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Hadji Ali and the Regurgitators

Retired Article • Written by Greg Bjerg

In the early twentieth century, there was a man of unusual talent known as the Great Regurgitator. His real name was Hadji Ali, and he was born in Egypt in 1892. In his time, he was a sensation as an American vaudeville artist. His act consisted of swallowing a series of objects-- items such as coins, watermelon seeds, imitation jewels ,and peach pits-- and then regurgitating specific items in order as requested by his audience. Occasionally he would do the act with live goldfish.

But his act didn't end there. His grand finale was to have an assistant set up a small metal castle on stage while Ali drank a gallon of water followed by a pint of kerosene. To the accompaniment of a drum roll, in an amazing display of accuracy, Ali would eject the kerosene in a six-foot arc and ignite the tiny castle in flames. As the flames grew he would then eject the gallon of water and extinguish the fire. He performed his act twenty-two times a week, sometimes more. This was all made possible by the fact that kerosene floats on water, even in the harsh environment of an Egyptian's belly.

Ali's act was immortalized in a Laurel and Hardy movie which was only made in Spanish. He also appeared in a contemporary documentary called Gizmo. He died in 1937. Ali belonged to a group of performers known as “water spouters.” Another famous spouter was Harry Morton, “The Human Hydrant.” Morton's act consisted of downing up to 300 small mugs of beer on stage and regurgitating them before he became intoxicated. His popularity was in its peak in the 1920s.

Harry Morgan and Hadji Ali were pretty much the last of the vaudeville water spouters. But these men were certainly not the first to ply the regurgitating trade. There were water spouters as far back as the mid 17th century, when a few were prosecuted for witchcraft. One famous spouter in that time, Jean Royer of France, was more concerned about duration than quantity and would continue a flow “for as long as it took the recite the 51st Psalm or walk 200 paces.” Another spouter, Blaise Manfre, would drink water and bring up wine. Harry Houdini later claimed that Manfre swallowed Brazil wood extract, a natural red dye, before coming on stage. The extract would stain the regurgitated water into a deep red wine color.

Stevie Starr
Stevie Starr

Houdini was not a fan of the water spouters and gave the reason for their demise in his book, Miracle Mongers and Their Methods. It was simply that the acts were too disgusting for the “lily-livered” audiences to stomach. One unpleasant byproduct of their acts was foul-smelling, yellow-tinged digestive fluids lingering on the stage after a performance. Houdini said the act “could not fail to disgust a modern audience." Vaudeville historians state that booking the regurgitators almost always had the effect of killing their supper shows.

A few regurgitators appeared in the 1950s that preferred to work “dry” with objects like coins, rings and once again, goldfish. One performer did the act with half-grown live frogs. But they’re all gone now except for Stevie Starr, who has appeared on the The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and The Late Show with David Letterman. He has reportedly regurgitated a billiard ball and can bring up a sugar cube completely dry.

The trick of a regurgitator's act is simply a matter of controlled vomiting-- learning to exercise the muscles of the stomach and throat at will, particularly the esophageal sphincters. But some performers were known to use substances to induce violent stomach spasms while retaining firm lip control. And of course you can't classify vomiting as entertainment unless it is executed with great flair and style.

For now, these uniquely talented people all but gone, but perhaps one day the regurgitators will make a comeback. It seems almost inevitable.

Article written by Greg Bjerg, published on 05 May 2006. Greg was born and raised in Iowa and graduated with a degree in Journalism from Drake University. Sadly, he passed away on 20 March 2011.

Article design and artwork by Alan Bellows. Edited by Alan Bellows.
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47 Comments
domokunt
Posted 05 May 2006 at 01:49 pm

"And of course you can't classify vomiting as entertainment unless it is executed with great flair and style."

well done


scarr
Posted 05 May 2006 at 02:05 pm

Well, that was....Damn Interesting.


sfurules
Posted 05 May 2006 at 02:42 pm

Let's see how we can turn this article into some dumb crap politcal statement now! Yay for misinformation!!!


Marius
Posted 05 May 2006 at 03:02 pm

sfurules said: "Let's see how we can turn this article into some dumb crap politcal statement now! Yay for misinformation!!!"

Okay, I'll take that challenge. Everything the Bush administration says makes me want to puke.

How's that? ;-)


another viewpoint
Posted 05 May 2006 at 03:54 pm

Excuse me...I think I'm going to go throw up now. Maybe I can do that while thinking about Bush, Canada, A-bombs and pie with whipped cream. Hope I don't get the order mixed up. Could spell...d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r. Erp...hiccup!


