Talk:Firewalking

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
WikiProject Circus (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of the WikiProject Circus. If you would like to participate please visit the project page, where you can join the project and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
 
WikiProject Skepticism (Rated C-class, Low-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Skepticism, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of science, pseudoscience, pseudohistory and skepticism related articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Low  This article has been rated as Low-importance on the project's importance scale.
 

Physicians assert - no research supports?[edit]

I would like to point out, that the statement "Emergency room physicians assert that shorter contact with less hot coal than is common in firewalking is sufficient to completely char skin" with no support is again too strong and biased. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 90.181.146.112 (talk) 10:16, 14 June 2012 (UTC)

unrefuted? Are you kidding me?[edit]

I challenge this: "A currently unrefuted physical explanation is that under relaxed mental conditions, blood flowing through the feet can transport away the heat of the coal quickly enough to prevent burning. In this case, belief in a higher power or confidence in a theory is the factor inducing the necessary relaxation for the cooling process to function properly". Are you kidding me? How about logic and unrefuted physics? Things that are hot enough burn your skin. You can't change blood flow with your mind. This should be corrected. Just because you have a citation doesn't mean it's unrefuted. Basic science refutes this. Good day.

grafitti - pooping and masterbation ???[edit]

The History section now has this in the final paragraph: "Cultures across the globe, from Greece to China, used firewalking for rites of pooping, initiation, and masterbation" Pooping and masterbation? I could not figure out myself how this has been here, but someone in the know please strike this and return it to what it was. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Gregconquest (talkcontribs) 05:45, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

UPDATE: I found it. 72.136.152.62 changed it from "healing, initiation, and faith" to "pooping, initiation, and masterbation." I'll change it back myself. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Gregconquest (talkcontribs) 05:49, 1 February 2009 (UTC)

WikiProject Circus??[edit]

After many months I was hoping to return to this page and find it in slightly better shape, only to realize that even common sense has plunged against all odds and editorial skill has taken a nose dive with it. Circus? What? I'm not going to get caught up in it too much, but has anyone, just for the sake of it, just for quick referrence, taken up one of those big old leathery numbers with a gazilion pages on thin rice paper, you know, one out of a set of 25 or so...? No? Any book, EVER? No? Not travelled off the beaten track to meet with indigenous people or visited places in the world to explore old cultures and traditions?
Forgive me my obvious sarcasm but I'm out of here, regretfully...
Kalçeba (talk) 23:47, 9 February 2008 (UTC)

Ray D'Arcy[edit]

Just letting you know that this article was mentioned on Ray D'Arcy's morning radio show on Irish station Today FM to settle a discussion about the scientific theory behind Fire-walking on Monday 11 June 2005. Well done on being definitive! RMoloney 00:43, 13 July 2005 (UTC)

will someone like ot tak a look at Holy Fire? Tiksustoo 16:38, 17 October 2005 (UTC)

"Response to Physical Explanation"[edit]

This belongs on the talk page, not in the article:

During many firewalking events, most people are able to walk across the fire unscathed, but in a small number of cases, people's feet do suffer burns.
Firewalking facilitators and participants have noticed a link between the firewalker's psychological or spiritual state and these outcomes.
For example, it is noticed that people who are possessed of fear, or in a less heightened spiritual state will be more likely to suffer burns. Also, many firewalkers have reported having doubts enter their mind during the walk, then immediately suffering 'hot spots' (small spots of minor burns).
Unless it can be shown how one's thoughts and psychological state can directly affect the physics involved in the foot burning or not burning, then the physical explanation tendered above should be questioned, and certainly not accepted as the *sole* explanation.

This is nonsense. The article explicitly says "This does not mean that it is impossible to burn your feet. Fire-walking is still dangerous." The physical explanation does not predict that there will be no burns in any case. It predicts that there will be no burns under the right physical conditions - . If people walk on a fire under the wrong physical conditions (for example, firewalking event organizers may make them do that in order to "prove" to a skeptic that you need a special "spiritual state", keeping mum about the fact that the physical conditions are wrong), they will burn their feet. Do you know of any experiments under controlled conditions that show a connection between "spiritual state" and burning? No anecdotes please - you can "prove" anything you want using anecdotes. "Noticing" is a subjective impression, and what you "noticed" is disproved by instances of people walking on fire without any mental preparation.

You can believe whatever you want, but this is an encylopedia article and should contain facts, not unwarranted speculations. It is a fact that skeptics do walk on fire without any mental preparations at all.

