while swallowing a sword to set a new SSAI record for "Whip Cracking While Sword Swallowing". Besides being recognized as an official SSAI World Record, this record will also be submitted to Guinness World RecordsTM in London for consideration as a new Guinness World RecordTM and hopefully be added to their record books.

At Sunday morning's awards brunch, veteran sword swallowers Count Desmond, Red Stuart, and Natasha Veruschka were honored with SSAI Lifetime Achievement Awards. An SSAI Certificate of Appreciation award was given to Franco Kossa in appreciation of his dedication to supporting and promoting the art of sword swallowing and other sideshow arts by sponsoring the Sideshow Gathering over the past four years.

Back Row from left:  John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Roderick Russell (1), Travis Fessler (2), Matt Cassiere (1), Front Row: Keith Nelson (3), Natasha Veruschka (11), Red Stuart (25), Charles Crispy Knight (1). Photo by Susan Fessler
Proud new SSAI World Record Holders at the 4th annual Sideshow Convention, September 2, 2005
Back Row from left: John Metz (1), Dan Meyer (7), Roderick Russell (1), Travis Fessler (2), Matt Cassiere (1)
Front Row: Keith Nelson (3), Natasha Veruschka (11), John "Red" Stuart (25), Charles "Crispy" Knight (1)
(Photo by Susan Fessler)

The art of sword swallowing began over 4000 years ago in India and the Middle East, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes in order to insert up solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshow over the past thirty years, there are currently less than forty full-time professional sword swallowers actively performing the ancient but deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International is based in Nashville, TN and is comprised of sword swallower members from around the world.

Press Release

Media Inquiries



Sword Swallowers Attempt to Break World Record

August 1, 2005

WILKES-BARRE, PA -- At midnight Friday, September 2nd, 2005, top sword swallowers from around the world will attempt to break the Guinness World's Record for the "Most Swords Swallowed by Multiple Sword Swallowers" under the auspices of the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI) at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Veteran sideshow owners, historians, fans and performers including fire-eaters, sword swallowers, fakirs, human blockheads, and other top variety performers from around the world will assemble over Labor Day weekend for the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers’ Convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Held September 1-4, 2005 in conjunction with the 12th Annual Inkin’ the Valley Tattoo Show at the Ramada Plaza Hotel Wilkes-Barre, the combined events are expected to attract more than 5,000 attendees and approximately half of the less than 40 remaining professional sword swallowers left performing around the world today.

The world's record for multiple sword swallowers swallowing multiple swords was initially set on Friday, August 20, 2002 during SSAI’s first “Big Swallow” at the first Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention when 19 of the world’s top sword swallowers simultaneously swallowed 46 swords before an audience of sideshow industry experts, historians, performers, fans and international media. The group’s mass record was broken a few minutes later when the 19 sword swallowers successfully gulped down a total of 50 blades simultaneously on their second attempt, thereby setting the current standing world's record.

While helping set the group world record, belly dancing sword swallower Natasha Veruschka from New York set the individual women's record by swallowing 11 swords at once, while Dai Andrews from Baltimore set the men's individual record by swallowing 11 swords in one swallow. The number of sword swallowers and swords was audited by a local accounting firm, verified by veteran sideshow owner Ward Hall, and confirmed by sideshow historian James Taylor. The historic event was filmed by Shocked and Amazed TV for the Travel Channel, and witnessed by attendees, media and CNN viewers around the world on CNN International.

In August 2003 at the 2nd Annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention, SSAI unsuccessfully attempted to break its previous record, with only 17 sword swallowers successfully swallowing a total of 32 swords at the same time. Natasha Veruschka broke her previous women's record to set her personal best by simultaneously swallowing 12 swords at once. The event was witnessed by sideshow industry experts and fans, and filmed for the television documentary "Stomachs of Steel" which aired on the Discovery Channel in July 2004.

On Friday, September 2nd, SSAI members will again attempt to break the current SSAI and Guinness World Record at the 4th Annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention. Several new and veteran sword swallowers are slated to attend and attempt to break the standing world record before an audience of fellow sideshow industry performers, historians, and fans. “We're excited about the response this year, and we're optimistic about breaking the 2002 world records, as well as hopefully setting several new sword swallowing records never attempted before!” says SSAI Executive Director, Dan Meyer. Additional individual world record attempts will be made on Sunday afternoon, September 4th for those sword swallowers and other sideshow performers who would like to attempt to set or break their own personal records.

