Magician David Blaine readies for million-volt stunt in New York

Tue Oct 2, 2012 10:38pm EDT
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By Jonathan Allen

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Magician David Blaine climbed atop a wobbling platform above a high-voltage Tesla coil in a tent on a Manhattan pier on Tuesday, dressed in a 20-pound chain-mail suit, and proceeded to shoot purplish arcs of lightning out of his hands and the top of his head.

The event - an unusual sort of press conference at which journalists were asked to stop their ears with foam plugs - was a preview of a stunt he will undertake starting on Friday, when he plans to stand on a 20-foot-high platform for 72 hours without food amid an artificial lightning storm crackling between low-current, million-volt Tesla coils.

"I had wanted to do this for years," he said.

The magician's past endurance stunts include sitting in a box suspended above the River Thames in London for 44 days with only water, and standing unharnessed on a 100-foot-high pillar in New York City for 35 hours.

He described how this latest idea grew out of an image he had of himself at the center of a giant plasma globe. Realizing the idea would require him to exist in an airless vacuum - a feat beyond even Blaine's prowess - he adapted the idea to instead use Tesla coils.

"Being in the middle of a lightning storm, it feels so amazing, being in an environment you shouldn't be in," he said.

Blaine's stainless steel chain-mail suit is a so-called Faraday suit, an adaptation of the principle of the Faraday cage in which an enclosure of highly conductive material shields whatever is within the enclosure from an electric field.

It is a version of the sort of protective suit some linemen wear when working on high-voltage power lines or hobbyists make for themselves when playing with homemade Tesla coils.   Continued...

Magician David Blaine performs a demonstration of his upcoming performance "Electrified" during a press briefing in New York, October 2, 2012. REUTERS/Mike Segar