Having occurred for centuries all over the world, typically as a part of religious or magic rituals, fire walking is the practice of stepping on hot coals or stones or burning wood embers with bare feet. Fire walkers might be subjected to temperatures as high as 1,472 degrees Fahrenheit (800°C), yet their skin rarely burns. In 1935 psychical investigator Harry Price theorized that the reason fire walkers do not suffer burns is because they typically walk across the hot coals or other substances so quickly that the heat does not have time to damage the skin; however, not all fire walkers walk quickly.
In 1977 an Ohio professor named Jearl Walker noted that many firewalkers wet, wash, or soak their feet before beginning a fire walk, and he suggested that fire walkers do not get burned because when water is subjected to high heat, it turns into vapor, which forms a protective coating over skin. Others have theorized that fire walkers’ bodies produce an unusually high amount of endorphins, which are responsible for blocking pain, but this would not explain the lack of burns. Still others have suggested that fire walkers’ preparations for the event create an as-yet unidentified mental state, which allows them to block out both pain and skin damage.
- Harry Price
The Greenhaven Encyclopedia of Paranormal Phenomena – written by Patricia D. Netzley © 2006 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning