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Final Script




























Dai swallows sword



I knew something was wrong when he pulled the sword out of his mouth and there was blood on it.


Every time a sword-swallower performs, death is hovering in the wings.  There are fewer than 50 practitioners of this ancient carnival art alive, and many of them have come close to dying. 


He got a staph infection in his oesophagus that went up against his spine.  He was paralysed from the chest down and blind in both eyes.


And coughed up blood she was rushed to the hospital.



George swallows sword

These are the people who swallow two feet of steel for a living.  Why do they do it?  And HOW!?



X-ray C/U licking sword

Using cutting-edge, imaging technology…

…this investigation takes you on a unique journey with the stars of sword-swallowing …



Pan to Ben

…the beginners…



Dai swallows curved sword

…the dare-devils…









Dissolve to Charon


… and the survivors…


It occurred to me for the first time that I might die that day.

I almost died in my husband’s arms.


She’s the royal …….. belly dancing sword swallower.  She’s the female world record holder for the most swords swallowed at once – 11 swords  ladies and gentlemen please welcome to the stage -Natasha.



Natasha dances towards camera

This is a once-in-a-lifetime insight  into one of the most dangerous jobs on earth.



Cam into Natasha’s mouth


deep inside …

the Stomachs of Steel.



C/U Natasha about to put swords in mouth

Women’s sword-swallowing world-record-holder, Natasha Verushka, was on stage swallowing 3 swords at once, when every sword-swallower’s worst nightmare came true…


A bloke tried to put money in my belly dance costume.  Bumped against me, the swords scissored.

















Whip to Terry








Jeffery Swartz







Natasha’s husband Terry was called


I called up our physician Jeffery Swartz, and Jeffery said to me if you don’t take her to the hospital she’s going to die.


Just having a bleeding oesophagus is dangerous enough as it is but now you have acid pouring into the area it makes it exponentially more dangerous.  She came very close to dying.


Absolutely I nearly died, the thing that nearly killed me was the hospital bill.
















X-ray sword in oesophagus













Full motion digital fluoroscopy and a tiny, sword-mounted camera, will reveal how close these blades come to the vocal chords, the trachea, the diaphragm, and the beating heart.


Natasha is performing probably the most riskiest occupation that I’ve ever been exposed to in my life and when I’ve told colleagues about what she does they shake their heads and go -  the woman’s crazy.


With me it’s a calling.  That’s all I can say.



W/S Natasha on stage

Sword-swallowing is a dying art, only just kept alive by a dedicated elite.  Many of them gather annually in Pennsylvania, to perform and take part in the mass sword-swallowing ritual, THE BIG SWALLOW.



H/A C/U Natasha

This year Natasha will be one of the headline acts. 










Lights and signs








Rubbing shoulders with the experts, will be at least one absolute beginner. 900 miles away in Nashville, Tennessee, 50-year-old Ben Wade, is also preparing for The Sideshow Gathering, where he hopes to achieve his first ever sword-swallow.


Well ladies and gentlemen I’m a man.  Who has created a career for himself out of using ordinary household items in ways inconsistent with labelling instructions.  For instance I’m going to take this nail and ladies and gentlemen I’m going to take this hammer.  This hammer of freedom, this hammer of justice.  This hammer that I could use to hammer out the love between my brothers and sisters ladies and gentlemen but this ain’t Alabama and that’s illegal in this State.  So instead I’m going to use this hammer to pound this nail straight into my face.  That’s right.  Straight in.  ah my public.



M/C/U Ben w hammer and nail

Stage veteran, Sideshow Bennie, entertains Nashville’s intelligentsia by – hammering nails into his face.



Ben eating fire

…knowing when to let off steam…



Ben lying on bed o’ nails

…when to lie down…


That’s good.


W/S man smashes block

And when to take a break


This is the hardest part of the whole act.  Help me up.  Excellent job.



Ben w iron earrings

…Bennie can perform the unspeakable…

With his unmentionables.

He’ll do almost anything


You know that I’ll do almost anything.



Woman in audience

But for Sideshow Bennie, that’s not enough.


