Magic Trick: The Indian basket


A wicker basket, long and narrow, is used for this trick (if only to make the name authentic). An assistant is placed in the basket and it is covered with a blanket, and the whole has a leather strap buckled around it. The performer takes his magic sword and stabs the basket here and there, and the sword comes out dripping with blood. The basket is then opened, revealing that is empty and there's no blood — and the assistant (whole and uninjured) sneaks up behind the performer and taps him on the shoulder. Startlement and giggles!


As the first diagram shows, the basket has a double bottom-front side combination — ABC in the diagram. This is moveable — that's to say it isn't attached to the rest of the basket. When the basket is rolled over, a quarter-turn towards the audience, the double bottom remains as it is, held in place by the weight of the assistant — as in the second diagram. Thus the assistant is left outside the basket and can leave the stage: the basket is then rolled back. The side AB must be identical in appearance to the rest of the basket. The blood is supplied by a few small sponges soaked in any red liquid.


This trick is difficult to stage. The stage must be set so that there is sufficient clutter that the assistance can exit unseen from behind the basket: or the back of the stage must be sufficiently dark for the same reason. Finding a good reason to tip the basket towards the audience and then back requires imagination. And arranging things so that the basket can be covered with the blanket and then strapped up, without impeding the false bottom, requires careful execution.

This trick, originally seen by Western travelers in India (thus the name), was always performed out of doors, with lots of people, assistants, and distractions of all sorts around. The assistant was a small child, who could hide in the magician's robes while the basket was tipped forward, and then slip away when assistants gathered round for distraction. And there was always lots of shouting and unnecessary acting by the magician and the assistant, to divert the spectators' attention from the important instants of the performance.

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