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Topic: miracle mongers and their methods
Message: Posted by: adam_wolfe (Jun 6, 2003 07:55PM)
I managed to find this book as an e-book (sorry I don't remember the site) it opened my eyes to many "sideshow" effects and has led me to ask if anybody here can swallow swords and if so how long did it take you to learn and what did you practice with?
Message: Posted by: DavidEscapes (Jun 6, 2003 08:06PM)
You can download this book from here:


Hope this helps

David Straitjacket
Message: Posted by: adam_wolfe (Jun 7, 2003 10:49AM)
That's the one! It makes a real good read if your interested in sideshow, so if you haven't got it, get it, because it's brilliant! :yippee:
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Jun 8, 2003 02:08PM)
Be careful with this book. There is A LOT of misinformation in those pages.
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (Jun 8, 2003 05:13PM)
Todd is right! In spite of being attached to Houdini's name, almost all the stuff in it is dangerous, wrong or speculating on his part!

A little closer to the truth are the books Swami/MAntra or Sorcerer's Apprentice, (Tahir Shah) but both of them contain dangerous ideas, deadly chemicals, or plain errors!

There is no substitute for a one-on-one teacher who will guide you and give you active correct information. Why people think that these arts are something just to play with bewilders me... Go out and drive your car wearing a blindfold, it's easier and safer.

If you are serious, you can find a teacher. you may very well save your life!



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Message: Posted by: stine (Jul 7, 2003 09:03PM)
I learned from a manuscript book called "How to eat fire and swallow swords" I got it in the eighties in the states and I'm sure it isn't around. It gave all the info I needed. I learned with 1/4 inch rod iron that I filed round and smooth at the end. In my show I also used a sai ( martial arts weapon).Wipe it down with Listerene then put your head straight back and slowly lower the rod down your throat. When you start to gag just hold it there and continue to try and let it slide down your throat. I even went to my doctor after I could pretty well control my gag reflex and had him watch me to make sure I didn't hurt myself. HE actually helped me guide it down the first time. Depending on how tall you are is how far down it goes that's why you don't want the end sharp as you will feel it rest on the bottom of your stomache. Mine went 17 inches until it stopped.It will be hard to learn and you will absolutely have to make up your mind your going to not quit till you beat it or you'll never do it. Don't give up.
Message: Posted by: MagicalArtist (Apr 25, 2004 07:21PM)
"Be careful with this book. There is A LOT of misinformation in those pages. "

Could you give an example of the misinformation? Is the information wrong, or just changed since the book was written?

Since it is associated with one who spent the early years of his life in close proximity with sideshow performers during the heyday of the sideshow (or dime museum), I would be very surprised if it contained misinformation.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Apr 26, 2004 06:42AM)
I don't have my copy at hand, but it is no secret that played fast and loose with facts. Though he came up working in sideshows and dime museums, he never performed in his act the skills he wrote about in this book. A lot of the book was rehashed from earlier sources. Many of these source were of dubious worth. Several years ago, Harley Newman and I were in discussion with the Library of Congress about this book. They expressed interest in reprinting it with annotation from Harley and I correcting the misinformation. The passed on the idea as too dangerous to put out. There a lot of fiction in the book, but the book does have value in giving presentional ideas that have been forgot about.
Message: Posted by: MagicalArtist (Apr 26, 2004 10:36AM)
You may be thinking of “The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin” which did come under a lot of criticism. I never heard of any controversy surrounding “Miracle Mongers,” however. When you’re writing about carnival performers of the 16th century, you HAVE to draw from historical sources; there simply is no other information about them still in existence.
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (Apr 30, 2004 06:28AM)
I looked at the online version of the Miracle Mongers and pulled out a few glaring examples of things just wrong. there are more, but this is all I have time for now.

Pg 84
"I know that some of the sword swallowers have made use of a sheath which was swallowed before the performance, and the swords were simply pushed into it. A sheath of this kind lined with asbestos might easily have served as a protection against the red-hot blade."

I don't know where he got this, but it shows a complete lack of knowledge about sword swallowing. I would pay good money to see someone do this as it can't be done the way he describes it.

"Another thriller consisted in fastening a long sword to the stock of a musket; when he had swallowed about half the length of the blade, he discharged the gun and the recoil drove the sword suddenly down his throat to the very hilt."

I do a variation of this bit and the recoil has nothing to do with it. It is just an illusion. Since Houdini is very thorough on describing how other deceptions in the book are done, his letting this slide shows he doesn't know what his writing about.