But that’s not enough ladies and gentlemen



O/S L/S Ben on stage

Bennie has set his sights on the holy grail of the sideshow world – sword-swallowing.  How hard can that be for a man who subjects his body to unthinkable abuse…


… on a daily basis?!


Sword swallowing is the hardest thing I’ve ever attempted.  Pain its kind of irrelevant but it only hurts the first time you do it.  Once I know what it’s going to feel like and I can gauge my reaction.  If I get up in the middle of the night half asleep and bang my toe on a chair I jump up and down and cuss just like everybody else because I’m not expecting that it’s a surprise it hurts.  A man that does that kind of stuff for a living has got issues.  When I was a  little kid I was the fat kid with the big thick glasses and the Johnny United’s  Haircut so I was kind of the outcast and all these big strapping biscuit eating farmboys used to kick my ass constantly so I think that gave me a high pain threshold but I find out that if I could make these these thugs laugh that I didn’t get my ass kicked nearly as much.  Is there anything in this whole world, any sexier than a half naked fat man on stage with a screwdriver sticking out of his face?  I hardly think so. 



W/S Ben on stage




























At 50, the grandfather of one is a late starter and he has chosen the hardest, and deadliest act of all, to add to his repertoire


This is this is what we call sword swallowing training wheels ladies and gentlemen.  Now I think I’m doing pretty good because I can do this.

But that’s not enough ladies and gentlemen I want to get a big hunking steel blade down this gullet and I’m working on that and to show you what that looks like because I ain’t ready for you to see that yet.  My sword swallowing mentor, my professor of protruding steel ladies and gentlemen half Dan the human dipstick – Dan Mayer.


Okay for your entertainment pleasure tonight I will attempt the most deadly of performance arts.  This is extremely dangerous.  I could die.  I hope you enjoy it.


Oh boy do I ever have blade envy now.  Ladies and gentlemen half Dan the human dipstick Dan Myers.

Sword swallowing is a challenge.  Attempting sword swallowing as much for myself as I am as an addition to my act.  Just you’ve got to stay challenged.



L/A street night

Next weekend, Bennie, Dan, Natasha, and sword-swallowers from all over America, will descend upon an unsuspecting Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania, for the Sideshow Gathering and THE BIG SWALLOW. There, Bennie intends to make his debut.  That is in 5 days’ time.  6 inches of plastic is a long way short of 2 feet of cold, sharp steel.



Dan in office

Meet mild-mannered web designer, DAN Mayer, also known as  … HALF-Dan-THE-HUMAN-DIPSTICK!  The guy teaching Sideshow BENNIE the dangerous and disappearing art of The Swallow


To be honest with you even though sword swallowing is a dying art most of the sword swallowers refuse to teach other folks how to do it partially because it is so dangerous and the liability involved but when I met Bennie I realised that he was going to keep working on it whether I helped him or not and so I decided to take him under my wing and make sure he didn’t hurt himself and he’s doing quite well so we’re going to go and have a lesson with him right now.  He still hasn’t managed to get a sword down yet but I’m real hopeful that he will real soon.



W/S Ben and Dan in park


















3 Days to go.  Tomorrow morning Bennie heads north to the Sideshow Gathering in Pennsylvania.  But right now, it’s time to graduate from plastic to steel.  Bennie’s going to attempt a real sword.


Tell you what though you’re coming along so well I think there’s a real good chance you may be able to get one of these down by Friday.  I think you’ve come along to a good enough point that I think you’re about ready to move up to this stage but just take it real slowly real slow.


I’m not going to rush it I mean I don’t want to end up hurting myself I mean but  I am anxious to try


You want to try one of them?  You want to try the little one right now?  Give it a shot.


Yeah let’s see what we can do.



Sword in Ben’s hands






































Bennie has suppressed his gag reflex enough to get a plastic blade past his epiglottis and into his oesophagus. But a real sword is a deadly weapon and the human body will do everything in its power to reject it.  He must learn to relax, align his internal organs, keep still, keep breathing, and manoeuvre a 24-inch blade through the body without bruising or stabbing himself. 


Just take it nice and slowly if you feel any resistance at all don’t push it.  When you feel the urge to gag just keep working past it.




