CIRCUS ARTS

From sideshow secrets to incredible stunts, learn about the magic behind circus arts.
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How Sword Swallowing Works

Sword swallowing is an extremely dangerous trick that doesn't involve illusions. How can it be real? We'll show you -- with explanations and diagrams of the interactions between swords and the upper GI tract. But don't try this at home!

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  • Defying Gravity: the Ultimate Human Cannonball Quiz

    Defying Gravity: the Ultimate Human Cannonball Quiz

    Blastoff! Human cannonballs are blood-and-guts bullets that get standing ovations at the end of every show. How much do you really know about these muzzle-scarred heroes? See more »

  • How a Human Cannonball Works

    How a Human Cannonball Works

    A performer slides into a massive cannon barrel and is shot high into the air. She lands safely in a net some distance away, and the crowd goes wild. Who are human cannonballs, and who came up with shooting people out of cannons in the first place? See more »

  • How can adrenaline help you lift a 3,500-pound car?

    How can adrenaline help you lift a 3,500-pound car?

    Some mornings it seems to take superhuman strength just to haul yourself out of bed. So how did adrenaline help these folks bench-press a Camaro or fight off a polar bear with their bare hands? See more »

  • How can someone lie on a bed of nails without getting hurt?

    How can someone lie on a bed of nails without getting hurt?

    In circuses, sideshows and other venues, lying on a bed of nails is an expression of a performer's stamina, bravery and imperviousness to pain. In reality, it's a matter of pressure transference and has been practiced for years around the world. See more »

  • How can someone walk across broken glass without getting hurt?

    How can someone walk across broken glass without getting hurt?

    A magician or street performer walking barefooted across broken glass is a dramatic spectacle. Find out how people can walk across glass without hurting themselves. See more »

  • How do people pull large objects with their teeth?

    How do people pull large objects with their teeth?

    You've seen people pull huge buses or trains with their teeth and other parts of their bodies. How do they do that? See more »

  • How Fire Breathing Works

    How Fire Breathing Works

    Fire breathing is one of the most dangerous performance arts out there. To get an inside look at how fire breathing works, HowStuffWorks interviewed two fire breathers, including Mike Garner -- a juggler and vaudevillian performer who started breathing fire in 1993. See more »

  • How Firewalking Works

    How Firewalking Works

    Ever seen anyone putting on a show of walking barefoot across a bed of hot coals. Are they for real, or is it a trick? They are, in fact, walking barefoot on red-hot, glowing coals. Find out how it's done. See more »

  • How Lion Taming Works

    How Lion Taming Works

    Lion tamers have a habit of putting their heads inside lions' mouths, which are made to crush the spines of bulls. So you can imagine what those jaws could do to a person's skull. See more »

  • How Professional Clowns Work

    How Professional Clowns Work

    Whether we love them or hate them, clowns aren't a rare sight. But have you ever thought about how much people can earn when they run off with the circus? Learn that and more about the serious business of clowning. See more »

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