Magic Trick: The Miser

This, if properly done, will deceive the keenest and most sharp-sighted onlooker. To begin, the performer goes among his audience and asks for "a black gentleman's hat or, rather, a gentleman's black hat," remarking that while he prefers a tall hat, rather than no hat at all, a derby will do. Having secured one, he announces that he will use it as a sort of bank of deposit for the money he expects to gather visibly from the air, where, just at present, it lurks invisibly. He returns to his stage or, if in a drawing-room, to the place reserved for his exclusive use. Then, showing his hand empty, he begins to pick from the air piece after piece of money, tossing each coin as he gets it into the hat. Finally, when twenty, thirty, or may be fifty pieces are thus collected, they are turned out on a plate and the hat is returned to its owner.

There are several ways of doing the trick, but we shall explain the method followed by the original Herrmann—Carl Herrmann—who introduced it to this country in 1861, and has never been surpassed in the performance of it.

Let us preface the explanation by saying that Herrmann acted out the trick in a very melodramatic manner, and this greatly heightened its effect.

When the performer goes into the audience to borrow the hat he has one coin, say, a silver dollar in his right hand, and as an excuse for keeping the hand closed he carries in it his wand. In his left hand he has twenty-five or thirty coins and that hand grasps the lapel of his coat. The moment he receives the hat, he passes it to his left hand and immediately thrusts that hand into it in such a way that the fingers press the coins against its side, while the thumb, resting on the outside, clasps the rim. Turning the hat crown upwards and still clinging to his wand the performer boldly extends his arms, and requests one of the audience to feel them, so as to be convinced that nothing is concealed there. This examination being made—and it ought not take more than a second—the magician turns toward his stage and, as if to prepare for his work, throws his wand ahead of him. At the same time he drops into his sleeve the coin which is in his right hand. Facing his audience he shows his empty hand, front and back, without uttering a word. Suddenly, he clutches at the air and eagerly peers into his hand. There is nothing in it. This action he repeats once or twice, and then, as if in despair, presses his hand to his brow and afterward drops it to his side. This movement causes the coin in his sleeve to glide into his hand, where he holds it palmed. When he again grasps at the air he seems to catch a coin, and shows it to his audience. This coin he tosses fairly into the hat. Instantly, however, he takes it out, looks at it fondly, kisses it, and, apparently, throws it back into the hat. In reality he palms it and drops a coin from the left hand into the hat. As the right hand is withdrawn from the hat its back is toward the audience and the palmed coin is not seen.

Sometimes the performer pretends to pass the coin into the hat by pushing it through from the outside. This is done by palming the coin just before the fingers reach the hat, or the "Finger Palm, No. 1," may be used. At the moment the tips of the fingers are pressed against the body of the hat, a coin is dropped from the left hand, and the effect is perfect.

When the stock of coins in the left hand is exhausted, the coins are turned out on a plate. Sometimes, however, the performer goes among his audience, and, as if to show that the coins are really in the hat, he picks up a handful and lets them drop back into the hat. In doing this he retains a few, and these he shakes out of a lady's handkerchief, or pulls from a man's beard.

In performing this trick the careful performer varies his movements, substituting for the usual hand palm the Finger Palm, No. 1. The advantage of this is that the open hand may be turned toward the audience.

When about only five coins remain in the left hand, the performer may conclude the trick as follows: The palmed coin from the right hand is thrown visibly into the hat, while the hand is held out, as if to rest it, but really so that every one may see it is empty. While this is being done, the few remaining coins in the left hand are held between the left forefinger and the second finger. Then the right hand takes the hat and as the fingers go inside they snatch the remaining coins and the left hand is brought out, and it also is shown to be empty. When that hand again holds the hat the right hand palms all five of the coins. Finally, these coins are produced one by one and thrown deliberately and visibly into the hat.

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