THE GREAT WALDO – The Regurgitating Geek

Did you know that the word ‘geek’ has its historic foundation in sideshow? Historically, a geek was a sideshow performer who ate bizarre or unexpected things. Waldo’s talent was unique, certainly unique enough to be called ‘Great’.

Waldo was not the typical geek as he didn’t really eat the items he swallowed. Instead he would swallow and regurgitate the items, including live animals. In the image above, Waldo is performing his signature regurgitation, swallowing a white mouse and then bringing it back up alive and unharmed after a few moments. In the middle image, Waldo is puffing on a cigarette and smiling at your disgust before regurgitating the mouse. What a showman! Waldo’s act was very real, he did swallow the rodent and his act was no illusion.

Waldo was born in 1920 in Germany and as a child he loved the circus and its sideshow. He would visit each time the circus was in town and he marveled at the human marvels he saw there. He yearned to join them but he was, unfortunately, born completely average. Not content to live his live as a regular man, he trained his stomach muscles to regurgitate items he swallowed. At first the objects were inanimate: pocket change, watches, rings and keys. In the late 1930’s he began to swallow and regurgitate living animals. He began with fish, moved on to frogs, then mice and eventually he was able to swallow rats.

In 1938, when Hitler invaded Austria, the Jewish Waldo fled to Switzerland. While performing in a nightclub there he was discovered by an American sideshow talent agent and quickly brought to the United States.

Waldo always dressed as a distinguished gentleman. This appearance was in direct contrast to the look of geeks previous. The majority of those geeks were usually dressed as savages and their acts consisted of tearing live animals apart with their teeth. Waldo was elegant and gentle. When swallowing fish and frogs he would first swallow copious amounts of water so the animals would have water to swim in.

His muscular control was so absolute that Waldo was able to swallow several different colored balls and regurgitate them in whichever sequence the audience demanded. He was able to swallow a locked padlock, then the key, and unlock the padlock. When a member of the audience doubted the authenticity of his act he would invite them onstage, swallow their watch and invite them to listen to the ticking emanating from his belly.

During his career The Great Waldo worked many shows including Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey as well as Hubert’s museum in New York. The legendary Anatomical Wonder, Melvin Burkhart, once called Waldo’s act the ‘most amazing’ act he had ever seen.

Unfortunately his unusual talent made finding romance a nearly impossible task. Waldo committed suicide, by gassing himself, in his home after a particular infatuation went sour and unfulfilled.

Little actual film of Waldo exists today and all is currently under copyrite. There have been few acts like Waldo’s. His modern equivalent is Stevie ‘The Regurgitator’ Starr. Starr recently did away with his trademark sequenced costuming and adopted attire more in tune to that worn by The Great Waldo, perhaps as a tribute to Waldo. Mr. Starr’s act consists mostly of inanimate objects; however his finale has always included a live goldfish.

You can watch a recent Stevie Star performance here.

Image: stills from Waldo’s only taped performance reproduced for the TLC documentary Side Show.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.

12 Comments

  • Reply April 19, 2008

    Anonymous

    There is band with that name.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regurgitator

  • Reply December 22, 2008

    Fabian Uwaguna

    I know someone who after chewing meat,regurgitates it back into his mouth and continues chewing .long after a normal meal.Can this be considered an annomaly?or a health issue?

  • Reply December 27, 2008

    J Tithonus Pednaud

    Chewing one’s cud is not all that unusual. The only heath issue associated would be tooth damage due to digestive enzymes.

  • Reply January 31, 2009

    shayne

    i’ve heard of him. his real name was dagmar rothman.

  • [...] Great Waldo, also known as the Reguritating Geek, didn’t actually eat items, he swallowed then [...]

  • Reply December 26, 2009

    spot

    @ shayne: i doubt that as dagmar is a female german name.

    @ fabian: some people have cysts in their esophagus where foodstuff is likely to end up. patients complain of bad smell from the mouth and often find food on their pillows in the morning. easily treatable though.

  • [...] cui potete vedere un video qui. L’altro grande vero protagonista della rigurgitazione rimane The Great Waldo, che sapeva inghiottire gli oggetti più disparati (chiavi, monete, orologi), ma che con il tempo [...]

  • Reply June 4, 2010

    Cornelius Gold

    Hi,

    I have been in an act called ‘The Incredible Bloodbrothers’ I have just written a book, ‘Terrifyingly Talented’ Artistes Fartistes and Funambulists. It will be published shortly. Any chance of giving it a review?

    Cheers

  • Reply August 11, 2010

    Tom Hernandez

    His proper name was Dagobert Roehmann. You can see him swallow a mouse in the 1993 video “The Incredible Life and Times of Robert Ripley”. I’m still not convinved he swallows the mouse. After he puts it in his mouth he doesn’t open it to show he swallowed it. I do believe he was a regurgitator though. Still, a great act – even if a bit nauseating!

  • [...] now you know I do, too. Couple that with my predilection for documentaries, and wanting to see The Great Waldo swallow and regurgitate a live mouse, and here we [...]

  • Reply October 19, 2011

    Rawr

    “Waldo was elegant and gentle. When swallowing fish and frogs he would first swallow copious amounts of water so the animals would have a water to swim in.”

    :)

  • Reply January 8, 2013

    Anna Hanson

    I find this article written about “The Great Waldo” to be extremely well-written and quite poignant! What really depresses me about this rather remarkable man was the fact that he murdered himself with gas because a woman didn’t return his love, I find that to be quite heart-breaking especially considering his career as a circus performer was such a great hit. I never knew that we ladies had such an effect on men and I do wonder whether or not the woman ever thought what she could have done to prevent Waldo from killing himself and would she have done it? that is a good question to consider. Thanks for this website and thanks so much for calling them Human Marvels and not Freaks..I always detested the name. I truly love these articles!!

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