Magic Trick: Swallowing a Knife

Performed after the following method, this illusion can be carried out most effectively: Taking a large knife—a carving-knife is not too large—the performer lays it in front of him, right and left. He turns up his coat sleeves, as far as they will go, and then, squaring his elbows, so as to bring the forearms across his body, he places his hands along the knife, one hand overlapping the other, so as to completely hide the knife from view. In the case of a large knife, some parts of it—the ends—will be hidden by the wrists. Nipping it with the thumbs, or with one thumb only, it is raised from the table, the hands keeping their somewhat constrained position upon it. One hand is now brought to the mouth, the other being raised, and an apparent attempt made to swallow, the hands appearing to tilt the knife down the throat. The performer, however, suddenly begins to choke, and the attempt is relinquished, the knife being laid upon the table again. It is, however, immediately raised again, as before, but the second attempt is no more successful than the first. The knife is once more taken in the hands, and, in the act of picking it up, is brought just beyond the edge of the table, and allowed to fall into the lap. It must be barely raised from the table, or else the drop will be observed. The hands are, for the third time, brought to the mouth, as before, when, of course, the swallowing is success-fully accomplished. The performer has taken the precaution to have a napkin lying loosely upon his lap, in which the knife at once becomes hidden. The illusion is a very complete one, especially if the performer takes care to make each of his three movements of the hands to the mouth precisely the same, the knife being brought beyond the edge of the table at each abortive attempt, and not at the last one only. If the performer pleases, he may refrain from turning up his coat sleeves, and, when the trick is finished, show them to be empty. Everyone will suppose that the knife has gone down the sleeve, and it, perhaps, provides an extra effect to show that it has not done so. As the position of the hands is somewhat unusual, the performer should be explaining, during the performance of the trick, that the true secret of knife-swallowing lies in the steadiness with which the knife is passed down the throat, this steadiness being better given with two hands than with one. As soon as the trick is safely accomplished, the performer should get his legs well under the table, and, taking the knife with one hand, place it under his knees, where it must be gripped, or else stick it in his boot. The hand is supposed to be placed below merely to procure the napkin, which is instantly produced, and the performer's lips carelessly wiped with it. He can then push his chair away from the table, and, leaning back, so as to expose his lap, join in the conversation, or, better still, at once commence a fresh trick. The thoughts of the company diverted, the knife may presently be brought to light from under someone's coat, or the performer may simply secrete it in his napkin, and place them together upon the table.

A smaller knife can be very effectively swallowed as follows: A cheese-knife is placed on the table, edge downwards, the left hand retaining it in that position by holding it near the point of the blade. It is then picked up by the right hand, the first and second fingers of which nip the back of the blade, close to the point, about half an inch of which is purposely left visible. The rest of the knife lies along the inside of the hand, the handle being concealed by the wrist. The handle is brought to the mouth, the knife being held upright, and the left hand, by means of gentle taps, thrusts it gradually downwards, until it wholly disappears down the throat. This illusion is managed within an inch or so of the end of a precisely similar knife to that supposed to be swallowed. This the performer has concealed between two fingers, and, when the knife is picked up, it is brought into position at the ends by means of the left hand, which is all the time busy helping the right one. The knife is, of course, at once dropped into the lap, the eyes of the company being fixed upon the little piece visible, which they naturally take to be the actual point of the knife. With the palm of the hand a few taps should be given the fragment, so as to cause it to slide out of sight, but still held between the fingers. The tapping is continued with the left hand, although it is performing upon nothing, the throat of the performer giving forth choking sounds, to assist the deception, until the knife may be fairly supposed to be swallowed. The fragment of knife is treated precisely as a coin held by the finger palm, and may be placed in the vest pocket, under the plea of getting out a toothpick. It should have its ragged edge nicely smoothed, so as not to cut the fingers.

Index of Magic Tricks | Previous Trick: To Cut a Person's Arm with a Knife, through the Coat, without Injuring the Cloth | Next Trick: Sleights