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Balducci Levitation

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The Balducci levitation is a levitation illusion that was first described by Ed Balducci in 1974. It is an impromptu magic trick, which has been popularized by many magicians, such as David Roth, Paul Harris and David Blaine.


The performer stands at an angle facing away from the spectators. The performer appears to levitate a few inches above the ground. The effect generally does not last for more than five seconds. The performer's feet return to the ground, and the effect is complete.

In and outs

Other methods of levitation allow for greater heights, longer durations, and better viewing angles for performance; however, most of these methods can only be performed on a stage because they require special equipment or setups (such as wires). The Balducci levitation requires no preparation of any kind, and so it can be performed impromptu - anytime, anywhere. Although variations have been made to improve the illusion of genuine levitation, they are generally harder to perform, and some require gimmicks or setups that make them less practical than the Balducci levitation.


Like many magic effects, this illusion relies mostly on subtle misdirection and acting on the part of the performer.

These psychological subtleties increase the probability that spectators will believe the illusion:

  • The spectators are informed ahead of time that the performer intends to levitate.
  • The performer pretends to put a good deal of care in choosing a place to perform the levitation.
  • The performer acts as if performing the levitation is difficult and physically straining.
  • The performer emphasizes the fact that there are no gimmicks (wires, etc.) used, and encourages that the area and the performers clothing be examined.

These physical subtleties make the levitation seem more amazing:

  • The spectators are misdirected from the performer's method because they are concentrating on the movement of the feet and the space that appears between the feet and the ground.
  • When "landing," the performer will make a point of hitting the ground hard with the feet, and bending the knees to convince the spectators that the performer's feet were higher in the air than they actually were.

The effects of these subtleties can be seen in David Blaine's television performances of this illusion. For example, one spectator is asked how high Blaine levitated. She gestures a height that is obviously a few inches higher than the illusion is capable of producing, demonstrating that subtleties can often cause a spectator's interpretation of an effect to be better than the effect itself.

The reverse Balducci illusion is similar to the Balducci illusion, but the magician faces towards the audience at a 90-degree angle rather than facing away.


Ed Balducci published the first known description of the illusion in July 1974 in The Pallbearer's Review, (Volume 9, Number 9, pp 755) under the name "Impromptu Levitation." Balducci ended his description by saying, Originator unknown. It was shown to me many years ago by one of the Harmonicats, a cousin of mine, Erwin Levine, known as the Baron.

Despite Balducci's disclaimer, the illusion has since been known as the "Balducci Levitation."

Known variations

  • Antigravity boots by Peter Marvey
  • Elevator levitation by Peter Loughran
  • King levitation by Corey King
  • Criss Angel's Levitation by Criss Angel
  • Sooperman by Paul Harris
  • Zero Gravity by Mike Bent

Appearances in popular media

  • The "Reverse Balducci" was performed by Wade's crew members in the film You Got Served
  • The "Reverse Balducci" is mentioned in issue 25 of Y - The Last Man
  • Hotel Babylon S3E7 features a character (Dan Black) loosely based on David Blaine, who performs the illusion in the lift; later one of the main characters (Anna) shows the other hotel staff (but not the viewer!) how the illusion is performed.


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