by Tracy Vanity
Also known as the “impalement arts,” throwing knives at a human target dates back to the 1st century and has been commonly seen in vaudeville acts, carnivals, and circus sideshows. This great art is still practiced today. The Great Throwdini is currently the fastest and most famous impalement artist in the world!
A common myth about impalement art is that the knives really aren’t being thrown and are instead hidden under the knife thrower’s sleeve as a rigged board springs up with knives along the human target. This is actually false. Knife throwers are really throwing those knives and there is definitely some real danger involved. Typically, the one in danger is a beautiful woman:
But that’s not always the case…
Anyone who has ever watched “Wonder Showzen” will be familiar with this cute little cherub-faced girl having knives thrown at her in the intro. This footage comes from a 50’s knife throwing act where Louella Gallagher, a Texas mother, would throw knives at her 5 and 2 1/2 year-old daughters: Connie Ann & and Colleena Sue. This newsreel of this 50’s knife throwing family is a great vintage gem.
The Gallaghers weren’t the only child-target impalement art acts, there was also Florence Shufflebottom, who not only practiced knife throwing, but also sharpshooting and snake charming.
If you’re a fan of vintage carnivals, this BBC documentary, which features an interview with Florence Shufflebottom (damn that’s a great name) is terrific! It has loads of great carnival footage and history.