That’s good.  Don’t push any further than that.  If that’s as far as you’re going to go just leave it there.  Breathe there you go.  That’s a good little starter.


Not bad I see what you mean about this one.


It’s sharp man.


Yeah.  It is a little sharper than you know what I’ve been used to but it actually felt like it was trying to go down so I’ll try it again.


Don’t push it if you’re not comfortable with it.


Yeah.  Believe me I won’t. 



C/U Ben w tip in mouth




















Dan and Bennie are probably the only sword-swallowers in the state of Tennessee.  In three days’ time they will be surrounded by the best in America.  But will the sword-swallowing elite share their closely-guarded knowledge with Bennie? 


I wouldn’t push it past that.  That’s good for now.  That’s fine.  That’s fine.  That’s real good.


Oddly enough it’s a little pokey in the back of my throat.  But not too bad.  Not too bad.  I can I can certainly tell the difference yeah I mean I think I think the plastic more gives you know and that’s what helping it go down.  This is rigid and its it’s an interesting sensation.


Tell you what I know how badly you want to do this for Friday but man I don’t want you to push it.



O/S 2-shot Bennie and Dan

Dan is torn.  As organiser of the forthcoming Big Swallow, he wants nothing more than to have his protégé up on stage beside him, swelling the all-important blade count.  But he does NOT want Bennie to rush his debut, & became yet another sword-swallowing casualty. 


Well we’re catching a flight tomorrow morning so we’ll see you there you have a good drive and whatever you do don’t push it if you practice on the way.




While Dan flies north, Bennie hits the road for the 13-hour drive to Pennsylvania, and, perhaps, sword swallowing stardom. 



Silhouette Ben w sword raised

Still no sign of a swallow but Bennie is determined to stand on stage with America’s best sword-swallowers… in less than 48 hours’ time










Man having upper arm tattooed

The sword-swallowers’ gathering is part of a Convention that has became an annual fixture in the otherwise sleepy town of Wilkes Barre.


Toto we’re not in Kansas any more.


In this universe there is no Kansas.



Walking P.o.V tattoo stall

The Convention has all but taken over the hotel, with the Tiffany Ballroom earmarked as the main performance space.  It is here, midnight Friday, that The Big Swallow will take place. And it is here that America’s sideshow greats will spend the next few days, trading know-how and merchandise, and performing for their peers…




People like well known sideshow identity, Texan sword-swallower and self-made freak, Eric-The-Lizard-Man-Sprague



Track through room to Tyler and Angelica

Tyler Fyre and Angelica Insectavora of Lucky Devil Sideshow in Sideshow Central – Coney Island, where if you’re not strange  you’re not normal



Track through room past Dai and chums


Dai Andrews, from Baltimore, Maryland, one of the few men alive who can swallow the curved sword. 



Track towards Johnny’s stall

His arch nemesis, New Yorker, Johnny Fox, current world record-holder -  he has swallowed 16 SWORDS at once!



Johnny glares at camera

But perhaps Johnny…


…should watch his back…



W/S Alex at stall with George

There’s Alex Tomaini, teenage progeny of pedigree sideshow artists Al Tomaini, the Italian  giant and Jeanni Tomaini, the Amazing Half a Girl…

….and like Bennie, on a mission to swallow his first sword



Track towards George talking animatedly


George MacArthur, a.k.a. George the Giant.  Height: 7-foot, 3-inches.    Edible prop of choice - light bulbs…


…and very long swords. 



Bennie and Dan exploring

There are veteran Carnival folk from the old Sideshow tradition, Impresarios like Bobby Reynolds…

Ward Hall, the last of the great travelling showmen. 

There’s Red Stewart, the only sword-swallower to swallow broadswords…  And car axles


Watch this.

Down the hatch without a scratch.



Track back through audience

Master of Ceremonies for the weekend is born-and-bred carnie, Aye Jay


I’m raised in the back of a stage truck  and my dad’s show travelled through this area and I just want to say if when you were a kid your bike was stolen I’m sorry now.



Harley and Natasha in audience

Harley Newman, who describes himself as “A PROFESSIONAL LUNATIC”.


