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Her Hobby's Hard To Swallow

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Rochester: Her Hobby's Hard To Swallow
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Sword Swallowers Assn.

Riley Schillaci

For some people

it's coin collecting. Or fishing. Or maybe needlepoint. Riley Schillaci’s hobby comes with a disclaimer: Don’t try this at


Sword swallowing

is an ancient art,

traced back to India. For Schillaci,

it's an eye-watering,

throat gagging talent

that's impossible to


“Some people, you can tell

their stomachs are

churning,” she said of her act. “Other

people are really impressed.”

There are fewer

than 100 practicing


worldwide. Riley discovered

her talent after

watching a relative

who made forks and

knifes disappear.

What started with pens and kitchen utensils eventually turned into the 18-inch steel sword she swallows. She admits her parents, at first, didn’t like what they saw.

“They thought it was gross

and told me to stop

doing it,” she said. “But now I get introduced as

'this is my daughter, the sword swallower.’”

These days, the 25-year-old scanning

associate and former day care worker

actually gets paid for swallowing not

only a sword, but daggers,

spoons -- even drum sticks.

“Generally people are in awe,” she says.

The props she used are real, she days – dispelling questions she sometimes gets about their authenticity. Schillaci says the

trick is knowing how to control her gag reflexes.

Before performances,

she used to disinfect

her sword with

Listerine. Now, she uses rum.

“It's obviously not something I'm going to drink before a show

because we want all

out acts to be sober,” she says. “It's a little safer

that way.”

Most people can’t even swallow a

pill without water. Riley says she

won't teach others her talent.

Liability issues.

Schillaci says top

sword swallowers can

make between $500

and $2,000 a gig. She won't make

anywhere near that at

a performance this

weekend on Long Island.

But she will turn

some heads.

And whether people think it's an

absolute sideshow or the coolest thing

they've ever seen -- doesn't really

seem to matter.

“I've always kind of liked

messing with people,” she says. “So even if someone's

horrified by it, that's great for me. I love it.”

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