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Stevie Starr, Professional Regurgitator
Status: Magic trick
image Stevie Starr calls himself a professional regurgitator. He's been doing his act for a long time, and is quite famous. (He's appeared on shows such as Jay Leno and Ripley's Believe it or Not.) But I just became aware of him through a video of one of his performances on Google Video, and I'm at a complete loss to explain how he does what he does.

His performance includes some of the following tricks: He swallows sugar, followed by a glass of water, and then regurgitates the sugar, completely dry. He swallows a live goldfish and regurgitates that a minute later, still living. (As he does this, he mentions the urban legend about goldfish having 5-second memories.) Reportedly he's also able to swallow a (miniature) rubik's cube and bring it back up — solved. (Though the Rubik's cube trick isn't shown in the google video.)

I can't find anyone on the web who has a decent explanation for how Starr is able to do all this. Obviously he has a genuine talent with his stomach. An article about him in the Amherst Student reports that:

he was born in a children’s home in Scotland, where he lived for the first 19 years of his life. When little Stevie was four years old, he discovered this unique talent by swallowing his lunch money and realizing he could bring it right back up. Thus, a freak of nature was born.

But this doesn't explain how he can swallow sugar, followed by water, and bring the sugar up dry. Or the trick with the rubik's cube. Does he have a second stomach, or something like that? To do the rubik's cube trick I assume he must have swallowed a solved rubik's cube before the show. But like I said, I'm pretty much baffled.

Incidentally, history is full of famous vomiters, so Stevie Starr evidently isn't the only one who has ever had this talent. In 1621 there was the case of the nail-vomiting Boy of Bilston (who had been trained by a priest to simulate the symptoms of being bewitched). This was followed in 1642 by Catharina Geisslerin, "the toad-vomiting woman of Germany," who, as you might guess, had a talent for vomiting up toads. In 1694 there was Theodorus Döderlein, who vomited up twenty-one newts and four frogs. (I'm getting this info from Clifford Pickover's The Girl Who Gave Birth to Rabbits.) Pickover also reports that there have been cases of compulsive swallowers who don't later regurgitate what they swallow, including one guy in 1985 who had "53 toothbrushes, 2 razors, 2 telescopic aerials, and 150 handles of disposable razors" removed from his stomach.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Food, Magic
Posted by Alex on Tue Feb 14, 2006
Comments (193)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
Reminds me of Houdini.
One of his tricks was top swallow a pack of needles,a length of thread and then he'd regurgitate one end of the thread, and pull it out with the needles threaded and knotted evenly along it.

Penn(of Penn and Teller) does one of my favorites; He swallows a pea, then acts like he's horked it up onto his sinuses, hams it up a bit, and just when you think he's gonna blow it out his nose, pulls down his eyelid and there's the pea.
Not as impressive, but funny!
Posted by Captain DaFt  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  11:17 AM
I've just been reading a book about circus and sideshow performers of all kinds, including those who swallow swords, glass, etc.

Some of these performers could swallow several objects (e.g., balls) and bring them up in a different order. So I imagine he must swallow a solved Rubik's cube beforehand to do that trick.

