Professional sword swallower Heather Holliday (USA) recently appeared on our televised talent show, Lo Show dei Record, where she shocked the audience while setting two new records:
- Longest neon tube swallowed – 54.4 cm (21.41 in)
- Largest curve in a sword swallowed while seated – 90 degrees
“Swallowing the [curved] sword is different and unique to me because I’m the only person that does it laying down,” Heather explained.
Usually, sword swallowers perform the curved-sword stunt while standing up, leaning slightly to one side, but Heather decided to differentiate her act by doing it lying down. “I like to call it my mermaid swallow because I get into a mermaid position,” she said.
For the neon-tube record attempt, Heather used a glass neon lightbulb. “It’s pretty dangerous,” she said. “There’s neon gasses running through here, [and] it’s glass - one false step and it will shatter inside of me.
“I just had to remember to breathe and take it slowly.”
Besides her record-breaking stunts, Heather performed several other tricks while on stage.
One of her most impressive stunts involves swallowing six swords – which she calls the “Sweet Six” – at the same time.
Heather says that one of her favourite things about her version of this trick – and what sets her apart from other sword swallowers – is that she does it without the swords being tied together.
“A lot of sword swallowers, when they swallow a stack of swords, they have it bound together, but it’s a little bit more dangerous to keep them unbound,” she explained.
Heather has been performing as a sword swallower for over two decades.
She was a teenager when she first joined a circus sideshow, where she became the youngest female sword swallower in the world. “It was completely male dominated, and I didn’t know any other women doing sword swallowing,” she said.
“I learnt from the men that came before me. And I just kind of wanted to do the hardest and most dangerous stunts – I wasn’t really interested in doing the cute stuff.”
Heather mastered her craft through constant repetition, doing up to 50 shows per week. “The only way to get good at sword swallowing, as with everything, is to just constantly do it,” she said.
And sword swallowing isn’t the only trick in Heather’s repertoire - she recently started practising regurgitation, which involves swallowing objects such as a metal ball and then bringing it back up.
Heather’s advice to any young people starting out in the circus industry is to “have an open mind and be inspired, but be yourself.”
Have the creativity to put your own stamp on something. - Heather
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