Magic Trick: The Animated Skull

The performer places two ordinary chairs, which may be examined, back to back, and a yard or so apart. Across the backs he lays a piece of plate glass, previously examined, a perfectly transparent table being thus formed, and one, as the performer will explain, impervious to electricity. Upon this table the performer places either a real human skull or else a pasteboard imitation of one. The imitation is recommended, the performer explaining that the reason for its use is that the feelings of some might be shocked, which really might be the case. The skull is examined previous to being placed upon the table, the company being safely depended upon for not noticing anything suspicious in the fact that the underside is very much rounded. The skull now answers questions, giving one nod for "Yes" and two nods for "No." What questions are asked must depend upon the wit of the performer, and the nature of the company assembled. Arithmetical problems should be solved, as the skull can give any number by means of nods. As a finale, the skull is asked if it would like to continue the performance, to which a couple of show shakes are given.

Our old friend, the black silk thread, is at work again here. A piece is stretched across the stage, tied up out of harm's way when not in use. As soon as the skull is placed upon the glass the thread is brought down to the level of the mouth, and made to enter there. The imitation article has a deep indentation at this place. In other cases the thread is brought under the projecting nasal bone. A slight movement of the hand causes the skull to nod, so long as the thread is in position, and the performer may pick it off the glass at any moment, to show that no connection exists. The slow shake is done by manipulating the thread sideways. It cannot be prolonged, as it tends to work the skull off the glass. The rounded underside is to render the rocking movement easy. In some cases a tiny bead of wax is fastened upon the thread, and this affixed to the skull, at the back.

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