Magic Trick: A Knotty Problem

The performer clasps his hands, and the crossed thumbs are tied tightly together with a strong cord. A man from the audience is asked to lock his hands and the next moment the performer's hands, still tied, are around the man's arm. Then they are "off again, on again." Standing behind the man, the performer's right hand comes suddenly in front, taps the man's face, and goes back again as suddenly as it came forward. Finally, a hoop, which examination has shown to be solid, is thrown toward the performer's hands, and is seen to be hanging on his right arm. Then it is as quickly thrown off. The tie on the thumbs is examined repeatedly and is always found intact.

The secret of the trick is in the position of the fingers. When the performer clasps his hands the left forefinger is on top; next to it is the right forefinger, then follow in this order: the left second finger, the right third finger, the left third finger, the right little finger, and, last, the little finger of the left hand. The right second finger, as the reader will notice, in Fig. 178, is free inside the hands. When the cord is placed under the thumbs, preparatory to tying them, this hidden finger catches it and pulls it down, holding it firmly. In this way enough slack is gained to enable the performer to release his thumbs at any moment, and yet to show them at any time tied tightly. The right finger, as the illustration shows, will not be missed. At the conclusion of the trick the performer pockets the cord, lest the undue size of the loop might lead to a solution of the problem.

Fig. 178

Å Second Method. Two men from the audience are asked to assist. The performer holds his open hands before him, about four inches apart, with the fingers extended at full length and the thumbs crossed. A light rope or a heavy whipcord, about three yards long, is then laid under the thumbs, well into the roots, and each assistant is requested to take hold of an end. "Now, sir," says the performer, turning to the man on his right, "please stand as far away as the rope will allow. And you, sir," addressing the second man, "do the same." As he speaks to them, the performer nods his head repeatedly and points with his hands toward the direction he wants them to go. The audience naturally watch the performer's face and their attention is taken away from his hands. As the second man moves away the performer, holding the rope tightly at the roots of the thumbs, brings his hands together, allowing the intervening part of the rope to fall between them, where it is held tightly. He now has all the slack he requires. The assistants are then asked to tie the rope tightly. When this is done a soft hat or a Derby is placed over the hands, and the performer is ready to exhibit the "stunts" described in the preceding method.

Fig. 179

A Third Method. In this method, known as the Ten-Ichi Tie, the performer uses two pieces of heavy twine, about fifteen to twenty inches in length, respectively. Around each is tightly wound a strip of Japanese paper, about an inch and a half in width. Both cords are knotted at the ends. Two men of the audience are invited to act as a committee and assist the performer. A cord is handed to each, with which they are to tie the performer's thumbs together. He puts his hands in the position shown in Fig. 179 and crosses his thumbs, the left thumb on top. The tip of his right thumb presses against the base of the left forefinger and the tip of the left thumb goes under the base of the right forefinger. The thumbs are held firmly in place so that the cord can not pass between them and the bases of the forefingers. The longer cord, at the direction of the performer, is now passed twice around the thumbs from A to B, and tied as tightly as the committee desire. The smaller cord is passed between the ball of the left thumb and the base of the right, forming a figure 8 and from there over the right thumb, where both ends are tied together. To release himself the performer brings his hands together, extends his fingers, and drops the thumbs between his hands, as shown in Fig. 180. Then he slightly bends the first joint of the right thumb, when he can easily remove it from the cords—being careful not to pull—and as easily replace it. Then he shows the usual "manifestations," as already described in the foregoing methods. So quickly can he release and replace his thumb that there is no need of covering the hands.

Fig. 180

At the close of the trick, the committee are requested to untie the knots, and, if necessary, to cut them. This the performer always requests, as it adds to the effect of the trick.