As part of his new special which aired yesterday, David Blaine wowed Kanye, Will and Jada Pinkett Smith, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul by sticking an ice pick through his hand. What’s the secret? Well, with magic, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Turns out, he actually stuck an ice pick through his hand–there is no trick.
“…I think magic, whether I’m holding my breath or shuffling a deck of cards, is pretty simple. It’s practice, it’s training, and it’s training and experimenting while pushing through the pain to be the best I can be.” – David Blaine
Blaine is known for devoting an impressive amount of time and research to his craft. He’s not so much a magician in the traditional sense, as much as a stunt man, in the tradition of Houdini and Chung Ling Soo. He’s all about pushing the limit of the human body. As he explains in his fascinating, highly personal TED talk, when brainstorming ideas on how to pull of his infamous no-breathing-for-17-minutes-underwater stunt, he tried sticking tubes down his lungs, liquid breathing, and even “lung bypass surgery” before finally deciding to just “actually do it.” So he immersed himself in free-diving, learned how to “purge,” and devoted months and months to building his breath capacity. And then he just did it.
This ice-pick-through-the-hand trick is basically like getting your ear pierced, or “gauging,” except very gradually, over a long time. By slowly poking a very thin needle deeper and deeper through his hand over the course of years, he developed a small tunnel of scar tissue, through which he can painlessly stick thin objects.
“Oh, that took me about 13 years. There was a lot of trial and error. It started with acupuncture needles.” Blaine told TV Guide regarding the illusion. “Well, actually, it started with a lot of MRIs and X-rays, mapping out everything in the hand. There are a lot of tendons and nerves in there.”
The trick is based on a standard magic principle that’s been practiced for centuries. If you don’t mind feeling a bit queasy, watch this video of a magician getting stabbed through his torso with a sword. He doesn’t bleed at all, because over the course of several years, he developed scar tissue around miniscule holes through his body. Blaine’s illusion works the same way.
For all you aspiring magicians hoping for a secret you can easily replicate–sorry. You can do this trick too, but you’re gonna need