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Johnny Fox (born 1953) is a professional sword swallower and sleight of hand expert. [1]

Early life[edit]

Fox grew up in Hartford, Connecticut, and saw his first sword swallower when he was eight or nine at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts. [1] [2] At around the same age, his father gave him a book about Harry Houdini that inspired Fox to recreate, using spaghetti, the magician's trick of swallowing a key on a string and then regurgitating it. [2]

Performance career[edit]

Fox began performing magic and comedy while working as a waiter in Florida. [3] He learned sleight-of-hand in the 1970s from Tony Slydini, an Italian magician known as the Master of Misdirection. [1] In his early twenties, Fox was performing in Boulder, Colorado when he heard that his act had been stolen by a competing magician. [2] He was inspired to begin swallowing swords for "an act people couldn't copy easily." [2] It took him eight months to master the technique, although he has injured himself on a few occasions. [2] Fox estimated in 1999 that he was one of twenty professional sword swallowers in the United States, many more than when he began. [2] [3]

Fox can swallow up to 22 inches of steel. [3] Besides regular swords, his act has included swallowing a retractable tape measure, a giant screwdriver, and a neon glowing sword plugged into an outlet. [2] His act also included eating fire until he learned that the chemicals used in the trick could seep into the liver. [1]

Fox has appeared at venues including comedy clubs (such as Caroline's), casinos, and tattoo conventions, as well as special events such as an Aerosmith album release party. [2][3] His television appearances include the Late Show with David Letterman, a 1992 Jonathan Winters television special and a Maalox commercial in which he swallowed light bulbs. [3] [2] [4] He was featured in the 2003 documentary Traveling Sideshow: Shocked and Amazed by Jeff Krulik. [3]

Fox is the resident sword-swallower at the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival in Crownsville. [3] He occasionally works as a consultant for other sideshow artists. [1]


In June 1999, Fox opened the Freakatorium, El Museo Loco, a museum of side show curiousities, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. [1] In the face of low numbers of visitors and rising rent, the museum was closed in January 2005. [1] Fox was partly inspired to open the museum by his childhood visits to Hubert's Museum and Flea Circus in Times Square. [1] His collection includes narwhal tusks, an elephant's-foot liquor chest, a two-headed turtle, a vest owned by General Tom Thumb and Sammy Davis, Jr.'s glass eye. [1]

Personal life[edit]

Fox married his wife Valeria, an Argentine dancer and photographer, atop elephants in Annapolis, Maryland, in 2002. [5] They reside in Connecticut. [1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Feuer, Alan. "Pickled Piglets and Other Curiosities, in Exile." The New York Times, 2005-06-04, p. B1.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Louie, Elaine. "A Man Who Lives by the Sword." The New York Times, 1999-06-06, The City Weekly Desk.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Montgomery, David. "Strange Attraction: As Sideshows Vanish from the Midway, a Film Recalls Their Glory Days." The Washington Post, 2003-10-24, p. C1.
  4. ^ "Open Up and Say AHHH!" CNN Live Today. 2002-09-03
  5. ^ Lee, Jennifer. "A Sword-Swallowing Collector Closes an Odd Little Museum." The New York Times, 2005-01-01, p. B6.

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