Most of us have been impressed by a magic trick at one point or another — whether it was at a birthday party, a live show, or while watching a special on TV. While many magicians use illusion, guesswork, and statistics to predict how people will choose or react to something, there are some magicians who have become household names because people simply cannot figure out how they pull off their stunts.
Illusionist David Blaine has been impressing viewers with his magic for decades, and his most famous tricks to date have been holding his breath in a water tank for 17 minutes, fasting for 44 days, and sticking a needle through his arm. The performer has stunned viewers with several specials and tours.
Is David Blaine’s magic real?
While David himself will likely never admit how he does most of his stunts (unlike fellow magicians Penn Jillette and Teller who have made careers off of showing how they do their tricks), most of what he does is a result of him training his body.
His card tricks, as an example, are similar to that of other magicians. He uses diversion and statistics to determine what numbers people are likely to pick. He also shifts people’s eyes to focus on something else while the “magic” occurs.
As for his most famous acts, David utilizes endurance training to achieve insane results. In 2000, he spent 63 hours encased in an block of ice in Times Square. The entire thing was filmed, and onlookers could go to the ice box and see him in it throughout the whole ordeal. The trick was real, and the magician trained in advance. He’s been known to get through these long tricks by thinking of the time in smaller, easily accomplishable, increments.
David later said that this trick was his most difficult, and he was taken to a hospital afterwards because there was concern that his body would go into shock.
As for the trick he accomplished on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 2008, David was actually able to train his body to hold breath and conserve oxygen. He managed to beat the world record, and he held his breath for 17 minutes and four seconds. According to Time, David accomplished this by taking in as much oxygen as possible before his body went into a state of apnea. When he was submerged under water, his body began to conserve oxygen.
“I trained for five months, pretty hard-core. Every morning I would do CO2 exercises. I’d breathe for 48 minutes, then hold my breath for 12 minutes each hour. I’d do that about three mornings a week,” David said about the trick in a 2008 interview with Time.
Normally, humans can hold their breath for around two minutes before spasms begin that force us to breathe. Through intense practice, David eventually built up the amount of time he was able to hold his breath with a technique called “lung packing.”
The 46-year-old confirmed that his tricks all come to be because he trains his body intensely.
“I think anybody can do any of these if they train. I don’t recommend it, but anybody could do it if there was a need,” he said in the Time interview. “That’s what’s interesting to me — how adaptable the human organism is. I train intensively.”
He’s also prepared his body for other tricks, including the needle one. David can stick a needle through his entire hand (he’s also done it on his arm). He accomplished this by getting an MRI of the area to see what places he can avoid tendons, nerves, and vessels. He then built up the length of the needle he used, which led his hand to develop proper scar tissue.
For his ABC special, the illusionist is bringing on a never-before-seen guest: his daughter.