Also, an encyclopedia article should not have the shape of a discussion, with claims and responses. --Hob Gadling 10:02, 3 July 2006 (UTC)

That section obviously needs a total rewrite but I do think we need to mention these views as they are widely held--in fact, from a belief standpoint, I think a majority of people think psychic abilities are involved (people's credulity and magical thinking never ceases to amaze me). After all, we have articles here on astrology, past lives; all manner of silly things that people actually believe in. We can talk about the beliefs without endorsing them.--Fuhghettaboutit 12:01, 3 July 2006 (UTC)
The article already states "Organizers of firewalking ceremonies often claim that in order to prevent one's feet from burning, meditation, calling on spirits/gods or other supernatural intervention is necessary."
Yes, I guess one could add more to that one sentence. Who knows more about what exactly those people say? --Hob Gadling 10:37, 17 July 2006 (UTC)
This is an incredibly rigid article that resists attempts to edit it with alternative views in addition to the conservative empirical ones listed here. Firewalking is way too much of a contentious and mysterious activity to be totally hijacked by skeptic purists who represent only one part of the spectrum. There are many retorts in this discussion page to the ideas put forth in the article but they are not in the article itself which is where they should be. Common sense should tell you the same message that is given to small childen - do not touch hot, glowing red objects that give off heat or you are going to burn. There is another mechanism at work here that we don't completely understand yet, that is why firewalkers are not being burnt. Surely the world record of 300 feet of continuous firewalking seen in the attached links dispels theories of red hot coals being insulative for short periods of time. —The preceding unsigned comment was added by 124.183.245.142 (talk) 01:47, 7 February 2007 (UTC).

Comments on Application[edit]

First, my interest on the subject. I 'm Greek and I've heard about the Anastenaria (fire walking festival in Thrace), I 've seen them on TV and I 've heard first-hand accounts from people who watched them live (but not participated.)

I wanted to do it too, but I am an atheist and the anastenarides (the people who participate in the anastenaria) believe deeply. They enter the fire carrying icons of the saints Helene and Constantinos. Their festival is widely recognised as a relic of pre-christian ages and the Greek Orthodox Church has condemned it and gone so far as to confiscate the icons (which were handed down from generation to generation for at least a couple hundred years). The Anastenarides themselves call the saints "Grandparents" and sacrifice a black bull to them at the start of the ritual. Still, they consider themselves Christians and I don't. So I stayed away.

I believe that whatever the explanation for firewalking, the crux of the matter is that normally, people don't jump in a hotbed of coals just for fun and neither do they do it for trivial reasons (like, say, management training). The important thing about the anastenarides (and some, but not all, other firewalkers) is that they find it in them to walk on the coals.

Now that's out of the way, here's my points.

First, I would like to see a detailed description of each of the different fire walking rituals and practices cited in the article. Hindu ceremonies have nothing to do with management and motivational seminars, they in turn have nothing to do with the anastenaria and so forth.

I 've seen (on TV) a British gymnast who trained people to firewalk for self-empowerement. He had prepared a six by three feet patch of coals and trainees crossed it in three fast bounds. The coals were carefully stacked to the sides and there was a lot of ash on the center, where they "firewalked". That seems to me the sensible approach to adopt in such cases (check out the link about the KFC incident, to see what can happen otherwise)

I 've also watched the anastenaria on TV. The anastenarides walked into a circle of embers a few feet in diameter, big enough to accommodate five or six of them, and they just stood there thumping their feet on the coals until they extinguished them- that's what the ritual demands: that the participants dance on the coals until they are extinguished. That generally takes two to three hours.

The two, just do not compare. One is for laughs between up and coming business management graduates, the other is for real, whatever that means, by people who would probably throw themselves in the fire proper, if they thought their icons told them so. Plus the music that accompanies the anastenaria, played by members of the cult, is a fine example of traditional Thraciot music and it's worth a listen anyway.

So I think a distinction is needed to be made between the two practices: firewalking for religious purposes and "firewalking" lite, for team-play enhancement (with a reference, perhaps, that the same can be achieved by playing paintball, for example)

Second, the scientific explanation presented needs citation. Who came up with it and have they tried it out in practice to see if it works?

I repeat: I admit I am taken with the Anastenaria but I don't believe it's the saints who make it possible (or Dionysus, or the Ancestors, or whoever). But I want to know and that explanation doesn't cover me. I want more than weekend skeptisism of hobby scientists, please. Preferrably from someone who has actually watched firewalking ceremonies and experimented with whatever explanation they came up with. And by experimented I mean firewalked themselves.

If it's so easy to explain how firewalking works and why everyone can do it, a man of reason could do it for Science, armed with the knowledge that the Laws of Physics would not let him be harmed.

(sorry for the sarcasm)

Second, B. In particular, this:

"Firewalkers do not spend very much time on the coals, and they keep moving (one second per foot before lifting is a conservative estimate)"

does not apply to what I know of the anastenaria. As I said above, they stay on the coals for two to three hours. They don't "keep moving"; rather, they keep their feet moving, which is not the same- "they keep moving" applies better to crossing the bed with fast bounds. I think it's not just the manager people who do the latter. The text in the parentheses is fine.

