On this day: David Blaine leaves his perspex box after 44 days

October 19 2003: The illusionist leaves “Above the Below”

By Jennifer Lipman, October 19, 2010

Blaine, whose Russian Jewish mother died of cancer when he was 19, has said he only feels alive when he is near to death. He survived six weeks suspended above the Thames, and as he left his glass cage in 2003, he cried: “This has been one of the most importance experiences of my life.”

More than a quarter of a million Londoners went to see the New York born “endurance specialist” in his time above the water. A few threw golf balls, paint, eggs and even tried to cut off his water supply.

He had been in the box since September 5. When he left he was quite literally a shadow of his former self – having lost 25 per cent of his body weight from going without food for weeks. He managed to walk out but, suffering from heart palpitations, blurred vision and breathing difficulties, he was then taken to hospital for an intravenous dose of vitamin-enriched fluid.

During his career Blaine has undertaken a number of crazy tasks, spending more than 60 hours in a block of ice and standing atop a 100 foot high pole for 35 hours. He declined to sleep for 11 days, and he also held his breath for 17 minutes and four seconds, beating the previous mark by 30 seconds – on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

In 2008 Blaine completed another challenge; this time hanging upside down for 60 hours. But midway through the stunt he was spotted standing upright being checked over by a doctor – which many disgruntled fans perceived as cheating. But Blaine told his critics he needed breaks just to use the toilet. He said: “I'm not going to pee all over myself to satisfy those people."

What the JC said: Having been pelted with eggs, targeted with golf-balls, and taunted with barbecues, you would imagine that nothing would surprise the starving stunt-man David Blaine. But an enthusiastic Lubavitcher blowing a shofar managed to catch his attention….Rabbi Hershel Gorman…showed up for the oddest “gig” of his 40 years’ experience. “David Blaine is showing he can isolate himself physically, but we are showing that we can unite with him spiritually — by blowing the shofar,” he announced before sounding the traditional notes.

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Last updated: 10:41am, October 19 2010