Magic Trick: Chinese Lanterns

The production of six or more of these articles, all ablaze, from a borrowed hat, causes an effect not far from astonishing. The well-known collapsible nature of the articles would render the production of a number of them from a hat a matter of no great marvel were they unprovided with a light. What cannot be readily explained is the feature of so many lanterns being alight in the hat at one time without burning either the hat or one another, or, indeed, how they can all be alight at one time at all. The secret lies in the construction of the bottoms of these lanterns, and the positions of the candle or wick holders. The bottoms are made of tin, and on one only of each series of lanterns is the candle holder placed in the centre. This lantern I will call No. 1 (see Fig. 54). No. 2 has the holder a little on one side, and a hole through its centre to admit of the candle or wick of No. 1 passing through it (see Fig. 55). No. 3 has two holes, corresponding exactly with the candle holders of Nos. 1 and 2, which pass through its bottom, and its holder is at the side of the hole through which the holder of No. 2 passes. No. 4 has three holes, No. 5 four holes, and so on all through the series, which generally consists of seven or eight, that number being about as many as can well be managed at one time (see Fig. 56). As the holder of No. 1 has to pass through the bottoms of the remaining seven lanterns, it must, of course, be very long. The holder of No. 2 will be a little shorter, and the next shorter still, that of No. 8 being of the ordinary length. By this means all the wicks will be on the same level when the lanterns are packed together. The tin bottoms do away with any danger of a flare up, and also, from their weight, cause the lamps to open easily, which is of great assistance towards the success of the trick. The upper rims are also of tin, for strength and security. A few sulphur matches, which strike noiselessly, should be affixed to the upper rims of the topmost lantern, whereon should also be some sandpaper, on which to strike the matches. The whole should be tied together with string, and concealed in the breast pocket, from whence they can be introduced into a hat in the midst of the audience. The match struck, the wicks are all lighted almost simultaneously; and, the flames burning the string, the performer is enabled to take out the lanterns in rapid succession by means of a bent piece of wire affixed to the rim of each. An attendant should be at hand with a pole or broomstick, on which to hang the lanterns. A deep round hat is better than a "chimney-pot," the extreme depth of which sometimes causes the performer to burn his fingers.

Fig. 54.

Fig. 55.

Fig. 56

This trick is well worthy the attention of amateurs, as it is but little worked, the majority of performers being frightened at it, but without any reasonable cause. Any tinman will make the plates and rims cheaply, and the paper sides can be taken from the ordinary lanterns and transferred, so that the trick need not be an expensive one, by any means. An excellent title for it is "A Chinese Feast of Lanterns." Always remember to hold the hat as high as possible when it contains anything: premature disclosures of the contents mar the effect considerably.

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