The UnxPlained: Fire Walkers Defy Laws of Physics (Season 1) | History


NARRATOR: San Pedro Manrique,
Spain, June 23, 2018. Here, as they have
for centuries, villagers gather for
an evening festival to celebrate the
summer solstice. They engage in singing, dancing,
wearing elaborate costumes. But for a select
group of villagers, the festivities aren’t
so conventional, because their
evening also includes something out of the ordinary– a dangerous walk over a fire. Now, I’ve seen
many far walking rituals in many
different contexts in a variety of countries. But I’ve never seen a fire as
fierce as the one in San Pedro. This is, by far, the
most important event in the life of this community. They have this
amphitheater around the place where the actual fire is. Then these men
walk on the embers. It’s five or six steps
from one side to the other. And they do it barefoot
and usually carrying someone on their shoulder. People often wonder, is
the firework really hot? And the answer is yes. Once the wood is first laid
out, the overall temperature is between 1,000
and 1,200 degrees. That’s really hot– more
than enough to burn flesh, certainly. MICHAEL DENNIN: If you look
at the temperatures involved, you’re typically
talking temperatures over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit. And skin burns at 100– 106 degrees Fahrenheit. PABLO XIMENEZ: Walking on
fire is very, very dangerous. I mean, you’re barefoot. Just one wrong move, and
you can be severely burned. NARRATOR: Walking on fire and
at temperatures hot enough to turn metal into liquid. No one in their right mind
would do this and expect to emerge unharmed, right? And yet, the people
of San Pedro Manrique managed to do just that
and on a yearly basis. But how? Walking across hot embers
is one of my favorite physics problems. The trick is making sure
the embers aren’t hot enough that you actually get a
very thin but very real layer of water vapor between
your skin and the hot coals. Some of these
same firewalkers– one day they walk
across unscathed. Another time they try it,
they do burn their feet. KEVIN AXTELL: My experience
tells me the difference is in their mindset. So at my firewalks, once
we’ve taken the group out to the fire, and we’re
getting ready to walk, first, I like to remind them
again about their intention. And this helps motivate
them and get them across. And then we raise people’s
energy before a firework. Firewalkers around
the world, regardless of tradition, religion– they raise the group’s
energy before they walk. So this can be done
with meditation, chanting, singing, dancing. Whatever the case,
you want to get your group into
an excited pumped up state before the firework. There is absolutely
something about being in an excited
uplifted state that helps you get across safely. NICK HOBSON: So what
actually happens there psychologically is there
is this emotional buildup. There is this highly intense
arousal that’s happening. And so you have
cortisol and other sort of endocrine hormones
flooding the system, which will help to block
some of the pain receptors. NARRATOR: Water
vapor, mind control. But can firewalking without
pain or injury really be just a simple
matter of willpower? Or does it requires
something even more? We know we have the
capability to redirect pain or even to numb
pain just by putting ourselves in the right mindset. But many of these firewalkers
don’t even have blisters or burns on their feet. So when you look at
physics, that’s impossible. If you touch
something that’s hot, you’re going to get burned. So the question is are we
dealing with the magical force that we have yet to
fully understand? KEVIN AXTELL: It is so much more
than just an individual ritual. It is a community experience. Yes, it is technically
possible to cross a coal bed unharmed all by yourself. But it is much
easier to experience a firewalk surrounded by people
who are there to support you– your family, your community. Crossing barefoot over
1,000-degree coals doesn’t make any practical sense. And even though I’ve personally
crossed hundreds and hundreds of coal beds, I still don’t
perfectly understand how and why it works like it does.

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