10/06/2003 at 01:00 AM EDT
They come not to egg him on but to egg him. And to shine laser pens in his eyes, tempt him with burgers grilling below and awaken him by banging drums. Centuries after Henry VIII stretched his last enemy on the rack, torture is back at the Tower of London. At least that's how it must seem to illusionist David Blaine, whose latest stunt—going without food for 44 days suspended in a Plexiglas box next to the Thames—has drawn all the wrong kind of attention. One joker was arrested when he tried to tamper with the magician's water line. But Blaine, 30, due to emerge Oct. 19, hasn't budged. "He didn't expect this," says pal and fellow trickster Uri Geller. "But it makes him a stronger person."