David in the Lions

As PART OF A 1963 TOUR OF ISRAEL DaVID HAD PLANNED a NUMBER OF PRESS CONFERENCES and publicity stunts. A press conference usually consisted of a civilised performance before an audience of journalists over cocktails. The publicity stunts were an altogether different affair.

In Tel Aviv David had a busy schedule, three stunts in one day. In the evening he would perform his Table Levitation out in the open, in a public square. In the afternoon he would drive a scooter blindfolded around Tel Aviv Zoo. Brave volunteers lay on the ground to provide a human obstacle course for the mystery man. But it was the morning stunt that gave most cause for alarm.

He always tried to do stunts that were appropriate to the country he was in and with Israel's biblical past and the zoo as the venue he thought that stepping into a lion's den might just capture the public interest.

David had been in a lion's cage before in various circuses but always with a trainer present. The trainer's sticks and whips gave some measure of control over the lion, or at least some reassurance. But in this stunt he would step into the lion cage alone.

People visiting the zoo that morning would have heard a commentator blowing a whistle to attract attention and promising that this mystery man from England would shortly perform one of the effects for which he was noted. In Israel they didn't call David a magician but instead the posters proclaimed him "Arschaff', a Hebrew word meaning miracle worker.

When the crowd numbered well over a hundred David was introduced. He was dressed in a light cotton jacket, a point that would become important later on. Behind him was a lion's cage. It was empty save for a couple of scarred and bare tree trunks upon which the lion sharpened its talons. The cage had, as the audience could see, only one entrance and that was at the front. To one side of the cage lay the lion's quarters and a small trapdoor, currently closed, connected the two.

A member of the zoo staff opened the door to the cage and ushered David inside. Then he stepped back letting the door close with a metallic clang, the automatic safety lock snapping shut.

At a given signal the trapdoor at the back of the enclosure opened and a few seconds later the lion emerged into the sunlight. He seemed indifferent to the crowd's gawking and simply stretched his massive body in the cool morning air. For a moment the audience stared in disbelief at David and the lion together in one space. And then a curtain started to rise around the cage, pulled up by a series of ropes.

The curtain hid the cage from view. The crowd heard a whistle blow, followed by more growling and a lion's roar. There was another blast from the whistle and then nothing. The commentator looked around nervously and then gave a signal for the curtain to be dropped. David was gone. He had somehow disappeared. For a moment it looked as if the puzzle had a gruesome solution. The lion was gnawing on a large bone and the tattered remains of a cotton jacket.

It was obviously not David, just the lion's dinner, but it made the crowd smile and drew their applause. The commentator extolled the virtues of David's talents and announced the name of the venue he would be playing that week. Then came another blast from the whistle but this time fainter as if from far away.

The commentator pointed over the heads of the crowd and the people turned around. An impossible distance away was a tall block of apartments and on top was a man waving and blowing a whistle. It was David, the miracle worker, the man who survived the lion's den.

The stunt required more in the way of guts than gimmickry to perform. The curtain had been hired from a local theatre and rigged on a series of rings fastened around the bars of the cage. It could be raised or lowered on a pulley system. The semi-circular shape of the enclosure made it a perfect prop with good visibility from the front.

At the beginning of the stunt the curtain lay on the ground. When it was raised so too was a smaller curtain projecting at right angles into the cage. A duplicate linen jacket and bone had been hidden under the curtain. David picked them both up, waved them in front of the lion and threw them to the far side of the cage. He was depending on the knowledge that he wouldn't be attacked unless the animal was provoked. Sure enough the lion went straight for the bone while David went towards his exit, the smaller curtain hiding him from the animal's view as he made his escape.

He got out of the cage the same way the animal got in, through the narrow trap at the rear, the door being opened by keepers in the lion's private quarters. David remembers thinking at the time, should I go out headfirst or feetfirst? He went out headfirst but can still recall the fear that at any moment he might be dragged back into the cage by a pair of powerful claws.

Waiting for him on the other side of the cage and out of view of the crowd was a motorcycle and rider. David hopped onto the back of the bike and at speed they went out of the zoo and around to the apartment block where he was to reappear. The elevator door was held open in readiness. As soon as he stepped inside it was a quick ride to the top of the building, a short climb up one flight of stairs and onto the roof where he blew the whistle.

For all its danger, and David admits that it was one of his most foolhardy escapades, it didn't produce any more publicity than any of his other, much safer and less harrowing stunts. Of course, had he been eaten by the lion things might well have been different!

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

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.

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