Hadji Ali

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Who is Hadji Ali?

Hadji Ali was a vaudeville performance artist, thought to be of Egyptian descent, who was famous for acts of controlled regurgitation. His best-known feats included water spouting, smoke swallowing, and nut and handkerchief swallowing followed by disgorgement in an order chosen by the audience. Ali's most famous stunt, and the highlight of his act, was drinking copious amounts of water followed by kerosene, and then acting by turns as a human flamethrower and fire extinguisher as he expelled the two liquids onto a theatrical prop. While these stunts were performed, a panel of audience members was invited to watch the show up close to verify that no trickery was employed.

Although never gaining wide fame, Ali had a dedicated following on the vaudeville circuit in the United States. He performed for heads of state including Tsar Nicholas II of Russia. Judy Garland named him her favorite vaudevillian and David Blaine identified Ali as his favorite magician. Portions of his act were captured in the short film Strange as It Seems and in Politiquerias, the Spanish-language version of Laurel and Hardy's Chickens Come Home. Two documentaries contain footage of Ali taken from Politiquerias: 1977's Gizmo!, and 1999's Vaudeville. Ali's unusual gastric abilities led to rumors that the Rockefeller Institute had offered a large sum of money to obtain his stomach post-mortem. After he died in England, his body was offered to Johns Hopkins University for study, though the offer was declined.

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on July 23, 2013


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