Three

"This is ipso facto substantiated by the fact that anyone can perform firewalking without any 'mind over matter' preparation."

Yes and no. You can "firewalk" fine if you have someone around to make sure you don't do anything stupid. But you can't firewalk proper without some kind of preparation, at least the kind that a tight-rope walker needs before performing. I don't know about "mind over matter" stuff- that's oriental malarky :P

And sorry for the extent of the comment.Ye Goblyn Queenne 07:57, 22 July 2006 (UTC)


"Application" sounds like it's some kind of lotion you put on. Can we find a better title for that section, like "Practice"?

"!Kung Bushmen of the Kalahari desert have firewalked since their tribal beginnings. The !Kung use fire in their powerful healing ceremonies"

"powerful healing ceremonies" Powerful, in what way?

"since their tribal beginnings." which was when?

"as a rite of purification, healing, initiation and transcendence, which have been threads in the cultural tapestry of our planet. "

I deplore the tone of that entry. Bleagh.

All the third paragraph needs citations, lots of them.

Ye Goblyn Queenne 07:57, 22 July 2006 (UTC)

By "the third paragraph", do you mean the explanation? The next paragraph is "External links and references" which contains sources for the explanation. --Hob Gadling 12:29, 25 July 2006 (UTC)

Tone?[edit]

What's wrong with the tone of the article, Silence? I can't find anything inappropriate. --Hob Gadling 12:29, 17 August 2006 (UTC)

Mind In Matter link[edit]

"As soon as he said this, a number of people from our staff walked on the grill without harm."

Here is another site talking about this incident: [1] You should not take Burkan's words at face value.

Another one: [2]. There Pat Linse says:

"I think it would be pretty big news to Dr. Leikind to find out that Tolly Burkan is claiming that several staff people walked on a glowing hot metal grill with their bare feet an were not burned! Had that really happened I think Leikind, considering his background in plasma physics, would have noticed the anomoly and would by now have a Nobel Prize for describing an entire new branch of physics!"

--Hob Gadling 16:29, 30 August 2006 (UTC)

I have the entire thing on tape, if anyone wants to watch it. It being the walking on red hot metal grill in Dr. Leikind's presence. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 71.123.244.15 (talk) 15:29, 14 March 2009 (UTC)

Unbalanced[edit]

I think this article is unbalanced and should examine some of the paranormal explanations and refutations of the conservative scientific crowd. I was at a Tony Robbins seminar recently and witnessed approximately 3000 people walk on coals. A small number were burned and could barely walk the next day. Tony Robbins also claimed in the seminar that he was burned once when he finished a walk and still had some coals stuck to his feet. He claims he allowed his energy to lower because he thought the walk was over and his feet instantly began burning. He also claimed that he once put a metal grill across the coals, had it fired red hot and thousands of people passed over it, so that their footprints were implanted into the metal, which seriously argues against the thermal insulating properties of coal.

Also, a quasi religious belief in the scientific method could potentially take the place of spiritual belief, giving the feeling of certainty and power that appears to protect the walkers.

Which refutations? The story you tell is fully compatible with the scientific explanation. Physics does not forbid Robbins telling tall tales such as the one about the grill. Or is there independent verification from someone who does not make a living from firewalking?
Your last sentence makes your claim about mental states influencing vulnerability arbitrary and unfalsifiable. Any time a person walks on fire without hurting himself, you can think up another mental state like "quasi religious belief in the scientific method" as an "explanation".
Why do you need an additional mental explanation for a phenomenon that is already explained physically?
  1. Because it is not adequately explained physically. Some people burn, some don't, at the same seminar. Also there is no special invulnerablity about the sole of the foot. There are people who have suffered 3rd degree burns to their feet from walking on hot coals accidentally.
This is not very solid reasoning... some people also get burned when touching a hot pot when others don't! It has to do with a multitude of factors - time in contact with the object, composition of the object, composition of the particular person's skin, if anything is on their skin, etc etc. All of which are accounted for in the article. I do agree there should be some further development around the spiritual ceremonies involving firewalking for completeness however.

- I haven't seen any evidence yet of a properly controlled experiment and anyone mad enough to walk on hot coals to prove a "physical" belief is in a heightened emotional state, I bet they spent hours psyching themselves up for it. If you want an empirical experiment to make cynicism seem more rational, then you would need a large group of random people some of whom went through a preparatory ceremony, some who were blindfolded and unaware that they would be walking on coals, with a mild heat source near their lower legs so that they couldn't really tell the difference and no preparation at all, and other control groups somewhere between these extremes. In the meantime, talk about the insulating properties of red hot coals on bare feet seems really silly and anti-intuitive; after all we use hot coals to barbeque meat. The "multitude of factors" looks like a series of weak excuses that obscures the real mechanism at play here. I don't believe that someone can walk 100 metres across hot coals unharmed does so because of minor differences in their perspiration or skin composition. It is a sustained effort of intense concentration and not at all the same as touching a hot pot accidentially for a microsecond. Agreed though that mental states and their effect on the physical world is a very difficult area to explore objectively which is why parapsychology is still so mysterious after decades of inquiry. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 58.166.95.83 (talkcontribs)

