Magic Trick: The Spirit Table

In selecting the idea here presented from others, perhaps more practical or more original in effect, the writer has acted on his theory that books on conjuring should be composed of suggestions, rather than finished effects, so that it devolves on every performer to work out the details anew, thus in some small measure preventing that apelike imitation which has brought so much discredit on the mystic art. The trick here employed, he has himself used, in two entirely different ways, yet it was for the effect described that the ruse was invented.

The performer places upon a small unprepared table, several tambourines, bells, a slate, a small guitar, etc. Then remarking that a real medium can produce manifestations in the light as easily as in the dark, if only he screens his ghostly visitants from profane eyes, he holds a piece of drapery about two feet square as a screen, before the table-top. Immediately sharp raps are heard to come from the table and answers are rapped out to the performer's queries. Tambourines and bells are rattled and rung, and shaken against the cloth, or the performer's arm, then thrown with great force into the air and even at the performer. The guitar is played upon while it is seen to float about; the slate is written upon; in short, almost any of the usual "spirit" manifestations can be produced. After each manifestation or racket, the performer quickly lowers the cloth, but nothing suspicious is seen.

For this trick, the performer needs three arms, and fortunately he has them, two are his own, and so is the third, for he has paid for it, but it is not as valuable as the other two, for it is made of papier maché. See Fig. 150. It is provided with flexible joints at elbow and wrist, and a hand modeled and colored as nearly as possible like the performer's own right hand. This false arm is permanently fixed into the right sleeve of a coat he wears especially for this effect. This coat he dons during a moment's exit after his introductory remarks and his arrangement of the table and instruments. His right arm is held behind his back, and, without letting his left hand or his face know what it does, it "assists" the spirits. A stout little rod with a steel hook at the end, enables it to reach all parts of the table-top and to rap and bang the various instruments; the floating and throwing of them is accomplished by engaging the hook of the rod in screw-eyes, with which they have all been provided; the guitar is provided with a music-box which plays while the instrument is "floated" about. Just as soon as an instrument has been thrown or laid down, the little rod is drawn under the coat-tail, and the cloth lowered almost simultaneously. The cloth has a hook in one corner which is hooked into an eye under the coat-lapel. Rather heavy drapery goods works best, and it is advisable to weight the lower hem with shot, that the folds may not cling or stage zephyrs disturb the harmony of the spirit concert. The performer comes on holding the false hand in the real left hand; when he releases it, it will drop with a perfectly natural movement to his side. He then takes the cloth from the table, hooks it onto his coat, and proceeds with the trick. As he cannot turn round, or exit except by awkward side-stepping, the curtain should be dropped on the last manifestation.

Fig. 150

A somewhat similar apparatus, but more simple and less cumbersome was described some years ago in Mahatma, which we are allowed to reproduce here through the courtesy of Mr. Frank Ducrot, the proprietor of that journal.

For this it is necessary to have a lazytongs of steel or other metal, that may be extended or contracted at will by pressing the knob that is at one end. The other end of the lazytongs has attached to it four false fingers, made in exact imitation of a half closed human hand. The tongs is sewed between two handkerchiefs or other pieces of cloth, at one edge, leaving the false fingers on the outside, as shown in Fig. 151.

Fig. 151

To use this apparatus the tongs is closed and the handkerchief is thrown over the back of a chair, the fingers hanging behind. The performer picks it up with both hands, the fingers of the left hand covering the false fingers. He opens it out, showing both sides, and then spreads it in front of him, allowing his left hand to fall behind him. He may then ring a bell, shake a tambourine, or cause articles to appear on the table or to disappear from it. In fact, many wonderful "manifestations" may be worked, to the astonishment of the audience, and the performer is free at any time to turn or to leave the stage.

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