This is thrilling magic, indeed, what with feats in defying fire, swallowing swords, reclining on spikes, chewing glass, and engaging in several other diversions of a type that are not usually practiced by ordinary mortals. All of this comes to us in a clearly printed little booklet, with 25 pages of explanations, illustrated with a dozen line drawings, and bound (appropriately enough) in flaming red soft boards. Fifteen pages are devoted to tricks with fire, four to sword-swallowing, three to what the author terms "miracles with spikes," and three to other fearsome stunts.
In the section on fire tricks are instructions for "eating" small torches of cotton that have been dipped into gasoline and ignited, spouting flame from the mouth, eating a banana that has been dipped into burning alcohol (and also other delicacies such as burning coals and sealing wax), swallowing burning oil, eating lighted candles, and so on. There are, also, a very sketchy description of the usual method of "fire-eating" (the apparent consumption of cotton batting, after which clouds of smoke and even sparks are blown from the mouth), and a detailed (four-page) explanation of Abbott's Smoke Act.
The treatment of sword-swallowing tells, among other things, the best kind of sword to use, where to obtain such a sword, how to adjust its length to the performer's individual needs, how to prepare it for swallowing, and finally how to go through the actual performance of passing the sword down the throat up to the very hilt. For those who prefer spikes to swords, information is provided for driving a spike up the nose by tapping it with a hammer, for driving a spike through a plank with a fist, and for duplicating the Hindoo fakir's feat of lying on a bed of spikes. Other charming pastimes explained by Mr. Miller are causing the performer's body temperature to rise suddenly and appreciably, piercing the flesh with needles and pins, the apparent eating of glass, and walking through fire.
Doubtless many persons will read this booklet with interest, satisfy their curiosity about how certain weird feats are done, and then be properly grateful that they themselves have found pleasanter and safer means of livelihood than these. This kind of performance is scarcely suitable for the drawing-room, nor (with the exception of "fire eating" of the familiar type, which can be exhibited without giving offense, as has been demonstrated by such performers as Jean Hugard) in most high-grade places of amusement. It seems to be essentially "side-show stuff," adapted to spectators with such robust tastes that they relish feats which would be definitely repugnant to sensitive members of the average audience.
On the theory that it takes all kinds of people to make up a world, it may be conceded that there is a place for this sort of entertainment, but the field is certainly very limited and getting smaller year by year. It seems to this reviewer that the exponents of "thrilling magic" (if, indeed, it may rightly be called magic) undergo a degree of exertion and hazard for which they are very unlikely ever to be adequately compensated. We wish them joy in their work, and promise that they need fear no competition from us. We know of no branch of mystery that has so little to offer its followers in return for the very considerable demands it makes upon them.