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David Blaine: 1973—: Magician and Daredevil

Spent 61 Hours In Ice Block

To promote his second television special, 1998's Magic Man, Blaine embarked on the first of several stunts that were part feats of endurance, part performance art: he had himself buried alive for a week in a glass coffin under a New York sidewalk, and likened his emerging from the coffin to being born. Two years later came a more daring burial: Blaine, almost nude, stood sealed between the two halves of an eight-foot tall, five-foot deep block of Alaskan ice in Times Square, and televised the ordeal on a 2000 television special, Frozen in Time. He told Entertainment Weekly that he had investigated "very ancient and secretive methods" of maintaining his normal body temperature, including ointments used by people living in cold climates.

Blaine had planned to spend three entire days and nights in the ice, but emerged after just over 61 hours. "My thoughts were perfectly normal until I reached a turning point when I was sure I was dead," he told the London Independent. "I didn't know where I was. I was surrounded by thousands of people who were all staring at me, but I couldn't communicate with any of them.… Strange, indecipherable thoughts shot through my brain. I kept hearing the Munchkin song from The Wizard of Oz, but the tempo was speeded up." The magician also had a hallucination, in which his girlfriend waved at him from outside the ice and then vanished.

Blaine also sat atop a 90-foot pole in Manhattan's Bryant Park for 35 hours, after which he jumped off into a stack of cardboard boxes. But the magician, who had hoped to make each successive stunt more death-defying than the last, rated the ice ordeal as his most difficult. Blaine has stated that his future plans include jumping from a helicopter into the Thames River in London, while bound with rope, handcuffed, and wearing lead boots. Such a stunt would be reminiscent of Houdini's famous escape from beneath the waters of New York's East River.

Blaine has also stated his wish to take a bullet in the chest—something that he noted has already killed more than 100 magicians. Plans for such stunts may have crossed the line from magic into an artistic rumination on life, death, and survival in extreme situations. According to Newsday, Blaine has quoted the German poet Schiller to the effect that "the man who fears nothing is as powerful as he who is feared by everybody." Answering a young English questioner in the pages of the London Mirror, he said that the greatest magic trick ever accomplished was "returning from the dead," and he called Jesus Christ a magician.

Blaine's reflective side surfaced as well in his 2002 book Mysterious Stranger, which turned the tables on those who debunked Blaine's tricks by freely revealing the secrets to many of them. The book also contained clues that would direct a persistent reader to a gold sphere, redeemable for $100,000, that was buried somewhere in the United States, and it delved into the history and literature of magic. Adding up his exploits, many observers have concluded that Blaine may have a death wish, but Blaine has disagreed. "I have a life wish," he told the London Mirror. "If I had a death wish, why wouldn't I just get a gun?"



Blaine, David, Mysterious Stranger: A Book of Magic, Villard, 2002.


Entertainment Weekly, July 21, 2000, p. 20; November 22, 2002, p. 36.

Independent (London, England), December 5, 2002, p. Features-7.

Mirror (London, England), November 28, 2002, p. 16.

Newsday (New York, NY), November 7, 2002, p. B6.

People, May 26, 1997, p. 124; December 29, 1997, p.141.

Publishers Weekly, October 14, 2002, p. 78.

Time, May 19, 1997, p. 97.


"David Blaine," Biography Resource Center Online, http://www.galenet.com/servlet/BioRC (March 26, 2003).

—James M. Manheim

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Shennen Bersani (1961-) Biography - Personal to Mark Burgess Biography - PersonalDavid Blaine: 1973—: Magician and Daredevil Biography - Constantly Practiced Card Tricks, Spent 61 Hours In Ice Block