Here is an early article about Ralph the Great from the Eastern Loudoun Times. (I used to eat fire...that is, before the accident.)
Ashburn Man Makes Magic his Mainstay
By Susan Brook, Staff Writer
With a flourish, Ralph the Great lights a long wand on fire. He assumes a dramatic pose, holding the flaming wand in front of his face. With one breath, he blows on the wand and sends a ball of fire toward the sky.
Pretty impressive. Ralph also has talents for fire-eating and extinguishing flaming wands with his bare hands.
But playing with fire is kid stuff compared to his Houdini-inspired escapes from strait jackets and padlocked boxes.
Ralph Metzler, aka Ralph the Great, is actually a 32-year-old  former print shop manager who lives in Ashburn and embarked on his magical life about four months [six years] ago.
"I performed at August Court Days last year (in Leesburg). I did six shows and I really worked hard on it," he said. "After that I was so pumped up and so psyched about performing that I thought, 'maybe I could do this for a living.' It got to the point where all my weekends were booked up (with magic shows) so I decided to try it full-time."
The looks of wonder and amazement from the children in his audiences prompted Metzler to specialize in children's shows, and he said he gets as much pleasure from watching his audience as they get in watching him.
"The biggest thrill I get is from the looks on the kids' faces," he said. "After the library show (Monday in Middleburg), I had a little girl come up to me and she said, 'You're the goodest magician I've ever saw.' It was great&emdash;she was so sincere!"
Metzler began learning magic at the relatively late age of 16. "My brother-in-law showed me some tricks, and it was the first time I'd ever seen any magic up close," Metzler said. "It was my birthday, so he took me to a magic shop and bought me a few tricks. I was hooked."
A 10-month course in magic at a community college, how-to books and tips from other magicians all helped Metzler master illusions and sleight-of-hand tricks.
Metzler's fire-eating and fire-blowing tricks aren't part of his regular children's shows, and he very strongly emphasizes the danger involved. "It's not something I'd recommend for anyone to try&emdash;really, anyone who eats fire is crazy. It is dangerous," he said. "No one should ever try this on their own."
He added he rarely does the fire tricks in public, mainly because of safety concerns and insurance restrictions in and around buildings.
That fact, however, is no great loss for Metzler's shows.
"The magic that I like to do is kind of zany and lots of fun. I like to get the entire audience involved," Metzler said. "I want people to become a part of the show, not just watch the show."
Magic is an ever-changing art and Metzler is always on the lookout for new illusions&emdash;"If it's silly, I'll consider it"&emdash;to add to his expanding repertoire. He hopes to take his show into local schools as well as the Loudoun libraries and area carnivals and festivals where he now performs.
With many of today's adults and children immersed in busy schedules and complex lifestyles, Metzler said he enjoys taking people to a simpler, happier place and making them smile.
"Anyone can do a trick, but to make it magic takes presentation," he said. "You have to suspend disbelief and make them part of what you are doing so they're part of the magic."