As for the sugar, the most obvious solution is that he has swallowed a waterproof bag of sugar beforehand. He eats the sugar, drinks the water, brings up the bag of sugar, bites it open with his teeth, and there it is.
Posted by Phil  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  11:44 AM
I think most of these tricks rely on sleight of hand-- in other words, the performer makes you think he/she has swallowed something, but instead has concealed it somewhere. Similarly, the performer produces it again through prestidigitation rather than literally regurgitating it.
Even so, it's a great trick.
Posted by Big Gary, late for feeding time  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  11:55 AM
I have to agree with Big Gary. It's clear this is sleight of hand. It's not even particularly difficult sleight of hand, really. Standard misdirection stuff.
Posted by Terry Austin  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  12:18 PM
I seen this guy.....he has a natural "Gullet"....he isn't swallowing otherwords, he has a VERY deep area under the it to a cran if you like.
Posted by X  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  12:53 PM
I just thoguht I'd mention an episode of CSI where they are investigating the charred body of a magician and find that he has surgically implanted pockets of skin grafted to the roof of his moth where he could potentially hide things like keys, needles or even live goldfish, if he feels so inclined. It's a good episode.
Posted by Dracul  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  01:24 PM
I don't understand why we're trying to expose a magic effect. The man isn't hoaxing or conning anyone and is trying to make a living. If someone used his techniques to hoax or con it would be enough to point out that a bonifide magician can replicate the performance without exposing the effect.
Posted by Vorpal  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  01:56 PM
I'd say CSI doesn't know much about magic or magicians.
Any good magician can hide things in his/her hand so you'd never notice if you didn't know how the trick was done. Special pockets and surgical implants are completely unnecessary.
Harry Houdini once had himself locked into a jail cell stark naked. A few minutes after the witnesses left the room, he had escaped. Years later, he revealed that he had taped a lock pick to the sole of his foot, and then managed to distract the people searching him so they neglected to look at the bottom of his bare foot.
Posted by Big Gary, late for feeding time  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  02:40 PM
My favorite trick of his was having his wife tongue him a key or lockpick when she kissed him goodbye. Nobody ever suspected the sweet, innocent wife.
Posted by Charybdis  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  03:31 PM
There's also the possibility he has a harmless kind of esophageal pouch. I don't know much about it though - I doubt many doctors/researchers have looked into how many people who can regurgitate stuff on demand have them.
Posted by Mentle  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  03:34 PM
I'd say there was definitely a bit of sleight of hand going on. It was particularly noticeable with the billiard ball. All it needs is a split second to make a switch - and he definitely had that split second when he moved the billiard ball in his hand to the edge of the table a few seconds before he inserted it into his mouth.
Posted by Dave Rattigan  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  04:20 PM
If you watch the video closely, you'll notice when he sucks back on those items like the lightbulb and the billiard ball, that they are definitely going down his throat. He is most certainly swallowing those things.

Now, when it comes to the sugar... my guess is that the sugar is going under his tongue, and when he swallows the water, he can depress his tongue to prevent as much of the sugar as possible from being dissolved.
Posted by AqueousBoy  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  04:20 PM
This guy is old school. I have a VHS of him on Arsenio from the late '80's(actually, it was left on the tape after recording something else- I love you, TiVo!) Why can't this be real? I think he's legit, psycho, and dangerous, but definitely fuh-REAL.
Posted by booch  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  04:44 PM
A good magician can make anything look like it's for real. I have a friend who does "table magic" - i.e. he does it right in front of you, often sitting with you at your table. My favourite trick was when he threaded a ring on a cord, placed the ring in my palm, and made me close my fist over it with both ends of the cord sticking out by my thumb. On the count of three I tugged the cord ends; it came free and left the ring in my hand. It's one thing to see magic on TV; quite another when it's right under your nose, or you're even set up to "do" the trick yourself! I'm quite sure Stevie Starr is just as good at sleight-of-hand as my friend.
Posted by Wendy  on  Tue Feb 14, 2006  at  07:30 PM
Actually, at the size I was watching the video, you can see the billiard ball goes to the side of his mouth rather than straight down his throat. Good effect, though.
Posted by Dave Rattigan  on  Wed Feb 15, 2006  at  12:37 AM
Have seen this guy in live shows in the UK and it seems very real to me. I agree that the rubik cube must be an already solved one that's brought up. Scary stuff!
Posted by Manon  on  Wed Feb 15, 2006  at  03:50 AM
Na, I don't beleive it. He's doing some sort of sleight-of-hand. He's just an entertainer/performer with a very good illusion.
Posted by Bill  on  Wed Feb 15, 2006  at  09:22 AM
wouldnt the sugar get wet ismply by being in his mouth, throat, etc.
Posted by tim  on  Wed Feb 15, 2006  at  09:32 AM
Steve-O from the tv show Jackass has swallowed a goldfish and regurgitated it back up alive also. He has also snorted an earthworm up his nose and coughed it out of his mouth. I'm sure some of these are real, however, i still have trouble believing the billiard ball and sugar.
Posted by dae dae  on  Wed Feb 15, 2006  at  02:40 PM
Without question he's keeping the stuff in his mouth. He's just very good at talking normally afterwards and also keeping it in there without it bulging. Great trick though.
Posted by Tim  on  Thu Feb 16, 2006  at  12:05 AM
I read how to do the needle & thread trick. It's not that fabulous.

