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40 People Injured During a Hot-Coal Walking Stunt

Was it because they didn’t believe?

via Flickr user (cc) Ted Conference

Yesterday in Dallas, Texas people were burned at a seminar held by motivational guru Tony Robbins and it wasn’t because of the $650 to $3,000 attendance fees. 40 people suffered burns on their feet with five being hospitalized after a hot-coal walking stunt went wrong. With 7,000 people in attendance, most were able to walk over the hot coals without being burned, so what went wrong? Were these people unable to “Unleash the Power Within” as the seminar claimed to help them do? Of course not, that’s a bunch of hocus-pocus.


Hot-coal walking is an ancient trick with a basis in science. Hot-coal walkers always heat their bed of coals way ahead of time so they’re cool enough not to spout flames. The coal walkers then spread the coals into a flat surface which prevents their feet from pushing down into the hot embers. Coal is carbon-based so it’s a poor conductor of heat and doesn’t transfer it to human skin very well. So when people walk slowly over the coals there isn’t enough time to for the heat to transfer to their feet. This leaves the coal-walker with the feeling they’ve made a miraculous journey through fire. But really, it’s all an illusion.

So why were 40 people injured? It appears, like far too many injuries these days, they were on their phones. “There was someone in front of us and someone behind us on their cell phone, taking selfies and taking pictures,” Jacqueline Luxemberg, a seminar attendee, told WFAA. Luxemberg said that person asked someone “to video record for her, so I think that that has a lot to do with it.” This isn’t the first time someone was injured walking over hot coals at a Robbins seminar. Back in 2012, more than 20 people were hurt at an event in San Jose, California.

Here’s what the Robbins camp had to say about the incident.

“In Dallas tonight, someone not familiar with the fire walk observed the event and called 911 erroneously reporting hundreds of people requiring medical attention for severe burns. While we are grateful to the quick and robust response from Dallas emergency services, only 5 of 7,000 participants requested any examination beyond what was readily available on site. We are pleased to have completed another successful fire walk for 7,000 guests and look forward to the remainder of an outstanding weekend with them.”

Here’s the science behind the hot-coal walking trick.