World Sword Swallowers Day 2012: A Steel-Slurping Extravaganza

By: David Moye

It may be hard to swallow, but sword swallowers do more than entertain people by sticking things down their throats. A few have been on the cutting edge of medicine as well.

That’s according to Dan Meyer, president of the Sword Swallowers Association International (SSAI), and a guy as sharp as his swords.

“Most people don’t realize the contributions sword swallowers have made in the fields of science and medicine over the past 150 years,” Meyer told HuffPost Weird News. “In 1868, a sword swallower was used by Dr. Adolf Kussmaul in Freiburg, Germany, to develop the first rigid endoscopy. It was a long thin tube with a mirror and a candle at the end and the sword swallower — whose name has been lost to history — was the guinea pig.”

In addition, a sword swallower underwent the first esophageal electrocardiogram in Wales in 1906, but again, his name has been lost to history.

Meyer just doesn’t think that’s right. “Sword swallowers go unrecognized, but their physical and mental abilities to shut off bodily reflexes is very helpful to scientists studying the inner workings of the body,” he said.

Meyer has made his own contribution to medical science as well with a ground-breaking research paper titled “Sword Swallowing And Its Side Effects,” which was published in the December 2006 British Medical Journal and is considered the first comprehensive medical study in the 4,000 year history of sword swallowing.

But while science is starting to recognize the cutting-edge information sword swallowers can provide, Meyer and other “knifers” have been trying to show the world the contributions of sword swallowers by holding World Sword Swallower’s Day every February for the last six years.

On Feb. 25 this year, dozens of the world’s estimated 200 sword-swallowing men and women will be showing up at various Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! Odditoriums around the world to swallow their swords at exactly 2:25 p.m. local time for 12 seconds.

“We set it up because there’s President’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and we wanted to raise awareness of how sword swallowers have contributed to science and medicine,” said Meyer, who will be performing at the Orlando Ripley’s museum.

Why February? Well, it’s National Swallowing Disorders Month and the participating swordsmen and women plan to raise money for esophogeal cancer research and a relief fund for injured sword swallowers set up by the SSAI.

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