The art of sword swallowing developed over 4000 years ago in India and the Middle East, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress natural reflexes in order to insert solid steel blades from 15 to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshow over the past thirty years, there are currently less than forty full-time professional sword swallowers left actively performing the ancient but deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International is based in Nashville, TN and is comprised of sword swallower members from around the world.

Convention Details

Press Release

Media Inquiries



Sword Swallower/Sideshow Operator Dies

May 31, 2005

GIBSONTON, FL - Sword swallower and sideshow operator Dean Potter died yesterday at his Gibsonton, FL home at the age of 71. Potter had worked as a sword swallower and half-and-half for the Woolsey shows in the 1950s before framing his own sideshow. In the 1970's, Potter developed the "Bloody Mama Snake Show" based on an article he had read about a snake that had killed its owner. Potter had been on the road with his show for many years, developed diabetes, and passed away in his sleep in Gibsonton, FL on May 30th at the age of 71.



Guinness Awards Women's World Record in Sword Swallowing

February 4, 2005

LONDON, ENGLAND - Guinness World Records (www.guinnessworldrecords.com) announced that it has awarded SSAI sword swallower Natasha Veruschka the official Guinness World Record for swallowing 13 swords at one time at SSAI's 2004 "Big Swallow" at the 3rd Annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania on September 3, 2004.

Veruschka had previously swallowed 11 swords at the 2002 "Big Swallow", and topped her own record the following year by swallowing 12 swords at the 2003 "Big Swallow".

There are currently only about half a dozen female sword swallowers performing around the world today. The previous Guinness World record for women sword swallowers was held by Amy Saunders in England for swallowing five blades at one time in London in 1999. Saunders later broke her own record by swallowing six swords on the set of El Show de los Récords in Madrid, Spain on 27 November 2001. Previous to that, American sword swallower Lady Sandra Reed held the women's Guinness World Record in 1975 for swallowing 5 blades at one time.



SSAI Sword Swallowers Awarded Guinness World Record

February 1, 2005

LONDON, ENGLAND - Guinness World Records (www.guinnessworldrecords.com) announced that it has accepted the Sword Swallowers Association Int'l (SSAI) 2002 record of 19 sword swallowers swallowing 50 swords at one time as the official Guinness World Record for "Most people sword swallowing simultaneously".

According to the notification dated 22 December 2004, "A total of 19 sword swallowers (17 men and two women) simultaneously swallowed a total of 50 swords between them at the annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, USA, on 30 August 2002."

Although the certificate does not automatically guarantee record holders an entry in the annual Guinness Book of World Records, the Guinness managing editors consider all new records for potential use in future Guinness World Records publications and products.

The Big Swallow event has been sponsored by SSAI for the past three years in conjunction with the Sideshow Gathering, and has been covered by international media including CNN, Shocked and Amazed TV, and the Discovery Channel.

Official Guinness World Record Certificate for 2002 World Record Big Swallow



Sword Swallowing Convention Discussed on ABC's Jimmy Kimmel Live

January 26, 2005

ABC Talk Show host Jimmy Kimmel

New York, NY - ABC talk show host Jimmy Kimmel discussed the third annual SSAI Sword Swallowing Convention in his January 26th monologue on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

3rd Annual Sword Swallowing Convention

X-ray of Sword Swallower

"Enjoy this story on sword swallowing. When it's over, get ready to laugh..."

"Sword swallowers across the country met in Pennsylvania for the third annual Sword Swallowing Convention. In addition to discussing the latest tips and techniques for making certain the sword goes down safely, some of the professional swallowers took X-rays to prove that sword swallowing is not a hoax."

"We understand there were fewer people than last season." [ Laughter ] "That's our news at 10:00. Thanks for joining us. Good night, everyone. ...Fewer than last year... Oh, Channel 5 News Team, you slay me..."

