Illusion of burning river


Hope I chose the right department. I am writing a book and in it’s final I wanted to create an illusion of the burning Vistula river (Warsaw, Poland). One of the characters is an illusionist and wants to do an act in the popular spot where all the people sit on the banks and have fun, it’s right after some bridge.

The idea is to create a miracle (a reference to the biblical burning bush that Moses saw). At night in the summer, when people sit on both sides of the Vistula River, I would like to have an effect of a mysterious fire - preferably a wall of fire that suddenly appears above the water and then disappears. Maybe someone already comes up with some clues?

I’ve already done some research, of course. In the first version, the characters were supposed to pour extraction gasoline into the river and set it on fire, but it’s probably not the best idea, right? Someone figured it out for me that it would take 200 liters for a river to catch fire, but this must be nonsense. And there wouldn’t be that wall of fire effect, it would just be a fire a little above the water, right?

An university professor helped me with the second concept. I corresponded with him for a while, but then the contact broke off. Nevertheless, he offered me nitrocellulose (NC) sheets idea - throw them into the water and set them on fire. This is a nice lead. I know NC burns super fast and even under water. However, I do not know how much of it I’d need my characters to have and how high the fire would burn.

Currently, I think that I could use tiny, around 8 m wide and 50 m long, promontory in the middle of the Vistula, a shallow, and lay thick layers of NC there.

So how high do you think the NC could catch fire and how much of it I’d need?

I am open to any suggestions. The effect must be “wow”, so that on the second day in the world of my novel people would see headlines such as “mysterious fire on the Vistula on the night of meteorites. Witnesses talk about the sacred revelation” The plot is sewn with thick threads (I dont now if there is such an expression in English, but there is in Polish ), so even the most crazy ideas will be appreciated. We can also turn a blind eye to some specialized issues

Can you help?

That’s a tricky one. Your book is about an illusionist doing an illusion, so my first thought would be to contact an illusionist to help you design the trick, at least in concept. Being fiction it doesn’t have to be factual, just believable. But most illusionists don’t really want to design a trick that they will never perform so someone can tell everyone how it’s done.

Your best bet, just make something up. Make it believable, but don’t bother with factual. I watched a movie about illusionists recently and half the things they did wouldn’t really work. One of them made the rain stop, then made it go back up. He did it with strobe lights. Sounds reasonable. Until you realize that what they showed was every drop hanging in place. And there were people with umbrellas standing in the rain. The strobe lights wouldn’t stop them from getting wet. And you’d kind of notice the flashing of strobe lights. You wouldn’t need him to explain how he did it. There is no version of that trick which fools anyone. But it didn’t matter. It was just a movie.