SUPERHUMANS and MAGIC
(Investigator 155, 2014
can thank the
Americans and in one case the British for some thought-provoking
television that combines entertainment with education.
Mythbusters and Penn
& Teller Bull****! have already been discussed. (#103; #125)
This time we'll consider death, monsters, superhumans, and magic.
WAYS TO DIE
would you prefer to experience given a choice?
Freeze to death in a meat locker;
Bitten by a pet black widow spider;
Paralyzed by a voodoo toxin, mistaken for dead, and buried alive;
a fish, that you've caught on a line, into your mouth and choke to
working under a car with your body protruding get cut in half by a
semi-trailer driving over you;
in a ditch and get 3 tons of sand dumped on you by a tip truck;
onto a rattle snake;
barefoot in a puddle into which a live wire protrudes from traffic
lights and get electrocuted;
your head through an open window, dislodged a stick holding it up, and
get your neck broken when the window slides down;
Travel on an airplane after getting huge breast implants which
explode due to lowered air pressure;
to retrieve a javelin sticking up in the ground, run backwards part of
the way, and turn around at the right instant to pierce your eye;
your hair in place with excessive, flammable, hair spray which catches
fire from a cigarette and boils your brains;
consumed by flesh-eating bacteria when a cut from shaving your legs
an acupuncture needle in your chest pushed into your heart when you
roll off the table and hit the floor face down.
lifted skywards by a strong wind when you're in your tent and crash to
hallucinogenic mushrooms in the desert and then try to have sex with a
is called 1000
Ways to Die and premiered in the USA in 2008 and ended in July
re-enactments of events, as well as computer-generated imagery, and
frequently consults experts to explain the cause of death.
frequent motif is that of
people's silly, immoral or unlawful decisions backfiring on them. The
guy who broke his neck when the window slid down, for example, was a
peeping Tom who peeped once too often.
is not always as
serious as death should be, especially the pithy label to summarize
each re-enactment. The exploding implants, for example, are titled
"Titty Titty Bang Bang".
learn a little about mythical monsters.
a prank show that premiered in 2010 in which unwitting victims are set
think they have
obtained a short-term, night-time job such as resetting the alarm
system in a warehouse or surveying a forest road.
notices nothing unusual. Soon, however, he begins to encounter evidence
of a monster on the loose.
workers, who are
really accomplices in the hoax, reassure the hoax-victim that
everything is normal. But the planted evidence becomes more and more
different episodes the
monster is a bloodthirsty werewolf, a giant mutant bat (known as an
"Ahool"), a Neanderthal Wildman, a giant spider, a giant snake, and
climax comes when
screams suggest the creature is attacking or eating one of the other
workers after which the hoax-victim too is confronted.
subjects appear to
be fit and in their 20s — perhaps to minimize the risk of heart
is a US documentary hosted by comic-book superhero-creator Stan Lee and
contortionist, Daniel Browning Smith — "the most flexible man in the
show people who
claim to have extraordinary abilities are tested. You'll see the
world's fastest, most accurate gunslinger, America's fastest, most
accurate archer, the strongest man in the world, the man with the
hardest muscles, and many others. One fellow withstands punches and
kicks to anywhere on his body, even a kick to the crotch by a
Superhuman tested in
the series apparently passes the tests. They include:
Rajmohan Nair of India, who withstands electrical shocks of 30
times the level that kills other people;
Ruiz of California, who is blind but sees by echolocation;
Kaukonen of Finland whose body withstands near-boiling temperatures;
Yan Ming, a Shaolin monk with a superior "one-inch punch";
Karnazes of California, who ran 50 marathons in 50 days;
Ferraro of Massachusetts, whose thick skull withstands blows from a
Zamora the Torture King (aka Tim Cridland) of New York City, who
skewers himself without feeling pain or shedding blood;
Norman Gary of California, who can summon and control swarms of bees.
Friede of, Wisconsin, who survives bites by venomous snakes;
Rossy of Switzerland who flies with a jet-powered wing strapped to his
Martial artist Tom Cameron of Illinois, who focuses the power of
Chi to knock people down without touching them;
Haini of Morocco, the "Man Who Eats Anything".
people are real and
many of them can be confirmed with Google Search.
biography of Shi Yan
Ming (b.1964), for example, is on Wikipedia.
He is a genuine Shaolin monk who trained in China from the age of five,
defected to the US at 28, and founded the Shaolin Temple in Manhattan.
