How it all began.

When people find out I’m a sword swallower many questions run through their mind but the one that comes out of their mouth is normally, “How did you decide to do that?” Sure, I understand. I’m a normal enough looking guy. But looks can be deceiving.

The truth is I was raised very sheltered. My father was a police officer and my mother was a stay at home mom. When I was ten years old my father was in charge of the police at the “State Fair of Oklahoma.” One day he took me out there and handed me a roll of free ride tickets and a five dollar bill. He told me “that money is for lunch, don’t go spend it at the side show.” Well as soon as he was out of my site I ran straight to the side show. See, I had always asked him to take me in the years previous but he said it was a waist of money and was all fake. I do not condone not listening to your parents but I just knew there was something magical waiting for me on the inside.

So I ran to the where all the big banners hung on the midway and didn’t even watch the bally show. I had seen it before. I paid my dollar, went inside and saw things that gave me goosebumps. I paid another dollar to look inside the blade box and still had three dollars left over for a corn dog. I had been playing around with magic since I was 8 or 9 but when I saw a man hammer a nail into his skull, swallow swords and eat fire, I realized I was a fraud. What I did with cards and rope and coins wasn’t magic. THIS was magic.

Now this show was a grind show. Meaning they start the show at 10 am and do not stop until 10 pm. As long as their is an audience the show goes on. After you see an act repeat then you know you have seen it all and can leave the tent. I didn’t. I watched the show twice and only left out of respect. I probably would have stood there all day.

From that moment on I always had a passion for the side show. I went on to perform in legitimate theater, ranging from broadway style musicals, comedy clubs and even Shakespeare in the park, but I always had a longing for the underbelly of the entertainment industry. I learned fire eating at a very young age and was hammering nails into my head by my early twenties. Strangely, it was after over twenty years since I first witnessed this phenomenal performance art and after ten years of training, that I swallowed my first sword. I felt like I had just walked on the moon.

I never worked in a side show at a fair but have much respect for those who have and the very few that still do. It is a slice of americana that is fading away. I am honored to perform stunts that have been a staple of the American Side Show and enjoy sharing my passion for the spine tingling stunts.

Will Rotten