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Melvin Burkhart
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Circus Performer
    (February 16, 1907-November 8, 2001)
    Born in Atlanta, Georgia
    Birth name was Clarence Melvin Burkhart
    Known as the Human Blockhead
    Could drive a 5-inch nail or icepick into his nose without flinching
    Performed in 100,000 sideshows over a 60-year career
    He started in sideshows because 'I was a show-off. [But] I couldn't sing, I couldn't dance, I couldn't tell funny stories.'
    Before becoming a blockhead, he was an 'Anatomical Wonder,' who could inflate one lung at a time, dislocate his shoulders, suck his stomach back to his spine and frown with half his face while smiling with the other half.
    His career as a pro boxer ended with six losses, zero wins and a broken nose.
    Surgeons removed 22 fragments of bone from his nasal cavity, creating a passage into which he could stick a nail.
    He was also a sword swallower and fire eater, and at one small circus was 9 of its 14 acts.
    He befriended his fellow sideshow performers, commenting, 'We were all freaks together. I tried to be their shield against the world.'
    He hooked up William 'The Two Faced Man' Durks with his future wife, Mildred the Alligator Girl.
    After sideshows went out of fashion, he became a magician and children's entertainer.
    He was married to his wife Joyce for 51 years until his death.
    He last performed as the Human Blockhead one month before his death.
    As magician Todd Robbins noted, 'Anyone who has ever hammered a nail into his nose owes a large debt to Melvin Burkhart.'

Credit: C. Fishel


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