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Miracle Mongers

(And Their Methods)

by Harry Houdini



Miracle Mongers is a Complete Expose' of the Modus Operandi of Fire Eaters, Heat Resisters, Poison Eaters, venomous repile Dfiers, Sword Swallowers, Human Ostriches, Strong Men, Etc.


All wonder,' said Samuel Johnson, is
the effect of novelty on ignorance.' Yet
we are so created that without something to
wonder at we should find life scarcely worth
living. That fact does not make ignorance
bliss, or make it folly to be wise.' For the
wisest man never gets beyond the reach of
novelty, nor can ever make it his boast that
there is nothing he is ignorant of; on the
contrary, the wiser he becomes the more clearly
he sees how much there is of which he remains
in ignorance. The more he knows, the more
he will find to wonder at.

My professional life has been a constant
record of disillusion, and many things that
seem wonderful to most men are the every-day
commonplaces of my business. But I have
never been without some seeming marvel to
pique my curiosity and challenge my investigation. 
In this book I have set down some of
the stories of strange folk and unusual
performers that I have gathered in many years
of such research.

Much has been written about the feats of
miracle-mongers, and not a little in the way
of explaining them. Chaucer was by no means
the first to turn shrewd eyes upon wonder-
workers and show the clay feet of these popular
idols. And since his time innumerable
marvels, held to be supernatural, have been
exposed for the tricks they were. Yet to-day,
if a mystifier lack the ingenuity to invent a
new and startling stunt, he can safely fall back
upon a trick that has been the favorite of
pressagents the world over in all ages. He can
imitate the Hindoo fakir who, having thrown
a rope high into the air, has a boy climb it until
he is lost to view. He can even have the feat
photographed. The camera will click; nothing
will appear on the developed film; and this,
the performer will glibly explain, proves'
that the whole company of onlookers was
hypnotized! And he can be certain of a very
profitable following to defend and advertise

So I do not feel that I need to apologize for
adding another volume to the shelves of works
dealing with the marvels of the miracle-
mongers. My business has given me an intimate
knowledge of stage illusions, together
with many years of experience among show
people of all types. My familiarity with the
former, and what I have learned of the
psychology of the latter, has placed me at a
certain advantage in uncovering the natural
explanation of feats that to the ignorant have
seemed supernatural. And even if my readers
are too well informed to be interested in my
descriptions of the methods of the various
performers who have seemed to me worthy of
attention in these pages, I hope they will find
some amusement in following the fortunes and
misfortunes of all manner of strange folk who
once bewildered the wise men of their day. If
I have accomplished that much, I shall feel
amply repaid for my labor.



I. Fire worship.--Fire eating and heat resistance.--The
Middle Ages.--Among the Navajo Indians.--Fire-
walkers of Japan.--The Fiery Ordeal of Fiji

II. Watton's Ship-swabber from the Indies.-Richardson,
1667.--De Heiterkeit, 1713.--Robert Powell,
1718-1780.--Dufour, 1783.--Quackensalber, 1794

III. The nineteenth century.--A Wonderful
Phenomenon.'--The Incombustible Spaniard, Senor
Lionetto,' 1803.--Josephine Girardelli, 1814.--John
Brooks, 1817.--W. C. Houghton, 1832.--J. A. B.
Chylinski, 1841.--Chamouni, the Russian Salamander,
1869.--Professor Rel Maeub, 1876. Rivelli (died 1900)

IV.--The Master--Chabert, 1792-1859

V. Fire-eating magicians. Ching Ling Foo and Chung
Ling Soo.--Fire-eaters employed by magicians: 
The Man-Salamander, 1816.-Mr. Carlton,
Professor of Chemistry, 1818.--Miss Cassillis, aged
nine, 1820. The African Wonder, 1843.--Ling
Look and Yamadeva die in China during Kellar's
world tour, 1877.--Ling Look's double, 1879.--
Electrical effects, The Salambos.--Bueno Core.--Del
Kano.--Barnello.--Edwin Forrest as a heat-resister
--The Elder Sothern as a fire-eater.--The Twilight
of the Art