Transcript



Sword Swallowing Convention Featured in Meetings Magazine

August 1, 2004

Meetings on the Far Side

Third Annual SSAI Sword Swallower's Convention profiled in Meeting Planners magazine along with other unconventional conventions in article entitled "Meetings on the Far Side".

Meetings on The Far Side



New World Record Successfully Set

Performer Completes Flaming Feast in Kansas City

July 31, 2004

KANSAS CITY, KS -- On July 30th, 2004, sword swallower and fire manipulator Robert Wolf set a new world record by extinguishing 43 flaming torches in one minute using only his mouth. The previous world record of 36 torches was set in Finland in 2000. Wolf bested that record by 7 torches.

Wolf finished the very dangerous record attempt without any injury to others and sustained only minor burns to his mouth. Wolf was assisted by a team of four assistants, as well as qualified medical and fire personnel at the ready.

The record, known as 'Fire eating - Most torches extinguished in one minute' is recognized by the Guinness World Records. The record was set between the third and fourth innings during the Kansas City T-Bones baseball game in the Community America Ballpark located in Kansas City, KS.



World's Top Sword Swallowers Attempt to Break World Record

July 1, 2004

SSAI Big Swallow 2004

WILKES-BARRE, PA -- At midnight on Friday, September 3rd, top sword swallowers from around the world will attempt to break the world's record for the "Most Swords Swallowed by Multiple Sword Swallowers" at the third annual Sword Swallowers Convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA under the auspices of the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI).

Veteran sideshow owners, historians, fans and performers such as fire-eaters, sword swallowers, human blockheads, and other top variety performers from around the world will come together over Labor Day weekend for the third annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers' Convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA.  Held at the Ramada Plaza Hotel from September 2-6, 2004 in conjunction with the 11th Annual Inkin' the Valley Tattoo Show, the combined events are expected to attract more than 5,000 attendees and over half of the approximately 40 remaining professional sword swallowers left performing around the world today.

The original world's record for multiple sword swallowers swallowing multiple swords was first set during SSAI's first "Big Swallow" at the initial Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention on Friday, August 20, 2002 when 19 of the world's top sword swallowers simultaneously swallowed 46 swords before an audience of their peers.  The group's mass record was broken a few minutes later when the 19 sword swallowers successfully swallowed a total of 50 blades simultaneously on their second attempt, thereby setting the current standing record.

While helping set the record, New York belly dancing sword swallower Natasha Veruschka also set the individual women's record by swallowing 11 swords at once, while Dai Andrews from Baltimore set the men's individual record by swallowing 11 swords in one swallow. The number of sword swallowers and swords was audited by a local accounting firm, verified by veteran sideshow owner Ward Hall and confirmed by sideshow historian James Taylor. The historic event was filmed by CNN and Shocked and Amazed TV for the Travel Channel, and witnessed by attendees, media and CNN viewers around the world on CNN International.

At the second annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention held in August 2003, SSAI attempted unsuccessfully to break its previous record, with only 17 sword swallowers successfully swallowing a total of 32 swords at the same time.  Natasha Veruschka broke her previous women's record to set her personal best by simultaneously swallowing 12 swords at once. The event was witnessed by sideshow industry experts and fans, and filmed by a New Zealand film crew for the Discovery Channel documentary "Stomachs of Steel" which aired in July 2004.

On Friday, September 3rd, SSAI will again attempt to break the current world record at the thirrd annual Sideshow Gathering and Sword Swallowers Convention in Wilkes-Barre. Currently over 20 sword swallowers are expected to attend and attempt to swallow over 50-plus swords simultaneously to break the standing record before an audience of fellow sideshow industry experts, peers, and fans.

The art of sword swallowing started about 4000 years ago in India and the Middle East, and requires the practitioner to use mind-over-matter techniques to control the body and repress the natural reflexes in order to insert solid steel blades up to 25 inches down the esophagus and into the stomach. With the demise of the traveling circus sideshows over the past thirty years, there are currently less than forty professional sword swallowers left performing the ancient but deadly art of sword swallowing around the world today.

The Sword Swallowers Association International is based in Nashville, TN and contains sword swallower members around the world.



