February 17 is the birthday of miracle man Kuda Bux (Khuda Bukhsh, 1905-1981). As a teenager, Bux learned the secrets of professional magic from a certain “Professor Moor”, but was instructed in the arts that would become the core of his act from a mystic yogi named Banerjee. From Banerjee he learned firewalking and walking on hot coals, and the highly unique stunt of covering his eyes with wet dough balls followed by a blindfold, after which, remarkably, he was still able to see. With his eyes covered in this fashion, he was able to read books and the faces of coins held by others, and to do a showstopping William Tell routine with a pellet gun.
Bux moved to the U.S. in the 1930s. He performed his firewalking routines in both London and New York; and in 1938 a British Pathe film was taken of his blindfold routine called The Man with the X-Ray Eyes. (Google it, it’s currently available online).
In 1940, Bux was featured in the British film They Came By Night starring Will Fyffe. A decade later he briefly had his own TV series on CBS: Kuda Bux, Hindu Mystic. He continued to appear on American TV throughout the years, on programs like The Tonight Show, I’ve Got a Secret, The Art Linkletter Show, Captain Kangaroo and The Mike Douglas Show. Starting in 1963, he was represented by producer/promoter/gallery owner Barbara Feiden, who often joined him in his public appearances. Bux’s career inspired Roald Dahl’s tale The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar, first published in 1977.
Ironically, Bux’s last years were spent in blindness! Glaucoma was the culprit.
To learn more about the history of the variety arts, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous