Theatre Magic

Illusion Museum

 

Asrah the Floating Princess

AKA: The Asrah Levitation

- Servais Le Roy / Inventor

 

A stunning levitation of an assistant with a beautiful twist at the end. The assistant lies on a table and is covered with a sheet. Slowly and without effort, the form is seen to rise. Sometimes a few feet, sometimes high above the magician’s head, the assistant floats. Even a hoop may be passed over and around her body.

Impressive in itself, but what comes next is simply miraculous. The magician reaches for the cloth and in a smooth motion zips it away revealing that the woman has completely vanished. Without a trace! Depending on the performer, she can reappear running down the aisle back to the stage or somewhere else in the theater, or the magician himself can vanish.

This amazing double illusion was first performed by the Belgian magician Servais Le Roy (1865-1953) in London, 1914. It was a wonderful advancement from the levitations done by magicians like Maskelyne and Robert-Houdin. Since those days, the method and presentation have been refined by countless magicians.

 

 

Metamorphosis

- John Nevil Maskelyne / Inventor

 

The English magician John Nevil Maskelyne (1839-1917) had a huge impact on the illusionists of today with a simple yet stunning transportation of two people, The Metamorphosis. The magician is tied and bound inside a bag that is closed and locked within a sturdy, wooden trunk. The assistant stands atop and raises a cloth to cover her entire body. When the cloth is lowered, there stands the magician having changed places with his assistant. When the trunk is opened and the bag is unfastened, the assistant rises up in the bonds that once held the illusionist. The transformation complete!

The illusion was made famous by magician/escapist Harry Houdini who performed it with his wife Bess. Contemperarires such as the Pendragons have elevated the effect by performing the transition at impossible speed.

 

 

Sawing a Woman in Two

- P. T. Selbit / Inventor

 

Credit for being the first magician to ever saw a woman in half is given to English magician P. T. Selbit (1881-1938). While a written description of the trick P. T. Selbit Sawing a Woman in Twoexisted (by Robert-Houdin), Selbit became first to perform it in January 1921 on a public stage in London. Selbit was also responsible for many other popular stage illusions, but none had more impact than the Sawing. Any magician today that places a beautiful assistant in apparent harms way owes a nod of gratitude to Selbit’s vision.

Many variations and improvments were developed over time. Notably, Horace Goldin (1873-1939). Goldin, with the help of Howard Thurston devised the method that audiences are most familiar with. Mainly, the head and feet of the assitant protruded from the ends of the box. Goldin was a great promoter of magic and managed to use legal action to block Selbit himself from competing with him in the USA.

Modern takes on this classic include the Thin Model Sawing in which the box containing the assistant is impossibly shallow. And the Crystal Sawing where the box is transparent!

 

 

Zig Zag

Harbin Performing the Zig Zag Illusion- Robert Harbin / Inventor

A vertical cabinet opens in the front. An assistant steps inside. When the doors close, there’s openings to show her face, hands, stomach and foot. Blades are inserted in the chest and abdomen and the middle section moved to the side an impossible distance. She’s been cut into thirds!

Created by Robert Harbin in the mid 1960′s, the Zig Zag Girl is one of the greatest illusions ever devised. It can, and often was, performed close-up and surrounded.

Assitant’s Revenge

- Robert Harbin / Inventor

 

Harbin's Assistant's Revenge

Another of Harbin’s masterpieces, the Assitant’s Revenge transposes two people. The assitant binds the magician with chains, straps, buckles, and locks. She draws the curtain in a complete circle around the performer. As soon as the assitant dissapears behind the curtain, it’s being drawn open on the other side by the magician. The assitant has materialized in the restraints!

Guillotine

- Lester Lake / Inventor

 

Based on the more familiar methods of execution, the guillotine is designed to invoke a sense of grisly dread wherever it is performed. TheLester Lake Guillotine assitant, usually an audience volunteer is shown the contraption. It consists of a opening in which the head may be secured. High above is a razor sharp blade, ready to come down onto the neck of the volunteer at the magician’s command. The device is first shown to be in perfect working order, sometimes with a head of lettuce in place of the assitant’s neck. After the volunteer is suitably restrained, usually in a kneeling position, the conjurer drops the blade which passes harmlessly through the assitant’s neck.

Methods for removing a person’s head have been written about as early as Reginald Scot’s “The Discoverie of Witchcraft” in 1584, yet no reliable information exists concerning its true origins. The modern illusion is attributed to Lester Lake.

 

 

Chair Suspension

- Jack Hughes / Inventor

 

An enduring classic, this levitation is remarkable as it can be performed on a someone from the audience. Even after the effect is over, the volunteer will have no idea how the trick is done.Chair Suspension Illusion

The magician shows a makeshift table. It’s made of a board resting on the backs of two chairs. The assitant is made to lie on the board. First, one of the chairs is removed. Then, the board itself!

Devised by an English cabinet-maker turned magician, Jack Hughes (1906-1981) is responsible for many wonderful stage illusion.

 

 

Crystal Casket
– William Ellsworth Robinson / Inventor Robinson's Crystal Casket Illusion

 

A box with clear, plexiglass sides sits atop a small platform. The audience can see above, below, through, and around the box as the performer spins the platform it its wheels. The container is covered with a large cloth and moments later is zipped away to reveal the production of a beautiful woman. She materializes in the blink of an eye!

The origianl design for this illusion was called the Crystal Lamp of Enchantment and was a creation of New York magician William Ellsworth Robinson, also known as Chung Ling Soo in the early 1900s. The modern version as we know it today was by Australian-born magician Percy Abbott.

 

 

Shadow Box

- David Bamberg / Inventor

Bamberg's Shadow Box
Similar to the Crystal Casket, the plexiglass has been removed and instead the frame of the box covered in cloth or paper. The top and walls of the box can be lowered to show it unmistakably empty. After the walls are raised, a light is placed inside. Soon, shadows are seen to move within. The shadows form and coalesce into a human form. When the walls are lowered once again, the magician has appeared. Or the person might tear through the paper at the finish.

The Shadow Box was a creation of magician David Bamberg (1904-1974) who performed under the name Fu Manchu.

 

 

Zombie BallJoe Karson performing the Zombie Ball Illusion

- Joe Karson / Inventor

 

A sliver sphere sits on a table. It is covered with a large cloth. Grasping only the corners, the magician makes the ball rise into the air. The round shape of the ball is seen as the cloth drapes down . Rising and falling seemingly by the will of the magician only, the sphere proceeds to dance around the performer.

Joe Karson (1912-1980) was the creator of this timeless effect. His original was made from a toilet float ball.