Prince
Posted 05 May 2006 at 04:58 pm

correct me if im wrong but isnt swallowing stuff and then throwing it up again called being bulemic?


OmarC
Posted 05 May 2006 at 05:17 pm

Prince said: "correct me if im wrong but isnt swallowing stuff and then throwing it up again called being bulemic?"

Bulemia is a eating disorder where to stop weight gain people will regurgitate the food.


sfurules
Posted 05 May 2006 at 06:02 pm

Marius said: "Okay, I'll take that challenge. Everything the Bush administration says makes me want to puke.

How's that? ;-)"

LOL....I voted for him and I am starting to get to that point too.


573
Posted 05 May 2006 at 06:27 pm

"esophageal sphincters"
Hahaha.


sierra_club_sux
Posted 05 May 2006 at 06:32 pm

Floj will have a heyday with this article...


Prince
Posted 05 May 2006 at 06:43 pm

yea im sorry, i kno what bulemia is, just a bad joke


BloodXBros.
Posted 05 May 2006 at 07:52 pm

Enter your reply text here.


BloodXBros.
Posted 05 May 2006 at 07:52 pm

sorry a bit intoxicated just felt like being a smart ass, don't mind me i shalln't be wasting anymore of your time


Floj
Posted 05 May 2006 at 11:01 pm

sierra_club_sux said: "Floj will have a heyday with this article…"

A heyday? Perhaps... that's pretty cool how Hadji managed to do the flame trick. I definitely don't want to try any regurgitating myself. It's such an unpleasent feeling and I wouldn't want to put forth the practice to get past that. I saw the guy on the tonight show and that was pretty crazy. It's good to know that it really wasn't slight of hand. Neat article greg, thanks.

... pie


Prince
Posted 05 May 2006 at 11:41 pm

SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT PIE!!!!!


monorail
Posted 06 May 2006 at 03:04 am

tgheres a guy that can swallow a glass of sugar then a glass of water and bring the sugar back up comp[letely dry


S Mirza
Posted 06 May 2006 at 04:37 am

Prince said: "SHUT THE FUCK UP ABOUT PIE!!!!!"

We have a pie hater here.

But seriously, I would pay to see someone regurgitate a cell phone


Niles DiLux
Posted 06 May 2006 at 05:10 am

Mmm...pie.


Marius
Posted 06 May 2006 at 05:18 am

PiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePie

PiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePiePie!

I'm rather partial to pecan pie, but I also like banana coconut, pumpkin, sweet potato, and, of course, the mother of all pies(though poorly named) cheesecake.
(in a world, and internet, where people take things wayyy too seriously, I'm glad there is someone like Floj keeping it real. Mmmmmmmmmmmm, pie.) Lighten up, Prince.


Bolens
Posted 06 May 2006 at 06:13 am

My favorite pie is apricot, as I have never regurgitated any.

Cudos to Floj.


Furnace
Posted 06 May 2006 at 06:41 am

I'd like to know the thought process to become good at this sort of thing. Does one sit down to think of a way to entertain people and suddenly think, "Regurgitation!"? ...or do they accidentally swallow something strange and successfully get it out, only for a friend to say, "I'd pay to see that again!"?


Josh Harding
Posted 06 May 2006 at 06:54 am

OmarC said: "Bulemia is a eating disorder where to stop weight gain people will regurgitate the food."

Bulemia is also noted by binging (eating a massive quantity of food) then regurgitating it.


ShenWolf
Posted 06 May 2006 at 07:14 am

Furnace said: "I'd like to know the thought process to become good at this sort of thing. Does one sit down to think of a way to entertain people and suddenly think, "Regurgitation!"? …or do they accidentally swallow something strange and successfully get it out, only for a friend to say, "I'd pay to see that again!"?"

That scenario, of course, is typically preceeded by the statement " Hey y'all, watch this!"


alias
Posted 06 May 2006 at 08:05 am

I'm pretty sure no one in this day and age will wan to watch someone puke stuff out, people were so easily entertained by such disgusting things in the old days...


sierra_club_sux
Posted 06 May 2006 at 08:25 am

alias said: "I'm pretty sure no one in this day and age will wan to watch someone puke stuff out, people were so easily entertained by such disgusting things in the old days…"

That still holds true. Just turn on the T.V.


beanaroo
Posted 06 May 2006 at 10:36 am

alias said: "I'm pretty sure no one in this day and age will wan to watch someone puke stuff out, people were so easily entertained by such disgusting things in the old days…"

Have you never seen Fear Factor? People are just as easily entertained by the gross, now as they were then. Maybe even more so now, as the shock factor of many things have worn off so TV has to keep pushing the envelope. I am pretty sure the reason we don't have anyone like this now is the fact that someone would have to swallow a chain saw and then spit it back up for us to even bat an eye. Our society wants the extreme and there are only so many safe things a person can swallow.


