The Boy Who Might Be Magnetic (Or, More Likely, Definitely Isn’t)


Reports in multiple sources at the moment, from the Guardian to CBS, have been telling the tale of a young boy in with what’s said to be an unusual talent.

Taking up the story from CBS:

“Six-year-old Ivan Stoiljkovic appears to be able to attract metal to his chest – including silverware, coins and even a frying pan.

His family says Ivan possesses extraordinary strength and even healing powers.”

“It started as a joke,” said his grandmother. “I said, let’s try this and things just stuck to him. The heavier things actually stuck more strongly to him.”

In total, his family says Ivan can carry up to 55 pounds of metal on his torso.

His upper body appears to be more magnetic and his family says his wounds heal very quickly and leave no scars.

Family members told Reuters that Ivan also has “healing hands” with which he alleviates his grandfather’s stomach pains and has soothed the pain of a neighbor who hurt his leg in a tractor accident.”

The story comes complete with a video of Ivan demonstrating his talents:

Avid magnetic-child-watchers may have heard this tale before, and indeed this isn’t the first time a child from Eastern Europe has been heralded as possessing extraordinary magnetic powers. In fact, just this February a seven year old Serbian boy called Bogdan was filmed demonstrating his own extraordinary skills.

Tellingly, both videos of Bogdan and Ivan are very similar – a topless, slightly-podgy child with items precariously stuck to their torso. Most interestingly, however, Bogdan’s tale gives away a little more about what might really be going on. Because while both Ivan and Bogdan are shown with cutlery in place, Bogdan’s family go one further than Ivan’s with their demonstrations of magical skills. Ivan may well be able to hold up coins, frying pans and more, but Bogdan can use his magnetic skills to suspend plates on his chest. Ceramic plates. Ceramic, non-metallic, non-magnetic plates, suspended on his slightly podgy, entirely smooth and slightly leant-back torso…

…Aaaaaand therein lies the secret. These feats aren’t feats of magnetic skill, but of simple physics and friction – a slightly clammy, smooth skin offers just enough grip that objects can be held in place, especially if the wonderkid is leaning just slightly backwards to allow the bulk of the weight to rest upon the chest, rather than to be magically attracted to their bodies. If they were truly magnetic, they’d be able to stand up straight or even lean forwards, and keep the objects in place.

Essentially, this is a balancing act.

Or, to put it as the Discovery blog amazingly titled it – “Magnetic” Boy Is Probably Just “Plump-and-Sticky” Boy. And if that’s not the greatest headline of all time, I’m not sure what is.

One thing that interests me is that these stories seem to be coming out of a cluster of countries. Alongside Ivan in Croatia, there’s also both Bogdan and Jelena from Serbia. This might well be another case of those culturally-bound phenomenons – like heavy leg syndrome is bound within France, and the fear in South Korea that indoor fans left on overnight will cause asphyxiation. Which is the only interesting thing about this story, really.

This article is an adaptation of an item on episode 92 of the Righteous Indignation podcast. Get this, and other episodes, by subscribing to the podcast on iTunes. It’s good, honestly.

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  1. #1 by Anonymous on June 13, 2011 - 02:10

    Sorry so OT but I had to share. I found this fascinating and maybe you will too.

    Quacks/academic frauds called out in Sri Lanka. I’m fascinated to learn of the “Sri Lankan Rasputin.”

    http://www.thesundayleader.lk/2011/06/12/quacks-medical-political-academic-and-criminal-galore/comment-page-1/#comment-212712

  2. #2 by Rob Hinkley on June 13, 2011 - 10:38

    “Alongside Ivan in Croatia, there’s also both Bogdan and Jelena from Serbia.”
    It could be an arms race among the states of the former Yugoslavia. As soon as the Serbs announced they had a magnetic child the Croats feared a magnetic child gap so had to magnetise one of their own. Seeing the Croats tooling up to magnetic child parity the Serbs move to stay one step ahead, and so it continues. A positive feedback loop of distrust and clammy children sticking spoons to themselves.

  3. #3 by Marsh on June 13, 2011 - 11:40

    “Mr. President, we must not allow a plump-and-sticky-boy gap!”

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