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World Sword Swallower's Day 2014
Saturday, February 22, 2014

Press Release President Proclaims World Sword Swallower's Day 2014
Science on the Cutting Edge
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President Proclaims Sword Swallower's Day 2014

Sword Swallowers celebrate by swallowing together
at Ripley's Believe It or Not Museums worldwide!
(SSAI) – On February 22, 2014, Sword Swallowers around the world will celebrate World Sword Swallower's Day 2014 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 2014 will be observed on February 22nd at 2:22 pm in conjunction with February as National Swallowing Disorders Month.

“Last year we had 43 sword swallowers swallow 76 swords at 18 Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums worldwide. This year we expect to break that record and have even more sword swallowers participate!” says Meyer. SSAI President Sword Swallower Dan Meyer at Ripleys Believe It or Not London

"Sword swallowers have been risking our lives to perform sword swallowing for over 4000 years,” explains Meyer. “But many people either don't believe what we do is 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 free demonstrations for the public and media around the world on this day."

"Many of us have been performing for years and we love our work!" explains Meyer, a 35-time world record holding sword swallower who performs at Ripley's Believe It or Not museums and speaks in 25 countries around the world. "World Sword Swallower's Day is a great chance for us to show the world what we really do and how we do it!" Last year for World Sword Swallower's Day 2013, Meyer swallowed a sword and used it to pull a 3700 lb car out of Ripley's Believe It or Not Baltimore!

“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 scientists at medical centers over the past 150 years 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."

To participate, sword swallowers must register at: www.ripleys.com/swordswallowersday

The 2014 Big Swallow will take place on Saturday, 2/22/14 at 2:22:14 pm local time when sword swallowers will perform free live shows at Ripley's Believe It or Not! Odditoriums in New York Times Square, Atlantic City NJ, Baltimore, MD, Myrtle Beach, SC, Gatlinburg, TN, St. Augustine, Panama City, and Key West FL, Branson, MO, Grand Prairie, TX, Hollywood and San Francisco CA.

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 96-plus attractions in 10 countries each year. In addition to its 32 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 22nd, 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
www.ripleys.com/swordswallowersday


Press Releases
President Proclaims World Sword Swallower's Day 2014
Science on the Cutting Edge
(right-click to download)

Contact
Media Inquiries, Appearances and Press Interviews


SWORD SWALLOWERS:
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Video clips from past World Sword Swallower's Days


World Sword Swallower's Day 2014 Promo Compilation


World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 Car Pull Ripley's Baltimore


World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 Ripley's Baltimore Big Swallow


World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 Sword Swallowing on Ballet Point Panama City


World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 Hollywood Big Swallow


World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 Orlando Swallowing 7 Swords


World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 Orlando Weighted Swallow 84.2 lbs


World Sword Swallower's Day 2013 Atlantic City Double Bed of Nails


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

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


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 22-50 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 medical attention and hospitalization, with dozens more that go unreported each year.
  • Treatment of sword swallowing injuries can cost from $25,000-$75,000 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!

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




Science on the Cutting Edge

Swallowing the Science of the Sword

by Tim Anderson, Medical Migrant

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 left.

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.

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 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, 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, bring a bit of swashbuckler's magic to the otherwise scholarly gatherings.

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 the SSAI.

Media Inquiries


Please submit your sword swallowing news stories to research@swordswallow.com




Association Honors Veteran Sword Swallowers on Sword Swallower's Day

Sword Swallowers celebrate worldwide by swallowing together!

contact us

Feb 28, 2008

HARTSELLE, AL -- On 'World Sword Swallower's Day', 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," Meah 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.

Media Inquiries


Please submit your sword swallowing news stories to research@swordswallow.com




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