The Secret Behind Those Floating Street Performers

Have you ever gone to a metropolitan city and caught a street performer floating in the air? Well, we know exactly how they got their mystical powers.

The Floating Men

The Floating

In most big cities, you can find quirky street performers. From acrobats, to mimes, and even floating men. That's right, you can find people levitating in the middle of crowded cities, but is it magic or physics?

The Illusion


There are two common versions of the trick, a one-person and two-person version. Both utilize intersecting steel plates and rods, as well as the common long costume the performers tend to wear.

The Parts

The Partsjrome /

There are three pieces used to support the performer, a base that remains on the ground, the rod the performer seems to never let go of, making it appear paranormal, and the seat viewers never get a glimpse of.

How It Comes Together

How It Comes

The rod is connected to both the base and seat, with the former often covered by a rug or some other prop meant to both set the scene and distract. The seat is supported by the rod's attachment to the base, and is covered by the performer's long garment.

It Takes Two

It Takes

The version noted above is the one-man version of the trick. When two performers are involved, only one will appear to be levitating, with the other sitting atop the plate. Both performers keep hold of the staff, making it look as though the one on the ground is holding up the other.

Compact and Subtle

Compact and

Kyle Hill says that the base plate can't be too big, as it has to fit beneath the rug and "the sitting man isn't that elevated therefore the plate is not too thick." The size of the plate doesn't always dictate its weight, as "a thin plate can be heavy" too.

Balancing Act

Balancing Actaitoff /

While it's possible that, in the two-person version, the performer on the ground is actually helping to balance the weight of the "floating" one, the illusion works just as well with one person, so it's just as likely the sitter doesn't affect the balance.

Making It Work

Making It WorkPublicDomainImages /

According to Hill, the illusion works best if the ground performer remains exactly above where the plate and rod intersect, as this prevents torque in the way the plate and rod are joined.


StabilizationFirminoGennarino /

Hills says that as the weight of the floating performer moves to "any edge of the plate, the smaller the moment becomes, until it becomes zero when the levitator is directly over an edge." This, he says, is when the risk of falling is highest.

Warring Yodas

Warring YodasStephen Chung/London News Pictures

In London, there is no shortage of levitating performers. Back in June 2015, there was a bit of a "war" amongst performers dressed as Yoda. According to the "Daily Mail," the British performers assert that Eastern European performers take over a bit, and that they "are controlled by gangmasters who, for example, take around [40 pounds] of every [60 pounds] they earn."

Watch It Happen

Don't believe us? Take a look at this street performer setting up his station before the workday. We'd like to know just what passersby think he's doing and how many of them were just plain disillusioned.


OriginsGetty Images

If you're wondering where the idea for this levitating performer comes from, look into the past. The book, "Autobiography of a Yogi" makes claims of Hindu yogis capable of levitation.

Yogi Subbayah Pullavar

Yogi Subbayah / Illustrated London News

Pullavar is one such Indian yogi who is believed to have possessed the power to levitate. In 1936, 150 people watched as he "floated" in a supposed trance.

Yogi Milarepa


Yogi Milarepa is believed to have been able to not only levitate, but walk on air, in addition to sleeping and resting. He was a Vajrayana Buddhist guru.

"Yogic Flying"

"Yogic Flying"

According to the Transcendental Meditation movement, which Maharishi Mahesh Yogi founded in the '50s, there's a practice called Yogic Flying, of which there are three stages. These are hopping, floating, and, you guessed it, flying.

twitter facebook google-plus