There is a Mystery Busters team that is solving mysteries and catching criminals (like Scooby Gang from Scooby Doo). There is no magic in the setting, the solution is always mundane, a trick done with smoke and mirrors. The technology is present day tech. The budget is 1000$, you can use only what's accessible to civilians/ can be created by an amateur electrical engineer (so, yes to soldering iron, no to magical microchips and non-existing superconductors).

Anyway, the latest mystery the team is trying to solve is a certain cult leader, lets call him Mr Fraud. He claims he is a holy man, a living saint, God's confidante, with real powers that come from faith... and has fairly loyal and fanatical followers as a result.

The proof of Mr Fraud's grandiose claims? He can emulate a very specific and very ancient miracle. The Holy Fire miracle. Specifically, any candle you bring to him, he will light as if with by magic. He would say a prayer, shield the candle with his hand as if lighting a cigarette, say "Thy will be done!", blow on it and the candle will be lit after that.

Now, the rules:

  1. No preparing the candles beforehand. For example, dipping the wick in potassium and mineral oil mixture so it will start burning once the oil dries out and potassium self-immolates is forbidden. Everybody can bring him a candle of their own and he should be able to light it.

  2. It must not be dangerous for Mr Fraud. So the danger of self immolation or chemical burns or poisoning or electrocution should be kept at absolute minimum.

  3. While he is wearing a priestly robe with pockets, if this is to be accomplished by chemical means, the chemicals must not be kept inside those pockets. It will be mighty suspicious if Mr Fraud dips his hands into his pockets every time before he does "The miracle". A chemical that can stay on one of his fingers that when mixed with the other one on the other finger induces fire is ok.3a) No smells (like oil or gasoline) or odd colors that can be seen from two meters away. So the chemical must not be radioactive green or garish purple or anything like that.

  4. No false fingers and electronic pull igniters like the one in this video. The trick must be done quickly and publicly. He should be able to light 10 candles in 10 minutes, without "Is that a bird? A plane? Superman?" misdirection between. False rings or small electronics hidden inside his sleeves are fine.

  5. Bonus points if he is able to do it without an external assistance (a guy with invisible UV or high voltage IR laser for example)

  6. Bonus points if Mr Fraud can do it outside or in the rain.

I had the idea of using UV laser inside his "church" with the beam that lights up only on specific place and only when Mr Fraud "presses the button" on his ring. That would be one way to do it but very dangerous, one look at the wrong place and his vision is gone.

Is it even possible with today's technology? Is it possible to make it portable?

  • 1
    $\begingroup$ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tXPVTIisl0 Is this a worldbuilding question? What rule of your world are you asking about? This sounds suspiciously like a critical plot point in a story, not a world rule. Frankly, a modern magician's slight-of-hand could meet this expectation (modern magicians make realistic miracles happen all the time). $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 7, 2022 at 0:32
  • $\begingroup$ @JoinJBHonCodidact it is a world building question because I don't know if it is possible to do that in the world, with current technology level. And it is also a critical plot point. If it is not possible then the story is not possible. I know about that "Light a candle by the smoke trail" trick. That is not what I am asking for. I am asking for slight of hand which can accomplish the trick I described. Maybe I should go to Magician stack exchange, if it exists? $\endgroup$
    – jo1storm
    Mar 7, 2022 at 7:33
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ The help center states, "When asking questions keep in mind that the goal of the site is to help you build your world, not to tell your story," which makes the Q off-topic. That same page states "Worldbuilding ... is a site for designers, writers, artists, gamers and enthusiasts to get help creating imaginary worlds," and since you're not asking about a rule of your fictional world, but quite literally asking for us to develop a magic trick in the Real World, the Q is again off-topic. As for where to ask, maybe you should ask a professional. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Mar 8, 2022 at 5:17
  • $\begingroup$ It looks like you're asking about the actions of an individual not the facts of your world. As such this question is off topic for this site. $\endgroup$
    – sphennings
    Mar 8, 2022 at 5:44
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    $\begingroup$ for the VTC's I see no difference between this and a question asking for a plausible means of having any other physics based phenomenon. (two stars orbiting each other, two planets orbiting each other, tidally locked planets, etc.) Additionally, it has a method for determining best answer in the post. we have a fictional priest doing a fictional miracle that needs a plausible method of pulling off the gimmick. That's about as worldbuilding as it gets. $\endgroup$
    – IT Alex
    Mar 8, 2022 at 14:38

1 Answer 1


Eye-tracking + computer-controlled lasers

Mr Fraud wears dark-ish eye glasses. The glasses are connected to a lanyard draped around his neck.

The glasses conceal a compact eye-tracking system. Systems like this have existed for a while; I've encountered them in nice digital cameras. The bridge of his glasses conceals a small IR receiver, like some modern VR headsets have.

The lanyard conceals a thin cable that connects the glasses to an electronic device on his belt. The device provides power and contains a transmitter.

The device communicates with a computerized system hidden in his house of worship. The system includes IR transmitters hidden at known locations around the room, plus several lasers mounted in the rafters.

The computer uses the IR information to calculate the precise location and orientation of his glasses. The eye-tracking gives the precise ignition point relative to his eyes (he must stare directly at the wick). That information is combined to give the precise location of the candle wick in three-dimensional space.

The lasers mounted in the rafters are aimed at the wick. There are several lasers up there, so that at least 2 lasers always have line-of-sight on the wick. When Mr Fraud gives the signal, the computer activates the two best-positioned lasers, lighting the wick.

Mr Fraud can give the signal any number of ways. Perhaps he wears a religious icon around his neck that conceals a button or a microphone. Maybe the computer fires at anything he stares directly at for more than 5 seconds.


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