Instead of 100 metres of hot coals at 500 deg, try a hot sheet of iron at 500 deg. Should demonstrate the gist of the article quite effectively. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.168.196.117 (talk) 07:56, 30 October 2007 (UTC)

Tolly Burkan[edit]

I have removed the Tolly Burkan page [3] per WP:EL. The website is in promotion of events and media attention about Tolly. Thus, as a personal website and has commerical apsects it does not fit criteria.

Secondly, there will be no downplaying of the science involved. Firewalking is explained with science. While it would be helpful to note some disagree, people without scientific credentials will not be given undue weight. Arbustoo 03:32, 19 April 2007 (UTC)

What if science hasn't evolved sufficiently yet to explain it? The early experiments in electricity must have seemed equally miraculous; the miracle about firewalking being that we don't really understand the mechanism yet. In any case there are no proper experiments with people with scientific credentials to validate or invalidate the sceptical point of view, so paradoxically we have to use some faith when digesting their theories. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.183.91.141 (talkcontribs)
Regarding firewalking, what isn't sufficiently explained with science? Arbustoo 02:05, 20 April 2007 (UTC)
The fact that some people are able to walk hundreds of metres across hot coals without injury. Also, it is not science just to rigidly beleive one possible explanation without proper testing, that is actually a type of faith or anti-faith masquerading as science. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 58.166.66.155 (talkcontribs)
Do not add anything without a WP:RS. Do not remove cited material. There is nothing "contentious" about this in the scientific community. Arbustoo 00:14, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

- Why are Penn and Tyler references suddenly popping up all over Wikipedia? It looks like someone is trying to promote the show. This definitely does not belong in any introduction because TV shows are about entertainment rather than finding the truth. I totally disagree with you - firewalking is a highly contentious activity, within the scientific community and without, just read the discussion above. This article is a misrepresentation. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.184.246.25 (talkcontribs)

Penn and Teller's Bullshit! television debunks popular myths and has won several awards. Thus, I can understand why it would be used as a source. Its a WP:RS and a good quote. Arbustoo 23:16, 12 May 2007 (UTC)

- Just a reminder: "people without scientific credentials will not be given undue weight". And yet you allow Pen & Teller quotes!!?? Since when does an encyclopedia take any reference from TV show magicians? WP:RS are you kidding? Including a subjective quote in the definition of the term firewalking? What? The science quoted on this page is scattered about as fact under a header that states 'Explanation', leaving no room whatsoever to any other line of thought on the subject. That is not science, that's subtle (or not so subtle) censorship. Really, take it from someone who has been exploring this particular path for over 15 years: life is far more interesting than the Leidenfrost effect or the laws of thermal conductivity. Or more simply; life is far more... Sorry to say but this is REALLY poor editing, poor science and poor encyclopedic reference, which results in a dire misrepresentation of the practice of firewalking on every level. Kalçeba 10:26, 12 June 2007 (UTC)

@Kalçeba: Er, Penn and Teller are highly respected magicians. They are bonafide experts at the arts of deception. Regardless of their scientific credentials, their opinion on many paranormal claims are relevant and additive. The additional *science* in this article is sound. Psuedoscientific claims are mentioned, and no more needs to be said about them, unless (as already suggested) someone wants to catalog them *objectively*. If editors don't defer to sound rational explanations, they risk their credibility. --Skidoo 18:40, 24 June 2007 (UTC)
Another point is that firewalking is a circus skill (like sword eating and others), and Penn Jillette is a graduate of Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Clown College. Moreover, the claims are cited from his TV show Bullshit!, which includes experts. You don't really expect wikipedia to exclude mention of a documentary because the host doesn't have a PhD? The weight of the show has to do with the experts, research, and facts, not whether the TV personality has a formal education. Lshorthurry 23:58, 24 June 2007 (UTC)

- Before I respond to your statements let me clearly state that it is my objective to eventually contribute to a well researched, broad viewed and well represented article on the practice of firewalking that includes the history, the science, parapsychology and possible paranormal references. Nothing more and nothing less.

