Kuda Bux (1905–1981)
Kashmiri stage magician who demonstrated claimed feats of
eyeless sight and fire walking. Born at Akhnur, Kashmir, on
October 15, 1905, he moved to London in 1935. He first practiced
fire walking at age 14 and subsequently devoted himself
to public performances of stage magic. He normally performed
fire walking only at an annual religious festival and claimed
that his immunity from burns was attributable to this faith, conferred
by a higher power in India. He also claimed to be able
to convey his immunity to others and take them over the fire
walk without burns.
During 1935 Kuda Bux cooperated with psychical researcher
Harry Price in two fire walk tests under control conditions,
on September 9 and September 17. Scientific observers carefully
monitored all aspects of the fire walk. Kuda Bux’s feet were
examined, and no chemical or other preparation was discovered.
The temperature of his feet was taken before and after
the walk and was found to be slightly lower after it. His feet
were not blistered or injured in any way. The skin was soft and
not calloused; moreover the feet were washed and dried before
the walk.
The surface temperature of the fire trench on the second
day was 430°C. The trench was 25 feet long by 6 feet wide and
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Kuda Bux
9 inches deep. Kuda Bux walked the trench deliberately and
steadily in 4.5 seconds; the estimated time of contact of each
foot with the burning embers was half a second. The tests were
photographed and a cinematographic record taken. A volunteer
European, Digby Moynagh, attempted the walk on both
days but suffered some blistering of the feet. A full report of the
tests appeared in Bulletin II of the University of London Council
for Psychical Investigation in 1936. These tests made Kuda
Bux well known, and he performed in British variety theaters
with his impressive act of ‘‘eyeless sight.’’ (Fire departments
would not permit fire trenches to be built on stage for demonstrations
of fire walking.)
In 1938 Kuda Bux traveled to the United States to demonstrate
his fire walk for a Robert Ripley ‘‘Believe It or Not’’ radio
program and later became a member of the Society of American
Magicians. He demonstrated his eyeless vision act widely
and in 1945 rode a bicycle through the heavy traffic of Times
Square in New York while blindfolded.
Magicians claim that such performances are tricks, in spite
of the performer’s being heavily blindfolded, with balls of
dough placed over the eyes and secured with yards of bandages.
The skeptical view is that the dough and bandages are
shifted sufficiently by the performer to enable him to squint underneath
Kuda Bux claimed that his performance consisted of feats
of mental concentration, establishing a link between his mind
and outside objects, although he admitted to practicing conjuring
tricks in his acts. (See also Fire Ordeal; Rosa Kuleshova;
Jules Romains; Seeing with the Stomach; Transposition of
the Senses)