VI. The Arcana of the fire-eaters: The formula of
Albertus Magnus.--Of Hocus Pocus.--Richardson's
method.--Philopyraphagus Ashburniensis.--To
breathe forth sparks, smoke and flames.--To spout
natural gas.--Professor Sementini's discoveries.--
To bite off red-hot iron.--To cook in a burning cage.
--Chabert's oven.--To eat coals of fire.--To drink
burning oil.--To chew molten lead.--To chew
burning brimstone.--To wreathe the face in flames.
--To ignite paper with the breath.--To drink boiling
liquor and eat flaming wax

VII. The spheroidal condition of liquids.--Why the hand
may be dipped in molten metals.--Principles of heat
resistance put to practical uses: Aldini, 1829.--In
early fire-fighting.--Temperatures the body can

VIII. Sword-swallowers: Cliquot, Delno Fritz, Deodota, a
razor-swallower, an umbrella-swallower, William
Dempster, John Cumming, Edith Clifford, Victorina

IX. Stone-eaters: A Silesian in Prague, 1006; Francois
Battalia, ca. 1641; Platerus' beggar boy; Father
Paulian's lithophagus of Avignon, 1760; The
Only One in the World,' London, 1788; Spaniards
in London, 1790; a secret for two and six; Japanese
training.--Frog-swallowers: Norton; English
Jack; Bosco; the snake-eater; Billington's
prescription for hangmen; Captain Veitro.--Water
spouters; Blaise Manfrede, ca. 1650; Floram
Marchand, 1650 

X. Defiers of poisonous reptiles: Thardo; Mrs. Learn,
dealer in rattle-snakes.--Sir Arthur Thurlow
Cunynghame on antidotes for snake-bite.--Jack
the Viper.--William Oliver, 1735.--The advice of
Cornelius Heinrich Agrippa, (1480-1535).--An
Australian snake story.--Antidotes for various

XI. Strongmen of the eighteenth century: Thomas Topham
(died, 1749); Joyce, 1703; Van Eskeberg,
1718; Barsabas and his sister; The Italian Female
Sampson, 1724; The little woman from Geneva,'
1751; Belzoni, 1778-1823

XII. Contemporary strong people: Charles Jefferson;
Louis Cyr; John Grun Marx; William Le Roy.--
The Nail King, The Human Claw-hammer; Alexander
Weyer; Mexican Billy Wells; A foolhardy
Italian; Wilson; Herman; Sampson; Sandow;
Yucca; La Blanche; Lulu Hurst.--The Georgia
Magnet, The Electric Girl, etc.; Annie Abbott;
Mattie Lee Price.--The Twilight of the Freaks.--
The dime museums



Fire has always been and, seemingly, will
always remain, the most terrible of the
elements. To the early tribes it must also have
been the most mysterious; for, while earth and
air and water were always in evidence, fire
came and went in a manner which must have
been quite unaccountable to them. Thus it
naturally followed that the custom of deifying
all things which the primitive mind was unable
to grasp, led in direct line to the fire-
worship of later days.

That fire could be produced through friction
finally came into the knowledge of man, but
the early methods entailed much labor. 
Consequently our ease-loving forebears cast about
for a method to keep the home fires burning'
and hit upon the plan of appointing a person
in each community who should at all times
carry a burning brand. This arrangement had
many faults, however, and after a while it was
superseded by the expedient of a fire kept
continually burning in a building erected for the

The Greeks worshiped at an altar of this
kind which they called the Altar of Hestia and
which the Romans called the Altar of Vesta. 
The sacred fire itself was known as Vesta, and
its burning was considered a proof of the
presence of the goddess. The Persians had
such a building in each town and village; and
the Egyptians, such a fire in every temple;
while the Mexicans, Natches, Peruvians and
Mayas kept their national fires' burning
upon great pyramids. Eventually the keeping
of such fires became a sacred rite, and the
Eternal Lamps' kept burning in synagogues
and in Byzantine and Catholic churches may
be a survival of these customs.

There is a theory that all architecture,
public and private, sacred and profane, began with
the erection of sheds to protect the sacred fire. 
This naturally led men to build for their own
protection as well, and thus the family hearth
had its genesis.

