From David Blaine hovering a few feet above the ground to David Copperfield doing a backflip in mid air, levitation is one of the biggest magic tricks for performers.
Sure many performers have done other insane tricks like catching a moving bullet, walking straight through the Great Wall of China, and making the Statue of Liberty disappear. But moving in mid-air even for a few seconds is quite unbelievable.
The questions here are, can magicians levitate? Do they use magic to move in the air?
If you’re looking for conjuring spells that will help you levitate then this is not the right article for you. But if you want to find the secrets as to how magicians levitate then read on.
How Do Magicians Levitate
Magicians employ different tricks to help them levitate. There is the Levitating Woman trick, David Blaine levitation trick, and David Copperfield levitation trick. Each trick uses a different technique and not surprisingly, none of these tricks include the actual use of magic.
David Copperfield’s Flying Illusion
David Copperfield’s levitation is one of the most popular and that is not just because he is one of the most renowned magicians of all time or because he performed the trick in several magic shows.
The trick has garnered a lot of attention because Copperfield went to great lengths to prove to the audience that it was actual magic.
While performing the trick he performs a back-flip in midair and then has his assistants pass spinning hoops around him.
In this trick, David Copperfield seems to fly acrobatically in midair. He goes on to do a back-flip and then had his assistants pass spinning hoops around him. He would then float into a glass box and continues to float once inside. The box is covered and an assistant walks over the top of the box.
Copperfield walks upside down placing his feet right under the assistant’s feet. He would then select a female volunteer from his audience and replicate the scene where Superman carries Lois Lane.
The Trick Revealed
In this trick, Copperfield does many seemingly impossible things unlike the performance by David Blaine. By doing a back-flip in midair, having spinning hoops passed around him and standing upside down in a glass box, it would look that he was really using magic rather than some thin, invisible cables to hold himself up.
Well, he wasn’t using magic, but instead using cables. How?
While Copperfield usually claims that it took him several years to develop the performance right before the trick, the trick never belonged to him.
The trick was developed and invented by John Cuaghan and thanks to the development of the internet, we now know how everything happens.
In 1994, John Caughan filed a patent to protect the invention (otherwise trick) from being imitated and to be able to sell a license to Copperfield. At the time, the internet was not as popular as it is today so most people could not access patent databases.
However, things changed quickly in the next decade and while the invention can’t be used by anybody else other than David Copperfield, the secret behind the trick has been exposed.
As said earlier, there is no magic trick. Copperfield doesn’t use any supernatural power to move in mid air. Instead, he utilizes two fan-shaped arrays of fine wires.
The wires are about ¼ mm thick which makes them invisible to the viewing audience. The wires can support about 10 kg each, so both arrays contain enough wires to support Copperfield’s weight.
To mount the wire arrays, Copperfield wears a harness under his clothing and the wire arrays are mounted at his hips. To create a balance point that will allow for a wide range of movements while in the air, the wires are mounted near the human center of mass.
The other end of the wires were attached to a computer-controlled right above the stage. The rig maintains the tension in each wire and keeps them from overlapping.
As you would expect the spinning hoops were made to pass around him in a way that won’t compromise the trick. For the glass box, the wires pass through crevices between the lid of the box and the sides. The box limits his movements, so you don’t see him perform a back-flip or rotate here.
David Blaine Levitation
Just like David Copperfield, David Blaine once left his audience in awe when the floated a few feet off the ground. Though he didn’t do a backflip or lock himself up in a box like David Copperfield, his performance still amazing.
David Blaine made this performance way back in 1997 when his first TV special was aired.
At a time, David takes some steps away from his audience and turns his back to them. Then for some seconds, he seems to float some feet above the ground.
The Trick Revealed
To start, this is not some David Copperfield where he had to use fine wires to amaze his audience. In fact, Blaine wasn’t using any wires or special effects at all. He wasn’t wearing any special shoes and the stage where he stood wasn’t prepped for the trick. So how did he perform the trick?
The trick Blaine pulled off is known as Balducci Levitation. It is actually an optical illusion. In this trick, the performer has to step away from the audience, then he rises up on the toes of one foot. Because of the angle, the audience is viewing from, it would look like he is floating.
To deliver this trick, the performer would have to rely on misdirection and have great acting skills. While the Balducci levitation does not require any special effects of any kind, but simply a great performance, there have been variations.
In David Blaine’s case, he was able to move a fee above the ground which is way higher than the height the original trick allows. This could be mostly due to special effects and camera angles.
Unlike the David Copperfield flying trick, the Balducci levitation trick has been performed by several magicians including Paul Harris and David Roth.