Sword Swallower's Convention Filmed for International Broadcast

September, 2003

SSAI Big Swallow 2003

WILKES-BARRE, PA - The second annual Sword Swallower's Convention and "Big Swallow" world record attempt, held in conjunction with the second annual Sideshow Gathering held in Wilkes-Barre, PA over Labor Day weekend attracted sideshow afficianados, fans and international media from across the country.

Even though the seventeen sword swallowers were unsuccessful in their attempt to break their previous year's record of swallowing 50 swords at the same time, there were some highlights and breakthroughs throughout the weekend. Fourteen-year-old Alex Zander Morrow successfully swallowed a 15 inch sword along with the veteran sword swallowers, becoming the youngest verified sword swallower in the world, and belly dancing sword swallower Natasha Veruschka broke her previous women's record to set her personal best by simultaneously swallowing 12 swords at once.

The event was witnessed by sideshow industry experts and fans, and filmed by a New Zealand film crew for the Discovery Channel documentary "Stomachs of Steel" to be aired in July 2004.



Irish Sword Swallower Dies in Car Accident

July 20, 2003

Sword Swallower Johnny Massacre dies at age 27

GALWAY, IRELAND - Sword Swallower Johnny Massacre died on Friday, July 18th 2003 after being involved in a car accident. Massacre (John Doran) had performed 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 (www.johnnymassacre.com). Massacre became well-known for his specialty of swallowing a sword while riding a tall unicycle. Massacre died Friday, July 18th 2003 at the age of 27 after being involved in a three car accident during the Galway Arts Festival (local articles erroneously placed his age at 38). The city of Galway went into a state of mourning and flowers have been placed on his patch. His funeral took place in Longford town on Tuesday, 22nd July at 12 o'clock.



High-Wire Artist Attempts to Castrate Sword Swallower

February 17, 2003

DUSSELDORF, GERMANY - A trapeze artist tried to castrate his love rival with a giant pair of pliers.

Wilco Schmidt, 56, flipped when girlfriend Katharina Brahms ran off with a hunky sword swallower from the same circus. Impotent Schmidt first tried to hang Katharina with a rope. But the 46-year old - his partner in a high-wire act -wriggled free.

He then attacked her 39-year-old lover after telling a friend: "They won't have any more fun in bed."

Schmidt chased the sword swallower with the 2ft-long pliers - normally used for castrating bulls. But his rival grabbed the pincers and beat up the acrobat.

Schmidt, now a lorry driver, was jailed for seven years in Dusseldorf, Germany, for attempted manslaughter and causing bodily harm.



SSAI Members Set New Sword Swallowing Record

September 1, 2002

The Big Swallow, Aug 30, 2002


WILKES-BARRE, PA - Nineteen of the top sword swallowers from around the world set the new SSAI world's record for the "Most Sword Swallowers Swallowing Multiple Swords" at the first annual SSAI Sword Swallowers Convention, in conjunction with the first annual SideShow Gathering in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Such a record had never before been set before in the long history of sword swallowing, and the combined conventions were deemed a success by all who attended.

On Friday, August 30, 2002, SSAI set the new world's record for the Most Sword Swallowers Swallowing Multiple Swords at Once with a total of 19 sword swallowers from around the world, 17 men and two women, simultaneously swallowing a total of 46 swords. That record was immediately broken upon a second attempt when the 19 sword swallowers successfully swallowed 50 swords at once. The record setting event was emceed by master showman Ward Hall, witnessed by James Taylor and Kathleen Kotcher of Shocked and Amazed, verified by CPA Alphonse D'Amario, and filmed by international media including Shocked and Amazed TV and CNN's Jeanne Moos. (21.5M high bandwidth Real video)

SSAI Sword Swallowers who set the SSAI World Record:
    Dai Andrews
    Natasha Veruschka
    Johnny "Red" Stuart
    Johnny Fox
    Zamora/Tim Cridland
    Todd Robbins
    George The Giant McArthur
    Lizardman Erik Sprague
    Keith Nelson
    Thomas Blackthorne
    Petur Pokus Finnbjörnsson
    Julia Jewels Strouzer
    Bill Berry
    Frack/Chad Clos
    Ses Carny/Jesse House
    Malakai/Michael Todd
    Damien Blade/Danny Snyder
    Roderick Russell
    Belteshazzar/Dan Meyer
The SSAI record will be submitted to Guinness World Records in London for possible acceptance and inclusion in the Guinness Book of World Records. Other records set this weekend:

Natasha Veruschka and Dai Andrews each swallowed 11 swords at once to set the new official SSAI Women's and Men's multiple numbers records.

