Magic Trick: To Cut a Person's Arm with a Knife, through the Coat, without Injuring the Cloth

Turning to his next-door neighbour, who, I need scarcely say, must not be a lady, the performer seizes a knife and asks him whether he would like to have his arm cut. A bloodthirsty slash in the air will add emphasis to the question. The person questioned will invariably decline, with thanks, and the performer then affects to think that the reason for the negative is an objection to having the coat cut, and not on the score of any pain to be inflicted. He assures his neighbour, with great emphasis and earnestness, that any injury necessarily done to the cloth will be immediately remedied, and that no traces of a cut will remain. When it is begun to be realised that the cloth is not to be cut, a joke is anticipated, and consent to the operation will soon be obtained, especially if the performer alters his manner, and becomes persuasive. It is necessary, in order to invest the trick with interest, to work up a state of apprehension to begin with, as it is but a small thing in execution, and requires filling out. When the necessary consent has been obtained, the performer places a napkin or handkerchief over the biceps of his neighbour, and, introducing the knife underneath, commences to saw away at the arm. Presently the patient will give a sudden start, and, if at all weak-minded, he will shout "Oh!" as well. On being questioned, he will explain that he distinctly felt the knife cut into his arm, which is, indeed, precisely the feeling communicated to him. The secret of the trick is simply a common pin, which, under cover of the napkin or handkerchief, the performer takes from his vest, or wherever it may be concealed, in the left hand. Both hands are introduced under the napkin, the right hand sawing away with the knife, with the blunt side against the coat. Great care must be taken to employ a new knife, as old ones frequently have their backs rather sharp, and the cloth might be cut in reality. Press pretty firmly with the knife, sufficiently to make the patient feel it, and then gradually push the pin through close beside it, pushing only when pressure is put upon the knife. In time it will work through the clothing—a quantity of which rather assists the illusion—and, entering the flesh slightly, will cause a sensation precisely as though the arm really were cut. The performer at once stops, and either sticks the pin into the napkin or in its former place of concealment, or else drops it on the floor. The trick may be repeated upon other patients; indeed, it is not easy to appreciate it unless it has been actually performed upon one. The pin need only be dropped when the performer notices looks of suspicion directed at his fingers. He has others concealed about him, naturally. Black pins should be used as being less likely to be seen, especially when dropped; although so common an object as a pin upon the floor, even if noticed, would scarcely excite suspicion. Still, it is always best to think of every contingency, and provide for it, or, haply, experience may teach the lesson in a harsh manner.

Corks are generally handy at a dinner table (at set dinners tricks would scarcely be introduced), and, being easily palmed, form excellent media for small conjuring. The cork should be held by the tips of the first and fourth fingers, lengthwise, and it then palms right across the hand, the sharp edges (do not choose a ragged edged cork) giving a splendid hold, especially as the article is so light. Corks are very easily swallowed, being either placed (apparently) in the mouth by the hand palming them, or else put into the other hand first. Houdin used to regale himself at friends' houses by a dessert of corks, brought on in a sauce-boat or soup tureen, especially chosen because it concealed the hand when thrust in. The performer continually took out corks, dropping the ones palmed as he did so, until he had apparently eaten a dozen. A good deal of natural chewing should be indulged in, and the changes continually rung upon the various palms and passes taught in this book. Finally, the performer says he can eat no more, as he is full up. As evidence of this, he extracts from his ear the last cork he ate, and, after (apparently) replacing this in the bowl, he is taken with a spasm, and another cork is taken out of his mouth, the supposition being that it had been unable to find room below. It is, of course, rolled into the partially opened lips from the palm. It is quite open to the performer to reproduce a number of corks from his person in this way, when the company will imagine that he really secreted those he pretended to swallow. This effect will be heightened if the performer has gone to the dinner with half-a-dozen corks in his pocket. As a finale, he says: "The rest are here in my pocket," and produces them all at once, throwing them carelessly into the bowl. If he has performed the rest of the trick properly, the company will think him quite capable of secreting half-a-dozen corks in his pocket without being observed, no one dreaming for a moment of any previous arrangement.

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