David Blaine’s Latest Death Wish: Jolted by a Million Volts of Electricity

Someone bring the popcorn, this one might be a doozy

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Magician David Blaine performs a small preview of his upcoming performance "Electrified" during a press conference in New York, October 2, 2012.

He could just stick his finger into an electrical socket, but where’s the novelty in that? Instead, David Blaine chose to toss together the sheer power of electricity, a bit of human influence, the fantastical spark of a plasma ball and old-fashioned psychological sorcery to create his latest performance stunt, ELECTRIFIED, co-sponsored by Intel. The modern-day Houdini gave a quick preview of his newest public stunt to an enthralled New York City audience Tuesday, fashioned out of a makeshift pillar, some metal coils, a chainmail suit, and several thousand volts of electricity.

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With the flip of a switch, Blaine sent 1 million volts of lightning-like electricity coursing through the mesh-like suit as he crouched down, extending his mesh-covered fingertips. All that stood between him and certain death by electrocution was the modified Faraday cage, a helmet, and some metal-bottomed boots to ensure that the electricity went around — and not through — his body.

This stunt lasted just three minutes, a very abbreviated version of his no-food, no-sitting, no-sleep, and certainly no-sanity stunt that will run from October 5-8 at Hudson River Park’s Pier 54. During Tuesday’s trial run, there were no hitches. But can he prolong the experience for 4,377 more minutes? Because starting Friday, Blaine is embarking on a 73-hour endeavor where he’ll be surrounded by 1 million volts of electricity. We’re hardly surprised he’s calling it his most difficult challenge yet.

In 2000, Blaine spent 63 hours, 42 minutes, 15 seconds caged in a block of ice, standing up without food or sleep in the middle of Times Square in New York City. Sometime during that occurrence, he started to hallucinate. ELECTRIFIED will last 10 hours longer than that — and is, quite possibly, 10 times more deadly.

His illusion seems physically lethal, sure, but it may be worse for his mind than his body — given, of course, that he doesn’t have the urge to scratch his face. He’ll undergo the longest exposure of any human to Tesla coils, which produce a stronger energy current than any other high-voltage conductor. While his limbs and heart will be safe, any effect on his brain cells from the stunt is unknown.

In preparation for three days of stillness, he has fasted for a week, so there are no solids in his system. A catheter will take care of any other bathroom needs, while a tube fitted underneath his suit will supply him with water and formula to keep him hydrated. A team of air specialists will ensure that the ozone and nitrogen dioxide created when electricity ionizes air is ventilated out. And he’ll be supported by a harness — a new precaution he’s requested now that he’s a father — on a 20-foot high platform surrounded by seven Tesla coils. The contraption is covered by tents in case it rains, like it did Tuesday. And for a little added fun, the coils are enabled to play musical notes.

It sounds like a recipe for insanity. But to keep him connected to the world, he’ll literally be connected to his fans. That’s where the Intel partnership comes in. Spectators can participate in Blaine’s feat using Intel Ultrabooks set up at the stunt site in New York and in Beijing, London, Sydney and Tokyo to control which coils turn on and what notes they should play. The event will also be live-streamed on Facebook, YouTube and LeTV.com in China.

Johan Jervoe, Vice President Partner Marketing at Intel, who appeared Tuesday with Blaine (though, to his relief, not in an electrified suit), explained that the collaboration started at a dinner party where Blaine stole his watch. Fortunately for both of them, Jervoe was more intrigued than annoyed, and offered to combine forces for Blaine’s next stunt, something that the magician does not usually do. This time, Blaine was excited by the possibility of literally letting people in on the magic through technology. Bravely, Intel seems unfazed by the deadly potential of the stunt.

It’s been four years since Blaine’s last public stunt, Dive of Death, when he hung upside down in Central Park for 60 hours. Blaine, who does his performances for free so that anyone can get excited about wonders of endurance, said in a press release that he spent the downtime dreaming up this new height in innovative stunts.

Free performances are only part of Blaine’s drive to spread magic to all. He’s planning a bit of charity as well, donating some of the Tesla coils to the Liberty Science Center in New Jersey after the stunt ends. We can only hope he’ll survive the stunt to actually see it through.

MORE: David Blaine Explains How He Held His Breath for 17 Minutes