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When 27-year-old Erik Sprague isn't studying for his doctorate in philosophy at the State University of New York in Albany, he's performing in the Jim Rose Circus Sideshow and transforming himself into a human lizard.

An extreme body art enthusiast, Sprague (a/k/a Spidergod5) has turned his appreciation of the "look and behavior" of reptiles and lizards into a painful series of personal enhancements. His entire body, including his face, is now almost completely tattooed in abstract black designs and green scales. He's had implants inserted into the skin above each eye, giving him a lizard-like brow ridge. Many of his teeth have been sharpened to points. His tongue has been medically forked like a snake's. Portions of his body have been pierced and stretched for purposes of his performance with Jim Rose.

When GALLERY asked him the reasoning behind his bizarre cosmetic choices, Spidergod5 told us that he's doing it for the same reason that someone might work out in the gym or get a haircut--"for sheer, personal self-fulfillment." Although his transformations are "a little bit more permanent and a little bit more carefully 'constructed," he explained, "it's the same sort of thing."

As if Spidergod5's appearance weren't enough, his sideshow feats push the envelope even further. Along with the old standbys (fire-eating, sword-swallowing and the "bed of nails" routine), he also pounds nails, screwdrivers and other objects into his skull, via his nose, with a hammer; threads a length of tubing up his nose and pulls it out of his mouth; consumes a variety of insects; lifts, swings and spins heavy objects suspended from his body by piercings; sews buttons into his skin; and pumps yellow and blue fluids into his stomach through a tube up his nose, then expels them after they've combined into a green color. Asked how people usually respond to him, on the street and in the show, Sprague said they're usually just curious. "Obviously there's also a certain element of shock," he continued, "but they're usually pretty calm and decent about it."

--TO'C