Another theory holds that the keepers of the
sacred fires were the first public servants, and
that from this small beginning sprang the
intricate public service of the present.

The worship of the fire itself had been a
legacy from the earliest tribes; but it remained
for the Rosicrucians and the fire philosophers
of the Sixteenth Century under the lead of
Paracelsus to establish a concrete religious
belief on that basis, finding in the Scriptures
what seemed to them ample proof that fire
was the symbol of the actual presence of God,
as in all cases where He is said to have visited
this earth. He came either in a flame of fire,
or surrounded with glory, which they conceived
to mean the same thing.

For example: when God appeared on Mount
Sinai (Exod. xix, 18) The Lord descended
upon it in fire.' Moses, repeating this history,
said: The Lord spake unto you out of the
midst of fire' (Deut. iv, 12). Again, when
the angel of the Lord appeared to Moses out
of the flaming bush, the bush burned with
fire and the bush was not consumed' (Exod.
iii, 3). Fire from the Lord consumed the
burnt offering of Aaron (Lev. ix, 24), the
sacrifice of Gideon (Judg. vi, 21), the burnt
offering of David (1 Chron. xxxi, 26), and
that at the dedication of King Solomon's
temple (Chron. vii, 1). And when Elijah made
his sacrifice to prove that Baal was not God,
the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the
burnt sacrifice, and the wood, and the stones,
and the dust and the water that was in the
trench.' (1 Kings, xviii, 38.)

Since sacrifice had from the earliest days
been considered as food offered to the gods,
it was quite logical to argue that when fire
from Heaven fell upon the offering, God himself
was present and consumed His own. Thus
the Paracelsists and other fire believers sought,
and as they believed found, high authority for
continuing a part of the fire worship of the
early tribes.

The Theosophists, according to Hargrave
Jennings in The Rosicrucians,' called the
soul a fire taken from the eternal ocean of
light, and in common with other Fire-Philosophers
believed that all knowable things, both
of the soul and the body, were evolved out of
fire and finally resolvable into it; and that fire
was the last and only-to-be-known God.

In passing I might call attention to the fact
that the Devil is supposed to dwell in the same

Some of the secrets of heat resistance as
practiced by the dime-museum and sideshow
performers of our time, secrets grouped under
the general title of Fire-eating,' must have
been known in very early times. To quote
from Chambers' Book of Days': In ancient
history we find several examples of people who
possessed the art of touching fire without being
burned. The Priestesses of Diana, at
Castabala, in Cappadocia, commanded public
veneration by walking over red-hot iron. The
Herpi, a people of Etruria, walked among
glowing embers at an annual festival held on
Mount Soracte, and thus proved their sacred
character, receiving certain privileges, among
others, exemption from military service, from
the Roman Senate. One of the most astounding
stories of antiquity is related in the Zenda-
Vesta,' to the effect that Zoroaster, to confute
his calumniators, allowed fluid lead to be
poured over his body, without receiving any

To me the astounding' part of this story
is not in the feat itself, for that is extremely
easy to accomplish, but in the fact that the
secret was known at such an early date, which
the best authorities place at 500 to 1000 B.C.

It is said that the earliest recorded instance,
in our era, of ordeal by fire was in the fourth
century. Simplicius, Bishop of Autun, who
had been married before his promotion,
continued to live with his wife, and in order to
demonstrate the Platonic purity of their intercourse
placed burning coals upon their flesh
without injury.

That the clergy of the Middle Ages, who
caused accused persons to walk blindfold
among red-hot plowshares, or hold heated
irons in their hands, were in possession of the
secret of the trick, is shown by the fact that
after trial by ordeal had been abolished the
secret of their methods was published by
Albert, Count of Bollstadt, usually called
Albertus Magnus but sometimes Albertus
Teutonicus, a man distinguished by the range of
his inquiries and his efforts for the spread of

These secrets will be fully explained in the
section of this history devoted to the Arcana
of the Fire-Eaters (Chapter Six).

