Magic Trick: The Perambulating Bottle and Tumbler

This is a trick in which absolute sleight of hand does not appear; but it calls for a certain amount of finish in execution, and, like A Bottle of Ginger Beer, makes an agreeable change in a programme, both to company and performer. The performer has a bottle of beer, a tumbler, and two cardboard covers, which are, in fact, mere cardboard tubes, open at each end. Beer is poured from the bottle into the tumbler, and both articles are then placed upon the side tables, and covered with a cover. After the performance of the usual magical passes, the covers are removed, when the glass and bottle are found to have changed places. The following is the ingenious method by which the impossibility is apparently brought about: Have a tin bottle made, exactly in imitation of a beer bottle, between nine and ten inches high, and japanned so as to look like glass at a distance. The bottom of this bottle is open, but four inches from the lower edge is a tin partition, dividing the bottle laterally into two compartments. The upper compartment is for the purpose of containing the beer. Passing through its very centre, and reaching to within half an inch of the top of the neck, is a tube about a third of an inch in diameter, or, at any rate, large enough to take a small funnel. Thus communication is established with the lower open compartment, by means of the tube. Then have a second bottle made, also of tin, and japanned to match, just large enough to pass over the first one. This bottle has no interior whatever, and is, in fact, a mere shell. In height it need be only the merest trifle taller than the other, and the tinman should be enjoined to keep it as narrow as possible, compatible with an easy fit over the smaller bottle. Each bottle should be decorated with a flaring beer label, taken from genuine bottles. Needless to say, they must be precisely similar, and if each has a piece accidentally (!) torn out of it, sufficiently large to be noticed by the spectator, so much the better. In the middle of the body of each bottle is cut a circular hole, nearly an inch in diameter, and fully two inches removed from the nearest edge of the label. Further will be required the two pasteboard covers, which may be of any length between twelve and fifteen inches. These must be made to fit very closely over the bottles, without actually clinging to them, consequently one will be larger than the other. Finally, two tumblers, precisely similar, will be wanted. They must not exceed four inches in height, or they will not go under the small bottle, on account of the partition there. Behind the scenes the small bottle has its compartment filled with beer, and is then placed over one of the tumblers, the large shell bottle being finally placed over both. Placing the middle finger through the holes in the bottles pressure is brought to bear upon the tumbler, which in this way may be lifted with the bottles. The whole, looking to the audience merely like a single bottle, is thus brought on, and placed upon the centre table. The two covers are shown, the performer explaining that they are merely made to cover the bottle. Suiting the action to the word, he places the large cover over the bottle, and at once withdraws it, nipping it near the bottom, so as to bring away the outer shell inside. With the other hand, the smaller cover is then placed over the smaller bottle, and at once withdrawn. The company, knowing of only one bottle, will fancy they have seen both covers placed over it. The large cover, having the shell within it, must not be laid upon its side, but stood up alongside the empty one. The performer now takes the smaller bottle in one hand—holding the tumbler beneath it as well, by means of a finger through the hole—and the visible tumbler in the other. Beer is poured out until the tumbler is filled. The performer now says that he does not want his glass too full, and, replacing bottle on table, places a small funnel into its mouth, care being taken to insert it in the tube. Half the beer—neither more nor less—must now be poured into the funnel, and it of course finds its way into the tumbler beneath. The conjuror will have to experiment beforehand, so as to discover how much liquid he must leave in the visible tumbler, and how much he must pour away, slight marks being made, with a diamond or file, for his guidance whilst exhibiting. It is highly essential that each glass contains precisely the same quantity. The visible tumbler is now placed upon one side table and covered with the large cover, containing the shell. The small bottle is placed upon the other side table, with the tumbler still concealed under it, and covered with the small cover. By means of his wand, an imaginary exchange of the articles is now made, and the covers are lifted—that containing the shell lightly, so as to leave the shell behind; whilst that containing the bottle is gripped nearer the bottom, so as to lift that article with it, exposing the second tumbler. The general method adopted in lifting the covers is to take them by the extreme top when the article contained is to be exhibited, and at the very bottom when it is to be carried away. These are certainly very safe methods; but they are unnecessarily so, and afford far too much clue to the spectators. The variation between the positions of the hand need never exceed a couple of inches. The height of the upper edge of the body of the bottles the performer may have indicated upon the outside of the cover. Half an inch below that line he has only to exert pressure to ensure the carrying away of the bottle or shell. A little above it he is clear of them, and need not fear carrying them away by mistake. A variation of two or three inches is a natural one, and unnoticeable. Poor conjurors, too, always treat a cover containing anything in a far too gingerly manner. An empty cover they flourish about with extreme recklessness, exhibiting the interior freely; but, a few moments later, they carry the same cover about as gingerly as one would a very lofty and quivering tipsy cake or jelly. Spectators cannot but notice this sudden change from extreme freedom to plainly-depicted trepidation, and generally draw very correct conclusions. The conjuror should practise to be as free and as nonchalant as possible with articles that are really mysterious, and study carefully how far he may go without exposing any secrets. In the present instance, the cover containing the shell should be flourished about a good deal, and finally placed over the tumbler in a careless manner.

The change made, the performer will of course offer to do it again, "in order to give everyone a chance of noticing how it is done." He may pretend to give his spectators some assistance by telling them, in confidence, that the tumbler and bottle really came out at the tops of the covers, his original statement, that the openings were there to prevent suspicion, being untrue, their real purpose being to afford easy exits and entrances for the articles. The articles then make a return to their original positions, after the covers have been replaced, the shell being carried away, and the bottle allowed to remain. The feature of the trick, which completely mystifies the company, is the transposition of the beer-containing tumbler. The fact that the bottle has been nearly inverted, in the act of pouring out the beer in the first instance, precludes the idea that it could ever have been concealed in that. Although beer is here mentioned, claret or claret and water may be used, or any other showy liquid at hand.

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