Many jugglers have experimented with juggling with their eyes closed or blindfolded, but there is actually a long history of blind juggling and a small group of jugglers that specialize in this skill. Let’s take an in depth look at the world of juggling without seeing (and those that pretend to do so).
Like many juggling tricks of the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, blindfolded juggling exhibitions were not exactly what they appeared to be. The use of gimmicks were still common among jugglers, as the art was still closely associated with magic and illusion. A great example of this comes from the juggling chapter of The Modern Magician’s Hand Book, written by William J. Hilliar in 1900. Below you can see his explanation of how to fake juggling three torches blind.
A less well known but very similar description was included in the book Spirit Slate Writing and Kindred Phenomena written by Chung Ling Soo in 1898. Although quite repetitive, I am including it below for the sake of thoroughness in historical research.
To see this type of blindfold being used by a juggler, click here to see the Rudenko Brothers’ blindfold leapfrog routine from 1968.
Of course, not all fake blindfolds were used in a serious manner. Bobby Jule used a fake blindfold for comedic affect, juggling three clubs with a blindfold on but then stopping and picking up something on the floor with the blindfold still on. He did this with great success with legendary television host Ed Sullivan, picking up some papers that Ed had dropped.
Another juggler to use a trick blindfold for comedy was Daniel Rosen. Daniel would put a blindfold on and juggle three clubs while facing sideways to the audience. When he eventually turned to face the audience, it was revealed that there was a hole in the side that was facing away from the audience, easily allowing Daniel to see. This same idea was utilized years earlier by The Half Brothers. Click here to see them passing torches with the one sided blindfold reveal at the end.
Today’s trick blindfolds used by magicians are much more slick and can often even be examined and tried on by audience members. There are still a few jugglers who wear trick blindfolds to fake blind juggling, but with a bit of practice and talent, this is unnecessary.
Juggling Without Seeing
It’s not known when the first juggler learned to juggle with his or her eyes shut, but blind juggling competitions at juggling festivals goes back to at least the 1980s and probably earlier. While balls or beanbags are usually used, some jugglers prefer clubs as they feel that they have a better feel for its position in the air and have more to catch due to the handle. Some jugglers doing balls prefer to sit while juggling blind. When first learning, most jugglers begin juggling with their eyes open and slowing closing them. With practice, a blind start is not too difficult. A low pattern is usually desired and consistent throws are important.
There are a number of jugglers who specialize in blind juggling. Tony Duncan is perhaps the performer most jugglers associate blind juggling with. Tony includes a variety of blind juggling tricks in his shows and includes some quite difficult tricks. Click here to see Tony’s three ball blind act.
Click here to see Joelle Huguenin juggling three balls blind above her head, performed at WJF 5 in 2008.
Niels Duinker is the current Guinness World Record holder for Blindfolded Juggling, juggling three clubs for 6 minutes and 29 seconds in 2011. Niels juggles three knives blindfolded in his act. You can see this feat in the following video.
A juggler who is completely blind is Damian Pickering. He was taught to juggle three balls off of his chest by Raspyni Brother Barry Friedman. You can read a great description of how this came about by clicking here.