Breaking the Chain

war. I'd like you to take the ends please, it's quite heavy, it's galvanised steel. That's what they tow trucks with." He hands the chain to the men so that there are three on each side with him in the middle.

"As you know, the weakest part of any chain is its weakest link. Gentlemen, just pull to see that it is strong. Is it strong? Of course it is." They tug at the chain and find that it is what it appears to be, thick, heavy galvanised steel. Unbreakable unless you happen to have a pulling power of over five tons.

David asks the man on his left to point to one of the links in the centre of the chain. He does and David puts his right hand over the chosen link. He asks the last two men at both ends to drop the chain. Now it's being held only by the two men closest to David. "I'm going to ask you to hold it a little bit higher." David concentrates his attention on the centre of the chain, which is now held at chest height. "And this is what happens. I am going to try to get that link to actually open, the one that you pointed to. Would you pull gently."

The two men start to tug on the chain. "Not too much yet," he warns them. Mysterious music plays as David begins his work. Acting as if something is not quite right, David breaks the tense atmosphere. "Stop. I forgot to put the fluence on." He waves his hand over the chain. "Just a joke, not a good one, but just a joke." The men either side smile. "Quite seriously now, would you pull." The men pull the chain, the lights dim except for a spot on David. The music continues to play. "I can feel it going. It's opening. It's opening."

He asks them to stop pulling. Slowly he opens his hand. The chain lies flush against his palm and at its centre is the chosen link, now broken and bent open. "I think you can see it really has pulled open." He unhooks the broken link and hands it to one of the volunteers to examine, leaving the men either side of him holding two separate lengths of chain. The audience applaud.

Revelations: The chain had been gimmicked beforehand. One link near the centre was prepared by having a small section cut out. This loose section was then reset in place using dental paste and the entire link sprayed with metallic paint. The gimmicked link was virtually undetectable.

In performance there were two feet of chain separating the two lead men and it was here that the faked link could be found. Although invisible to the volunteers David could locate it. He pointed toward the centre of the chain, near the prepared link, and asked the man on his left, "Would you please point to any link?" It wasn't obvious to the rest of the audience but the man didn't have a lot of choice. The area he was being directed to was only about twelve links long. As soon as he pointed to one, the outside volunteers were instructed to let go of the chain.

The chain sagged at the middle and David pointed to the fake link, asking the volunteer, almost rhetorically, "Which link did you point to, that one?" The links all looked the same to the volunteer and having briefly taken his eyes off the chain it was impossible to recall which specific link he had chosen. He had no option other than to agree. David grasped the prepared link in his right hand in preparation for the effect.

He gripped the chain tightly with both hands when the volunteers first pulled. He briefly brought both hands together and stole away the plug that filled the gap in the prepared link. It was later surreptitiously dropped into his pocket. The joke about putting the fluence on not only helped draw attention away from the steal but also lightened the mood before the seriousness of the metal breaking effect. It's a theatrical device that helped make the presentation all the more effective.

Music played and the studio lights dimmed while a spot picked out the action. David vibrated his hand slightly as if something was happening—a moment of magic—and then slowly uncurled his fingers to reveal the opened link pressed flat against his palm. That and a little showmanship made for a very effective and unusual metal bending routine.

On previous occasions David has used a link made of softer metal, one that opens inside his hand as the chain is pulled. It is then switched for a genuine link that has been prised open. The switch is done undercover of the natural rhythm of handing out the chain for examination. First the fake link is unhooked and a length of the chain is handed to one of the volunteers. The remaining length of chain is quickly handed to a second volunteer. The fake link is switched and sleeved in the act of transferring it from one hand to the other and handing the duplicate to a third volunteer. It all takes place in the short time it takes to say, "You hold this chain, you hold the other and you examine the link." This link can be examined and, of course, cannot be opened or closed any further even by the strongest man.

David used a variation of the chain routine at an outdoor presentation for Leyland who were launching a new farm tractor. It used a much heavier industrial chain, so heavy that no single person could possibly lift its entire bulk off the ground. The chain was hooked up to two powerful steam engines and a mechanical tug of war ensued, the chain remaining stubbornly in one piece. Then two smaller Leyland tractors took the place of the steam engines. David had a link in the chain chosen and marked. On his command, the tractors pulled in opposite directions for all they were worth. The chain broke at the chosen link!

The stunt was done in the spirit of entertainment rather than trying to show that somehow the tractors could outdo the larger steam engines, but the subliminal message was that the new tractors were something special. David choreographed the tug of war and the specially engineered link was forced. It could be made to break apart when a secret pin was released. Another example of thinking big.

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