@ Skidoo & Lshorthurry: Let me point out a few obvious preconceptions that taint any comment that you consequently base on it: “Penn and Teller are highly respected magicians” – Does firewalking have to do with magic? Is their assumed ‘expertise’ on the subject of firewalking based on those credentials (graduated from Clown college)? “They are bonafide experts at the arts of deception” – Are you indirectly implying that firewalking is deceptive on some level, hence the experts at the arts of deception were called in? “Firewalking is a circus skill” – A circus skill? Please be careful in posting opinions like fact. At least do some research before you set out to degrade a global tradition that is thousands of years old into a circus act. “You don’t really expect wikipedia to exclude mention of a documentary because the host doesn’t have a PhD?” – I expect an encyclopedia to do sound research and editors to present the facts in an objective manner, with room for alternative view points and ample historic reference based on credible sources. I agree that expertise is not only born out of the primary western educational system but that it can also be born out of experience. However, if you are including subjective quotes from experts in the field quote people who have extensive (years of) experience with the particular practice of firewalking. Mention preferably more than half a dozen of them and from different social and cultural backgrounds, since firewalking can be found in many traditions all over the world. These sources should then be clearly quoted as subjective references, as Penn and Teller should be in this article. “their opinion on many paranormal claims are relevant and additive” – You hit the nail on the head there: opinions are subjective references and should be presented as such, NOT as fact.

Furthermore, like I said in my first response to this article; I certainly do not expect an encyclopedia to put subjective quotes based on a TV documentary in the definition of the term it is describing. That is evidently real poor encyclopedic reference. As stated above I do not expect to find multiple references to TV show hosts being quoted as experts in this particular field, especially when the editor in question stated earlier: “people without scientific credentials will not be given undue weight”. I do not expect to find the laws of thermal conductivity as the only reference cited under a header ‘Explanation’ when clearly that is an incomplete and slightly biased representation of scientific facts. Then there are quite a few questionable or incomplete entries like: Definition: “It has a long history in many cultures as a test or proof of faith” - this is a huge generalisation and definitely not correct for some of the bigger Asian traditions. History: there’s not much of a history here safe for a list of cultures in which firewalking is being practiced. Factors that prevent burning: There’s no mention at all of the possibility of mental/emotional states having an influence on the physical body, which is the subject of many scientific studies in recent years. Risks when doing firewalking improperly: “People have burned their feet when they remained in the fire for too long” – Rather deceptive statement, implying that time plays a major factor here. Fact is that people have burned their feet from two quick steps as well, contrary the laws of thermal conductivity. Records: Update - the current record of 220 ft was set on June 15 2005 by Amanda Dennison. References & External links: Only web references from the spectrum of skeptics or (pseudo) science are allowed, again limiting the understanding of the practice of firewalking to view points based only on various scientific laws (or the opinions of TV show magicians for that matter). To say the least, this is an incomplete representation.

As stated by other people before me, this article still remains unbalanced, biased, poorly referenced and poorly edited, with an unusual high resistance to editorial changes.

As to the scientific community: if you're going to do science, do it well. Ask a question - post a hypothesis - research it keeping to the existing scientific standards - come up with the results - check the results to your hypothesis. If you're bumping up against too many variables, keep creating new experiments to test your hypothesis. If there are too many anomalies, ask more questions, do more research. Whatever you do, do not limit yourself to believing an incomplete theory because science at present is not able to fully explain what's happening. Neither do you want to ignore the anomalies because the theory then doesn't hold up. In the end it's not about the theory, it's about our understanding and comprehension of life. It's foolish to try to fix reality to fit a certain perspective. Look at quantum physics for that one... Kalçeba 14:14, 26 June 2007 (UTC)

You have a misunderstanding of science and WP:RS. Please refer to those articles. Lshorthurry 02:13, 30 June 2007 (UTC)

I think after more than 5 years of academic education and the almost 14 years of continuous personal study of certain subjects (that have a direct relationship to firewalking) that followed it, I have a pretty good understanding of science and reliable sources.
I would prefer to side step any discussion, however, that does not directly contribute to a better understanding and representation of the practice of firewalking. Your remark hints in that direction and subtly discredits my previous entry and the points put forward in it and I am not willing to exert any effort along that avenue.
I will continue to probe, critique and ask relevant questions regarding this particular wikipedia article and try to make a valuable contribution to it, if that is at all possible within the present editorial structure.
Kalçeba 12:13, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

So with your "5 years of education", you know more than all the scientists cited in this article? You have not presented a coherent argument at anywhere on this page. Lshorthurry 22:11, 1 July 2007 (UTC)

Let me be plain: I've posted a selection of arguments in my earlier entry. It's your 'opinion' that they hold no validity whatsoever. That's very revealing of your lack of expertise in this particular arena and it also suggests a major lack of academic skill. Your last remark is hopelessly inaccurate with regards to the conclusion you base on the quotation, which is symptomatic of a certain level of immaturity and ignorance. Maybe this online encyclopedic experiment is simply bound to fail in its attempt to provide accurate and complete information to the public at large, given the general lack of quality and skill of its contributors and editors.
However, I'm not willing to expend any more energy on this futile discussion. I will continue trying to make a valuable and direct contribution to this particular article and will see how that is received in due time...
Kalçeba 20:51, 2 July 2007 (UTC)

Firewalking classes and skydiving classes are similar. In both cases, the classes are meant to give you the confidence to either step on hot coals, or leap from the door of an airplane. There is no implication that anything other than science is involved in either process. In 1977, researcher Tolly Burkan started demystifying firewalking by stating that it was pure science and that anyone could do it if they overcame the fear of stepping onto the coalbed. He persuaded many thousands to follow him onto beds of hot coals.

