This is one of the best forms of an excellent trick, and the necessary preparations for it are well repaid by the pleasure it gives an audience.
The properties are:—
1. Two metal caps, each about an inch and a quarter long, made to fit the end of the performer's thumb and painted so as to resemble, as closely as possible, the tip of the thumb.
2. Five strips of tissue paper, each eighteen or twenty inches long and one inch wide. Three of these pieces are plaited in the fashion shown in Fig 125, and then compressed and folded in two.
Fig. 125 How the paper is plaited.
One of these strips is placed in each thumb cap; the third lies on the table with the two straight pieces of paper. Behind these is one of the thumb caps; the other is on the performer's right thumb. Picking up one of the straight pieces, the performer holds it between his thumbs and forefingers in such a way that it covers the thumb cap.
Now he tears it up, until it is in pieces about two or three inches long. Taking off the cap, he holds it in his left hand, takes out the plaited piece and, compressing the torn pieces into as small compass as may be, puts them into the cap, which he replaces, on the right thumb. This done, he pulls out the plaited piece and shows it to the audience as the restored strip.
"Let me show you, how simple this is," he says. Turning to his table, he picks up the third plaited piece, drops the cap from his thumb and replaces it by the second cap. Facing the audience, he shows the plaited piece.
"Two pieces of paper are used," he says. "This piece I hold in my palm." As he says this, with his left hand he places the plaited piece in his right palm. Holding his hands up, so that all may see them, he keeps the strip of paper in place by the tip of the third finger of his right hand, taking care to conceal his thumb behind the left hand. Turning to his table again, he picks up the remaining strip of paper with the left hand and proceeds to tear it, as he tore the first piece. When torn to the desired size, he packs the pieces away in the thumb cap, first taking out the plaited piece. The cap he replaces on the thumb. He has now two whole strips in his hands, but the audience imagine he has the torn pieces and one whole strip.
Without any attempt at concealment, he changes the pieces. "Now, ladies and gentlemen," he says, "I simply open out this piece, as you see," here he opens one strip and drops it on the floor, "and these pieces." As he says this he pulls one end of the remaining strip, and continues to pull until its full length is shown. "Ah, well, I see you know just how the trick is done."
Just a word here as to the manipulation of the cap. When stretching a strip between his fingers the performer may easily, even at close quarters, show that there is nothing in his hands except the strip of paper. When running the strip through his fingers, the thumb with the first and second fingers of the left hand may remove the cap from the right thumb. This off, that thumb may be shown, incidentally, empty. By repeating this move the cap may be replaced.
A popular and clever London conjurer, Selbit, suggests the following substitute for the metal thumbpiece, which, as he truly says, is clumsy: Provide yourself with a nicely fitting ring of thin, flat brass that will pass over your thumb down to the first joint. Next, get at a druggist's a thumb stall of thin flesh colored rubber; Fig. 126, put it on the thumb and push the ring down over the outside of the stall. Just above the ring toward the closed end of the stall, apply some rubber cement, turn back the open end of the stall so as to cover the ring and the cement will stick the rubber together, leaving the ring hemmed in between the two parts. When it is dry, cut away the loose ends of the stall. To use it, place the duplicate slip, plaited closely, against the flat end of the left thumb and pull the stall over it, as shown in Fig. 127. To exchange the duplicate slip for the torn pieces, place the latter against the tip of the left thumb and hold them there by pressing with the right thumb; then with the first and second fingers of the right hand, take hold of the ring and pull it over the right thumb, as in Fig 128. The result is that the torn pieces are concealed and the duplicate strip is in your hands, which may be shown, apparently empty.
