Daily photos by Gary Cosby Jr.|
Car salesman Dan Meyer swallows a sword in the showroom of Honda of Decatur. Meyer performs the feat for people who buy cars from him. He worked three years to learn sword swallowing and can handle a blade up to 24 inches long.
Down the hatch
Decatur car salesman swallows swords to seal sales at dealership
By Deangelo McDaniel
So, you think you want to be an entertainer.
Would your thoughts change if you had to select between fire eating and sword swallowing?
That’s a decision Dan Meyer of Hartselle had to make.
Explaining his choice to swallow swords, Meyer said: “I wanted to be different.”
Different he is. According to the Sword Swallowers Association International, he’s one of between 12 and 24 people worldwide who actively swallow swords.
“It’s cool,” he said, matter of factly.
Meyer, a salesman at Honda of Decatur, has turned what he calls a “sideshow” into a regular occurrence at the dealership.
Every time he sells a vehicle, he swallows a sword for the customer.
“It’s pretty impressive,” Manager Kevin Allison said. “The first time he told me about it, I thought it was a trick. But it’s real. I’ve seen him do it several times.”
Meyer decided to bring his sideshow to the dealership when his manager told him to make the buying experience one that customers won’t forget.
After finalizing the sale, he retrieves his leather bag that carries about six swords with various looks.
With a sword in hand, he massages his throat. He moistens the sword by running it across his tongue on both sides.
“I’m looking for nicks to make sure I don’t catch the sword on anything when I’m pulling it out,” he explained.
Meyer rocks his head backward, and within five seconds, the point of a 24-inch sword is in his stomach.
“Sometimes, I let the customer pull the sword out,” he said.
On this day, Meyer swallowed five different swords, including two simultaneously.
The shows at the dealership are free. Away from work, you can book a show that includes other entertainment such as juggling and fire eating for between $1,000 and $1,800.
To you, it may seem strange that a 49-year-old man would want to swallow swords. But, to understand Meyer’s love for what he does, you have to go back to Indiana where as a young child his parents always carried him to circus sideshows.
He was a teenager when he paid 50 cents to watch a man swallow a sword. He thought it was a gimmick.
Passage to India
Then in 1978, he took a missionary trip to India and saw men eating fire and swallowing swords.
“This made me realize it was no trick,” he said.
As a ministry clown, Meyer had started fire eating in 1977. As an entertainer, he started to stay with this, but said he realized every city had two or three fire eaters.
In 1998 while in Nashville, Meyer met “George the Giant,” a world-known sword swallower. He sought and got two tips from George.
One is not enough: Dan Meyer swallows a pair of swords at the Honda of Decatur showroom.
“He told me it was dangerous and not to do it,” Meyer recalled.
But, it was what George said last that motivated Meyer to try sword swallowing.
“He said there was less than a dozen (sword swallowers) left around the world,” Meyer said. “This was a challenge.”
For the next three years, Meyer contacted every sword swallower he could find and collected more than 500 photographs of sword swallowers, some dating to the 1890s.
He researched, and starting with a 15-inch stainless steel dagger, practiced the craft.
“As far as I could get the dagger was to the back of my throat,” he said.
It took him three years to swallow his first sword. He didn’t want to give details for fear that young people might try it, but he said the first step is to get the sword past the gag reflex.
“It’s mental and physical,” he said. “It’s playing Russian roulette, but this is what I like to do.”
During his first sword swallowers’ convention in 2002, Meyer was among 19 people to swallow 46 swords simultaneously. The group set two Guinness world records.
Nine sword swallowers broke one of the records in 2005 when they swallowed 52 swords at one time. Meyer swallowed seven.
“That’s the most I have done at one time,” he said.
Meyer’s knowledge of the art has garnered worldwide attention and led him to co-author an article for the British Medical Journal.
With radiologist Brian Witcombe of England, the article sought to legitimize sword swallowing in the medical community.
The article pointed out that the art is dangerous because the sword passes within millimeters of the heart, aorta and other vital organs.
Witcombe and Meyer researched the practice for about 18 months before writing the article.
X-rays of a sword in Meyer appeared with the article.
Their research showed that sword swallowers have helped the medical community. In 1868, for example, a swallower helped a doctor develop an endoscope by using a straight tube, mirrors and gasoline lamp.
“Basically, I enjoy what I’m doing,” Meyer said.
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