Stuart
Posted 06 May 2006 at 01:18 pm

In the last year I have seen on tv a series of on-screen autopsies by Gunther von Hagens (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunther_von_Hagens), on air live anal bleeching and in the same programme a fully detailed depiction of vaginal plastic surgery (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cosmetic_Surgery_Live). It was all pretty disgusting stuff and this was on mainstream tv in Britain, not some small cable channel. If this can make it to the screen I have no doubt that people would watch someone vomiting for pleasure. By this standard it would probably be tea time viewing.


atimnie
Posted 06 May 2006 at 01:26 pm

"Our society wants the extreme and there are only so many safe things a person can swallow."

I forget, is everything Bush says safe to swallow? Cuz I usually try to avoid doing that.


Prince
Posted 06 May 2006 at 03:59 pm

i will lighten up as soon as you stop talking about pie, ok we get it, you like pie, but does everybody need to hear about it every single time you make a post?


Mandolin
Posted 06 May 2006 at 05:47 pm

I wonder about the physical negative externalities that come with swallowing kerosene and then regurgitating it. Do these people not feel any pain in their esophagus? What about acid reflux? I'm sure they all must contract acid reflux after regurgitating often enough.


spiffitz
Posted 06 May 2006 at 09:49 pm

My cat does this all the time. Rubber bands, fur, packing peanuts.. My next cat will be named Hadji.


Psyanide
Posted 06 May 2006 at 11:27 pm

wow in that link about Stevie Starr. . . you guys should watch the video this guy swallows a whole billard ball he does some other amazing tricks as well


EVERYTHINGZEN
Posted 07 May 2006 at 08:17 am

What about Steve-O? I think it was him or Johnny Knoxville that regurgitated a goldfish on Wildboyz or Jackass, one or the other.

Hadji is a good name for a cat. But vaginal plastic surgery?? WTF would you do that for? What exactly does that change?


alias
Posted 07 May 2006 at 10:45 am

atimnie said: ""Our society wants the extreme and there are only so many safe things a person can swallow."

I forget, is everything Bush says safe to swallow? Cuz I usually try to avoid doing that."

Everything these days seems to end up on how stupid GW Bush is...


bobo
Posted 07 May 2006 at 06:50 pm

cornerpocket
Posted 07 May 2006 at 07:44 pm

Isn't there a Hadji Ali who was a camel handler for the US Cavalrey back in the Old West? Seems like I saw a monument to him in Arizona somewhere. Only everybody called him High Jolly (Americans seldom leave other people's names alone). I don't know if puking was one of his things or not, but I understand he stayed on when the Army decided to abandon the camel soldiers. Seems like I also recall there is a famous farter who also 'entertained' in vaudville, passing gas in various tones and volumes and playing a musical instrument, no doubt a woodwind.


ballaerina
Posted 07 May 2006 at 09:30 pm

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/videos/regurgitater.html

Actually...I think this is awesome. He can swallow Equal sweetener, then drink a glass of water, then throw up the Equal totally DRY. How the HELL did he do that?
Then he swallows a small balloon, swallows a nail, and pops the balloon inside his stomach. You can actually hear it. He then throws them both back up.
It's not really that gross, the way he does it. He makes funny noises and jokes a lot.


Carcer
Posted 08 May 2006 at 11:17 am

So then the Vaudeville agent says: "That is....that is truly disgusting. What do you call your act?"

The wretched performer replies, with a snap and flare from both hands: "THE ARISTOCRATS!"


PRiME
Posted 08 May 2006 at 11:40 pm

Hmm short life span due to these types of acts? I wonder.

I wouldn't be surprised,.


needles
Posted 11 May 2006 at 03:48 pm

Harry Houdini learned to swallow keys and regurgitate them at will. This is how he executed some of his escape acts.


orc_jr
Posted 18 May 2006 at 11:30 am

needles said: "Harry Houdini learned to swallow keys and regurgitate them at will. This is how he executed some of his escape acts."

that's probably why he was so opposed to the spouters.. he didn't want them giving away his "magical" secrets.


