Impaled (illusion)

Impaled (illusion)

Impaled is a classic stage illusion in which a performer appears to be impaled on or by a sword or pole. The name is most commonly associated with an illusion that was created by designer Ken Whitaker in the 1970s and which is sometimes also referred to as "Beyond Belief" or "Impaled Beyond Belief".cite web
url =
title = Illusion Hotline: Who owns the rights
publisher =
accessdate = 2008-05-18
] [cite web
url =
title = Resource Information compiled by Steve Zigmont of MagicFX
publisher = Foster Entertainment
accessdate = 2008-05-18
] This version has become part of the stage magic repertoire and has been performed by many of the world's most famous magic acts.

Australian-born magician Les Levante (1892-1978) is also credited with devising an impalement illusion but this was different from Whitaker's. [cite web
url =
title = Brief Biographies of Magic Inventors (K-L-M)
publisher =
accessdate = 2008-09-30
] [cite book
title = Levante - His Life, No Illusion
first = Kent
last = Blackmore
publisher = Mike Caveney's Magic Words
date = 1997

Description of the Whitaker effect

Presentations of the effect vary but a typical one is as follows. The magician presents a stand, placed stage centre, which supports a sword in a vertical position with the sharpened tip pointing upwards. An assistant is introduced and the magician (sometimes with the help of additional assistants) picks her up and balances her in a supine position on the tip of the sword. The assistant holds her body rigidly horizontal and the small of her back rests on the tip of the sword. The magician then grasps the assistant's feet and rotates her on the sword tip. After spinning freely for a few turns the assistant sinks downwards, as if she has been impaled. As she drops her body goes limp so that she appears to hang lifelessly. The magician then appears to revive her with a kiss or with some magical gesture before lifting her from the sword and placing her back on her feet so that she can be seen to be unharmed. [cite web
url =
title = Impaled
publisher = Wellington Enterprises
accessdate = 2008-05-19

Illusionists known for performing the trick

David Copperfield performs the illusion on himself, as did Wayne Dobson and Simon Drake. The Pendragons' performance is particularly noted, and is presented as being a "balancing feat". After being impaled, Charlotte is revived by a kiss, in the manner of Sleeping Beauty. It is also noted for the brevity of her costume, which is apparently intended to suggest the impossibility of the illusion.

Variations on Whitaker's basic illusion

Together with Craig Browning, Ken Whitaker developed a version of the illusion in which the assistant appears to be "impaled" on a water fountain. Other versions feature neon lights or poles in place of the sword. Magician Erix Logan has performed a version in which his assistant is impaled on one of the blades of a giant pair of scissors.

In some versions the sword or pole can be separated from its supporting stand so that the magician can, by means such as tapping it, show audiences it is solid and apparently genuine.


One method for this illusion is given by Herbert Becker in his book "All the Secrets of Magic Revealed". He suggests the assistant wears a special corset, which is hidden by her clothes. When the assistant is lifted onto the sword, the tip engages into the back of the corset. When the "impalement" occurs, the sword sinks into its support and a dummy sword tip emerges from the front of the corset. Everything is carefully timed and music is used to provide cues so that the performance is synchronised. The music also serves to cover any noise from the mechanism. [citation
first = Herbert L.
last = Becker
title = All the Secrets of Magic Revealed: The Tricks and Illusions of the World's Greatest Magicians
publisher = Lifetime Books Inc.
date = 1994
ISBN = 0811908224

There are several different underlying methods for providing the driving force to operate the prop. As with many classic illusions there are numerous copies and imitations of the original props on the market. Well-engineered props are particularly important with this illusion for safety reasons. Because of the assistant's posture during the main part of the performance there is a risk of injury if the prop does not function correctly, a risk which can be substantial in the case of cheaply made props.

External links

*Video, " [ The Pendragons perform the Impaled illusion] ".


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