How might a near-future performer update the sideshow fire-eating act through the use of newer technology, materials, and scientific knowledge?

Everybody knows that if you take a mouthfull of kerosene and spray it out past an already-burning torch, you get fire breath.


But to achieve the wonder of stage magic, you would need to appear not to do that. Getting something into her mouth when the audience thinks it is empty could certainly be done with gimmicks or sleight-of-hand, but I’d still be interested in specific ideas.

More challenging is the subject of ignition. How can Fire Breathing Girl expell a flame when both hands are empty and held away from the face? That is, the audience will see that she did not just spit on an existing flame, but that this trick is mysterious.

I don’t expect worked out details like the trick designer would actually need — just a short exposition stating the nature of the technology.


2 Answers 2


To "eat fire"you need a combustible and an ignition source, provided that the comburent is provided for free by the atmosphere.


Guess what? We already produce methane, but normally it goes out from the other way (I am not going to reference those videos here). Contortionists and escapologist are able to dislodge at will their joints, to perform tricks otherwise impossible for human. It is safe to assume that "burping" methane can also be learned, maybe aided by a methane producing diet and bacterial supplements. To help coloring the flame one can use the sodium contained in our sweat.

Ignition source

You have two options here:

  • Electrostastics: if you can get a spark after rubbing your feet on a plastic ground, you can use that spark to ignite the methane. The trick is to get the timing and the place right. Something like getting your lips close to a conductive surface (kissing a grounded sword with rubber handle or the like) while ejecting the gas might work.
  • will-o'-the-wisp: apparently these start with no ignition, just by spontaneous ignition. But that would require adding phosphine or diphosphane to the breathed gas, which I am not sure is really healthy.
  • $\begingroup$ One more ignition source: piezoelectric sparks caused by vigorously chewing Wint-O-Green Lifesavers. $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Sep 9, 2017 at 16:13

You can insert in mouth, between cheek and teeth, a couple of containers holding some flammable liquid.

Nozzle can be exposed by smiling and a spurt can be done with some mechanism activated by teeth.

There are a few liquids (e.g.: Silane) that will auto-ignite at room temperature (they will be at body temperature, of course) in presence of atmospheric oxygen, without requiring any igniting device.

If you want to use more conventional fuels (e.g.: kerosene) you need to complicate your mouth-activated-flamethrower with an igniting device; piezoelectric comes to mind, but it might pose problems with unavoidable humidity of mouth.

Of course the amount of fuel would be quite limited, otherwise you need some "invisible" implant near the mouth (similar to modern on-stage microphones, possibly covered by band-aid and make-up) with an external tank.


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