Every one of you that are here you’re Carny’s.  I’ll tell you why you are.  We are a special breed because we are compelled and especially those of you that are sword swallowers we don’t know why it is we do what we do.  But we do it.



Harley and Natasha in audience

Natasha Verushka of course, well and truly over her injury and raring to break her world record of eleven swords, at The Big Swallow on Friday night.



C/U Charon watching in audience

Charon Henning, also a relative newcomer, also recently recovered from a bad sword-swallowing accident which put her in Johns Hopkins hospital with a punctured oesophagus.


But she didn’t stop.  She came back and she is compelled to do this.



Crash into Charon and cowboy

The E.R. at Wilkes Barre General Hospital will be in readiness, in case anyone injures themselves.  (pause)  Frankly, that is likely.


 I like who you are and I like the inner compulsion to do what we do.  The danger of what happens.  You take the sword swallowers you know how many people have died doing this?



C/U Ben freaking out

Bennie’s got 1 ½ days to break into this elite world, where injury – or worse – seems almost inevitable.









In this dare-devil world, each performer seems driven to outdo the last and push their dangerous art to the limits of human capability.


But do they realise just how close their death-defying feats come to puncturing a vital organ?



Audience applaud

 It’s all fun and games until someone punctures an oesophagus.   Bennie’s entering a cut-throat world, and to understand what goes wrong, and perhaps more intriguingly, how it can possibly go RIGHT, we are about to film these artists performing…


Are you sure you’re going to swallow all that?




X-ray sword in oesophagus

…from inside their own bodies


holy cow it’s all the way in!








W/S Ext hospital

It seems the sword-swallowers HAVE embraced Sideshow Bennie.  He has some new mentors, but any minute now he’s going to see right through them. 


Today Natasha, Dai, and George the Giant play the weirdest and hardest gig of their careers –inside Wilkes Barre Genera’s radiology suite, swallowing their weapons in the cramped confines of a live-motion, digital fluoroscopy machine.


So what we’re going to do is I want you to lean your head back.



C/U Ben swallowing sword

But real medical emergencies take precedence over even giants and sideshow stars, so while they wait for radiology to come free, Dai and George give Bennie some free sword-swallowing tuition.


That’s about as far as it goes.


Okay push it down.

No here’s …

First of all I don’t know if its going to help you it helps me to lick the blade first just kind of lubricates it.

Get some lubrication in there.

Gets it real lubricated.  Number two you’re stopped right here at the upper the upper epiglottis the sphincter there and what you need to do is put pressure against the tongue.  Push the sword against you tongue.  Basically if I’m going to use George’s chicken here as like as like as you tongue and you can’t squeeze by and you’ve got to push into it and slide it down and you’ve got to kind of your tongue is in the space the sword needs to be so put pressure against the tongue.  And slide it down almost you know against the tongue.

Doing good. Come on almost there. 

Relax.  All right pull it out now.




Bennie’s still having trouble overcoming his gag reflex…


Look at that you went to there.


Try tilting the sword back further.


Don’t do this at home.


Just try and get tilt the sword back a little more you’re still kind of at an angle get it.


Okay get it up, relax when its in there I know you’re gagging you should be able to go to the next level.


Just try try inhaling holding your breath and opening your throat.  Kind of like that but don’t make the noise.


Think yeah think you’re going ahhhhhhh but don’t do the sound.


I’m still not convinced.




One consolation – if anything goes wrong, at least Bennie’s in the right place.


I’m pushing myself you know I want to do it and I’m I’m impatient but not to the point to where I’m going to push myself until I have an accident to where I hurt myself because nobody wants that.



O/S walking through hospital interior

The medical emergency is over and the suite is now ready. 


This will be a rare opportunity for the sword-swallowers to demonstrate once and for all that what they do is REAL.

It’s a chance for Dr Satish Patel and his team to examine the danger zones, and how it is possible to survive these daily, self-inflicted assaults…



2-shot Ben and George

And it’s a chance for Bennie to see what’s at stake and what can go wrong.



Track into L/A Dai in machine

 Posture is key.  A successful swallow depends on the straightest possible line from the mouth, to the stomach…  


(“Ah!  Look at ‘im!”)