Bill Berry and Keith Nelson passed 6 juggling clubs WHILE swallowing swords to set the new official SSAI record for passing clubs while swallowing!

On Sunday, September 1, SSAI handed out "Golden Sword" lifetime achievement awards to veteran sword swallowers John "Red" Trower and John "Red" Stuart, as well as a lifetime honorary associate SSAI membership to master showman Ward Hall for his many years of promoting the art of sword swallowing in sideshows.



CNN and Shocked & Amazed to Cover Sword Swallowing Convention

August 28, 2002

SSAI has received confirmation that CNN's Jeanne Moos and Shocked and Amazed TV will be bringing film crews to cover the First Annual Sword Swallowing Convention in Wilkes-Barre, PA this Labor Day weekend!

Make sure to smile pretty, and tell your friends to look for you on CNN among other places!

Transcript of Jeanne Moos' CNN segment on Sword Swallowing Convention

(High bandwidth Real video clip)



Sword Swallowing Sites Receive World Recognition

July 5, 2002

Yahoo! Picks


Have you noticed how the traffic to your sword swallowing website has picked up lately? Well, so have we!
SSAI's Sword Swallowing Resources To The Hilt site at www.swordswallow.com has been recently featured on a number of major international portals with over 42,000 hits in only the first two weeks of July alone.

Portals in the United States, Japan, France, Brazil, Israel, Finland and the Netherlands have driven traffic to our sites from over 60 different countries as far away as the Ukraine, Estonia, Hungary, Guatemala, Pakistan, Croatia, Slovenia, Bulgaria, and Macedonia. Of course, many of those visitors have clicked on the links to your individual sites and sent traffic your way too!

Here are just a few sites that featured our Sword Swallowing To The Hilt site...


If you are a sword swallower with a web site, please return the favor and support SSAI by adding links to our sites at:

  Sword Swallowing To The Hilt - www.swordswallow.com
  Sword Swallowers Assoc Int'l - www.swordswallow.org



Sword Swallowing Featured in Esquire Magazine

July 1, 2002

Photo of Natasha Veruschka in Esquire

The cover of the August 2002 Esquire magazine teases, “What it Feels Like…15 Amazing Tales of: Shark Attack, Sword-Swallowing, Dwarfs, and Giants”.

The articles feature first-person accounts of what it is like to be (obsessive compulsive, a leper), do (swallow a sword, get shot out of a cannon), or have done to you (shark attack, exorcism) and a bunch of other kooky things.

And the best part? The uncredited photo on page 79 of belly dancing sword swallower, Natasha Veruschka. While Esquire interviewed Brad Byers, they included a photo of Natasha. The caption reads, “At right, a fellow performer shows how it’s done.”

Despite the poor editing, the black and white photo of Natasha is awesome. In the photo, she swallows a lit neon tube and the light can be seen glowing through her throat. And best of all, Natasha's manager Terrance claims the photo is "...all natural! Nothing was air-brushed at all!"

Nice photo, Natasha!



1st Annual Sword Swallowing Convention Announced

June 1, 2002

The official announcement has been made! The First Annual Sword Swallowers Convention is slated to take place from August 30th to September 1st in Wilkes-Barre, PA! This is destined to be the most important gathering of sword swallowers and sideshow entertainers in history! Don't miss out! See our events page and FAQ for full details.



Official SSAI Web Site Launched

May 28, 2002

The new website is finally up! Though simply a barebones architecture, SSAI now has a web presence. Please look to the website for all future information regarding upcoming events and important announcements. As usual, SSAI will utilize the sword swallowing discussion lists, but the SSAI website will house all of the official SSAI announcements and documents in their entirety.

The website will continue to grow and expand throughout the upcoming months and will change in shape and function. Your feedback is essential! SSAI is an organization designed to serve sword swallowers. Please let us know how we can improve!



Sword Swallowing Discussion Lists Launched

March 28, 2002

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