I take the following from the New York
Clipper-Annual of 1885:

The famous fire dance of the Navajo
Indians, often described as though it
involved some sort of genuine necromancy,
is explained by a matter-of-fact spectator. 
It is true, he says, that the naked
worshipers cavort round a big bonfire, with
blazing faggots in their hands, and dash
the flames over their own and their fellows'
bodies, all in a most picturesque and
maniacal fashion; but their skins are first
so thickly coated with a clay paint that
they cannot easily be burned.

An illustrated article entitled Rites of the
Firewalking Fanatics of Japan, by W. C.
Jameson Reid, in the Chicago Sunday Inter-
Ocean of September 27th, 1903, reveals so
splendid an example of the gullibility of the
well-informed when the most ordinary trick
is cleverly presented and surrounded with the
atmosphere of the occult, that I am impelled
to place before my readers a few illuminating
excerpts from Mr. Reid's narrative. This man
would, in all probability, scorn to spend a dime
to witness the performance of a fire-eater in
a circus sideshow; but after traveling half
round the world he pays a dollar and spends
an hour's time watching the fanatical incantations
of the solemn little Japanese priests for
the sake of seeing the Hi-Wattarai'--which
is merely the stunt of walking over hot coals
--and he then writes it down as the eighth
wonder of the world,' while if he had taken
the trouble to give the matter even the most
superficial investigation, he could have
discovered that the secret of the trick had been
made public centuries before.

Mr. Reid is authority for the statement that
the Shintoist priests' fire-walking rites have
long been one of the puzzling mysteries of
the scientific world,' and adds If you ever
are in Tokio, and can find a few minutes to
spare, by all means do not neglect witnessing
at least one performance of Hi-Wattarai'
(fire walking, and that is really what takes
place), for, if you are of that incredulous
nature which laughs with scorn at so-called
Eastern mysticism, you will come away, as has
many a visitor before you, with an impression
sufficient to last through an ordinary lifetime.' 
Further on he says If you do not come away
convinced that you have been witness of a
spectacle which makes you disbelieve the evidence
of your own eyes and your most matter-
of-fact judgment, then you are a man of
stone.' All of which proves nothing more
than that Mr. Reid was inclined to make
positive statements about subjects in which he
knew little or nothing.

He tells us further that formerly this rite
was performed only in the spring and fall,
when, beside the gratuities of the foreigners,
the native worshipers brought gifts of wine,
large trays of fish, fruit, rice cakes, loaves,
vegetables, and candies.' Evidently the 
combination of box-office receipts with donation
parties proved extremely tempting to the
thrifty priests, for they now give what might
be termed a continuous performance.'

Those who have read the foregoing pages
will apply a liberal sprinkling of salt to the
solemn assurance of Mr. Reid, advanced on
the authority of Jinrikisha boys, that for
days beforehand the priests connected with
the temple devote themselves to fasting and
prayer to prepare for the ordeal. . . . The
performance itself usually takes place in the
late afternoon during twilight in the temple
court, the preceding three hours being spent
by the priests in final outbursts of prayer
before the unveiled altar in the inner sanctuary
of the little matted temple, and during these
invocations no visitors are allowed to enter the
sacred precincts.'

Mr. Reid's description of the fire walking
itself may not be out of place; it will show
that the Japs had nothing new to offer aside
from the ritualistic ceremonials with which
they camouflaged the hocus-pocus of the 
performance, which is merely a survival of the
ordeal by fire of earlier religions.

Shortly before 5 o'clock the priests filed
from before the altar into some interior
apartments, where they were to change their
beautiful robes for the coarser dress worn during
the fire walking. In the meantime coolies had
been set to work in the courtyard to ignite the
great bed of charcoal, which had already been
laid. The dimensions of this bed were about
twelve feet by four, and, perhaps, a foot deep. 
On the top was a quantity of straw and kindling
wood, which was lighted, and soon burst
into a roaring blaze. The charcoal became
more and more thoroughly ignited until the
whole mass glowed in the uncertain gloom, like
some gigantic and demoniacal eye of a modern
Prometheus. As soon as the mass of charcoal
was thoroughly ignited from top to bottom, a
small gong in the temple gave notice that the
wonderful spectacle of Hi-Wattarai' was
about to begin.