According to Burkan, the science of firewalking includes physics and physiology, of course, but unless people can will themselves to step onto the coals, there can be no firewalking. (http://www.firewalking.com/theory.html ) The psychological components are twofold: first, having the desire to do this and believing it will have personal value (same with skydiving); and second, having confidence… confidence that the right type of wood was chosen, confidence the coalbed was prepared properly, confidence in knowing that millions of people have done this before, and confidence in your ability to overcome the fear of taking the first step.

No one anywhere has ever said that this is paranormal---or a trick---so what’s all this “skeptical” and “debunking” stuff about? Physics, physiology and psychology are all just science. BUT, even though I know how skydiving works, I would never put on a parachute and jump from a plane without first taking a class. Same with firewalking. Are people who are skeptical just questioning why there is a fee for the class? I really don’t understand what the controversy is about.

Including Penn and Teller here seems like a joke. No one anywhere has ever claimed that there is a “trick” to firewalking. Why is this being treated like some circus act, and why are stage magicians being given free publicity over a non-issue? This entire article should be deleted and completely rewritten. Even the “facts” are wrong, such as the world-record, and the text is biased. This is an example of little minds making big issues out of nothing. Isn’t there someone willing to do the research to bring this up to snuff? Not me… I’m too busy… plus it seems this gets edited so that contributions that do not agree with a certain point of view are quickly removed. Lionus74.37.84.250 00:52, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Do people claim fire-walking is paranormal? Yes.
Do we include sources that "debunk" this myth? Yes.
Do we include WP:RS? Yes. Lshorthurry 22:00, 4 July 2007 (UTC)

Please indicate where you see firewalking claims of being paranormal. 74.37.102.241 15:41, 5 July 2007 (UTC)


I did a web search and cannot find any recent claims of firewalking being paranormal. Penn and Teller are just looking for ways to promote themselves. Next, maybe they will try to destroy the myth that the world is flat. Roger74.37.102.241 14:56, 6 July 2007 (UTC)


People do not firewalk to disprove a myth--they do it because it is a rite of empowerment. Nobody does this thinking it is magic. Nobody presenting firewalks says it is magic. 74.37.102.241 15:31, 6 July 2007 (UTC)

'cept this bloke - the world record holder - who suggests that one's unready state of mind results in injury.



Suggestions for Editing[edit]

The Wikipedia policy encourages editors to make suggestions on the talk page so that when a consensus of opinions becomes obvious, an article can be rewritten or edited using the input posted on the talk page. This is a good policy, so that frequent and haphazard edits don’t make an article seem piecemeal.

The firewalking article has suffered due to piecemeal editing. Here are suggestions to improve this article.

1 Give a brief history of firewalking
2 Include both secular and non-secular applications of firewalking
3 Present brief synopses of the theories offered to explain the phenomenon
4 Provide books and online resources for those desiring further information
5 Have at least one picture of firewalking, or perhaps several from different traditions
6 Post links to sites that display firewalking videos
7 List the various world records for firewalking and the date each was established

The present article has been consistently criticized for poor editing and biased points of view. Remember that equal weight is important here, as this article needs to look more encyclopedic and less like a tabloid article. 128.241.40.116 13:36, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

Couldn't agree more, thanks for your contribution! Am currently doing research and sourcing the science, articles and information needed to balance this particular article. It will take a little time, but we'll get there yet... Kalçeba 09:12, 8 July 2007 (UTC)


This sentence should be removed as it is absolutely false, misleading and can potentially get people injured:

In 2004 Penn & Teller explored self-help seminars focusing on firewalking on their show Bullshit!. The duo debunk firewalking myths, noting "the popular motivational activity of firewalking . . . is no more dangerous than walking across hot sand at the beach."

THIS IS IRRESPONSIBLE! People have been hospitalized after walking on hot coals, but no one has been hospitalized after walking on hot sand. This is an example of the stupid lengths people will go to make their biased points, even though their points are false.

Yes indeed, this article and discussion are really examples of pseudoskepticism - interesting to observe how skilled some commentators are at expressing (or rather failing to control) their prejudices.