Another Method. In this method four strips of tissue, each thirty inches long, are used. Red tissue is preferably the best color and shows to the best advantage, but, unfortunately, most of it rubs when wet, so if a fast red can not be had, white will answer. Two of these strips are pasted together, making one strip about sixty inches long. This serves as the duplicate. This is plaited zigzag and, finally, is doubled. To plait the paper easily one end of the strip is laid on a playing card, near the edge, another card is laid on top of this, the strip is folded over this card, and then it continues over and back between cards until the entire strip is plaited in even folds. It is then taken from between the cards, pressed tightly together and doubled. It will make a little parcel about an inch and a quarter long. On the outside end a bit of white tissue paper is pasted, so that the performer may find it when he wants it. A band of the same tissue paper measuring two by two and a half inches is now wrapped around the folded strip A, and the ends of the bands are pasted together. The strip A is now in a sort of envelope. A pencil mark is made on one end of this envelope directly over the spot where the bit of white tissue lies. Two of the remaining thirty-inch strips BB, are taken and an end of each is pasted to an end of the envelope to prevent it opening and to make a continuous strip as shown in Fig. 129. Everything is now ready for exhibiting the trick.
The performer shows his hands back and front, the fingers wide apart. Picking up the strip BB he hangs it over the right hand, with the "envelope" part on the inside of the hand, as shown in Fig. 130. The "envelope" is now taken with the left hand and the right hand tears the strip BB just at the point where it is pasted on the envelope. The envelope might now be opened, but for the present it is not. Holding the two half strips together, and allowing them to hang down between the forefinger and the thumb of the left hand, the performer brings the four ends together and proceeds to tear the strips first in two, then in four, and finally in eight pieces. These he holds between the thumb and the forefinger of the left hand, with the "envelope" which still contains A, behind them. While in this position he passes all from hand to hand to show, apparently, that there is nothing there but the torn pieces. With a twist of his right hand he brings the ends of these into the left hand, and squeezes them into a compact wad. While he is doing this his thumbs, at the back, open the "envelope," take out the strip A, and hold it next to the wad between the fingers and the thumb of the left hand. The performer now covers the wad with the tip of his left forefinger while the right hand takes hold of the loose end of A, and draws it out a few inches, the piece of white tissue making this easy. Bringing it toward his mouth he blows away from him the end as it makes its appearance. He continues to draw it out a few inches further, and as his fingers touch his mouth for an instant, a perfectly natural movement, he pops the wad into it.
The trick is really done, but the performer continues to pull out the strip and blow on it till the full length is revealed. This form of the trick constitutes a problem which several professional magicians tried in vain to solve.
A trick akin to this paper tearing is that of apparently tearing a borrowed bank-note in pieces, and restoring it whole to its owner.
Although only a little trick, this will test to the utmost the ability of the performer. Mr. Francis J. Werner, a prominent member of the Society of American Magicians, makes a specialty of this, and in his hands it serves to illustrate the saying, "It is not the trick but the man."
Before beginning the trick the performer folds up a bank-note of his own, and conceals it in the fold of his sleeve at the bend of the left arm. When he borrows a bank-note (taking care that it is not frayed about the edges), he holds it gingerly in his right hand fingers so that everyone may see he has nothing hidden in his hands. Then he pulls up first his right and next his left sleeve and as his hand goes to the latter he seizes the note concealed there between the first joint of the second and third fingers. Taking the borrowed note between the fingers of both hands, he catches the upper right-hand corner between the thumb and finger of the right hand and gives it a quick, sharp, downward jerk toward his body as if tearing it. As he brings the corner down he retains it with the third and the little finger of the left hand. At the same moment he permits the duplicate note, which is between his fingers, to be seen. Crumpling the two bills together, he pulls them apart, allowing the audience to get a mere glimpse of them. Again and again he brings them together and separates them, rubbing one against the other, which will give the impression that they are being torn. Each time that they are separated the hands must be parted so that a bill may be seen in each hand, and finally the hands are held out toward the audience, who seeing the two bills will believe them to be one in many pieces.
In concluding the trick, the hands are brought together and the borrowed note is opened out and held so that all may see it; the duplicate bill is palmed in one hand and as the borrowed bill is held out in the other, the palmed bill is dropped into the trousers pocket. In exhibiting the trick Mr. Werner is here guilty of a bit of magician's audacity. He works more rapidly than at first. Crumpling up the borrowed bill he repeats with the one bill almost the same motions used with the two bills. He rubs the right thumb against the rumpled bill, making a sound as if tearing it, and as the audience believe they saw the separate pieces in the first instance they imagine they see them again. Finally he opens out the bill, which has been rolled into a ball, shows that it is whole, and returns it to the owner.