Gary
Posted 24 May 2006 at 12:05 am

I don't think he was opposed to them, just sharing his view on this rather fortean side of vaudeville and why it isn't popular anymore. Houdini is famous for debunking "mystics" and "psychics" much like Randi does these days (there's 1 million USD on offer if you can demonstrate paranormal powers scientifically rigorously to Randi). Houdini often gave away his secrets including his famous straightjacket escape which he intially did behind a curtain (people didn't believe him). One of his tricks involved swallowing needles and thread before regurgitating them both, one threaded in the other. I can't remember if he did the razor blade variation.


JPaul
Posted 25 May 2006 at 10:45 am

Bonjour,

My grandfather was "the Man-aquarium" known under the name of MAC-NORTON.

To my knowledge Harry Morton was rather a magician like Houdini, famous to deliver
after being attached under difficult conditions.

Houdini wrote this in its book, about my grandfather: Mac-Norton (born in Lyon, in France 1876 -1953):

…” Until has comparatively recent dates, incredible ace it may seem, frog-swallowers were far from uncommon one the bills of the Continental theaters. The most prominent, Norton, has Frenchman, was billed have has leading feature in the high-class houses of Europe. I saw him work At the Apollo Theater, Nuremberg, where I was to follow him in; and during my engagement At the Circus Busch, Berlin, we were one the same program, which gave me an opportunity to watch him closely. One of his features was to broad drink thirty gold forty glasses of beer in slow fox trot succession. The filled glasses were displayed one shelves At the back of the training course, and had handles so that He could bring forward two gold three in each hand. When He had finished these He would return for others and, while gathering another handful, would bring up the beer and eject it into has receptacle arranged between the shelves, just below the line of vision of the goes down for hearing. Norton could swallow has number of half-grown frogs and bring them up alive. I remember his anxiety one one occasion when returning to his dressing-room; it seems He had lost has frog -- At least He could not account for the entire flock -- and He looked very much scared, probably At the uncertainty have to whether gold not He had to digest has live frog. The Muenchen October Fest, is the annual to fair At that city, and has most wonderful show it is. I cuts been there twice; ounce have the big feature with Circus Carre, in 1901, and again in 1913, with the Circus Corty Althoff. Continental The Circuses are not, like those of this country, under canvas, goal show in wooden buildings. At these October Fests I saw has number of frog-swallowers, and to me they were very repulsive indeed. In fact, Norton was the only one I ever saw who presented his act in A dignified manner. Willie Hammerstein ounce had Norton booked to appear At the Victoria Theater, New York, goal the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals would not allow him open to; so He returned to Europe without exhibiting his art (?) in America. The beer-drinking of Norton was has more refined version of the so-called toilets pouting of previous generations, in which the returning was done openly, has performance that could not fail to disgust has modern goes down for hearing…..

Some sites on Mac-Norton:

http://www.udenap.org/personnalites/mac_norton.htm

http://www.showhistory.com/mac_norton.html

Greetings,
The grandson of Mac-Norton:

Jean-Paul Delair

( Traduction par “babel fish : Alta-Vista )


rev.felix
Posted 12 February 2007 at 02:06 pm

Prince said: "i will lighten up as soon as you stop talking about pie, ok we get it, you like pie, but does everybody need to hear about it every single time you make a post?"

Yes.

Floj can eat a pie and reguritate it whole on command!

Okay, I'll take that challenge. Everything the Bush administration says makes me want to puke.
How's that? ;-)

Nope, doen't work. You have to regurgitate his speeches on command. (The actual paper they were written on, not just a simple recitition.)


elphaba
Posted 16 January 2008 at 06:51 pm

I went through a period where I puked every single day for six months. It wasn't bulimia, and the doctors couldn't figure it out. I can't believe people would do that for fun.


cythrawl
Posted 06 January 2010 at 06:17 pm

I wonder if this could be a new terrorist strategy for smuggling bombs onto planes ex. "I feel sick" ack! bomb.
arrgh! electronic detonator.


MooMoo
Posted 26 April 2014 at 05:39 pm

Actually, they're almost everywhere in China. I've seen a bunch of them swallow giant metal balls and do some dangerous trick like... hanging themselves for a minute or two and then they spit the ball back out, seemingly with lots of stomach motion.


END OF COMMENTS
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