…One false move will mean lacerating delicate tissue. 


There he goes.  Holy cow it’s all the way in.  There he goes.


So that’s what I’m running into.

Yeah the sphincter.



2-shot Ben and George watching

Dai doubles jeopardy by bending his body to echo the 90° curvature of his sword.  The blade passes only a hair’s breadth from the vocal chords…


… and the heart.


Nice and smooth.  Any one jerk anywhere goes straight into the stomach holy cow that’s nice.  Very good.



Natasha watching

The body has more SENSE than to welcome in a blade.  The gag reflex, the body’s natural gate-keeper, prevents oversize, foreign bodies entering the wrong pipes.  Sword-swallowers train for years to overcome it, using yoga and meditation, and a variety of relatively innocuous dummy weapons


But there are more gag reflexes all the way down the oesophagus.


Unlike the trachea which is open, the oesophagus is a collapsed tube designed to expand just enough for chewed food


I think you open your mouth and don’t breathe at that time so the epiglottis doesn’t move at all and the sword ends up right above the diaphragm right about there.


Natasha have you been x-rayed before?


I have been x-rayed before.  And the doctor is very professional like you and down the sword goes, down the other one goes and he goes ‘oh my god they are real!’  And I’m going I told you they’re real I told you and he goes ‘no no the breasts!’.


Okay.  Ready.

That’s over the tongue.



X-ray sword in oesophagus

The oesophagus is a corridor that ends at the doorway to the stomach, the gastro-oesophageal junction – a tightly closed muscle which only relaxes to admit food to the stomach, and a prime candidate for rupturing by the sword’s tip, especially if it heaves upwards in protest.


Great job. 

She’s got three swords right in there and that’s behind here’s the trachea airway you can see that.  Okay now.



C/U profile X-ray

The whole area, from mouth to stomach, is richly endowed with blood vessels.  Even the smallest cut can be fatal.


Oh wow.

Nice job.

On the lateral if you look at it when she swallows the sword she hits the back wall off the oesophagus or the throat and that’s where all the accidents probably happen and you get perforating of the oesophagus, you get air in the neck area and then perhaps you need a little treatment for that.  But that’s where one of the areas of injury is in the back part of the throat.



George bends down to break bulb

In sword-swallowing, what goes down, must come up.  What about that other sideshow classic, broken glass?.


George buddy it’s your turn to go.

What are you going to swallow today?


Ah I’m going to be eating a light bulb.


Are you sure you’re going to swallow all that?


Yes.  Pay attention you guys might learn something.


You can you start out with that.


I like that.


Tongue glitter.

I’m moving the glass around I’m trying to keep it away from my lips because if you cut your lips you’ll bleed for a while it’s just it’s harder for it to seal but if I chew it right I can knock it all down and knock down a lot of sharp edges.


Look at that he’s really swallowing them breaking them up.  Oh my god.



C/U X-ray chewing

Once swallowed, it will  take about 48 hours…


…for the glass to pass through the human body.  But what happens on the way through – does it cause injury? Does any become embedded and remain in the body?  Is it broken down by the digestive system?  Or does it all simply pass through harmlessly?




It’s all about technique – one that George the Giant has perfected over many years. Although people do eat all manner of strange objects  - chewing glass is not one recommended to try at home.


Okay.  There we go.

Straight down.  Big ball is going straight down into the stomach.  Kids that swallow you know coins and toys and all those things ultimately they all pass through.  Sharp edges or otherwise same thing line it up with food and it passes through.


I’ve never had any problems where I’ve I had any rectal problems or anything else I haven’t had anything like that so to my knowledge its always been goes out with the flow and I know how to eat and I eat certain types of food when I’m performing a lot.


I don’t think the body can take the glass in any way in any form and digest it.  Its just

The makeup of it the makeup of it.

The material is not absorbable at all.


People are always “yes Agatha Christie grinded up glass and put in food”  it just shows that most what people believe in a lot of the time is crap!   Sorry.


That maybe the most bizarre thing I’ve ever seen in my life.


And not a drop of blood!


I’m wondering if  you know maybe something could develop later.  If they nick themselves their stomach or their oesophagus.