This guy may have "discovered" he could get his money back - but I'm guessing it was only when he was older that he started doing weird things on purpose. He may have figured out where the things go & bring them back from there. People mentioned him having extra folds of skin or pouches in his neck/mouth.
Posted by Maegan  on  Thu Feb 16, 2006  at  07:05 AM
@Big Gary:

I also heard that Houdini hid a a block of metal in his straightjacket to break locks open when he did the "hanging-upsidedown-in-a-locked-straightjacket" trick. Or something like that.
Posted by TEZ  on  Thu Feb 16, 2006  at  09:28 PM

I can shed some light on the subject... Starr is a "Regurgitater" or what is know in the sideshow world as a "Human Ostrich"... I wont say that he doesn't use any sleight of hand or that some of his stunts aren't gaffed, but regurgitation is a ligament skill... Like sword swallowing it requires a lot of training & mussel control... Kind of how a belly dancer can flip a coin or fold a $$ bill with her stomach mussels a regurgitater trains his/her mussels to hold & manipulate objects (internally)...

It's real & can be done...

The things that can be done with the human body through intense training is sometime unbelievable, but nonetheless real...

Posted by DETHCHEEZ  on  Fri Feb 17, 2006  at  10:51 PM
"...Kind of how a belly dancer can flip a coin or fold a $$ bill with her stomach mussels a regurgitater trains his/her mussels to hold & manipulate objects (internally)..."

Hmm, are you claiming that this guy has live shellfish hidden somewhere in his body?
Posted by Big Gary, on another quail hunt  on  Sat Feb 18, 2006  at  12:24 PM
I think the cube could be easily solved by having the colours change with pH. Like in the case of any normal ph indicators. Since the stomach is acidic in nature, it could be plausable answer. Even the sugar could be another chemical composition that doesn't dissolve in water. Goldfish have remarkable capabilities of staying alive; some can live a whole winter under ice and no oxygen, and even remain in very acidic conditions. The guy is only remarkably good at swallowing and regurgitating things. In theory everyone can do it if you train urself in taking over the sub-concious part of the brain that control stomach muscles. Some mammals have the capability of doing that...its just a matter of practice or maybe genetic predespostion. Cheers :coolsmirk:
Posted by Mark Anthony  on  Sun Feb 19, 2006  at  02:45 PM
I bet he gives great head.
Posted by Nardvo  on  Wed Feb 22, 2006  at  06:07 PM
Watch the billiard ball come up very carefully.
It comes from under his tongue. I had to watch it a few times.

Then he drops the fake one into his hand, switches it for the real one, puts the real one on the plate, and grabs the napkin (fake one in hand), and leaves the fake one near where he took the napkin.
Posted by Dave  on  Thu Feb 23, 2006  at  01:01 AM
The under the tounge pouch does not fit, because when seeing him in person we swallows all the smoke from a cigarette, then bring it up anytime he wants by blowing it into bubbles using dish soap. You cant store smoke under your tounge.
Posted by weinis  on  Mon Feb 27, 2006  at  12:42 AM
The sugar thing is probably water proof sand. its sand or sugar coated in water resistant material. when dropped in water, it clumps up but once you remove the sand it instantly acts like dry sand
Posted by E  on  Tue Feb 28, 2006  at  07:39 AM
I saw this guy at a college pub a number of years ago. I sat front row centre and he was more than convincing. A couple of his tricks not mentioned include swallowing a locked paddlock, swallowing the key on a ring, unlocking the lock and re-locking it with the clasp through the key ring. He also swallowed coins and brought them up in the order the audience requested. He then swallowed butane and a couple minutes after doing a few more tricks, he brought the fuel up and spat it through a lighter.
His show is a riot. I wouldn't hesitate paying the price of admission to see him again.
Posted by phitz  on  Thu Mar 02, 2006  at  07:14 AM
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