One cold January lunchtime in 1966, a television crew from the BBC's Late Night Line-Up met David at Queen Mary's Gardens in London's Regent's Park. They were accompanied by a committee, which included Dr John Napier and Dr Stephen Black, sports commentator James Tilling and World Champion racing driver Graham Hill. They were there to conduct a test of David's claim that he could drive while completely blindfolded.
First the materials to be used in the demonstration were carefully examined by the committee. Dr John Napier took up two large cotton pads and they were secured in front of his eyes with a loop of elastic tape. "Can you see anything at all?" said David. "No," he replied. David put a blindfold around a second member of the committee, James Tilling. It was a simple length of opaque black cloth. "Can you see anything? Try, any way you can." Tilling pressed the cloth against his face trying to get a glimmer of light through its tight weave but to no avail. He could see nothing.
Finally a cloth sack was shown and placed over the head of Graham Hill. He was immediately plunged into an uncomfortable darkness. He too was asked whether he could see anything beyond the material and had to admit that he couldn't. David asked him to twist the bag around and to make sure there were no holes.
David led his three blindfolded assistants into a car and then took his position behind the wheel. It made an amusing sight for the camera. "It's a very simple experiment. I'm going to drive you a short distance and then I want you to tell me how far we have driven and where you think we are." The engine started, the car moved and three blindfolded men tried their best to follow its twists and turns. A minute or two later and the journey was over. "Well, where are we?" asked David. Guesses were made, they were here and there and perhaps somewhere else. One suggested they were right back were they started. They got out of the car and removed their blindfolds to find that they were indeed back at the starting position only they were now facing the opposite direction! It was a half-lucky guess. David had merely driven them around in a figure of eight loop.
The point had been proved. It was impossible for anyone to see through any of the materials and navigation under these conditions was out of the question. All three had lost
Introducing the Blindfold Drive to the BBC audience, with world champion racing car driver Graham Hill on the right.
Graham Hill checks the blindfold.
their sense of direction and were disorientated. The committee held onto the blindfold materials and they now travelled with David and the camera crew to the West End of London where the test would begin. It was one thing to drive blindfolded in some secluded spot but another to drive in the centre of one of the world's busiest cities. They liased with another camera crew at the Royal Academy in Piccadilly where the forecourt gave ample room for the final preparations. Here David was blindfolded. First the cotton pads were placed over his eyes and then taped into position. Over the pads went the blindfold and over the blindfold went the bag. The committee agreed that if they couldn't see through one piece of material then it was surely impossible for David to see through all three of them. As if that wasn't enough, they covered the rear-view and side mirrors of the car with masking tape; after all, what use would they be to a blindfolded man?
He was led into the driving seat of the car. Graham Hill took the passenger seat next to him. Dr Stephen Black, James Tilling and a cameraman sat nervously in the back. "Do you have the courage to come with me?" asked David. "Off we go!" He switched on the ignition, took off the handbrake and the car began to move slowly out of the forecourt onto the busy thoroughfare that is Piccadilly. As soon as the road was reached the car picked up the pace, matching its neighbours for speed. It was tracked by two camera cars, one in front and one behind. Two more cameras were set up on the roofs of nearby buildings one of which was the Pavilion Theatre, the other being Fortnum & Mason's famous store. They picked out the vehicle as it made its way around Piccadilly Circus. The car was white and its roof had been marked with a large cross so that it could be spotted easily.
Drivers and pedestrians were doubly bemused by the sight of a blindfold man at the wheel of a car while racing driver Graham Hill sat next to him in the passenger seat. In the
Haymarket David stopped at a traffic light. A cautious pedestrian decided to stay on the pavement rather than risk crossing the road. She could see a hooded man in the car waving her across but she stood firm content to wait until the lights changed and the car went on by. At the bottom of Haymarket David took a sharp right into Pall Mall and on to New Zealand House, their final destination, where David carefully navigated the vehicle down a steep ramp into the underground car park. Reversing blindfolded into a reserved parking bay, without the use of mirrors, made for a perplexing finale.
A couple of days later David, together with the "test committee," appeared in the Late Night Line-Up studio to debate the controversy surrounding psychics who claimed to "see with their fingertips," an aspect of the paranormal that was topical at the time. As part of the discussion, film of the drive was shown and the blindfold materials were on hand for further examination. David pointed out that his feat, astounding though it was, was not accomplished by any paranormal means and that claims of the supernatural should be approached cautiously. Dr Stephen Black complained that he wasn't told exactly what he was to be involved in and seemed resentful of the fact that he had been involved in a magical stunt. On the other hand Graham Hill and the others were complimentary and for David personally the stunt had been a great success, another feat to add to a growing list of blindfold stunts.
Revelations: You'll find a full explanation of David's blindfold techniques in the chapters on the Picture Post Challenge and his Blindfold Routine and there's not much to add here except point out the way in which the techniques are applied to a blindfold drive. You'll notice how David had each piece of the blindfold tested separately by three different people. This not only proved that the materials were opaque but it gave the audience (in this case the television
audience) something interesting and entertaining to watch while it was done. It was logical to tape up the car mirrors before starting a blindfold drive but few bother to include this detail. Marking the car on the roof gave the producer another unusual and exciting shot of the stunt. Reversing the car while blindfolded? Well, let's just say that practise makes perfect.
At the finish of the drive David stepped out of the car blindfolded and held his hands up in the air. The committee removed the blindfolds and held onto them. David put on a pair of dark glasses to help him avoid squinting in the light. Later the committee brought the pads, blindfold and bag to the studio and said that they had examined and tested them thoroughly yet could find nothing wrong with them. Now if you've read the Picture Post Challenge you'll probably be puzzled at this point and rightly so. The bag, as you might surmise, was not all that it appeared to be (see Picture Post Challenge). At the end of the demonstration it was quickly switched for one that could be examined. The switch was not made by David but by one of the committee, Dr John Napier who just happened to be a fellow member of the Magic Circle. He switched the bag before handing it to another member of the committee.
David has done many versions of the blindfold drive. He once drove a brand new car off the production line in Coventry and down the motorway to Earls Court for the Motor Show. That was for the benefit of a corporate magazine that wanted to show how easy it was to
Was this article helpful?
Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.