Magic Trick: Hold them Tight!

The performer takes a few coins—four half-crowns or florins will be found the most suitable—and also a strong white cotton handkerchief. He then asks the assistance of one of the spectators, stating his predilection for a very strong man. The more burly the volunteer, the better he will suit the conjuror's purpose. Seat him on a chair a little on one side, and facing the audience. Place the coins in the centre of the handkerchief, which then invert, and grasp the coins through it from the outside. This is done openly and deliberately, and the assistant is requested to hold the handkerchief firmly between the two hands a few inches below the coins. He is then asked if he thinks it possible for the performer to pull the coins through the handkerchief without making a hole, or to get them out without interfering with the assistant's hand. The answer will invariably be a negative one, and the performer then says, "Very good; that is your opinion. I will now see what the audience think about it." With this, the performer steps forward with the coins and the handkerchief, and explains to the audience that it is a trial of Strength versus Skill between the strong man on the stage and himself. He then requests someone to place the coins in the handkerchief, so that there shall be fair play, the handkerchief being spread over the performer's left hand for the purpose. When the coins are placed in the handkerchief, they should be grasped through it by the thumb and first and second fingers. The performer then turns suddenly to the person on the stage, and says, "I trust you are not nervous, sir; you look very pale." This will cause everyone to look at once at the person addressed, who will, if under the glare of footlights or other strong gas, infallibly bear a pale appearance. But whether he looks pale or not will not matter, the diversion being made for the purpose of distracting the attention of the audience from the performer for a moment or two. Whilst all eyes are directed towards the assistant, the performer turns the coins over twice in the handkerchief, a fold of which is taken at each turn, and the coins thus enveloped. The coins are then grasped in the right hand, and a good shake given to the handkerchief for the purpose of straightening it as much as possible. The result of this manœuvre is that the coins are simply hidden in a couple of folds on the outside of the handkerchief, the supposition indulged in by the audience being that they are inside, and that the handkerchief has been merely inverted as before. This folding and turning is not easy to accomplish quickly and neatly. The coins must be held firmly, and the fingers then turn them over inwards, the thumb being raised to allow them to be pushed well under it. Before the fingers are removed, the thumb descends and nips securely that portion of the handkerchief pushed over with the coins by the fingers, and retains it whilst the second turn is being made, the same process being repeated. With the fold well made, the performer may venture to allow that portion of the handkerchief containing the coins to hang downwards, and even give a slight jerk to cause the coins to jingle, This will totally disarm suspicion. It is much easier to hold the handkerchief, with the coins, in one hand and make the folds with the other, but the proceeding is unbusinesslike and provocative of suspicion.

The handkerchief is then put into the hands of the seated assistant, as before, the performer holding that portion containing the coins. A tremendous mock struggle ensues, the performer allowing himself to be pulled nearly over once or twice, which will cause him to remark that he has made a mistake this time, and has met with someone a little too strong for him. All the time he is working a finger into the folds, which he quietly undoes, and, under cover of the left hand, gets the coins out into the right. With this hand he takes his wand, which is held under the armpit during the trick, and continues pulling with the left. After a while, he says that it is no use, and, relinquishing his hold, asks to have his money given back to him. Of course, the assistant knows nothing about it; but the performer points out the fact that there is no hole in the handkerchief, consequently he cannot have the coins. Under the plea of finding out where they are concealed, the performer taps with his wand on various portions of the assistant's person. When he reaches either the elbow or the knee, he allows the coins in the hand to rattle against the wand at each tap, and it will appear to the audience that they are concealed up the assistant's arm or leg. Grasping the sleeve or trouser, the performer turns it up a little, and rattles the coins out on the floor. If found in the trouser, the assistant should be asked to place his foot upon a chair. It is very easy to jerk the coins a few inches up the sleeve or trouser leg as it is being turned up; they will then fall out naturally. The reason I give directions for using a strong pocket handkerchief is because the continued pulling will sometimes cause a sharp-edged coin to cut through. I never use any but my own handkerchief, for this reason.

There is another method of folding the coins in the handkerchief, which surpasses the one above described for neatness, and it may be executed in full view of the audience, with their eyes specially directed upon the performer's hands, instead of momentarily diverted. The coins, in this instance, are taken between the finger and thumb of the left hand, and held perpendicularly. With the right hand, the handkerchief is thrown over them. This the performer does close to his temporary assistant upon the chair; upon which he says, "That is all very well: you know that the coins are safe inside the handkerchief; but I must also convince the rest of the company." Suiting the action to the word, the performer advances a few paces, performing, as he does so, the following manœuvre: With the right hand inverted, i.e., the palm turned upwards, the coins are seized between the first and middle fingers. Simultaneously the left hand is shifted a couple of inches backwards, and the right hand, turning over in that direction, places the coins once more between the left finger and thumb, but this time there are two thicknesses of the handkerchief intervening. That half of the handkerchief which is hanging on the side nearest to the company is now raised by the right hand, when the coins will be exposed to view. The act of shifting the left hand back a couple of inches has caused the fingers of the left hand to be covered by a false fold of those dimensions. The company, therefore, cannot see the said fingers, the performer making doubly sure by holding his hand as low as possible, without exciting suspicion. Now, after having shown the coins, if the performer merely turned back the half he had lifted, no particular result would be arrived at; but the learner, who is, of course, following me with coin and handkerchief in hand, will at once see that, if that half of the handkerchief which is hanging on the side nearer the performer be turned over along with the one that has been raised to show the coins, in the direction of the company, the result achieved is that the coins are on the outside of the handkerchief, but enveloped in the 2in. fold. This turning back of two halves, instead of one, being the vital part of the whole thing, must be done with great carelessness. Indeed, the action of turning the rear half over with the right hand is a mistake: all that is necessary is to drop the left hand with a good shake, when both halves will fall on the same side, as naturally as possible. These little things require a good deal of explanation, but it is a really very simple manœuvre, which I divide into four distinct movements, viz.: First movement—placing the coins under handkerchief, in left hand; second movement— turning over coins with right hand, and seizing again with left thumb and finger (see Fig. 48); third movement—dropping left hand and raising front half of handkerchief with right hand; fourth movement—releasing handkerchief with right hand and shaking two halves over with left. When the fourth movement has been completed, the right hand should seize the handkerchief just below the coins, which can then be struck upon the left palm, carelessly, but hard, so as to indirectly convey the idea of their being contained in a bag, made by the handkerchief. There need be no fear of the fold becoming loose if the handkerchief be gripped firmly; and the boldness of the act will disarm suspicion. The very security of this fold renders it more difficult to work the coins out when the "trial of strength" comes on, and the assistant must be made to hold the handkerchief some distance away from the coins, so that the performer's hands have plenty of space to work in. Whilst the assistant is thus holding the handkerchief, it is a good plan to allow that part in which the coins are folded to hang down—whilst the sleeves are being turned back, for instance. This will keep up the impression of their being enclosed in a bag.

Fig. 48.

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