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"Human Blockhead' Melvin Burkhart, 94

Magician Melvin Burkhart, known in the heyday of carnivals as "The Human Blockhead" for his ability to hammer a spike into his head through a cavity behind his nostril, has died.

He was 94 when he died Thursday.

Burkhart could make both sides of his face do different things, and he could squeeze into enough shapes to be known as "The Anatomical Wonder."

"He was 60 years in the sideshows, and he's the last of them," said friend and magician Bill Dahlquist. "It's the end of the era, it really is. It's sad."

During the past decade, the Gibsonton area 30 miles south of Tampa has lost other notables from the carnival world _ the 2-foot-6 "Half Girl," the pincer-pawed "Lobster Boy" and the rigidly affable "Ossified Lady."

Burkhart recently was in New York to trade stories with friends and to perform at a wedding. When he returned home, he checked into a hospital, and shortly afterward suffered a stroke. He had time for private goodbyes before his heart gave out.

"He taught me how to be a rich man," said his son, Dennis Burkhart, a biochemical engineer. "He said a rich man is someone who can make one person smile everyday. If I can be half the man my father has been, I will be a great man."

The elder Burkhart and his wife, Joyce, with whom he had three children, were to celebrate their 52nd anniversary this month.

"He did what everybody else always talked about doing," said daughter-in-law Jane Burkhart.

"He ran away and joined the circus."

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