Bed of Death (aka Table of Death)
Designer: Jan Rouven, Mathias Fischedick, Frank Alfter
Jan Rouven and his team developed the Bed of Death in 2009 for the German “Phenomenon” TV series. Mathias Fischedick is a Magic and TV Consultant who worked with Jan on the concept. Frank Alfter was also part of the creative process in preparing the illusion for the TV show. Jan Rouven is now using the illusion in his Las Vegas shows.
The magician lies on a table. Several swords are suspended above him, pointing towards the table. One sword is suspended directly above the magician, the rest positioned to narrowly miss him should they fall. The effect is a sort of Russian Roulette. Each sword is tied to a string that is run to the side of the table. A member from the audience is asked to select one of the strings to pull, allowing the corresponding sword to fall to the table. One of the swords is centered above the magician’s chest and if the volunteer chooses the wrong string, the sword will fall and kill the magician. The volunteer chooses all the strings correctly, leaving one final string and sword in place. The magician has been spared.
On May 9th 2013, Criss Angel performed the illusion on Fremont street in Las Vegas for a Spike TV series. The performance was highly controversial because Angel never acquired the rights to perform the illusion. Spike TV made a statement crediting the illusion to Clive Barker and his 1995 horror film “Lord of Illusion.” However, Barker was merely the inspiration for the effect, never actually developing a magic illusion. Jan Rouven and his team were the actual creators of the illusion.
Several spectators at Angel’s live event were upset because of the ruined finale. Leaving one string in place, Angel got up from the table and pulled the final string to allow the final sword to fall. This final sword would have fallen directly above Angel’s heart. However, after pulling the string, nothing happened and the sword remained suspended, indicating there may not have been any danger for Angel after all. This happened twice, but Angel’s team was able to get the sword to fall on the third try.
Photo Credit: Jan Rouven