Soon two of the priests came out, said
prayers of almost interminable length at a tiny
shrine in the corner of the enclosure, and
turned their attention to the fire. Taking long
poles and fans from the coolies, they poked
and encouraged the blaze till it could plainly
be seen that the coal was ignited throughout. 
The whole bed was a glowing mass, and the
heat which rose from it was so intense that
we found it uncomfortable to sit fifteen feet
away from it without screening our faces with
fans. Then they began to pound it down more
solidly along the middle; as far as possible
inequalities in its surface were beaten down,
and the coals which protruded were brushed

There follows a long and detailed description
of further ceremonies, the receiving of
gifts, etc., which need not be repeated here. 
Now for the trick itself.

One of the priests held a pile of white
powder on a small wooden stand. This was
said to be salt--which in Japan is credited with
great cleansing properties--but as far as could
be ascertained by superficial examination it
was a mixture of alum and salt. He stood at
one end of the fire-bed and poised the wooden
tray over his head, and then sprinkled a handful 
of it on the ground before the glowing bed
of coals. At the same time another priest who
stood by him chanted a weird recitative of
invocation and struck sparks from flint and steel
which he held in his hands. This same process
was repeated by both the priests at the other
end, at the two sides, and at the corners.

Ten minutes, more or less, was spent in
various movements and incantations about the
bed of coals. At the end of that time two small
pieces of wet matting were brought out and
placed at either end and a quantity of the
white mixture was placed upon them. At a
signal from the head priest, who acted as
master of ceremonies during the curious
succeeding function, the ascetics who were to
perform the first exhibition of fire-walking
gathered at one end of the bed of coals, which by
this time was a fierce and glowing furnace.

Having raised both his hands and prostrated
himself to render thanks to the god who
had taken out the soul' of the fire, the priest
about to undergo the ordeal stood upon the
wet matting, wiped his feet lightly in the white
mixture, and while we held our breaths, and
our eyes almost leaped from their sockets in
awe-struck astonishment, he walked over the
glowing mass as unconcernedly as if treading
on a carpet in a drawing-room, his feet coming
in contact with the white hot coals at every
step. He did not hurry or take long steps,
but sauntered along with almost incredible
sang-froid, and before he reached the opposite
side he turned around and sauntered as
carelessly back to the mat from which he had

The story goes on to tell how the performance
was repeated by the other priests, and
then by many of the native audience; but none
of the Europeans tried it, although invited to
do so. Mr. Reid's closing statement is that
no solution of the mystery can be gleaned,
even from high scientific authorities who have
witnessed and closely studied the physical
features of these remarkable Shinto fire-walking
rites.' Many who are confronted with something
that they cannot explain take refuge in
the claim that it puzzles the scientists too. As
a matter of fact, at the time Mr. Reid wrote,
such scientists as had given the subject serious
study were pretty well posted on the methods

An article under the title The Fiery Ordeal
of Fiji, by Maurice Delcasse, appeared in the
Wide World Magazine for May, 1898. From
Mr. Delcasse's account it appears that the
Fijian ordeal is practically the same as that
of the Japanese, as described by Mr. Reid,
except that there is very little ceremony
surrounding it. The people of Fiji until a
comparatively recent date were cannibals; but
their islands are now British possessions, most
of the natives are Christians, and most of their
ancient customs have become obsolete, from
which I deduce that the fire-walking rites
described in this article must have been
performed by natives who had retained their old
religious beliefs.

The ordeal takes place on the Island of
Benga, which is near Suva, the capital of Fiji,
and which, Mr. Delcasse says, was the
supposed residence of some of the old gods of Fiji,
and was, therefore, considered a sacred land.' 
Instead of walking on the live coals, as the
Japanese priests do, the Fijians walk on stones
that have been brought to a white heat in a
great fire of logs.

The familiar claim is made that the
performance puzzles scientists, and that no
satisfactory solution has yet been discovered. We
are about to see that for two or three hundred
years the same claims have been made by a
long line of more or less clever public
performers in Europe and America.


1780.--DUFOUR, 1783.--QUACKENSALBER, 1794.

