"Swallowing swords takes a steady hand and the willingness to hazard the occasional sore throat and pierced esophagus. And fortunately for those readers who won't risk the taste of broadsword, the folks at the Sword Swallowing Hall of Fame are compiling the histories of sword swallowers past and present.
Some of the best photos in their archive date back to the 1800s, when sword swallowers like Edith Clifford, who learned the art at the age of 13 and could swallow 24 swords simultaneously, razor blades, bayonets, and saws. When she was a veteran, Harry Houdini witnessed her act and described her routine as such:
"In the spring of 1919, Harry Houdini visited the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey Circus to see one of Clifford's performances where she swallowed a bayonet that was shot down her throat with a gun. By this time, she had been sword swallowing for over 20 years. Clifford's show so impressed Houdini that he wrote about it in 1920 in his book "Miracle Mongers and their Methods": "The sensation of her act was when the point of a bayonet 23 1/2 inches long and fastened to the breech of a cannon was placed in her mouth and the cannon discharged with the recoil driving the bayonet down her throat"."