Do Fire Eaters Really Eat Fire?

Here's a hot topic to dive into: Have you ever watched someone spew flames out of their mouth like they were ready to take over Westeros with Daenerys Targaryen on their back? Fire eaters are probably the closest we'll ever get to living amongst dragons in this lifetime, but it's quite a sight to behold, no less. 

The art of fire eating stretches back hundreds of years, the earliest account being that of Eunus in 133 B.C. Syria. According to The Human Marvels, Eunus, while leading a slave revolt, struck terror into the hearts of his enemies by spitting "smoke, sparks and spikes of fire" from his mouth during the battle. Epic, right? Since then, fire eating has become an exhibitionist wonder at carnivals, circuses, and various other events/spectacles around the world. But let's ask the burning question that's on all our minds: How does it work? Are these people really eating fire? And if so, how do they not burst into flames before the crowd?

How it works

Okay, so the not so exhilarating answer to this question is no, fire eaters are not literally eating fire (though that was probably a given). A well-trained fire eater takes precautionary measures that ensure a good show without a grisly end, and that entails not actually swallowing the flames. When the torch is placed in one's mouth, he/she performing the trick is actually extinguishing the flames in the process (via Mental Floss). A fire eater can either close their lips around the wick and cut off oxygen to the flames — extinguishing them within their mouth — or exhale at the last moment, producing a radiant blaze that rockets upward and away from his/her face. In either case, the most important thing to remember is to never inhale as the flames approach the mouth, and certainly not after your lips have closed around them. Just a few things to bear in mind if a prospective career in fire eating sparks your interest. Flame on, folks.