His skills include breaking rocks with his skull, sleeping while
standing on one leg, licking red hot iron, and dangling a 23kg weight
from his scrotum.
reviews of Superhumans
on the Internet claim that some of the stunts are faked. Myself, I
doubted that anyone can genuinely drill into his head with an electric
drill and not get hurt or even break the skin.
counting commercials Superhumans
runs for 45 minutes. It debuted in the US in 2010 and showed in
Australia in 2013.
Impossible is a documentary series that began with five episodes in
series features British
magician/illusionist Steven Frayne (b. 1982) who dumfounds strangers he
happens to meet with magic. Google Search reveals that Frayne's stage
name, "Dynamo", is also the name of a "superior" detergent and it's
been suggested the magician is named after it. Dynamo's magic mostly
appears impossible such as levitating himself above an audience, or
passing himself or his hand through a glass wall or panel — although
there are websites that give explanations for some of the tricks.
Dynamo is Criss Angel (b. 1967) whose real name is Christopher Nicholas
Sarantakos. The television series Criss Angel: Mindfreak, like
Dynamo's tricks, shows amazing escapes, disappearances, levitations,
mind readings, and much more. Many of the tricks are performed
seemingly impromptu in front of groups of strangers.
episode Dynamo walks
on the water of the Thames River in London. Criss Angel does similarly
in one of his episodes where he walks 60 metres onto Lake Mead, the
USA's largest man-made lake.
viewers may well
feel stunned at what they see and at least one commentator on the
Internet attributes the tricks to demonic influence and power. But such
people don't reckon with big budgets. Big budgets permit thorough prior
preparation, the hiring of colluders, assistants, and people who
pretend to be spectators.
on water is
probably done with a "plexiglass" shelf or walkway put in place prior
to the performance. Bikini-clad girls, who just happened to be present,
waded out and put their hands under Criss Angel's feet to show nothing
firm held him up. However, each girl stayed on the same side of Criss
Angel i.e. we don't see them wading across his line of walk either in
front of him or behind. They were probably paid colluders as surely as
the cameramen and at least some of the "spectators".
VERSUS CALLAHAN AND GELLER
confrontation on television between Criss Angel and two other
magicians, Uri Geller (from Israel) and Jim Callahan (of Pittsburgh,
and Callahan both
claim to have paranormal powers and both attribute some of their tricks
to the paranormal.
on the TV show, Phenomenon, which ran for 5 weeks from October
24 to November 21, 2007, in the US.
ten contestants competing for $250,000 by displaying paranormal powers.
Viewers voted by phone and online and the judges were Uri Geller and
their magic in Episode 1 on October 24.
the next episode
Angel was interviewed about Phenomenon by Larry King on the
nightly interview program Larry King Live (October 30). Angel
said: "No one has the ability that I'm aware of to do anything
supernatural… If somebody goes on that show and claims to have
supernatural psychic ability, I'm going to bust them live and on
2 had six
contestants including Callahan who performed an automatic writing trick
in which he contacted a dead author to identify an object someone had
placed inside a locked box.
performance but Angel called it "comical". He then took an envelope
from his pocket and addressing both Callahan and Geller, he said: "I
will give you a million dollars of my personal money right now if
either one of you can tell me specific details of what's in here right
argument followed and
when violence seemed to threaten, a commercial break intervened.
third episode saw
Episode 5 Angel opened
his envelope and revealed the numbers "911" for the September 11, 2001
terrorist attack. He explained: "If somebody could predict, tell us on
9-10 that 9-11 was going to happen, maybe that could have prevented
point is that if
psychics and clairvoyants are genuine then nasty events would be
predicted and prevented, which is not the case, therefore they are not
allows levels of
deception not available to magicians on stage. Camera angles can be
chosen to conceal what's really happening, and pictures whether
celluloid or digital can be edited. So when you see Dynamo or Criss
Angel angled horizontally and walking down a wall, or Criss Angel makes
a girl appear in a fish tank that he just happens to come across, be
spur-of-the-moment tricks, but were preceded by preparation that
television viewers do not get to see.
THE MASKED MAGICIAN
possible antidote, if
you're so impressed that you think magic is real, is The Masked
television series was
produced in the US and has 18 one-hour episodes. The first four
featured magician Val Valentino as the Masked Magician and were
produced in 1997-1998. He revealed his identity in the 4th episode.
featured in a single episode in May 2002 called Breaking the
Magician's Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed, and 13
more were produced in 2008. In Australia we saw them on Network Seven
and 7Two starting in June 2010.
performs baffling tricks and "Breaks the Magician's Code" by showing
how he did them.