Audiences are captivated by magic, from simple tricks like transforming wine into water, to most dangerous ones, such as passing through the blades of a jet engine. Actually, magic tricks or stunts that are dangerous in nature fascinate people even more, because we like the idea of defying death and we sort of enjoy seeing others in dangerous situations while we are safe and comfortable in our chairs. The magic tricks which involves cutting the magician’s assistant into multiple pieces is one of the most enduring and it will surely never be removed from magicians’ performance programs. However, there are even more dangerous tricks in the world of magic, and sometimes the danger is real! Here are some of the most dangerous magic tricks performed by magicians today and in the past:
1. Escaping from a rollercoaster rail
In the late 2000s, magician Lance Burton awed audiences with his very dangerous rollercoaster escape. He was practically handcuffed and shackled to a rollercoaster track, while the vehicle had less than a minute before coming, and he managed to escape just before the train hit the spot where he was immobilized. His first words after performing the stunt? “That was really stupid!”
2. Catching a bullet in one’s mouth
This trick has been performed by many magicians over the years, and things didn’t work out well all the time for magicians, assistants, and the audience. Even if the stunt does imply some illusionary elements, the danger is real, because the one who performs it needs to catch a bullet in his mouth or sometimes in his hand. People died because of this stunt after forgetting to replace real bullets with blank ones or due to spectators secretly loading nails into the gun. Just a few performers keep doing this today because the trick is considered cursed. A recent version was performed by Penn and Teller.
3. Being buried alive
Houdini had planned to perform this trick, but his unexpected death prevented him from completing his plans. He had already prepared a special coffin for the stunt, and he was ironically buried (dead!) in the same coffin. Some of the magicians performing this trick at this day and age are David Blaine and Criss Angel. Unfortunately, a magician from California called Joe Burrus attempted the stunt on October 1990 to be crushed by 7 tons of soil and rubble and die from asphyxia.
4. Chinese Water Torture Cell
Houdini is best known for escaping from the Chinese water torture cell. The stunt implies a tank filled with water and the magician being lowered inside the water head down and handcuffed. It took Houdini 2 minutes to escape from the cell, and the audience was in suspense from the moment he was lowered into the tank to the moment when he emerged safe and sound. Nowadays, magicians perform this stunt in full view, as opposed to escaping while the tank is covered by a curtain.
5. Tornado of Fire
This trick has been performed by David Copperfield in 2001, without using camera tricks. The stunt involved surviving inside a tornado of fire at 2000 degrees and risking to be burnt alive. His idea came from a childhood memory, when Copperfield had escaped from his uncle’s burning house. He had nightmares with him dying in fire and decided to get rid of his fears by facing them directly. He combined fire with another force of nature, the tornado, to create one of the most dangerous stunts in his career. In order to survive, he would have to stay in the core of the tornado, without touching the fire. During the stunt his left foot did catch a bit of fire, but his assistants quickly extinguished it and David Copperfield emerged without any injuries from this extremely dangerous stunt.
6. Hidden spike
For this trick magicians use several brown bags, each with a piece of wood inside. One of the bags hides a long and sharp nail; the magician slams his hand into all the bags except for the one containing the nail. To make the trick even more dangerous, the magician asks for a volunteer to switch the bags and for members of the audience to choose the bags they think they are safe. Magicians usually leave the spiked bag untouched, but the trick has gone wrong several times in its history.
7. Frozen in Time by David Blaine
More an endurance stunt than a magic trick, this performance by David Blaine consists of him spending 63 hours and 42 minutes inside a block of ice. The stunt took place in Times Square, New York, on November 27, 2000. The endurance artist had a tube that supplied him with water and air and a catheter that collected his urine. He was freed from the ice block shivering and in shock and was taken to hospital. Blaine said he needed a month to recuperate and that he wouldn’t try the trick again in the future or anything that difficult. His record was broken in 2010, when an Israeli magician called Hezi Dean spent 66 hours encased in a block of ice.
8. Swords cabinet
The swords cabinet is one of the oldest magic tricks, consisting of an assistant being placed inside a wooden or carton box and inserting swords in the cabinet through every conceivable angle. There is apparently no room to hide, and this trick is very dangerous when performed by a contortionist. There have been many injuries related to this stunt over the years and it is safer to perform without the assistant actually being inside the cabinet.
These are just a few of the most dangerous magic tricks, and accidents didn’t happen just once. However, people are thrilled with danger and such stunts will continue to be performed because they appeal to our human nature. A theory says that humans have danger in their genes because otherwise our ancestors would have been too scared to get out of their caves and hunt. People who liked taking risks were rewarded with a rush of nice feeling chemicals, and we continue to feel excited when we perform actions that defy death. For those who are too afraid, there are magicians and stuntmen who take risks in order to provide delight and thrill to the audiences!