I agree with point 3. above in the guide for editing - show a range of explanations from both sides of the fence. If everyone agrees that people have been documented walking 200-300 feet across hot coals without harm then explanations like short time of contact between feet and coals, Leidenfrost effect and heat insulation from ash seem indadequate. They might explain a few short steps in seconds, not hundreds in minutes. I think the ultimate problem with this exercise is trying to impose an ecyclopedic narrowness of interpretation onto an rite of deep mystery. I challenge anyone who has added to this discussion to get out there and try it and experience the resulting exhiliration and empowering insight for yourselves. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.183.127.198 (talk) 07:31, 21 November 2007 (UTC)

Try walking through 100 metres of boilng water barefoot. Coals can be 500°, it's a mere 100°, should be a doddle (and quite "exhilirating" too, I should think). But let me guess, it's only done upon carefully selected materials, which are carefully prepared beforehand. I wonder why that would be?
Actually, plunging your hand into a pot of boiling water to retrieve a stone was a European medieval test of faith and purity. I think one of Henry VIII's wives did it successfully (will find the reference soon and post). Cynicism is a form of fear, you might find that you achieve a hightened level of personal growth if you do something like this. Confronting fear and negativity head on and transcending it has a ripple effect on all areas of life. So how about it sissy-boy, are you up for the challenge? —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.183.185.149 (talk) 07:36, 27 March 2008 (UTC)
lol, internet tough guy, heh? Why do you need 500 year-old anecdotes, just go to the kitchen, immerse your own hand in still boiling water, and see how you go.

- I don't detect any meat behind your featherly bluster. Do a firwalking event like I have done and then let's see if you are inspired to write any more ignorant objections. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.217.118.122 (talk) 05:59, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

When you are really afraid of something, you start to sweat. No matter how hot or COLD it is. Sweating is a good thing when walking over "fire", as explained more or less scientifically in this article. In short: So you may have done a firewalk yourself. That does not compare in any way to sticking your arm in a boiling pot of water. Millions of people have walked on coals and have come out with at most minor injuries. So there most probably is a good physical explanation for that. Now what would happen if those millions of people stuck their arm into a boing pot of water for even one second? This is, IMO, a case where reality is stranger than fiction. Where, pretty much "everyone" could do a firewalk if they were courageous enough. But VERY VERY VERY few of those courageous people would stick their arm into a pot of boiling water... . Reality is stranger than fiction. Obviously, someone thousands of years ago discovered something that is physical reality, but that goes against most people's common sense. Einstein's theories fall into this category too. But, to stay on topic, if ANYONE falls while doing their firewalk... falling on the burning coals, they'd get hurt and burnt and scarred... 68.200.239.84 (talk) 00:24, 14 August 2008 (UTC)
One second in boiling water is easy. It's the next one that's the problem. People fish things out of boiling water with their hands all the time... better known as "cooking". Or at least, cooking badly. Leushenko (talk) 22:28, 25 October 2008 (UTC)
- Actually on Tolly Burkhan's website he talks about walking through the coals and pausing to pick up coals in bare hands and rubbing them over the body, then actually rolling across the coal bed with his entire body and coming out unharmed from the experience. So, it has been a couple of months - have you done the firewalk yet? Your opinions seem childish because I don't beleive that I am debating with an equal and this is because you have not yet experienced the subject that you write so passionately about and I have , several times. In regard to the point on physical reality - you are ignoring the link between psychological preparation and safe firewalking performance.  —Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.217.223.2 (talk) 11:30, 31 August 2008 (UTC) 

Objection to physical explanation[edit]

According to data easily available via a Google search specific heat capacity of coal is about 3 times smaller than that of water. Also density of coal depending on the exact type of coal ranges from 800kg/m^3 to 1500kg/m^3 again comparaible to that of water.

Given the high school physics class formula for heat Q=mc(delta t) and the fact that the difference in temperature between that of the coal and that of the human body(the delta-t factor in the previous equation) I would conclude that the heat is still very large.

Furthermore, regarding the droping of temperature below the flash point resulting in no additional heat being generated, that may very well be...but there still is a lot of heat in the coal.

Perhaps the explanation lies more in heat transfer because for sure the fire walk ends long before the firewalker+burning coal system would reach equilibrium temperature, so maybe the poor heat conductivity of the materials involved it the cause.

Thank you, Paul

- Why for sure? The record is hundreds of metres - surely enough time to reach equilibrium.  —Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.217.118.122 (talk) 05:57, 12 May 2008 (UTC) 

"Mythbusters" recently did some light experimentation on firwalking. They used heat sensitive electrodes strapped to the bottom of the firewalkers shoes. The walk was only a few metres long and the electrodes did not register a dangerous level of heat to the sole of the foot, as long as it was done quickly. Three of the experimenters who knew this information then proceed to successfully firewalk without prior mental conditioning. A fourth member who did not know this information, attempted the walk and was painfully burned and had to be bandaged. Interesting result open to a number of interpretations - I think the role that confidence plays in this process is interesting. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 58.168.118.244 (talk) 10:34, 17 February 2009 (UTC)

