Tony Robbins followers injured walking on hot coals

June 26, 2016

Categories: Skepticism , Tags: Pseudoscience, Coals

Tony Robbins is a very popular motivational speaker, and charges US$1,000 or more for a high energy day of talks. Events have names such as "Date with Destiny", "Life and Wealth Mastery" and "Unleash the Power Within". Tony's website has testimonials from famous celebrities, such as Hugh Jackman, Bill Clinton and Serena Williams. Video of Tony Robbins events look a lot like evangelical christian sunday services - lots of music, jumping around and highly emotional sermons.

Tony says that walking on coals will help to:

"conquer the other fires of your life with ease"

On Thursday, over 30 people were treated for burns (opens new window), with 5 being taken to hospital, after an attempt to walk on coals went wrong.

There's nothing special or mystical about walking on coals, if it's done right. After a while the coals have produced a lot of ash, and this can help insulate the coals. Fire walking is always done at night, where coals that would look unimpressive during the day shine brightly compared to the darkness around. The Leidenfrost effect may also help, where sweat on the feet evaporates and provides a layer of protective vapour.

Of course, you still need to cross the coals fairly quickly. Unfortunately, in this instance it wasn't done right. It seems likely that the coals weren't given long enough to burn.

The NZ Skeptics have held a walking on coals event before, without any incidents and with no special incantations being said, no meditation, etc.