Pg 108
"It consisted only in rubbing the hands and thoroughly washing the mouth, lips, tongue, teeth and other parts which were to touch the fire, with pure spirits of sulphur. This burns and cauterizes the epidermis or upper skin, till it becomes as hard and thick as leather, and each time the experiment is tried it becomes still easier."

It will become easier if the sulphur doesn't poison you and you die.

"They first gradually habituate the skin, the mouth, throat and stomach to great degrees of heat, then they rub the skin with hard soap. The tongue is also covered with hard soap and over that a layer of powdered sugar. By this means an investigating professor was enabled to reproduce the wonders which had puzzled many scientists."

Go ahead and give this a try. You will see how useless it is.

"To set paper on fire by blowing upon it, small pieces of wet phosphorus are taken into the mouth, and a sheet of tissue paper is held about a foot from the lips. While the paper is being blown upon the phosphorus is ejected on it, although this passes unnoticed by the spectators, and as soon as the continued blowing has dried the phosphorus it will ignite the paper."

PHOSPHORUS IN THE MOUTH!!!! He has got to be kidding. I guess the spectators will not notice the coughing, gagging and writhing in pain that will accompany this bit.

"During my engagement in 1895 with Welsh Bros. Circus I became quite well acquainted with an aged Jap of the San Kitchy Akimoto troupe and from him I learned the method of swallowing quite large objects and bringing them up again at will. For practice very small potatoes are used at first, to guard against accident; and after one has mastered the art of bringing these up, the size is increased gradually till objects as large as the throat will receive can be swallowed and returned."

I'm not a betting man, but I will lay money that he could not do this. The skill of regurgitation is a VERY difficult thing to learn. That is why there have been very few people throughout history doing the act. Currently there is only one person, Stevie Starr, doing this act. If Houdini had been able to do this skill he would never have gone on to learn escapes. He would have been able to book the regurgitation act with ease and there would never have been the lean years he struggled through. And please don't tell me this is how he hid the keys for the jail escapes he did. The MO for these stunts has been well documented. This claim of his is right up there with his ability to hang upside down and pick up pins with his eyelids when he was a kid.

The bottom line is that Houdini was a master showman and this book was his attempt to set himself up as the ultimate authority on this subject. As I stated before, this book has a real value in some of the historical material he included. It was never intended to be an instructional manual.
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (Apr 30, 2004 03:15PM)
Another dangerous book, for the same reasons is Mannix's "Step Right Up." It is a good read, with lots of danger as a guide.
BTW I keep watching Letterman, only to see our performers, and keep missing the moments! If Fate telling me something?
Message: Posted by: MagicalArtist (May 4, 2004 01:02AM)
Thanks Todd, Interesting post. I was just interested in hearing the specifics of your claim. However, I HAVE read in more than one place that Houdini was able to swallow and regurgitate small objects.
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (May 4, 2004 02:10AM)
MA, you seem to be dermined to advocate Houdini's misperceived instructions which will only cause you grief! Is there a reason? Mongers, Step Right up and also Sorcar's Sorcerer's Apprentice, and Swami Mantra will lead you astray... Get a teacher who does the acts you want. Likely, you will save your self serious injury. Hell, go to Todd's fine school (East Coast) or come to me.(West Coast) I assure you you will be safer and at least saved the embarrasment of doing things badly Slim Price
Message: Posted by: Todd Robbins (May 4, 2004 06:48AM)
On 2004-05-04 02:02, MagicalArtist wrote:
Thanks Todd, Interesting post. I was just interested in hearing the specifics of your claim. However, I HAVE read in more than one place that Houdini was able to swallow and regurgitate small objects.

I have read about that too, but these reports come from explanations of his jail escapes. What I have never read are reports by reliable third parties that actually witnessed Houdini doing controled regurgitation.

All of what I have posted is not meant to bash Houdini. He is one of the great character of not only magic, but of the 20th century. I admire him a great deal

My only point was that Miracle Mongers is not a good instruction manual. As a historical resource it has a good deal of valure. As something to useful for developing skill, it is lacking.
Message: Posted by: Slim Price (May 5, 2004 02:57AM)
I began regurgitating when I was about 12 (1947) just as a thing to do, long before I thought it was an act. I probably picked up the idea from my reading of Hindi culture... It really is very easy. I started with grapes, swallowing and 'gurging so as not to break the skin (of the grape)