Adam Winrich is home from a break in his busy work schedule, but it’s difficult to get a handle on exactly where work ends and play begins.
Retrieving a very long braided whip from a can of gasoline, he ignites it with a lighter. The ensuant fireball flares six feet above his head. Winrich then begins to snap the flaming whip in a choreographed routine that could certainly be called dancing. A few minutes later, the flame finally goes out and Winrich strikes a signature pose, as if to say “Mischief managed.” Watching him, one may feel relieved that his flesh is intact, and his hair isn’t on fire, though he’s done crazier things with a whip.
“I’ve done all sorts of crazy stuff with volunteers,” Winrich mused, “mostly down in Texas, where they’re a little crazier. I’ve whipped a Cheeto off someone’s head. I’ve whipped saltines out their back pocket. They’re used to it.”
Adam “Crack” Winrich is a performer. His inspiration? Harrison Ford.
Winrich started whip-cracking about 30 years ago after watching “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.”
“I saw it with my cousin when it came out in theaters in 1989,” Winrich said. “When the bad guy, Walter Donovan, drank from the wrong cup and wasted away to a skeleton, I definitely had my hands in front of my face, peeking through my fingers.”
Exactly how one feels watching him perform.
His dad helped him make his first whip out of a length of rope.
“My parents were always supportive of any interest or hobby that I had,” said Winrich. “When I wanted to make my own whip, my Mom drove me around to several Tandy Leather stores trying to track down a book about whip-making.”
That’s supportive parenting. And neither of Winrich’s folks were EMTs.
“For my next trick,” said Winrich, “I’ll crack two whips simultaneously.”
What he does next is best described as wielding two very angry Black Mamba snakes by their tails, while firecrackers explode all around his head. As an unhelmeted and kevlarless observer, one’s first reaction is to back up quickly. The second is amazement that Winrich doesn’t injure himself. The whips are cracking so loud and so fast that the mosquito population has crashed.
When Winrich slows the two whips to stillness, he has no welts.
He looks healthy. He’s buff. Both of his wrists are large. No open weals.
“You do have to be in good shape to do eight to 10 shows every week for four to five months,” he said. “If I only had to do one show a week, I wouldn’t have to be in very good shape.”
The rural Fall Creek native is not home much during the summer.
“Nowadays I make a living doing shows, mostly in Wisconsin, Texas and Arizona, though last year I was flown to Germany to perform. I’ve also been flown to China five times.”
Every summer he’s a regular at the Bristol Renaissance Faire in Kenosha.
Winrich has set several Guinness world records for whip-cracking, including most soda cans cut in half with a whip in three minutes — 23, set in Milan, Italy in 2009, on “Low Show dei Record.”
“My most recent record is ‘most stock whips while standing on a slackline.’” In case you’re not hip to Guinness world whip records, a “slackline” is like a tightrope belt a few feet above the ground. There’s a photo on the Guinness web site of Winrich perched on one black-booted foot atop just such a slackline, gleefully cracking a whip. His record is 231 whip cracks — in one minute — while balanced above the ground, set last October.
Winrich often performs in a cowboy hat too, but often without hat, or hair.
“I am bald,” Winrich explained. “My dad is bald and my mom’s dad was bald, so there’s no escaping it. With the fire whip, one of my main tricks is whipping a can or a bottle cap off of my head. So I have to shave what hair I have left or smell the burnt hair.”
Winrich also throw knives.
“Yes…but I’m not as serious about it as the pros,” he explained.