Be awed, be amazed, be thrilled…the circus is in town!
A circus is not just fun and games; it is also home to death-defying acts. While the performers make them look easy, they aren’t always as safe as they seem. Let’s take a look at some of the more dangerous acts, and remember don’t try them at home.
1. Sword Swallowing
Did you know that February 27 marks World Sword Swallower’s Day? Many people think that sleight of hand is involved, yet it’s anything but. While there are props for beginners to use, this art form stays true to its roots dating back to 4,000 years. It takes at least three years to familiarise yourself with the sword placement and train your gag reflex, and up to 10 years to master the skill, so leave it to the professionals!
2. Human Cannonball
While it sounds explosive, human cannonballs are never actually fired out of cannons with actual gunpowder. Instead, they’re launched with compressed air or springs. These cannons can shoot performers up to 200 feet away, which means calculations are crucial.
Everything from the performer’s weight, distance, humidity, and temperature are considered. The performers have to withstand high amounts of force, so physical fitness is of utmost importance.
3. Tightrope Walking
The majority of tightrope performances take place in a few stories high, with nothing to secure the performer on the rope. A dangerous routine, yes, but fear not – amateur walkers practice on lines suspended a few feet off the ground first until they gain enough confidence to do it at greater heights. At the pinnacle of tightrope walking lie daredevils, who walk off buildings 400-meters high. That not only takes years of physical training but mental resilience as well.
Here are some of the most famous circus performers of all time.
1. Marvelous Mabel Stark
Until today, Mabel Stark remains the greatest tiger trainer in history. Her act was the most popular animal show during the 1920s, and despite being only five feet five tall, Stark had nerves of steel. Throughout her career, Stark was wounded by tigers countless times, but always got back on stage within a few weeks and even performed with her bandages still on!
2. Harry Houdini
Born in 1874, this escape artist performed stunts of his time. He rose to fame by slipping out of handcuffs and even impressed the local police by escaping their shackles.
3. Flying Wallendas
The Wallenda family traces its circus heritage back to the 1700s. Not only were they good at tightrope acts, they even raised the bar by walking across the rope in a pyramid formation! The name ‘Flying Wallendas’ came about following a mishap where the performers escaped unhurt, and a reporter described it as a fall so graceful that the Wallendas seemed like they were flying.