The earliest mention I have found of a public
fire-eater in England is in the correspondence
of Sir Henry Watton, under date of
June 3rd, 1633. He speaks of an Englishman
like some swabber of a ship, come from the
Indies, where he has learned to eat fire as
familiarly as ever I saw any eat cakes, even
whole glowing brands, which he will crush with
his teeth and swallow.' This was shown in
London for two pence.

The first to attract the attention of the
upper classes, however, was one Richardson, who
appeared in France in the year 1667 and enjoyed
a vogue sufficient to justify the record
of his promise in the Journal des Savants. 
Later on he came to London, and John Evelyn,
in his diary, mentions him under date of
October 8th, 1672, as follows:

I took leave of my Lady Sunderland,
who was going to Paris to my Lord, now
Ambassador there. She made me stay
dinner at Leicester House, and afterwards
sent for Richardson, the famous fire-eater. 
He devoured brimstone on glowing coals
before us, chewing and swallowing them;
he melted a beere-glass and eate it quite up;
then taking a live coale on his tongue he
put on it a raw oyster; the coal was blown
on with bellows till it flamed and sparkled
in his mouthe, and so remained until the
oyster gaped and was quite boil'd.

Then he melted pitch and wax with
sulphur, which he drank down as it flamed: 
I saw it flaming in his mouthe a good while;
he also took up a thick piece of iron, such
as laundresses use to put in their smoothing-
boxes, when it was fiery hot, held it
between his teeth, then in his hand, and
threw it about like a stone; but this I
observ'd he cared not to hold very long. 
Then he stoode on a small pot, and, bending
his body, tooke a glowing iron with
his mouthe from betweene his feete, without 
touching the pot or ground with his
hands, with divers other prodigious feats.

The secret methods employed by Richardson
were disclosed by his servant, and this
publicity seems to have brought his career to a
sudden close; at least I have found no record
of his subsequent movements.

About 1713 a fire-eater named De Heiterkeit,
a native of Annivi, in Savoy, flourished
for a time in London. He performed five times
a day at the Duke of Marlborough's Head, in
Fleet Street, the prices being half-a-crown,
eighteen pence and one shilling.

According to London Tit-Bits, De Heiterkeit
had the honor of exhibiting before Louis
XIV., the Emperor of Austria, the King of
Sicily and the Doge of Venice, and his name
having reached the Inquisition, that holy office
proposed experimenting on him to find out
whether he was fireproof externally as well as
internally. He was preserved from this 
unwelcome ordeal, however, by the interference
of the Duchess Royal, Regent of Savoy.'

His programme did not differ materially
from that of his predecessor, Richardson, who
had antedated him by nearly fifty years.

By far the most famous of the early fire-
eaters was Robert Powell, whose public career
extended over a period of nearly sixty years,
and who was patronized by the English peerage. 
It was mainly through the instrumentality
of Sir Hans Sloane that, in 1751, the Royal
Society presented Powell a purse of gold and
a large silver medal.

Lounger's Commonplace Book says of
Powell: Such is his passion for this terrible
element, that if he were to come hungry into
your kitchen, while a sirloin was roasting, he
would eat up the fire and leave the beef. It
is somewhat surprising that the friends of REAL
MERIT have not yet promoted him, living as we
do in an age favorable to men of genius. 
Obliged to wander from place to place, instead
of indulging himself in private with his
favorite dish, he is under the uncomfortable
necessity of eating in public, and helping
himself from the kitchen fire of some paltry ale-
house in the country.'

His advertisements show that he was before
the public from 1718 to 1780. One of his later
advertisements runs as follows:


Please observe that there are two
different performances the same evening,
which will be performed by the famous


who has had the honor to exhibit, with
universal applause, the most surprising
performances that were ever attempted by
mankind, before His Royal Highness
William, late Duke of Cumberland, at
Windsor Lodge, May 7th, 1752; before
His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester,
at Gloucester House, January 30th,
1769; before His Royal Highness the
present Duke of Cumberland, at Windsor
Lodge, September 25th, 1769; before Sir
Hans Sloane and several of the Royal
Society, March 4th, 1751, who made Mr.
Powell a compliment of a purse of gold,
and a fine large silver medal, which the
curious may view by applying to him; and
before most of the Nobility and Quality in
the Kingdom.

