Recently while working a haunt and horror convention I met a gentleman and excellent photographer, Christopher Moeller. Christopher was at the event capturing portraits of people in character and promoting his services as a professional photographer. I discovered through his photo gallery that he was popular within the fire performers community and Christopher had some terriffic photos of fire artists at work. Recently he posted on his Facebook page that he had tried fire eating; what came next is the reason for this article. Soon the comments popped up about the “special liquid” fire eaters use to keep from burning their mouth and throat. I had to chime in and make it known that there are no secret products of this nature but that fire eating is dangerous and is accomplished with much skill. Christopher quickly made it very clear to everyone that he only attempted this after instruction by a professional fire manipulator and under their close supervision. He stated that it is “real fire” that will really burn you, no tricks involved.
A bit of history:
The art of fire manipulation is a rather ancient practice; part of Hindu, Sadhu and Fakir performances to show spiritual enlightenment. The late 1880’s this became a common site in sideshows later moving to the main circus ring with more advanced moves like retaining a lit flame in the performers mouth then lighting other objects on fire. Fire breathing also was added and is quite a thrill for the audience. Fire dancing and other forms of manipulation are still popular today.
Smoke and mirrors?
The artist is working with fire, a natural element, this is not pretend fire that doesn’t burn when touched.
Fire manipulation of any sort; breathing, eating, dancing is exactly as it appears, the performer is using an apparatus lit on fire for various types of routines. There is no “trick fire” that will not burn. Performers do not coat their mouth or throat with some secret formula to prevent burning. If the performer were to inhale the flame, results may be death or serious injury. This is not a game, nor should anyone ever attempt fire manipulation of any sort. The fuel used is just that, fuel, not for ingestion and harmful or fatal if swallowed. Fuels may differ depending on whether the performer is eating fire, breathing fire or lighting a prop like a whip, but all of the fuel is highly flammable and I repeat, dangerous or fatal if ingested.
How do they do that?
Learning any of the fire arts should be done so from a skilled professional and adhere to all safety measures. WE ARE NOT RECOMMENDING YOU LEARN. I’m sure if you speak to a fire performer they will have a story of a close call or even of some injury either to themselves or a colleague. So many factors are at play, wind or breezes, excess fuel dripping and causing unexpected flame, swallowing flame or fuel and the list goes on. Have safety checks of equipment and the staging area will greatly minimize risk of injury. Have a spotter or safety person to put you out in an unwanted flame up. This is a life saver, literally. Practice is a must to help avoid injury and accidents.
A smart performer has great respect for the fire with which they perform. Foolishly dabbling in this medium with no regard for safety of oneself or others will eventually have bad results. Respect fire for what it is, an element of nature that can warm us when cold, help cook our food and bring light to the dark. In the hands of a skilled performer fire is a true thing of beauty.
Curiosity killed the cat:
Please leave the performance to the professionals and sit back and enjoy the show. If you truly are curious about the art of fire manipulation, seek out a professional performer and talk to them, don’t be like the cat and put yourself in harms way. Most any artist loves to share the process of their work and would gladly answer questions, especially if it means to educate and keep the curious viewer safe. No more than one should try a high wire walk after just seeing a circus act, no one should play with fire. Trying any type of dangerous entertainment with out proper training will not end well.
Be safe, support the arts and live to enjoy another day.
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