Death at Burning Man

Someone ran into the fire at this year’s Burn. That affects everything…and nothing. As soon as I got off Playa people began messaging me with, “I heard someone died!” In this video I try to explain my feelings and reactions.

*I am not an official representative of Burning Man. Just a 20 year Participant who believes in this community with all his heart. You can see lots more of my thoughts about Burning Man in this Journal or YouTube.

About the author: John "Halcyon" Styn


Halcyon is a 21-year Burning Man participant and co-founder of Pink Heart camp. He is author of "Love more. Fear less." and producer of the Burning Man short film, "The Pink Path." He's won Webby awards for his over-the-top personal site & his "Love On Demand" video podcast Halcyon co-founded the San Diego based "1st Saturdays" homeless outreach program based on Burning Man Principles and coaches people how to be radically self expressed in the default world. You can find his full Playa Tips & Tricks series at

28 Comments on “Death at Burning Man

  • Dolores says:

    Thank you for your wisdom shared.

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  • Rayman says:

    Some asshole had to go jump in the fire and ruin a great time being had by so many. I liked your message Halcyon, but I have no sympathy for people like that guy who know the negative effect this will have on so many and they do it anyway or perhaps because they think/know how their negative energy will spread around to others or to the event itself. I suppose from now on we’ll have to watch our burns through cyclone fences like the one that was around the temple the next day. Thanks a lot you dead asshole!

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    • Manysummits says:

      The whispers are that we’re going to build a wall around Black Rock in 2018 to keep the bad hombres out…..
      Try to let go of your judgmental grind and you’ll find out how much more bearable life can be. A little bit empathy for your fellow burners would be ….human…

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    • Lof says:

      Some Guy in a deep pain and lost had to go jump in the fire and change a time being had by so many. I liked your message Halcyon, and I have sympathy for people like that guy who cant see the negative effect this will have on so many and cant do in another way. I Will support from now our rules for burns through maybe fences like the one that was around the temple the next day. Sorry a lot for you dead brochet !

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    • Will Chase says:

      Rayman, before you cast aspersions, please keep in mind that you don’t have any idea what he really “knew” or “was thinking” at the time. You’re presuming he had presence of mind, awareness and intent, with no basis for that assumption. In fact, all circumstantial evidence points to the opposite. And yet still, we may never know.

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    • Nichole says:

      Actually I think you are the asshole! I knew him personally and he was one of the most beautiful souls I have ever had the pleasure to know. He was always full of life and always so positive and loving! You don’t know his state of mind at that moment. Have some compassion you cold hearted person. How selfish of you!!! He was LOVED by many!!!! You should be ashamed of yourself!

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  • Mark Romain says:

    When I was 18 I found a man in the woods who chose to kill himself . He was 26 years old. Since then human suicide has woven itself into my life many times. People who saw this tragedy may not have been selected to see it but I have to encourage all to grow in compassion from this event. build your wisdom and compassion and love all people around you , especially the ones who are hard to love.

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  • Sparky says:

    Thank you Halcyon, I briefly met you at the beginning of burn week. Little did I know how your words would resonate with me now several days after the burn. I returned to my home in Key West on Tuesday knowing that I would soon be told to evavcuate because of the approaching hurricane. Since then so many of us have been chased North, West and East by Irma not knowing when and whether we can return home. You words about the death during the burn have helped me focus on the bigger picture and the essence of that celebration in the Nevada desert that we call home. Love, Sparky!

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  • robert fairman says:

    There was a fire burning a human effigy with a community reveling in radical self expression advocating bloodless neo-paganism. This guy took it a step further. I don’t believe it’s just a game. I don’t buy that he was just “disturbed”. Of course he was. I would say that most people attending are disturbed by something they don’t like in the world and that’s why they’re attending. Either that or it’s just “innocent” adult entertainment that you would not take your kids to. Either way not good in my humble opinion. I just want to call it what it is.

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    • darrell says:

      Another comment by someone that has never attended and think they know why everyone attends.

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    • Robynn says:

      It’s derived from an old British Ritual, as seen in the Movie The Wicker Man. It is an actual Ritual that demands Human Sacrifice for a Bountiful Harvest in the coming year. That was no Suicide!

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    • George Thompson says:

      This pagan ceremony goes all the way back to Moloch, a Canaanite God of Child Sacrifice. Funny how the effigy closely resembles the drawings of the old idol. Maybe the ceremony is conjuring up the same old demon who lurking in the crowd demanding human sacrifice. Watch out attenders, maybe he lurks around looking for you too if you are in attendance of one of these events. Me personally, I will stay hundreds of miles away and leave it for you to enjoy.