He intends to sup on the following
articles: 1. He eats red-hot coals out of
the fire as natural as bread. 2. He licks
with his naked tongue red-hot tobacco
pipes, flaming with brimstone. 3. He
takes a large bunch of deal matches, lights
them altogether; and holds them in his
mouth till the flame is extinguished. 4.
He takes a red-hot heater out of the fire,
licks it with his naked tongue several
times, and carries it around the room
between his teeth. 5. He fills his mouth with
red-hot charcoal, and broils a slice of beef
or mutton upon his tongue, and any person
may blow the fire with a pair of bellows
at the same time. 6. He takes a
quantity of resin, pitch, bees'-wax, sealing-
wax, brimstone, alum, and lead, melts
them all together over a chafing-dish of
coals, and eats the same combustibles with
a spoon, as if it were a porringer of broth
(which he calls his dish of soup), to the
great and agreeable surprise of the
spectators; with various other extraordinary
performances never attempted by any
other person of this age, and there is
scarce a possibility ever will; so that those
who neglect this opportunity of seeing the
wonders performed by this artist, will lose
the sight of the most amazing exhibition
ever done by man.

The doors to be opened by six and he
sups precisely at seven o'clock, without
any notice given by sound of trumpet.

If gentry do not choose to come at seven
o'clock, no performance.

Prices of admission to ladies and gentlemen,
one shilling. Back Seats for Children
and Servants, six pence.

Ladies and children may have a private
performance any hour of the day, by giving
previous notice.

N. B.--He displaces teeth or stumps so
easily as to scarce be felt. He sells a
chemical liquid which discharges inflammation,
scalds, and burns, in a short time,
and is necessary to be kept in all families.

His stay in this place will be but short,
not exceeding above two or three nights.

Good fire to keep the gentry warm.

This shows how little advance had been made
in the art in a century. Richardson had presented 
practically the same programme a hundred
years before. Perhaps the exposure of
Richardson's method by his servant put an
end to fire-eating as a form of amusement for
a long time, or until the exposure had been
forgotten by the public. Powell himself,
though not proof against exposure, seems to
have been proof against its effects, for he kept
on the even tenor of his way for sixty years,
and at the end of his life was still exhibiting.

Whatever the reason, the eighteenth century
fire-eaters, like too many magicians of the
present day, kept to the stereotyped
programmes of their predecessors. A very few
did, however, step out of the beaten track and,
by adding new tricks and giving a new dress
to old ones, succeeded in securing a following
that was financially satisfactory.

In this class a Frenchman by the name of
Dufour deserves special mention, from the fact
that he was the first to introduce comedy into
an act of this nature. He made his bow in
Paris in 1783, and is said to have created quite
a sensation by his unusual performance. I
am indebted to Martin's Naturliche Magie,
1792, for a very complete description of the
work of this artist.

Dufour made use of a portable building,
which was specially adapted to his purposes,
and his table was spread as if for a banquet,
except that the edibles were such as his
performance demanded. He employed a trumpeter
and a tambour player to furnish music
for his repast--as well as to attract public
attention. In addition to fire-eating, Dufour
gave exhibitions of his ability to consume
immense quantities of solid food, and he
displayed an appetite for live animals, reptiles,
and insects that probably proved highly
entertaining to the not overrefined taste of the
audiences of his day. He even advertised a
banquet of which the public was invited to
partake at a small fee per plate, but since the
menu consisted of the delicacies just described,
his audiences declined to join him at table.

His usual bill-of-fare was as follows:

Soup--boiling tar torches, glowing coals and
small, round, super-heated stones.

The roast, when Dufour was really hungry,
consisted of twenty pounds of beef or a whole
calf. His hearth was either the flat of his hand
or his tongue. The butter in which the roast
was served was melted brimstone or burning
wax. When the roast was cooked to suit him
he ate coals and roast together.

As a dessert he would swallow the knives
and forks, glasses, and the earthenware dishes.