I hadn't previously realised "confidence" meant "walking quickly" —Preceding unsigned comment added by 202.45.99.157 (talk) 01:52, 5 March 2009 (UTC)
  • Why didn't you realise that? You know that all your life you have run from fear and if we were to put you on the coals you would become a charcoal chicken because you lack the confidence to master this experience. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.218.7.208 (talk) 07:19, 26 March 2009 (UTC)
  • The thermal conductivity of coal is indeed really low. For example, it can be 2000 times lower than that of iron and 5000 times lower than that of aluminium (see Young, Hugh D. and Roger A. Freedman 2004 (11th ed.). University Physics, Boston: Addison-Wesley 2004.) This also explains how my grandfather used to pick up glowing red coals off the floor and throw them back into the fireplace. Of course, you have to do that really quickly. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Allinthebrain (talkcontribs) 02:10, 5 March 2009 (UTC)
      • Missing the point, missing the point, missing the point. It is documented that people have walked across coals for hundreds of metres, taking several minutes to do so. No scientific explanation explains this.

Has everyone understood this now? No scientific explanation can cope . None. Zero. This is a complete mystery. Science can't explain it. If you think you have a scientific explanation and want to post it, don't because you are wrong and you havn't read the evidence that was posted above again and again and again. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 58.165.164.241 (talk) 11:25, 5 April 2009 (UTC)

What a bunch of nonsense. I am a scientist and an atheist. Like many people, I did firewalking at a retreat. No incantations were said, no prayers were mumbled, twenty people walked over coals barefoot (eight of them scientists and atheists like me). Some of the other people may have been praying for all they were worth and some of them may have been thinking about Calvin and Hobbes for all I know. None of use were burned. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it.—68.237.225.44 (talk) 04:11, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
      • The fact that you don't know of any scientific explanation that explains it, does not mean there is none. The fact that you don't understand the explanations presented in the article, still does not debunk it. The "evidence" you refer to is the same "evidence" that some Christians refer to when they talk of miracles. It is what has been termed the "argument from personal incredulity", which goes: "If I cannot understand this, then it must be a miracle." That's what people used to think about thunder too... Allinthebrain (talk) 19:37, 14 April 2009 (UTC)
        • I am also an atheist in most practical matters. Tell me, at the firewalking retreat did you spend some time psyching up before you did this act? How did you manage to overcome the mental tension between motivation and fear? A belief in a supernatural being is not necessary to complete this act, but strong belief in something is (even if is the Scientific Method, or Reason or some other belief system). The evidence which I refer to is the documented world record of some 300 feet. This is inexplicable by regular scientic explanations such as heat conductivity, Leidenfrost effect etc etc. Is everyone on board now? Everyone has actually read the information above before posting an opinion which has been posted before and refuted before? I genuinely believe that there is a "scientific" explanation, but we don't understand the mechanism at our current level of knowledge. This is similar to early experiments in electricity, gunpowder, steam - it appears to be magic until the mechanism is understood and tested experimentally, then it becomes rational science. I suspect this mechanism is related to state of mind and not to biological or purely physical means; though I don't have enough evidence to generate a scientific level of certainty yet . There really needs to be some comprehensive testing done. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 124.183.186.246 (talk) 11:05, 18 July 2009 (UTC)
One test would be to get experienced firewalkers to cross pits which were prepared by the people who do it, and by people just chosen randomly without knowing which is which. That'd test their mind over matter. —Preceding unsigned comment added by 203.113.234.63 (talk) 05:37, 7 January 2010 (UTC)

"explanation" improvement[edit]

That specific section reads like it's been copied from a pamphlet or a seminar or something. Honestly. Gott wisst (talk) 06:06, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

Also, it has some irrelevant information (just for example "-that would be undignified" and "-that's why carbon-fiber bike-frames and tennis-rackets don't weigh very much". Gott wisst (talk) 06:09, 16 July 2010 (UTC)

Ah, yes, that is so much better. Thanks whoever did that... Gott wisst (talk) 03:59, 19 July 2010 (UTC)

Tony Robbins Event[edit]

On the "Tony Robbins" page it says that reports of injured people were wrong. However, on this page it says the opposite. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 92.246.30.46 (talk) 15:16, 30 August 2012 (UTC)

Walking over stones[edit]

By definition in the article "Firewalking is the act of walking barefoot over a bed of hot embers or stones." but no where in the article is walking on stones covered. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 121.151.167.65 (talk) 11:59, 3 October 2012 (UTC)

Only two feet means direct contact at least 50% of the walk.[edit]

Since they only walk on two feet, the feet are in direct contact with the charcoal for at least half the time the walk lasts. In the case of a hundreds of feet long walk lasting 30 seconds, that means 15 seconds of direct contact. So the "very short contact" claim is not appliceable to long walks.37.250.248.210 (talk) 10:59, 30 May 2013 (UTC)