Sword Swallowing

Through years of careful training Johnny Strange has developed an extraordinary control over his body, which allows him to perform the the ancient and deadly art of sword swallowing, passing a sword, or other foreign object, down the oesophagus and into the stomach.



Sword swallowing is widely considered to be one of the most dangerous circus sideshow feats someone can perform earning it the title “the black belt of sideshow” – If done wrong dangers can include choking, trauma to the throat, slicing of the oesophagus, perforation of the stomach lining, intestinal bleeding and distension of the oesophagus.




The history of Sword Swallowing is as complex and elaborate as the art itself – Sword Swallowing dates back over four thousand years ago, originating in India by fakirs and shaman priests at around 2000 BC, they used it to demonstrate power, spirituality and other religious practices.

By the 1st century sword swallowing had began to spread to Rome and by the 8th century it had reached China. Across Europe it slowly developed into a performance art, giving way to street performers, theatre shows and later on, circus tents and sideshows. In the 19th century sword swallowing made it’s first step in to the medical field when Adolph Kussmaul performed an esophagoscopy on a sword swallower using a 47cm glass tube and mirrors – This contraption proved to be one of the very first models of the modern day endoscope we know today, which allows doctors to examine the oesophagus and stomach lining of a patient.

Please remember, the art of swallowing swords is extremely dangerous and if attempted unsupervised will pose the risk of injury and even death. Do not attempt to try it unsupervised by a professional and well respected sword swallower.


Sword swallowing is a dangerous and dying art and there are currently less than 60 sword swallowers performing world wide, even less being able to swallow multiple blades at the same time and only a handful being able to swallow a curved sword. In a world with a population of 7 billion, this makes Johnny Strange an extremely unique individual.


Here are a few examples of some of the items Johnny has swallowed;

  Swords measuri
ng at over a staggering 2 feet in length.

>>  Handleless swords.

>>  Double edge blades.

>>  Daggers.

>>  The wavy blade of a kris sword also known as a ‘serpents sword’.

>>  Running power drills.

>>  Japanese katanas.

>>  Endoscopic cameras.

>>  Table legs.

>>  Curved sickles.

>>  Flaming swords.

>>  A giant screwdriver. 

>>  Hedge clippers.

>>  Multiple blades at once neatly stacked one on top of the other.

>>  Sword canes.

>>  2000 volt glass neon tubes.



Past the lips, past the gums – look out stomach, here it comes. To attempt Sword Swallowing the performer must first lean the head back, hyper-extending the neck and relax the epiglottis, the saliva lubricated sword is slid across the tongue to the back of the throat, where retching must be carefully controlled as not to damage the pharynx.

The sword passes behind the Adam’s apple to the usually involuntary muscle, the upper oesophageal sphincter, once past that the sword travels behind the rib cage, carefully pushing each lung to either side, nudging the heart to the left and gently straightening the slightly flexible oesophagus. The stomach, at an angle to the oesophagus, is brought into line as the sword enters through the lower oesophageal sphincter. Careful focus is required to complete the process without injury, as the sword passes within millimetres of vital organs such as the heart and lungs.

Contrary to popular belief not just anyone can become a sword swallower, even if they wanted to. One factor stopping the ‘average’ person swallowing a sword is down to the positioning of your organs. The Oesophogus does not always travel in a true straight line making it impossible for most people to achieve the correct alignment without causing serious injury. Another reason is down to controling the oesophageal sphincters which are usually involuntary.

Please remember, the art of swallowing swords is extremely dangerous and if attempted unsupervised will pose the risk of injury and even death. Do not attempt to try it unsupervised by a professional and well respected sword swallower.




‘Do Not Try This’ is a documentary about the bizarre, exciting and sometimes dangerous way of life for a travelling performer. In this short excerpt Johnny Strange speaks about sword swallowing,  discussing his favourite sword to swallow, the pro’s and con’s of sword swallowing, some of the dangers of sword swallowing and more about his Guinness World Records.

It also features aditional footage of sword swallower Dan Meyer, president of the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI).

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