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How Did Criss Angel Walk on Water? Revealed

When did Criss Angel walk on water and why? Max shares some details on the history of the illusion and why so few magicians attempt it.

Las Vegas Magician Criss Angel in sunglasses with expensive watch
Las Vegas Magician Criss Angel

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While Criss Angel is often criticized by the magic community for using stooges and camera tricks, one fact is undeniable: he knows how to create great television. On June 16th, 2008, Angel walked on water in Lake Mead for an episode of his TV show “Criss Angel Mindfreak.”

15 years later, audiences still talk about it. But why?

Why Do Magicians Love the "Walk on Water" Effect?

If someone had real magic powers, it’s easy to think of what they’d do: Turn $1’s into $100s. Maybe make food appear. Fly. Or walk on water.

This is why when Angel, sporting a beard that made him resemble Jesus, walked on water, the world took notice. It was pure magic, a perfect encapsulation of childlike imagination. Angel used brilliant subtleties to turn this from a trick into a miracle. While he could’ve done this in a pool (and he has), Lake Mead increased the scale of the trick.

If you want it to feel biblical, do it in a place that looks biblical. Why have swimmers stood next to you when you can have jet skis and boats in a grand western vista?

Who is Criss Angel?

Angel is widely known for his show “Criss Angel Mindfreak,” where he performed grand, but easy-to-describe illusions that cemented him as one of the most famous magicians of the 2000s. Notable stunts include levitation, sawing himself in half, and escaping from a straight jacket in the middle of Times Square.

After his successful TV show, Angel did more than 3,000 performances of his show “BELIEVE” at the Luxor in Las Vegas. It’s worth appreciating that Angel is one of the few magicians who is widely known outside of the magic community. Yes, he’s been criticized, but he’s also utterly captivating. Walking on water cemented him in the zeitgeist of modern magic.

What is the Secret to Walking on Water?

Walking on water is hard. Which is why when someone does attempt it, it stands out. Dynamo, for example, performed the stunt on the River Thames in 2011 as part of a television special. Due to the sheer difficulty of the stunt, few magicians even attempt the stunt.

The Masked Magician explained a version of the stunt on his highly-controversial show Breaking the Magician’s Code: Magic’s Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed. Magicians were infuriated by the show, but we have not seen an increase in the number of magicians performing the illusion, because it's just so hard and expensive to pull off.

How do Magicians Walk on Water?

Like any magic trick, walking on water is a combination of psychology and illusion, and no human to date has conclusively proven that they could do it for real. The art of the illusion is in what magicians call convincers, which are small subtleties that give the viewer no choice but to believe the magician is actually walking on water.

Having swimmers, boats, and cameras surround the magician while the audience screams all cements the illusion in the audience’s mind. The dissonance between knowing that you’re seeing a trick but having no ability to describe it is precisely what generates the feeling of “seeing magic.”

Furthermore, the legitimacy of watching it on a TV show produced by a trusted network goes a long way toward making the trick feel real.