Book Article

Carnival Crib Sheet

Looking at ''Secrets of the Sideshows'' -- Joe Nickell's new book explains the minutiae of carnival tricks

Looking at ''Secrets of the Sideshows''

Sorry to spoil the surprise, but the magician never actually cuts his assistant in half. You probably knew that already, but to find out how it's done, and other carnival minutiae, browse Joe Nickell's comprehensive Secrets of the Sideshows. Step right up for more highlights!

· The armless and legless Prince Randian, a.k.a. the Caterpillar Man, who appeared in Tod Browning's 1932 film Freaks, could roll and light a cigarette using only his lips.

· How do human blockheads do it? ''The hole in your nose does not go up between the eyes. . .but to the back of the throat. It is into this surprisingly long cavity that the nail or ice pick easily slips.'' (Note: We do not recommend trying this.)

· The key to swallowing swords is conquering the gag reflex: ''Practice will soon accustom any throat to the passage of the blade.'' (See previous note.)

Originally posted Aug 12, 2005 Published in issue #834-835 Aug 19, 2005 Order article reprints