He kept his audience in good humor by
presenting all this in a spirit of crude comedy
and, to increase the comedy element, he
introduced a number of trained cats. Although
the thieving proclivities of cats are well known,
Dufour's pets showed no desire to share his
repast, and he had them trained to obey his
commands during mealtime. At the close of
the meal he would become violently angry with
one of them, seize the unlucky offender, tear
it limb from limb and eat the carcass. One
of his musicians would then beg him to produce
the cat, dead or alive. In order to do this
he would go to a nearby horse-trough and
drink it dry; would eat a number of pounds
of soap, or other nauseating substance, clowning
it in a manner to provoke amusement instead
of disgust; and, further to mask the 
disagreeable features--and also, no doubt, to
conceal the trick--would take the cloth from
the table and cover his face; whereupon he
would bring forth the swallowed cat, or one
that looked like it, which would howl piteously
and seem to struggle wildly while being
disgorged. When freed, the poor cat would rush
away among the spectators.

Dufour gave his best performances in the
evening, as he could then show his hocus-pocus
to best advantage. At these times he appeared
with a halo of fire about his head.

His last appearance in Paris was most
remarkable. The dinner began with a soup of
asps in simmering oil. On each side was a
dish of vegetables, one containing thistles and
burdocks, and the other fuming acid. Other
side dishes, of turtles, rats, bats and moles,
were garnished with live coals. For the fish
course he ate a dish of snakes in boiling tar
and pitch. His roast was a screech owl in a
sauce of glowing brimstone. The salad proved
to be spider webs full of small explosive squibs,
a plate of butterfly wings and manna worms,
a dish of toads surrounded with flies, crickets,
grasshoppers, church beetles, spiders, and
caterpillars. He washed all this down with
flaming brandy, and for dessert ate the four
large candles standing on the table, both of
the hanging side lamps with their contents,
and finally the large center lamp, oil, wick and
all. This leaving the room in darkness,
Dufour's face shone out in a mask of living flames.

A dog had come in with a farmer, who was
probably a confederate, and now began to bark. 
Since Dufour could not quiet him, he seized
him, bit off his head and swallowed it, throwing
the body aside. Then ensued a comic scene
between Dufour and the farmer, the latter
demanding that his dog be brought to life, which
threw the audience into paroxysms of laughter. 
Then suddenly candles reappeared and seemed
to light themselves. Dufour made a series of
hocus-pocus passes over the dog's body; then
the head suddenly appeared in its proper place,
and the dog, with a joyous yelp, ran to his

Notwithstanding the fact that Dufour must
have been by all odds the best performer of his
time, I do not find reference to him in any
other authority. But something of his originality
appeared in the work of a much humbler
practitioner, contemporary or very nearly
contemporary with him.

We have seen that Richardson, Powell,
Dufour, and generally the better class of fire-
eaters were able to secure select audiences and
even to attract the attention of scientists in
England and on the Continent. But many of
their effects had been employed by mountebanks
and street fakirs since the earliest days
of the art, and this has continued until
comparatively recent times.

In Naturliche Magie, in 1794, Vol. VI, page
111, I find an account of one Quackensalber,
who gave a new twist to the fire-eating industry
by making a High Pitch' at the fairs and
on street corners and exhibiting feats of fire-
resistance, washing his hands and face in
melted tar, pitch and brimstone, in order to
attract a crowd. He then strove to sell them a
compound--composed of fish glue, alum and
brandy--which he claimed would cure burns in
two or three hours. He demonstrated that this
mixture was used by him in his heat resistance:
and then, doubtless, some capper' started the
ball rolling, and Herr Quackensalber (his
name indicates a seller of salves) reaped a
good harvest.

I have no doubt but that even to-day a clever
performer with this High Pitch' could do a
thriving business in that overgrown country
village, New York. At any rate there is the
so-called, King of Bees,' a gentleman from
Pennsylvania, who exhibits himself in a cage
of netting filled with bees, and then sells the
admiring throng a specific for bee-stings and
the wounds of angry wasps. Unfortunately
the only time I ever saw his majesty, some of
his bee actors must have forgotten their lines,
for he was thoroughly stung.


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