One of the first books I ever
read that got me interested in secrets of the strange was
Feats of Torture,
written by Joseph Ovette. This book is now out of print, but it
was so influential to me that I’ve included his experiences in
this chapter. I’ve also added a few experiences of my own.
Branding Oneself with
a Hot Iron
will be well to mention that the main qualities in any of these
feats are nerve and pure guts, and plenty of both. That is
putting it plain. Only a person with plenty of nerve should
consider tackling this type of work.
All you need here is a common
electric soldering iron properly connected and working, and your
arms bared. Hold the iron in your right hand and gently
but lightly place the iron on the
skin, searing it.
IT WILL BURN,
but not much, if the branding is lightly done. Be sure the iron
is HOT. An added effect can be had by smearing the spot to be
branded with Vaseline. Then when the iron touches the arm it
will cause a hissing sound. This lessens the danger of burning,
but watch for persons who faint!
Use long surgical needles and be
sure they are sterilized well. Extend your arm. Tell someone to
grasp a bunch of skin and to pull it up. With the needle in your
right hand jab it through the skin. The only pain you will
experience will be a slight sting. Several needles can be so
inserted. Draw out the needle slowly and the blood will not flow
and thus you can also demonstrate the stoppage of the blood. The
needles can also be run through the cheek, from cheek to cheek,
or through the loose skin under the neck.
A firm pressure before inserting
the needle practically anesthetizes the area. This is known as
“pressure anesthesia,” and is frequently used by dentists before
inserting their needle. Only a sharp sting is felt.
Fangs of Lucifer
A variation of the above was
marketed by me as the Fangs of Lucifer. In this the fakir
demonstrates his ability to render his body immune to common
place injuries. Long heated needles are deliberately thrust
through various parts of the body and permitted to cool. They
are then withdrawn and no blood flows from the wounds, nor
is there any sign of pain.
Principle and application are the
same as the preceding torture. But since the explanations given
are fuller we will expand them here. No preparation is
needed, although rubbing the arm
with a strong salt solution before the test will prove
beneficial. Warm needles. That is, heat them, but do not get
them red hot since that may blunt the points. Insert needles
with a firm, steady push, either fakir or an assistant holding
up the flesh (pressure anesthesia).
A slight pain will be experienced
as the needle goes through; after that no pain with the possible
exception of a throbbing due to the excessive heat of the
needle. Several needles may be inserted, then permitted to cool.
In drawing these out, do so quickly, since the needles will tend
to stick as the flesh may be seared or the cooling blood
coagulate. To finish, dab the punctures with peroxide or
iodine and upon retiring, place a dab of carbolated Vaseline on
the wounds. In a couple of days all signs of the experiment will
In using surgical needles, you
will find them very thin, the thinner the better, and sharp. The
genuine fakir uses hatpins which, by the way, are not very sharp
nor strong. You, though, should sterilize your needles, the heat
in most cases being ample.
There are some who, to make the
effect more gruesome, break the needles off or suspend weight
from their ends. A dab of Vaseline can add to the effect since
it will hiss and sear like burning flesh when touched with the
hot needle. This is not a pleasant sight or effect, to be sure,
but there are many who have found that they can sit and grin and
shove needles into their skin at will.
The Trap Trick
This has been a very popular
effect with magicians and still is because it presents such an
The performer sets a steel trap
and then places his finger in it to set it off, the jaws
crashing against his finger but no damage is done. The type of
trap to use is one of those steel double-jawed traps generally
used for catching foxes and other wild game. These have a round
pan and are easily set.
Do not use a rat trap.
That is the kind that
breaks a rat’s neck; whereas this style of trap is made to hold
the animal and not to kill.
With the trap set, extend your
finger and place it
straight down on the
pan and release the latter. The trap will spring and the jaws
come against the finger at the joint near the knuckle. There
will be no pain, just a sharp rap. Traps, as stated above, are
made to hold
the animal, and this fact is
not generally known. The spectators see the jaws crash and they
will think your finger is gone.
Try it with a stick at first and
then a heavy glove if nervous or if it is necessary to work up
courage first. Don’t
try to jerk the finger out or put it in sideways.
Do it slowly and quite
deliberately, for you will soon learn there is no harm to this
feat if properly done.
The fakir exhibits a small
whiskey glass and a bottle of carbolic acid, which may be
examined. He next fills the glass and drinks it, much to the
amazement of the audience.
The fact that a small whiskey
glass is used serves to convince the audience that the acid is
deadly, but fakir really drinks only water. The glass is
a special glass, a little taller than usual with a mirror
division. Mirror is firmly cemented in. The side into which the
acid is poured further connects with a double bottom hidden by a
design in the glass or a band painted on. Thus the acid poured
into the glass runs into the secret compartment and remains
there even when the glass is tilted to pour the water out. The
water side is filled, the water being suitably colored if
necessary to match the acid.
The glass is picked up and shown
apparently empty and filled with acid. Hand covers most of this
action and glass is reversed in the process showing now a “full”
glass. The acid is placed back on the table and the
fingers slid down to reveal the “full” glass held at fingertips.
After some dramatic display, glass is lifted to lips and
“emptied,” the mouth being held wide open so “acid” will not
Carbolic acid (phenol) is a
deadly caustic, and even a spilled drop or two proves quite
painful. The handling of such materials even by the fakir, or
examination of same by the audience, is certainly not to be
Putting Fingers in
This remarkable test outclasses
many stunts of the fakirs. A pot of genuine molten lead is
exhibited and performer asks audience to choose a finger from
his hand that he shall insert in same. He places this finger
into the hot lead and withdraws it without seeming ill effect.
This feat requires great care and
The hands must be devoid of all moisture. They
be perfectly dry. This can be
done by ”washing” the hands with dry sand. Anything that will
tend to dry the hands will help, for the chief thing to remember
and have is dry hands. The hands may be “fireproofed” if
desired, but this is not necessary. When putting the
finger in the lead, it is placed in straight and withdrawn in
the same direction.
Motion is not swift nor too slow
but deliberate. The hot lead will not have time to burn, and
since it will roll off a dry surface it cannot cling and inflict
To the audience this is
convincing demonstration of superhuman power (and nerve).
The contents of this section
are dangerous. Misuse of the material can cheapen an art form
or at the very least make you look stupid. More importantly,
misuse of this information may result in jail time or death.
Do not attempt any of these tricks without the direct
supervision of a responsible professional.