Magic Trick: The Secret of Rope Tying

Since the days of the Davenport Brothers many conjurers have exhibited rope tying. To shake off the most intricate of these ties is never very difficult, for it is only a matter of bringing a strain on the rope until one hand is free—which is soon done—and then the rest is plain sailing. But it is very different where one allows oneself to be tied tightly with rope, then frees oneself so as to perform seemingly impossible "stunts," and afterward is found tied up as at first. That is what Mr. Kellar used to do. How he did it he never told us, and yet

The Kellar Tie, we firmly believe, is just what is here-inafter described. The performer asks two of the audience to assist him in the trick. To these gentlemen he offers a piece of sash cord two or three yards long and when they have pronounced it strong and perfect, he extends his left arm and requests them to tie the rope around the wrist, knotting it on the front of the wrist. When they have the rope tied in a satisfactory way the performer requests the gentlemen to stand slightly in advance of him, one at his right, the other at his left, and each to take hold of an end of the rope. As they do this he extends his left arm, the hand open with the palm upward and the rope on that side passing between his first and second fingers, as shown in Fig. 172. Then the assisting men pull, and when they are satisfied the performer puts his hands behind his back. As his left hand goes to his back the fingers on each side of the rope give it a twist (See Fig. 173) and lays it on the wrist with the bight of this twist pointing up the arm. Almost simultaneously the back of the right wrist is laid on the rope and pressing on it conceals the twist. The ends of the rope are now hanging down one on each side of the wrist. These the assistants, as requested, pick up and tie in a good, hard knot on the front of the right wrist, as in Fig. 174. The performer has gained his "slack" and is ready to proceed. He asks the gentlemen to stand a little in advance of him and close to him at the sides. As soon as they comply and thus shield him, he releases the pressure on the rope, the slack falls away, and he thrusts his right hand out in front of him. The next moment he puts it back in the loop of the rope, the left fingers twist the rope again, and the back of the right wrist and hand holds it pressed tightly against the left. With practice this is but the work of an instant.

Fig. 172

Fig. 173

Fig. 174

"That's all very fine," we hear some one say, "but his left wrist is still tied, and yet we have seen a performer take off his coat, when his hands were tied behind his back and the ends of the rope were fastened, quite out of his reach, to the rounds of the chair on which he was seated. How was that done?" In this case he works in a cabinet or behind a screen so that he may not be seen. As soon as he goes into the cabinet he frees himself altogether from the rope, which he conceals on his person or somewhere in the cabinet, and substitutes another rope. This rope is prepared in the manner shown in Fig. 175. A A are two hard overhand knots; B is a strong tie. To get these in the right positions the performer, long before he attempts to exhibit the trick, has his hands tied together loosely. They both point in one direction, but he turns them so that they will be in opposite directions. This will twist the part of the rope that is between the hands and he has the spots where the rope crosses marked with a pencil. Then the rope is untied and taken off his hands. The next move is to tie a hard overhand knot where the two marks are. Then his wrists, both pointing one way, are tied together rather tightly. At this time, the performer twists his hands so that they point in opposite directions and that will bring the knots A A together and show them as if knotted firmly together. The tie on his right hand is an honest tie. With this rope concealed where he can get it easily, he steps into the cabinet, rids himself of the first rope and proceeds to tie the ends of the second to the rounds of the chair so that he could not reach them when seated. Last of all he slips his hands into the loop of the rope, gives it a twist and calls a committee to examine and see that he is securely tied. Then follow raps, bell-ringing and other didoes. Finally, he throws his coat out of the cabinet and calls for "Light!" being careful to tie himself up first. Again his hands are examined and appear to be fairly tied. "Now," says the performer, "will some gentleman hold my coat a moment and place his on my knees?" This is done, the cabinet doors are closed and when they are reopened, almost immediately, the performer has the gentleman's coat on, though his hands are still tied behind him. "This is done," he says, "merely to convince you that a trick coat is not necessary. Now, one more test. I shall ask that gentleman to place my coat on my knees. As soon as the doors of the cabinet are closed, I shall throw out his coat, and I want to see whether he can get into it quicker than I can get into mine." The cabinet doors are closed once more and the man's coat comes flying out, but before he can get it on, for it is turned inside out, the performer steps from the cabinet, his coat on and the rope in his hands. It is needless to say that this time it is the original rope, the knotted one being concealed under his coat.

Fig. 175

In a magazine article published this year (1910) a gentleman well-known in the field of science describes a seance given by Mr. Fay, at one time manager of the Davenport Brothers. In the course of the seance Mr. Fay was tied up, according to the writer of the article, in such a way as to preclude the freeing of himself and yet he did most marvelous things. Let us assure our readers that Mr. Fay's tie was almost identical with the one we have just described, and depended, as most rope-tying tricks do, on gaining slack. That is the whole secret. Let us add here, that Mr. Fay and Mr. Kellar were at one time associated in business. Verbum Sap.

The Muslin Tie. While entirely different from the Kellar Tie this is quite as good and just as clever. The performer shows a number of strips of white unbleached muslin, each two feet long and two inches wide, and requests a committee from the audience to tie him with these. A strip is tied around each of the performer's wrists, and so tightly as almost to stop the circulation. The ends of the strips, four in all, are then tied together, so as to bring the wrists together behind the performer's back. If desired by the audience the knots may be sewed or sealed with sealing-wax. Two staples are driven into the door-jamb or into a stationary, upright post, one about twenty-four inches above the floor and the other about twenty inches higher, and from each there hangs a solid iron ring about two and a half inches in diameter. Seating himself on a campstool, his back against these rings, the performer has another muslin strip run through the ring and over and under the strips that bind his wrists. Still another strip is passed around his neck, tied and then tied to the upper ring. To all appearances he sits there unable to help himself in any way. To secure him still further, a rope is tied to each ankle and led out among the audience, and a nickle piece is laid upon each shoe so that he can not lift his knees without dropping a coin. A tambourine is placed on his knees and a hand bell is stood inside of it. A screen is now put in front of him, so as to conceal him from the sight of the audience. Immediately the bell is rung and thrown over the screen, the tambourine is shaken and that, too, goes flying in the air. The screen is removed, the performer is still seated on the chair, the knots are undisturbed. The tambourine is replaced on his knees and a goblet half-filled with water is stood on top of it. The screen is again placed so as to hide him, and when removed, the goblet is seen to be held, empty, between his lips, and is taken away by one of the committee. Then follow in succession a number of "manifestations," as for instance, an empty pail placed on his knees is found over his head; a piece of board with a hammer and nails is laid on a wooden-seated chair that is placed alongside him, the sound of hammering is heard and a nail is driven into the board; a guitar is thrummed, a horn is blown, and after each manifestation of assistance from some unseen source the knots are examined and in each case are found to be intact. Our illustrations, Figs. 176, 177, show very clearly what the "unseen source" is, to wit: the hands of the performer stretched around one side. It hardly seems possible, but the bandage that passes through the lower ring is always tied in five or six knots "to make it secure," the diameter of the ring helps, and so does the length of the staple; the bandage slips up the arm a little, and when the performer is about to reach around his side, he stretches his hands out as much as possible, and then pulls his body to the opposite side of the post, past the lower ring, and is able to reach anything that is placed on his lap. A small waist is necessary, and for this reason, a woman or a child is more successful with the trick than a man: one thing is certain, no one with a "corporation" will ever succeed in doing it.

Fig. 176

Fig. 177

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