Sand Gnats To Throw World's Hottest Batchelor Party
And it all started with a dream — literally.
“When I was a junior in high school, I knew I wanted to be a stuntman but I had never done anything with fire,” said Batchelor, speaking from his hometown of Chagrin Falls, OH. “But one night I had a dream where people were betting me to dive off of a waterfall while on fire. The next day I was in class, creative writing, and I ended up writing a poem about my dream…My friend got a hold of it, started showing it to people, and the next thing I know he’s my manager, taking $5 and $10 bets on whether I was going to do this or not.”
Over $400 was collected (Batchelor says he needed the money to cover prom expenses), and on May 20, 1976 history was made. Batchelor was lit on fire and dove off of Chagrin Falls, staying inflamed for a total of 12 seconds. He repeated the feat for the next nine years, getting arrested in each of the last five. In 2006, for the first time ever, the town of Chagrin Falls officially gave him permission to do the fire-jump.
“It was the 30th anniversary [of the first jump], and they said yes for historical reasons,” said Batchelor. “Chagrin Falls is a little town, sort of like a New England town in that they are very into their history.”
Getting lit on fire has served as the bread-and-butter of Batchelor’s long career as a stuntman, and he currently holds the Guinness World Record for “Longest Full Body Burn Without Supplied Oxygen” while also playing a key role in coordinating the record for “Most People on Fire at the Same Time” (17, breaking the mark previously held by a dozen inflamed Spaniards).
Batchelor’s longest full-body burn clocked in at an amazing two minutes and 57 seconds. In order to attain such longevity, he applies a fire resistant gel to his body and then swaths himself in several layers of cotton and wool clothing. The biggest challenge is breathing properly, he says, with the key being to “get the flames behind me when I breathe.”
Not surprisingly, Batchelor’s compulsion to set himself on fire has resulted in the occasional injury. He says the worst occurred several years ago, when he suffered steam burns on nine parts of his body after wearing clothes still damp from a performance the night before.
“My wife was upset about it, but I wasn’t,” said Batchelor. “To me, it was inevitable, and I’m at peace with it…The absolute worst thing was that as the burns were healing I got poison ivy while weed whacking. That was just brutal.”
Batchelor still performs fire stunts all over the globe, but his upcoming stop in Savannah has special significance.
“I’m surprised I’ve never done this at a baseball stadium, because I always wanted to,” said Batchelor, who estimated that his trip around the bases would take 45 seconds. “In my senior year of high school I kept trying to convince my coach to have someone light the ball on fire and throw it at me so that I could catch fire and then run the bases. He would just look at me, like ‘No way.’”
At Grayson Stadium, Batchelor will be assisted by a five-person crew that includes his wife, Deborah, and son Grant. The latter will be stationed at second base with a fire extinguisher, “just in case.” If everything goes as planned, the stunt will climax with a headfirst slide into home.
“I do everything head first, it keeps the flames away from my mouth,” said Batchelor.
A mouth full of fire is one the many hazards of the full-body burn, a stunt which Batchelor says is “really stupid, and not something I think anybody should do.”
But he’s not planning on stopping anytime soon.
“When I was 17 and first started doing this, one of my neighbors was pretty irked by it,” recalled Batchelor. “He’d say,’What kind of future are you going to have? Is this something you’ll be doing when you’re 50?’”
“Well, I’m 51 now. What’s driven me through the years is the desire to keep improving. You can never master fire.”