Sword Swallowers Assn.
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
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
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.
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
Most people can’t even swallow a
pill without water. Riley says she
won't teach others her talent.
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
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.”