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Observations placeholder

Chabert – from Miracle Mongers And Their Methods By Houdini



Type of Spiritual Experience


The explanation of how this trick is achieved is described in a later chapter and is, according to Houdini explained by Barnello as follows.  But if you compare the two descriptions they don’t match with Barnello’s – nor do the others, as such we have an explanation for why Houdini held Chabert in such esteem – Houdini actually had no idea how he did it.

From Miracle Mongers And Their Methods By Houdini

Have a large iron cage constructed about 4 x 6 feet, the bottom made of heavy sheet iron. The cage should stand on iron legs or horses. Wrap each of the bars of the cage with cotton batting saturated with oil. Now take a raw beefsteak in your hand and enter the cage, which is now set on fire. Remain in the cage until the fire has burned out, then issue from the cage with the steak burned to a crisp.
Explanation: On entering the cage the performer places the steak on a large iron hook which is fastened in one of the upper corners. The dress worn is of asbestos cloth with a hood that completely covers the head and neck. There is a small hole over the mouth through which he breathes.
As soon as the fire starts the smoke and flames completely hide the performer from the spectators, and he immediately lies down on the bottom of the cage, placing the mouth over one of the small air holes in the floor of the same.
Heat always goes up and will soon cook the steak.

I deduce from the above that the performer arises and recovers the steak when the fire slackens but while there is still sufficient flame and smoke to mask his action.
It is obvious that the above explanation covers the baker's oven mystery as well. In the case of the oven, however, the inmate is concealed from start to finish, and this gives him much greater latitude for his actions

A description of the experience

From Miracle Mongers And Their Methods By Houdini

In 1828, Chabert gave a series of performances at the Argyle Rooms in London, and created a veritable sensation. A correspondent in the London Mirror has this to say of Chabert's work at that time:

"Of M. Chabert's wonderful power of withstanding the operation of the fiery element, it is in the recollection of the writer of witnessing, some few years back, this same individual (in connection with the no-less fire-proof Signora Girardelli) exhibiting 'extraordinary proofs of his supernatural power of resisting the most intense heat of every kind.' Since which an IMPROVEMENT of a more formidable nature has to our astonished fancy been just demonstrated.

In the newspapers of the past week it is reported that he, in the first instance, refreshed himself with a hearty meal of phosphorus, which was, at his own request, supplied to him very liberally by several of his visitors, who were previously unacquainted with him.

He washed down (they say) this infernal fare with solutions of arsenic and oxalic acid; thus throwing into the background the long-established fame of Mithridates.

He next swallowed with great gout, several spoonfuls of boiling oil; and, as a dessert to this delicate repast, helped himself with his naked hands to a considerable quantity of molten lead. The experiment, however, of entering into a hot oven, together with a quantity of meat, sufficient, when cooked, to regale those of his friends who were specially invited to witness his performance, was the chef-d'oeuvre of the day.

Having ordered three fagots of wood, which is the quantity generally used by bakers, to be thrown into the oven, and they being set on fire, twelve more fagots of the same size were subsequently added to them, which being all consumed by three o'clock, M. Chabert entered the oven with a dish of raw meat, and when it was sufficiently done he handed it out, took in another, and remained therein until the second quantity was also well cooked; he then came out of the oven, and sat down, continues the report, to partake, with a respectable assembly of friends, of those viands he had so closely attended during the culinary process.

Publicly, on a subsequent day, and in an oven 6 feet by 7, and at a heat of about 220, he remained till a steak was properly done, and again returned to his fiery den and continued for a period of thirty minutes, in complete triumph over the power of an element so much dreaded by humankind, and so destructive to animal nature.

It has been properly observed, that there are preparations which so indurate the cuticle, as to render it insensible to the heat of either boiling oil or melted lead; and the fatal qualities of certain poisons may be destroyed, if the medium through which they are imbibed, as we suppose to be the case here, is a strong alkali.

Many experiments, as to the extent to which the human frame could bear heat, without the destruction of the vital powers, have been tried from time to time; but so far as recollection serves, Monsieur Chabert's fire-resisting qualities are greater than those professed by individuals who, before him, have undergone this species of ordeal."

It was announced some time ago, in one of the French journals, that experiments had been tried with a female, whose fire-standing qualities had excited great astonishment. She, it appears, was placed in a heated oven, into which live dogs, cats, and rabbits were conveyed. The poor animals died in a state of convulsion almost immediately, while the Fire-queen bore the heat without complaining. In that instance, however, the heat of the oven was not so great as that which M. Chabert encountered.

Much of the power to resist greater degrees of heat than can other men may be a natural gift, much the result of chemical applications, and much from having the parts indurated by long practice; probably all three are combined in this phenomenon, with some portion of artifice.

The source of the experience

Chabert, Ivan Ivanovich

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Science Items

Activities and commonsteps