The Magic of Water

Take a look at how six famous magic acts used water as the starring element in their most spectacular acts of illusion.

Water and magicians have gone hand in hand for more than 100 years, ever since Harry Houdini stunned audiences by holding his breath for three minutes while being suspended upside-down in a water tank. Click to discover some of history’s most wondrous water illusions.

1912 Harry Houdini: Chinese Water Torture Cell

1912 Harry Houdini: Chinese Water Torture Cell

The trick: The Hungarian magician and contortionist escapes from an elaborate glass fish tank (the “torture cell”) filled with water, into which he’d been lowered upside-down, his feet manacled.

You’re kidding, right? Two Hollywood movies portray Houdini dying during the act, but in fact it’s most likely that appendicitis claimed the world’s greatest magician at age 52.

1985 Penn & Teller: Water Tank Card Trick

1985 Penn & Teller: Water Tank Card Trick

The trick: Teller holds his breath while submerged in a padlocked water tank until Penn correctly identifies the playing card which an audience member has chosen from a deck. 

You’re kidding, right? The duo goes for laughs: As Penn keeps guessing the wrong card, a hapless Teller eventually “drowns.” When Penn gives up and turns his partner’s body around, a very-much-alive Teller is wearing the chosen card inside his goggles.

1991 David Copperfield: Water Levitation

1991 David Copperfield: Water Levitation

The trick: Copperfield’s assistant is suspended atop a slim row of dancing water fountains, then rises, falls and gyrates while the magician passes a flaming hoop around her body.

You’re kidding, right? Without a body harness, wires and an audience that is easily distracted (loud bang! sudden dramatic movement!), the trick—and the assistant—would fall flat.

2006 David Blaine: Drowned Alive

2006 David Blaine: Drowned Alive

The trick: Hooked up to a breathing tube, the endurance artist stays submerged for a week in an 8-foot tank of water. After seven days, he removes the air tube and attempts to set a world record for holding his breath.

You’re kidding, right? Blaine successfully completes the first part of the stunt but as for the world record, the only thing broken is his ego: At the seven-minute, 30-second mark, he loses consciousness and has to be fished out of the tank.

2006 Criss Angel: Walk on Water

2006 Criss Angel: Walk on Water

The trick: Angel plods slowly across the surface of a swimming pool as spectators splash around him and dive below.

You’re kidding, right? Ah, the power of Plexiglas. Debunkers presume that the magician walked across a clear bridge suspended on poles that stopped just below the water’s surface. Small waves created by the frolicking swimmers helped disguise the edges.

2008 Delta Faucet: Touch<sub>2</sub>O<sup>®</sup> Technology

2008 Delta Faucet: Touch2O® Technology

The trick: Delta Faucet introduces Touch2O® technology, tempting consumers to dismiss the fact that physics is at work and instead credit magic to making the faucet turn on and off with a simple tap.

You’re kidding, right? Trust us, it’s physics and a bunch of smart engineers.