Magic Trick: To Vanish Handkerchiefs

Not being solid bodies, handkerchiefs will require different treatment, and present the greatest difficulties, which are fully compensated for by the superior effects produced. In the first place, the performer must be careful to borrow a lady's small handkerchief, if for the purpose of vanishing. In performing The Knots (page 218) a small handkerchief is generally included amongst those borrowed. It is not used for the trick; but the performer says he is very fond of such handkerchiefs, and forth-with rolls it up in his hands, pops it into his mouth, and swallows it. Whilst the company are wondering, he suddenly pulls the handkerchief out of his leg. This is a most wonderful sleight, and one the conjuror must endeavour to become perfect in. He should begin with a small piece of muslin, which rolls up very tight and easily. This he takes between the two hands, the left hand below, with its back turned somewhat towards the company, and rolls it sharply round and round, until he feels that it is well balled. Then, with the right hand, he apparently takes it up, the left hand really retaining it by means of the thumb, and grasping the coat-flap, as in other cases, or the wand under left armpit. The right hand apparently conveys the handkerchief to the mouth, where the choking and swallowing performance is gone through. After a pause of a couple of seconds, the conjuror looks curiously down at his leg, and, pouncing at a spot in the rear of the thigh, just above the knee - joint, presses the handkerchief there, to enable the fingers to obtain a hold of a very small portion of it. It is then at once jerked forcibly away, when it will appear to the spectators precisely as though it had been pulled out through the cloth. The different movements must all follow one another with regularity and swiftness, and yet the performer must not appear to be hurrying himself in the least. If the handkerchief experimented upon be large, some risk is run of a portion appearing from the left hand. Even with small handkerchiefs this will, at times, occur; but if the performer carries out the movements of the right hand properly, the eyes of the company will be directed solely to that.

The same sleight is employed in feigning to throw back a handkerchief to its owner, the action of throwing being employed instead of affecting to place the article in the mouth. In this case, it is as well to pivot round at once, vesting the handkerchief in so doing, and then at once inquiring, with empty hands, if the handkerchief arrived at its destination all right. It may be afterwards produced from the interior of a spectator's coat, by being whipped quickly in and then produced very slowly and at extended length. If this reproduction is to follow quickly, then do not vest, which is only done for the purpose of showing the hands empty. If the performer pleases, he may plunge his hand into his breast, and produce the handkerchief; but it will cause less wonderment, and no amusement at all.

Small birds present considerable difficulty, the object being to conjure with the bird without injuring it. A bird cannot be palmed, like a walnut, nor can it be rolled up, like a handkerchief. But, strange to say, the very difficulty of the feat assists the performer. In the first place, the company never suspect that the bird is about to be made to disappear, unless the performer is weak enough to forewarn them; and, secondly, never having experimented, they do not suppose for an instant that the bird will be simply retained in the hand all the time, as it really is. All the conjuror has to do is to hold the bird in the right hand, outside the wings, and head downwards, the tail pointing up the wrist, and then affect to put it in the left hand, which is bulged so as to appear to hold it. The wand must be under the right armpit, and the right hand seizes it at once, the left hand being struck and opened, showing the bird to be flown. The sooner the bird is reproduced the better. The most unlikely, and therefore the best, place to produce it from is the bottom of the trouser—a lively course of speculation as to how it got there being thrown open to the company. If it be desired to get rid of the bird altogether, the performer must pivot round and vest. There is not much chance of the bird moving in that position, but, of course, it will be better for the performer to make an early exit, and relieve himself of the encumbrance.

Doves are made to disappear by means of the shelf at the back of the table, or the pocket directed to be made at the bottom of the coat-tail. The shelf vanish is more open to suspicion, but I have, nevertheless, found it enormously successful, when properly managed. The performer, in the first instance, must not announce, by word or deed, that the disappearance is about to take place. Standing to the left (his left, facing the audience) of the table, and slightly to the rear of it, he takes the dove in the right hand. Walking briskly past the table, at the back, he casts his eyes upwards, and just as he reaches the extreme corner of the table, makes a movement of tossing the bird into the air. It is, instead, placed gently (not dropped, or thrown) upon the end of the shelf, the brisk pace of the performer carrying him at once a good yard beyond the table, from which spot the dove is apparently cast into the air. The success of the sleight depends very much upon the exactness with which the performer imitates the actual throwing of a bird into the air, and the fearlessness with which it is conducted. Any symptom of a glance at the shelf would be fatal. The bearings must be taken whilst stationary, and the rest carried out with the eyes fixed earnestly on the ceiling. Rabbits and guinea pigs may be similarly treated; but large-sized rabbits are unsuited, since it is not easy to place them upon the shelf. When the pocket is used, supposing it to be in the right coat-tail, as it probably would be, the performer should stand with that side away from the audience, and ascertain, by means of the right hand, if the mouth of the pocket be open. Lean slightly over to the right, and then, taking the dove in the right hand, make a movement of casting it into the air, straight upwards, whither the eyes are directed. It is, of course, left in the pocket, head downwards. An attempt to place it there tail first would be likely to lead to disaster. As this sleight may be performed away from any table or chair, it is, of course, to be preferred. It is, undoubtedly, more difficult of accomplishment than the shelf vanish, requiring more neatness in depositing the bird; for, if the downward sweep be too vigorous, it will have the effect of disturbing the coat-tail, which will be momentarily seen, pushed out behind the performer, by the company, and the place of concealment thereby betrayed. It need hardly be pointed out that, in either case, the hand must grasp the bird firmly by the body, clasping the wings tightly down. If it be felt struggling in the pocket, the performer should bow himself off at once.

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