Doesn’t feel right.

But I guess time will tell.  I was a little worried to see the gentleman in the lobby who was just attempting it.

Oh yeah yeah I think ……………



Do you think you want to be practising for your opening night.


Oh yeah I think  ………

Do you think you want to be practising for your opening night.





You think you want to be practising for your opening night?


I would probably put the OR on standby for that one because he he looked like he was really struggling.  Maybe it will take longer than an afternoon.


It’s 12 hours from the big swallow and I haven’t gotten one down yet so I don’t know yeah I’m hoping it will I hope that I can get one to go I think another practice session this afternoon will help.


You better watch out there’s that other kid here and if he learns before you you’re never going to live it down.







Franko shakes hands

Tattoo and sideshow share a common ancestry, The Carnival.  And a common passion to keep tradition alive


The mindset that we attract here is people that don’t care if you like to be freaky and if you like to be extreme or you don’t-  it’s past all that we step onto another level and they get make a human connection beyond this physical trap that we’re in.  Instead of the sounds of of bombs there’s the sound of companionship, there’s the sound of camaraderie, there’s the sound of family, the sound of the tribe and it feels I I feel really safe here.



M/L/S George selling

 It’s Friday afternoon and the schmoozing and the merchandising are in full swing.  Dan is signing up sword-swallowers for The Big Swallow tonight.  Anyone who is not on stage is simply soaking up the carnival atmosphere.


 It’s amazing to me to look around this room and see my family.


They’re looking for their family.  They’re looking for their tribe.  And maybe they’ll find where they fit in.  and to find an unusual group as unusual and colourful as that.  Fantastic.


We call ourselves you know the freaks and the oddities and things like that but that’s not really offensive.


Freaks isn’t a dirty word anymore because now we realise we’re all freaks we’re all freaks because we’re all different there’s no two hearts, no two minds that are the same so we’re all freaks.  Highest compliment that you could pay me.



2-shot seated men, Ward raises sword

In the sideshow Tribe, the old are revered by the young, and the young must keep a dying art, alive, finding new twists for old tricks.

But not everyone’s a performer.


No I just like collecting stuff and watching.



M/C/U Sharon

The gathering attracts Sideshow devotees like Sharon. 


If you see the woman with the Dai AndrewsTattoo isn’t it just unlike I’m sorry and he goes and I don’t have any lackey fans.


That’s me baby.


She has a tattoo on her arm


I said are you sure you never   but no she’s nice she doesn’t do anything wrong she’s a big fan and I’m happy for her.  It’s a little wacky for me.  And she goes …… . You’re just jealous.  Oh yeah I would love someone to have a George the Giant tattoo but I would still think it was wicky a little odd.



C/U Ben profile

Bennie isn’t the only novice planning to become a sword-swallower this weekend.  With George’s tuition, 14-year-old Alex Tomaini has just crossed the first hurdle – The Coat Hanger!  Bennie’s got competition.



C/U Ben

Alex makes it look easy but it’s dangerous, it’s nausea inducing, and it hurts like hell.


Who’s hears a training well boop boop boop you’re like oh I can do this I know I can do this.  Your mind is going I know I can do this  then you’ll get your real sword in -  you have an act you know - what you’re doing that’s why I’m willing to teach you a lot of stuff. I’m trying to help you with because I believe and have faith even though I don’t want another bald headed man swallowing a sword because that’s one more job that I won’t have.  Okay I’m over it.  But here’s the thing there should be a coat hanger somewhere around here.  One second.


I’m still working on the the mental state. The mental aspect of it is as much as overcoming the physical aspect.


Room service.

I’ll come back later.


So Bennie you’ve got to quadruple the length of what you can swallow in the next four hours.  You know men have been trying to quadruple length for thousands of years and they haven’t managed…..


If you haven’t got past 12 inches stop…


The thing is you have to convince your mind and your body that you can do it…..


Bennie I love you I truly do you’re a great performer.  Take your bloody time. Its going to work or it won’t.  Don’t let anybody push you …


Bennie you better be careful even though you’ve had all the training from the best people in the business



Training from the best people in the business …


There’s a reason why there’s only a few sword swallowers left – it’s dangerous.  If you’re not willing to take the risk, not willing to end up in the hospital not willing to even be dead don’t do it …


This is not an illusion, this is not a bar trick if you screw this up there’s a very very good chance that it will kill you.


Bennie why sword swallowing?  There’s so many amazing side show acts out there sword swallowing has got to be the hardest to learn, takes the longest amount of time and is unquestionably the least pleasant thing you can do with the human body.  You take two feet of solid steel and you want to jam it down your throat into your stomach?  Why Bennie?  Why? Why?  Why?




Gastroscope P.o.V in oesophagus

Breakthrough!!  Bennie has successfully swallowed… the coat hanger!


That slid right down.  Went all the way down.  Went down to like here so I was pretty thrilled with that.  It’s not the big coat hanger swallow I’m still working with trying to get the blade down but that kind of boosted the confidence.  It is approximately 4 hours till the till the big swallow and we’ll see I’m going to try the coat hanger a few more times and see if I can’t follow it up with the blade soon.



Track past Alex swallowing sword

But Alex Tomaini gets there first.  At 14, that makes him the world’s youngest sword-swallower. 


 I am 14 years old and I am the world’s youngest sword swallower.  I just started.



L/S Ben walks away

It also means he swallowed a sword 4 hours after his first attempt.  What has he got that Bennie hasn’t?


 I don’t have any gift I’m guess I’m just that good.



Clock face

But, as if that isn’t enough pressure, Bennie, with a very sore throat and close to losing his voice, is also performing tonight for his peers.  Right after Natasha. 









M/S Natasha belly-dancing

Friday night, 11 pm.  Natasha is ON, and she’s got them in the palm of her… hand. 



M/L/S Natasha swallowing a sword

She’s going to be a hard act to follow.  And the act to follow… is Benny. 


And he’s still got some blade dunking practice get in before midnight. 


It’s almost a meditative state that you have to enter into.  Just to get everything relaxed to where you can get the blade down.  Some of the old timers that I’ve seen do it just and its no big deal to them anymore but then they’ve been doing it for 50 years.  You do anything for 50 years you get real good at it or kill yourself in the process.



C/U Natasha swallowing neon sword


Nearly killing herself hasn’t deterred Natasha from mastering the neon tube.  If the glass breaks it will lacerate the length of the oesophagus, releasing deadly poisonous gas into the body.

But she does it in every show, sometimes several times a day!


Ladies and gentlemen sideshow Bennie hear hear!!



M/C/U Aye Jay

Then it’s Bennie’s turn. 


Everybody good everybody swell everybody dandy?  Good.  I’m about to change all that.  Now my name is Sideshow Bennie and I’m from Nashville, Tennessee ladies and gentlemen.  How many of you have never seen me before?  Most of you.  Excellent.  Well you’ve got something to talk about in Sunday school this week ladies and gentlemen you know a lot of people wonder exactly what a sideshow Bennie is what a sideshow Bennie does.  Well ladies and gentlemen I am a man who has created a career for myself out of using ordinary household in ways inconsistent with labelling instructions. 



Unimpressed woman in audience

It’s a hard gig.  These people have seen pretty much every twist there is, on Fire-Eating, “Human Blockhead”, and Bed o’ Nails – And they’ve been going all day and half the night.  But Bennie’s brand of sideshow is new.  His self-effacing humour, vulnerability and undeniable sex appeal, wins ‘em over in the end.


Now ladies I’ve got to ask you is there anything in this whole world any sexier than a half naked fat man on stage with a screwdriver sticking out of his face.  I hardly think so.

And here’s a little something for the ladies.

They’re the ones thinking that I’m not leaving here until I get sprinkled with some Bennie sugar.  You know who you are.  Thank you very much.



Elvis Costello Guy w cigar

Taking particular notice are the other performers and those great old showmen who can make or break a sideshow act’s career…


A little bit later tonight I’m a novice sword swallower I haven’t quite got a blade down all the way yet I’m going to make an attempt during the big swallow to finally get one down.  So everybody wish me luck and keep a good thought thank you very much.


Side  show Bennie!