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  • Mark says:

    Wise words Hylcon. The thoughts of having a fence around the Man and Temple when the Burn is on only leads to opportunity the fences do not have to be wire or brick emagine the possibilities. I do like unfenced but with the talents I witnessed at Burning Man anything is possible if a fence is needed let the imagination run wild. Much love ❤️

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  • Brother Michael says:

    During the event the fences would keep bikes and art cars away from the Man and the Temple.
    On burn night they would act as safety barriers.

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  • Jessica Spear says:

    thank you for your wisdom halcyon. this was my first year at burning man and when i left and heard the news i was very upset and sad for all of the people affected and very thankful i was unaware at the time. i hate that this can happen in a community so full of love and understanding but life is fragile and fleeting and the only things we can do is learn from this and support each other with our love the best we know how. I’ve never met you but i love you and your wisdom and thank you very much for sharing

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  • Hi, I desire to subscribe for this web site to take latest updates, thus where can i do it please assist.

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  • Theodiskaz says:

    I would like to see a piece entitled “Death By Burning Man”. This article should make the best, big data guesses at how many cancers, and other diseases, could be statistically predicted to arise from your burning of things.

    Sadly, it turns out burning things is a big part of your community, but burning things is unethical. Burning things is immoral. The poisons from burning things are killing us all and ruining the planet.
    When you burn things you accept responsibility for poisoning your neighbors, sending them floods, sending them droughts, poisoning their air, poisoning their food and poisoning their water.

    Fires are slowmotion poison bombs. Stop bombing my planet. For the love of humanity and our common home, hands off the planet.

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  • Mr. Lee says:

    Has suicide been confirmed? My deepest condolences are with his friends and family. I also have yet to see a toxicology report. Is it not possible that he was attempting to run in and out and tripped and was not able to be saved quick enough? Either way a tragedy. I will say that there has been so many people pointing a finger at burning man and to be honest, with 70,000 people from all over the world in circumstances that are not at all normal, with mutant vehicles roaming around, and extreme heat~ to have ONE casualty? I would consider the radical experiment that is burning man, a major success. Populations of less have more casualties in less time with motor vehicle accidents alone.

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  • Dan Baker says:

    Blaming the victim is a bad idea. The same thing happened in Salt Lake City 3 years ago. The outcome was the same. The cause there was horrific home brew drugs, more or less chemical manslaughter. Drug induced psychosis or naturally occurring psychosis is somewhat rare, the brain is the second most disease free organ, and breaks rarely, but when it does, the outcomes Are sad, and sometimes tragic. This was a fatal behavioral accident, and they happen every day. The take home message is simple. Three words..REACH OUT. INTERVENE.

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  • Dan Baker says:

    I forgot something important in the above comment. A call for acknowledgment and gratitude for the immense courage the firefighters displayed while trying to save this man’s life. The video is heart stopping, and I’m sure the roar of that fire and those wobbling heavy columns were terrifying. These brave men deserve our recognition, respect and a heartfelt thank you from the Burner Nation. I for one thank them.

    I offer a poem to ease understanding a little.


    Life is a series of small victories, victories over nothingness, inertness, darkness. Victories over unimaginable cold, pressure, heat and chemical punishment.

    Victories that we scarcely notice until they cease.

    Life is a roaring victory, a hard earned and sweet one, that gives life its preciousness, its value, and imparts a bitter bewilderment when it is gone.

    The lone dandelion that sprouts up through the black asphalt in a parking lot tells us this. We know this implicitly. Life is a trophy of fierce struggle in a universe where it is unknown.

    We celebrate this victory often. We celebrate the exuberance, and virility of life because it is powerful and capricious, and pushes adversity out of the way. Life is arrogant, and humorous, seeking a strategy of wide variation.

    This is what we celebrate at Burning Man. Victory. Victory over nothingness, inertness, ignorance and assault on imagination. We are proud, we are arrogant, we are humorous, and we have achieved a point of life where we cherish the work of those who see for us and say for us and sing for us of in our struggle to understand the great mysteries of consciousness.

    And we are bewildered when life is gone.

    Dan Baker

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  • Desert Silence says:

    I’m also concerned about the repeated tales (see the subreddit) about sexual harassment/rape incidents at the event, which seem to be on the rise. How does this fit into the “look on the bright side!” narrative?

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