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February 28, 2015

Ripley's Believe It or Not Celebrates World Sword Swallowers Day

Did you know that February 28 is World Sword Swallowers Day? Neither did I! Thankfully, Ripley's Believe It or Not was well aware of this day - and in true Ripley's fashion, they shared the spectacle in a grand event! Thirteen Ripley's locations celebrated the day by inviting sword swallowers from around the world to showcase their unique talents. Here in Orlando, we had eight performers - ranging in age from 16 to 64!


It was a rainy day in Orlando, but the show, as they say, must go on. When umbrellas arise at a show like this one, they simply become props. Bill Berry of the stunt duo "Rootberry" was happy to provide a little added amusement for those of us braving the elements as we awaited the main event. 

Speaking of Rootberry, Jonathan Root and Bill Berry were truly a marvelous addition to the Orlando event. Their talents go far beyond sword swallowing. I highly suggest checking out their full array of skills and madness whenever you have the chance. A little more from Bill Berry...
 
But... this was more than a one-man show. As previously mentioned, we had eight performers on-hand (two were female) - all with a unique set of jaw-dropping skills. 
Take a look at a few of the event highlights...

There were car axles...

...rifles...

...and even a balancing act!

This was the 8th annual World Sword Swallowers Day, which serves a greater purpose than amusement. This event is designed to increase awareness of the contributions sword swallowers have made toward science and medicine. Toward that goal, performers were accepting donations on behalf of Esophageal Cancer Research and the Injured Sword Swallowers Relief Fund.

According to Sword Swallowers Association, International, the "art of sword swallowing originated over 4000 years ago in India". With less than a few dozen full-time sword swallowers in practice today, it's a rare treat to observe so many talented people performing this death-defying feat in one place - each demonstrating their own specific technique and very individualized tools of the trade. Antique car axles, rifles, and even swords that light up - all of these came into play as these brave (or slightly insane) artists put on a fantastic display. 
Among the talented guests at Ripley's Orlando were Georgia's Haley Hall - considered to be the youngest living sword swallower at only 16, Dan Meyer - President of the Sword Swallowers Association International, and co-founder of World Sword Swallowers Day, and a sword swallower all the way from Germany - Franz Huber. 
Demonstrations included an attempt at World Record when three sword swallowers cooperatively juggled nine pins while swords were in position. After a little practice with the juggling end of the demonstration, they wowed the crowd with a double-dose of dazzle...


Take 2...

Then, of course, there was the culmination of the day's festivities. At 2:28:15, all of the artists gathered on stage for the "Big Swallow" record-breaking event. 8 sword swallowers sent a total of 68 swords down the hatch simultaneously, to much fanfare and awe. 
 This event was a first for me, and one I won't soon forget. Considering all of the suspicion behind the validity of sword swallowing, I must attest to the fact that it is startlingly real, and it takes immeasurable skill. These brave performers were very willing to let the audience inspect their swords, as they repeatedly demonstrated their abilities. It requires nerves of steel, great mental focus, and often years of practice - but it is no optical illusion. And... I have to say, they were certainly a fun bunch to hang out with. Thank you to SSIA and Ripley's for an afternoon that was one for the record books!