G/S audience applaud

For Side – Show – Bennie, it’s straight off stage, and upstairs, for yet another practice


I’m a little swollen today from all the work.


I know how that feels.  You can do this.


Going to try it one more time we’re not going to push anything.


But if you die that’s one less side show performer performing mmmm


Hurry hurry step up to the midway.  The big swallow is about to begin.  The moment you’ve all been waiting for.



W/S audience file in

It’s been a long, intense day and it’s a tired and sore group of sword-swallowers who finally gather on stage at midnight for The Big Swallow. 


I think being this late at night  folks are just really tired and it’s been a lot of a long time waiting for this.



W/S sword-swallowers on stage

Waiting for this unique assembly are perhaps, half of the worlds’ professional sword-swallowers, on one stage.


This is extremely dangerous.  Lets be very careful tonight folks.

Oh I’m Tyler Fire from Coney Island.


The Lizard Man from Austin Texas

……………… New York City

SideShow Bennie Nashville Tennessee with his first attempt thank you very much.

George the dwarf.  Bakersfield California Bobby Reynolds I’m doing this for you.

Charon from Fairfax Virginia and the American …….Museum

Ted Steward Philadelphia Pennsylvania

And Dai Andrews Baltimore City Baltimore Maryland

Hello I’m Natasha what’s wrong with this picture.

I’m Dan Mayer from Nashville Tennessee.



M/S gal takes her seat

Stakes are high tonight, not just for Bennie…


Natasha is going to attempt how many swords dear?


12 swords from Natasha.  Last year her record was 11 swords she’s going to be doing 12.  And Dai Andrews how many swords do you have here Dai?

Ah 15.

15 swords for Dai Andrews.  Is this your personal best?

This will be a personal best for me yeah.  What an idiot I am. 

Everybody step forward about a step or two spread out so everybody can see you.

Okay I think this looks good. Oh okay fine.

All right everybody lubricate up.




This is Bennie’s moment of truth


Everyone ready?

3 2 1 down the hatch without a scratch.



Ben trying to swallow sword


Bennie holds the sword in for almost half a minute, trying to recreate his success with the coat hanger, but it remains blocked just past the epiglottis. 

He tries once more, pushing on his sore and inflamed throat…

…then lets it go. 



Dan, Ben, Natasha and Dai on stage


Dai did not manage the 15 swords either


Didn’t flow did we get it?  We didn’t.



Dan, Ben, Natasha and Dai on stage


So, no record for Dai,  no swallow for Bennie.


I think I was trying too hard because I wanted it too I wanted to be able to do it now and its not something that you can do right this minute it’s something that you have to work with over a period of time.



Sword-swallowers stand and bow

But Natasha has done it!  12 swords at once!  A new women’s world record!



M/C/U Dan

Stakes were high for Dan too.  As organiser of The Big Swallow, he had hoped they would beat last years’ sword-count of 52.  At 34, they were way short. Bennie’s one blade wouldn’t have changed that.


 I’m real disappointed for him not disappointed in him.  He did a great job he tried real real hard put in a valiant effort and I’m real proud of him for the progress that he’s made but I feel bad for him.


I was really really rooting for Bennie to get that sword down and it it really just breaks my heard because I know I know how he’s feeling about it but I know he’s going to continue and he’s going to do it.


The big swallow was a disappointment but I’ve been disappointed before.  We’re going to continue working on the sword swallowing and the show will go on.  My usual act is the most important thing right now that’s what I do for a living and I was surprised at how many people knew who I was which was kind of you know ‘oh’ you know ‘they know who I am’  and now they’ve seen my act and they’ve like been raving about it so oh yeah I’m just I’m just moist (laughing).


Well hey kids you know not all acts work the first time you try them I got the blade down about half way and it got stuck that was all there was too it it wasn’t going any further I’m not killing  myself for your entertainment pleasure but let me tell me there was a little kid there 14 damn years old it took him 4 hours to get a sword down his throat.  You know the kid will go far I wish him well the little …… it may take me 4 years but I’ll get one down too.  In spite of that I’m feeling pretty good about myself so life is sweet, life goes on and ladies I’m still available after the show.



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