Happy World Sword Swallowers Day! It is scheduled every year for the last Saturday in February. This year’s is a special one on Travalanche however as it is the first one to come along since we started our Sword Swallowers section. It’s fairly modest, with a couple of dozen posts, but hopefully enjoyable for you to peruse. I don’t know how many I’ll add, but, to give credit where it’s due, it’ll never be as thorough and extensive as The Sword Swallowers Hall of Fame, which will always have the last word, and is a frequent resource for your correspondent. For those seriously interested in this harrowing performance craft, I’d also recommend the website of the Sword Swallowers Association International.
While it’s every bit as dangerous as it has ever been, sword swallowing is also more popular today than ever, both with performers and audiences. In case you are new, sword swallowers really do shove those hazardous implements all the way down their gullets into their guts. There’s no trick; they just do it. It’s easily as dangerous as swinging from a trapeze or walking a tightrope. Perforating an intestine is no joke. So tip those buskers well, please!
While I know dozens of people who perform this feat on contemporary stages, most sideshow folks don’t specialize but offer a whole menu of skills, including fire eating, the blockhead act, lying on a bed of nails, and so forth. Today, though I would like to give a shout-out to one colleague who has made it a special area of focus and that is the great Lady Aye (Elise Carter). She has written and spoken about what she does extensively, on Jewcy (2011), Salon (2013),and in The Atlantic (2014).
Honor your sword swallowers! Again the sword swallower section of Travalanche is here.
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To learn more about the variety arts, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous