Secrets Of The Most Dangerous Magic Tricks Revealed
Here are some of the most dangerous magic tricks revealed.Secrets
Have you ever seen a magic trick so mind-blowing you just had to know how it’s done? With tricks ranging from risky bow and arrow stunts to swallowing the seemingly impossible, the explanations are often as intriguing as the tricks themselves. So, grab your top hat and rabbit, as we pull back the curtain on some of the world’s most dangerous magic tricks!
Houdini’s Water Torture Cell
One of the most famous tricks of all time, the water torture escape trick has kept audiences on the edge of their seats since Harry Houdini debuted it in 1911. It begins with a magician, wearing handcuffs, placing their ankles into a metal square with closing doors, which the assistants secure shut around the magician’s ankles with padlocks.
The contraption is then raised into the air, magician included, via attached chains, and then the magician is lowered into a glass tank filled with water. The lid is locked in place, and the magician is left to escape the tank before drowning. At that point, a curtain is brought around the glass to conceal the mystery of the magician’s escape.
After some time, the curtain is partially raised, revealing the magician thrashing around inside. Just as the onlookers begin to grow uneasy, the curtain rises, revealing the magician proudly standing atop the water tank. So, how did they escape? Well, a magician never reveals his tricks, but this article will.
For starters, the magician must remain calm before and during the trick, lowering his heart rate to make holding his breath easier and reduce the odds of passing out while upside down. But the real trick lies in the lid to which the magician’s feet are secured.
The padlocks securing the doors shut are very much real, but as they’re locked in place, the assistant slides the bolts out from the fastening hinges of the lid. Even with the padlocks on, the lid can be opened. When the curtain hides the tank, the magician uses a hidden handle to pull themself up, open the doors, and take a breath.
Then they return underwater, in time for the curtain to raise slightly, revealing them pretending to struggle. Then the curtain’s re-lowered, and the magician pulls off their handcuffs, which are rigged to open easily. The magician opens the ankle doors again, this time grabbing the chains to pull themselves out, into position for the big reveal. The curtain rises, and the audience is amazed.
The Hans Moretti Sword Box
Another classic trick with a real element of danger involves a magician’s assistant climbing inside a cardboard box, which is then pierced by several spears. Those spears are stabbed through at various angles, with alarming speed.
But just as the audience grows suspicious as to why nothing has been stabbed directly downwards into the box, the magician subverts expectations by making one final insertion. He plunges a spear straight downward, making avoiding the person inside the box seem impossible. But then, the spears are removed, and the assistant emerges, miraculously unharmed.
The key to that trick is the assistant, who must lay as flat as possible inside the box, underneath two strong rubber flaps concealed along the box’s base. Those flaps redirect incoming spears that get too close, and sometimes, a protective vest is also worn for additional protection.
The final, downward-driven spear is stabbed through the box slower than the others, giving the assistant time to flip onto their back and see where it’s coming from. Then, they can maneuver themselves to dodge it or, if absolutely necessary, subtly change its course.
Finally, the assistant climbs out, and the box is opened up to reveal no trickery inside. With the protective rubber flaps covered in a cardboard layer, no one suspects a thing.
There are few better tricks for keeping audiences on the edges of their seats than using a katana to chop a pineapple in half on top of someone’s head. Especially when the magician is blindfolded. Typically, that trick sees the magician wrapping several layers of white gauze over their eyes, followed by a wrapping of black tape, and finally metal foil.
They then have a volunteer stand in front of them, pineapple on the head, put on a show of locating them by extrasensory powers, and then Chop! Right on the mark, the pineapple is cut clean in half, without any decapitations.
That jaw-dropping trick is deceptively simple, it just involves a little sleight of hand. When the magician is wrapping their head, they leave the tape looser than it looks. It means that, as they wrap the sheet of foil around their head, they can subtly pull the gauze and tape down below their eyes.
As for the foil itself, there are two options. The magician can use metal foil with tiny holes in it, invisible to the audience, that allow just enough light through to see. Or they can use one-sided silver window film, which acts like a one-way mirror.
For the latter option, the magician initially shows the audience two of those one-way film sheets pressed together back to back, so they look like regular foil. But, when they’re placed onto the head, one sheet is pulled further around so it separates from the other one, allowing the magician to see through.
With their vision unobstructed, the magician is able to line up their shot and strike the pineapple, which is usually pre-cut almost all the way through. That means it stays in one piece right until a strike is delivered so that it’ll break cleanly and realistically, as long as the magician follows the strike-through convincingly. The katana doesn’t even need to be sharp! Spectacular, and safe.
A staple of kids’ parties worldwide, the balloon swallow is a cool-looking trick that doesn’t actually require any swallowing at all. The secret is to take an uninflated balloon and pierce it all the way through near the end twice with a needle, creating four tiny holes. That will still allow the balloon to be inflated, as the air will only leak out slowly.
Once it’s fully inflated, the performer presses the pierced end against their tongue and begins pushing the balloon into their mouth, rolling it into itself to make it as small as possible. As it deflates, careful body positioning creates the illusion of it being swallowed.
Sometimes, the performer will even bring the balloon back out, re-inflated. That usually involves slyly swapping the deflated balloon for another partially inflated balloon with its end tied that’s small enough to hide in the hand during the swap.
That new balloon will also be pre-pierced so that when the magician creates an airtight seal within their mouth, they can subtly inflate it by blowing air into the tiny holes. Other magicians use small pumps hidden in their sleeves to inflate the balloon from the other end, which are easy to conceal as the trick draws attention to their mouth instead.
There are two ways to approach the classic magic trick of swallowing swords. The first, and less impressive, is to use a gimmick sword. Those look real to the audience but are designed to roll up against the tongue when pressure is applied. Kind of like those bracelets that roll up when you slap them against your wrist.
While that can look effective, the top professionals swallow swords for real, but not in the same way we swallow food. The delicate process involves relaxing the inside of the throat, and carefully positioning the body to ensure a clear passage.
Years of practice are required to learn how to relax the upper esophageal sphincter, a normally involuntary muscle at the top of your esophagus, and suppress the gag reflex. Not to mention learning to perfectly align the body so as to avoid any damage to the delicate linings inside.
Total calmness must be maintained throughout the process of pushing it down and pulling it out. Even a shaky hand could damage not just your esophageal lining, but also your heart and lungs, as the sword moves within millimeters of them. While very few of the tricks in this article are safe to try, sword swallowing in particular is best left to the pros!
Sawing a Lady In Half
The "sawing a woman in half" trick has been a staple of magic shows since the 1800s, and possibly even earlier. It usually goes something like this. A willing assistant lays down inside a long wooden box. The box’s lid is then closed, and the magician, using a sawblade of some kind, cuts the assistant in half.
But there’s no gore, the assistant isn’t in agony, and somehow, she’s still able to move her feet! She can even do so when the two halves of the box are moved apart from each other, but how? In fact, it’s quite simple. When the assistant lays down in the box, it isn’t their legs that come out the other end.
Another assistant is already lying in wait down the bottom, legs pulled close to their body, ready to extend them out when the first assistant climbs in. The first assistant tucks their legs under themself or pulls them up to their chest, clearing the center of the box ready for cutting through.
After the cutting, two metal blades are usually inserted into the box, presented as a demonstration that the two halves are separated. But what those plates really do is cover the inside of each half of the box from view, so no one can see in when they’re pulled apart.
Modern magicians have built upon that idea by setting up the trick in the classic way, only to lower the walls of the box before the cutting begins! In this version, instead of lying on their back, the magician lies on their front. Which allows them to tuck their knees under their body into a hidden compartment inside the table while the walls of the boxes are still up.
The assistant providing the legs, meanwhile, is squeezed into the right side of the table. It is made possible by the sloping shape of the table, which against a black background, looks much thinner than it actually is. After the sawblade comes down, the two halves can be pulled apart for a striking effect. Some magicians take that idea one step further, by appearing to walk along while cut in half!
That is pretty creepy to witness, but it’s just a matter of body positioning. The illusion is created by twisting their body around inside a specially prepared outfit, usually fitted with metal support frames to help balance and lessen the strain from crouching. It’s a fantastic reimagining of the classic cut-in-half scenario, but just like its predecessor, it’s all in the legs!
Dynamo's Bus Levitation
If you were waiting for the bus, then one showed up with a guy hanging off the roof like this footage below, you’d probably be somewhat confused. But that’s what people saw in London back in 2013, when British magician Dynamo seemingly defied gravity on one of the city’s iconic red buses.
But as supernaturally strong as it seemed, Dynamo merely connected a metal frame to the bus, which ran all the way through a fake arm and into his clothing. That was strong enough to bear his weight, and with his real right arm hidden inside his clothes, allowed him to wow onlookers who weren’t able to figure out the secret.
Aaron Crow Shoots An Apple Off Dec's Head
Among the incredible spectacles Belgian magician Aaron Crow delivers, one in particular stands out. It involves apples, bows, and arrows. And, as you’ll learn, some very clever deception.
First, the magician takes an apple, cuts out the core, and places a ring inside, before slotting the core back in. Then, he selects a participant to stand in the center of the stage, holding the apple propped upon a tray atop their head. Toward the back of the stage, the magician unveils a target and hints that he can shoot through the apple and hit the target.
Then, much to the audience’s surprise, Crow does exactly that. The apple splits as the arrow shoots through it, and lands right in the middle of the target. But most amazing of all, it’s revealed that, as the arrow passed through the apple, it retrieved the ring, pinning it against the target board.
It seems too good to be true and that’s because it is. To begin with, the arrow isn’t real. It’s actually a piece of elastic that looks like an arrow when pulled taut. But as soon as it’s released, it’s pulled inside the bow, hiding it away.
At the moment that occurs, a remote-activated mechanism swings a knife previously hidden inside the tray holding the apple, moving too fast to easily see. That knife is on a hinge, and slices straight through the apple, making it look like an arrow has passed through it.
Then, from a concealed slit in the target board, a spring-loaded arrow is released, moving outward, giving the impression that an arrow has just landed on the board. So how does the ring end up on the target board arrow? Almost immediately after placing it inside the apple, Aaron pushes the ring out the other side using the core, sneakily taking it back into his hand.
When he unveils the target, he subtly secures the ring onto the concealed arrow, ready for it to pop up later. With the level of creativity that goes into the trick, the explanation is arguably just as interesting as the trick itself.
Razor Blade Swallowing
While some tricks rely on big, explosive spectacles, others keep audiences in their seat by creating a real sense of fear for the magician’s body. That’s exactly the case with the swallowing razors trick pioneered by Japanese magician, Tanba.
His nail-biting performance involves first “swallowing” several razor blades, which he demonstrates are real by getting a volunteer to cut paper with one onstage beforehand. After swallowing the first batch, he shows the audience his tongue to prove they’ve gone down the hatch, before grabbing a handful of about a dozen more.
To the audience’s horror, he swallows all of those too, and washes them down with a shot of green absinthe! Finally, he pops a load of red string into his mouth, moves it around inside, and then delivers the impossible.
He pulls the end of the string, and out it comes, threaded through over a dozen razor blades, all at perfectly spaced intervals. It’s an incredible trick, but did he really swallow all those blades and tie them to the string inside his own body? Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on how squeamish you are, the answer is no.
The first few razorblades Tanba appears to swallow are indeed real, though likely blunted to stop the trick from being too dangerous. When his volunteer cuts a piece of paper to demonstrate the blades’ sharpness, he pulls the paper tight so that even a blunted blade slices through easily.
Then, when the first few blades are placed into his mouth, he makes a big show of swallowing them but actually moves them into one of his cheeks. As for the huge later handful of blades, he subtly moves them into his other cheek.
Those new blades aren’t sharp at all; they’re actually gimmick blades designed for the purpose and are completely safe. When he takes a sip of the bright green absinthe, which is likely just water with food coloring, he sneakily spits out the real blades.
Thanks to the coloration of the liquid and the semi-opacity of the glass, only the most perceptive audience member would be able to spot the blades now in the bottom. When Tanba puts the string in his mouth, he actually stuffs it into his upper lip.
The string the audience sees threaded through the blades has actually been tied to them the whole time. He just hid it from sight behind his fingers when he put the fake blades into his mouth! Truly masterful deception.
Another trick that strikes worry into the hearts of the audience is the “Impaled Illusion”. The trick involves an assistant seemingly defying the laws of physics by being balanced upon the point of a sword.
Often, the effect is emphasized by the magician spinning their assistant around, which, somehow, doesn’t skewer the assistant like a shish kebab. That is, until all of a sudden, the assistant jolts downward, and the blade of the sword bursts out through their belly.
The assistant appears dead, and the magician gives them another spin to prove the sword’s gone straight through. But then, to the audience’s relief, the magician lifts their assistant off of the blade, and they come back to life, right as rain, without a gaping hole in their torso. But how?
The secret to that trick lies in the assistant’s outfit. Usually concealed under a fluffy top, the assistant wears a corset with a sturdy plate built into the back, featuring a port where the sword’s tip can lock into place. When the time’s right, the sword partially retracts down into a hidden base, appearing to puncture the assistant’s back.
Meanwhile, in the front of the corset, a spring-loaded telescopic pole extends out when activated, making it look like the sword has penetrated straight through. When it’s time to pull the assistant free, it’s the same process in reverse, with the assistant usually pressing the spring-loaded sword tip back into their corset.
More extreme variations of the trick utilize huge, rotating drills that appear to burrow through the assistant’s chest. That one’s a little different, as it involves the performer being strapped to an apparatus in front of the drill, with the front of their body covered from sight.
While the performer’s body is hidden, a fake drill tip, which spins mechanically in sync with the big drill, is secured to the front of the performer’s costume, usually magnetically. They’re then locked onto the drill tip behind them with the same reinforced corset backplate technique as the classic "Impaled Illusion".
While the drill appears to continue spinning into the performer’s body, it’s actually being retracted into its base, while the performer presses against the cover in front of them. That makes it look like the drill has passed through the performer, and then through the cover.
As a final spectacle, the performer is lifted into the air by the drill and spun around, before being lowered, and covered again. After the covering is removed, the drill has miraculously retracted from their body. Or, in other words, the other assistants sneakily carried it away under a cloth while the audience was distracted in amazement.
David Blaine's Frog Regurgitation
David Blaine, the world-famous illusionist and endurance artist, is no stranger to an outlandish piece of performance. One of Blaine’s strangest tricks sees him swallowing a frog, before regurgitating it moments later, completely free of harm.
Usually, that is accompanied by something known as water spouting, where Blaine momentarily turns himself into a decorative water fountain, by squirting a huge amount of water out of his throat. It’s certainly an odd spectacle, but there’s no denying it’s impressive.
So, what’s the trick? If you’re expecting me to tell you the frogs aren’t real, or he hides them up his sleeve, that’s far from the case. The secret is, it’s real. Turns out, after years of training, David Blaine has become a master of regurgitation.
By learning to precisely control the muscles in his lower abdomen, and by drinking a huge amount of water beforehand, he can create substantial upward pressure in his lower esophagus. That, coupled with the ability to disable his gag reflex and willfully open the upper esophageal sphincter, allows Blaine to hold the frog midway down his esophagus.
That prevents it from falling all the way into his stomach. Then, using what is essentially highly controlled vomiting, Blaine regurgitates the frog, alongside a huge amount of water.
Drill To The Head
Over the past few years, various performers have taken to performing one scary-looking trick that appears to use power tools in a totally inappropriate manner. The trick involves pressing a running drill against their head for an uncomfortably long time, somehow avoiding damaging themselves.
But the reason they don’t sustain damage is simple: the performers use flattened drill bits that are completely blunt, meaning they can’t grip or tear the skin. While the drills are spinning, the performers tense up their arms and use intense facial expressions to create a big show of pressing hard against their temples.
But despite how it looks, they really only press very lightly, meaning there’s absolutely no risk of hurting themselves. Some take it a step further by sticking the drill up their nose or down their throat, which, unlike the rest of the act, is actually mostly real. They use the same principles as sword swallowers to align their esophagus for smooth, safe movement.
However, while the drill never actually spins during that more dangerous part of the trick, they usually accompany it with some sound effects to make it seem like it does. Seems a little unnecessary, but maybe magicians are required to meet a minimum of deceptions per act the rest of us don’t know about. Either way, it shouldn’t need to be said, but even if you think your drill is a little blunt, don’t try this one at home.
While most tricks we’ve covered so far could be performed by anyone with a good bit of cash to invest in the materials, the next one is more complicated. Not because it breaks the laws of physics or anything, but because it requires a very unique type of assistant.
Pioneered by illusionist Kevin James, the trick abruptly begins with a nutty scientist chain-sawing his white-coated assistant in half while he’s wheeling a table onstage. All in plain sight, with no apparent concealment.
The scientist character then props up his assistant’s severed torso and spins it around, while it moves its hands, proving that it’s very much alive. But then, somehow, the legs begin to move too, despite being separated. To complete the effect, the torso then lifts itself up, and the scientist runs his hand underneath, proving its lower body is truly detached, not just hidden somewhere.
Then, the torso is placed onto a lower platform, while the legs walk themselves offstage. Another assistant then reappears, carrying the legs back over, and places them behind the torso. Then, the legs and torso are wheeled offstage while the scientist ominously presents a staple gun to the audience.
The legs and torso come back on again, and before the audience can catch a breath, the mad scientist staples the legs and torso together, which then stand up and dance! Pretty crazy trick, and with an equally crazy explanation. The trick is made possible due to the fact that the role of the torso is taken on by someone who genuinely has no lower body.
Turning an unfortunate disfigurement into a source of amazement, the torso assistant is wheeled on, perched atop the legs. Those legs belong to a full-sized person, whose upper body is hidden away inside the table. That explains how the legs and upper body are able to move separately after the dummy chainsaw passes between them.
When the legs walk themselves off stage, an assistant reappears carrying a pair of fake legs in identical trousers to prop up behind the torso. Then, when the legs and torso are temporarily wheeled off, they’re swapped for another surgical mask-wearing assistant of vaguely similar appearance, in an identical outfit.
The switched surgical mask assistant positions themselves in a way that looks like they’re still cut in half, before switching positions to lie on their back, ready for the re-assembly celebration dance.
I hope you were amazed at the secrets of the most dangerous magic tricks revealed! Thanks for reading.