The art of modern magic requires the production of apparently supernatural effects through the application of natural methods. So, for many years, magicians have been performing tricks which closely resemble so- called psychic phenomena.
It is a well-known fact that there are many fakers who pretend to produce genuine manifestations yet who are really making use of tricks that are known to most magicians.
This article explains a number of tricks of this type—tricks which are quite mystifying and highly entertaining, when shown as part of a magical performance. The article has nothing whatever to do with the pros and cons of psychic phenomena. That is a subject that must be carefully studied and thoroughly investigated in an open minded manner, for a great many good arguments have been presented on both sides of the question.
1. The Taped Slates
Two slates are bound with a piece of tap; which runs crosswise about them. The surface of one slate is marked with a figure 1; then the slates are turned over and the other is marked with a figure 2. The slates are untied, and the inner surfaces are shown, one being marked 3 and the other 4. Then the slates are tied together with the tape. When they are untied, a message is found between them, written on one of the slates.
The message, or written word, is on the slate at the beginning. It is on the side of the upper slate marked I. It is written lengthwise along the slate with a sharp chalk or slate pencil, and the letters are just small enough to be concealed by the ribbon which is around the slates.
When the tied slates are shown and the outer surfaces are marked 1 and 2, no one sup poses that the ribbon hides anything. When the slates are unbound, the side marked 1 is laid down on the table, the side 2 being up. Thus side 2 is seen; that slate is turned over and the inner sides are marked and 4. Then one slate is laid with side 2 up; and the other slate is placed upon it, so that side 1 comes over side 2, while 3 and become the out- sides of the slates.
The slates are tied up in the tape, which is later removed and the message is found. The letters of the message appear much higher than the width of the ribbon.
The trick may be performed with two slabs of cardboard, the message appearing in ink.
2. The Three Spirit Slates
This is a stock item among magicians, but it is usually performed with two slates. The addition of the third slate is a great improvement.
The magician shows both sides of three slates. Then he asks that one slate be chosen. This slate he discards, tucking it under his left arm. He numbers the other slates 1 and 2, and places them together with the numbers on the outside. When the slates are taken apart, a message appears on the inner surface of one slate. The slate is given for examination, and the other slate is also handed for inspection.
Beside the slates, a black flap is used, made of silicate or of cardboard. It lies on one of the slates, and covers the ‘message, which is written previously. The flap is just the size of the slate minus the frame, so it hides the message perfectly.
When the magician shows the three slates on both sides, he asks that one be selected. If it is not the flap slate, he puts the chosen slate under his left arm saying that that slate will be eliminated. If, however, the flap slate is chosen, he says: “I will use this slate, and one of the others. Which of the other two slates do you choose?”
Thus one of the two odd slates finds its way under the left arm.
The flap slate and the unprepared slate are placed together and they are turned over, which lets the flap fall on the unprepared slate. The slates are laid on the table, and the upper slate is turned over, showing the message. The flap lies on the blank slate.
Without hesitation, the magician pushes forward the slate with the message. Then he picks up the blank slate with his left hand, and with his right hand, takes the third slate from under his left arm. He sets the third slate on the slate that has the flap, and turns the two slates over, thus transferring the flap to the odd third slate, which is immediately replaced under the left arm. Then the second slate, rid of the flap, is laid on the table for inspection.
“Getting rid of the flap” is considered the most difficult part of the slate trick. This method makes it very easy, and enables the magician to walk away with the flap on the innocent third slate leaving the two numbered slates in the possession of the audience.
3. The Spirit Name
This is a trick that requires careful observation. After it has been tried a few times, it seldom fails to work.
Tell a person to think of a spirit name—of some celebrity, if he wishes.
Then tell him that he is to write down a list of names on a sheet of paper, and somewhere in the list he must place the name upon which he is concentrating. Fight or ten names will be enough. Before beginning, he should determine mentally at what number he will write the chosen name.
The person writes down the names, while you are looking on. When he has finished, you hold his hand and look at the list. Then you immediately pick out the spirit name of which he was thinking.
Method: While the person is writing down the names, he will generally hesitate to think of what name he will write next. But when he comes to the point where he has intended to write the chosen name, he will write it without hesitation. Thus you can tell which name is the chosen one.
4. The Spirit Hand
The magician holds both his forefingers in front of a person’s eyes and tells the person to close his eyelids. Then the tips of the fore fingers are set against the eyelids.
“Can you feel both of my forefingers?” asks the magician.
“Yes,” is the reply.
“Then,” says the magician, “since both of my hands are occupied, I will call upon a spirit hand to aid me.”
At this instant an unknown hand brushes the person’s hair, and taps his forehead. The magician immediately removes his hands and the spectator may open his eyes. But no one else is nearby. There seems to be no explanation of the spirit touch.
This trick is done very artfully. As soon as the person shuts his eye , the magician extends the first two fingers of one hand, spreads them and places one against each of the person’s eyelids. This leaves the magician’s other hand free to act s the spirit hand. When the fingers are removed from the eyelids, both hands are held with forefingers extended.
5. Contact Telepathy
This is an interesting experiment per formed by two people. One acts as the transmitter of thoughts. I is told a number, while the receiving person is out of the room. Then the transmitter is seated in a corner, with his back towards the room. The receiver is brought in. blindfolded. He is allowed to place the tips of his forefingers upon the temples of the transmitter. A few moments later the receiver announces the number.
There is no mind reading to it. The transmitter signals to the receiver by a very artful system. By simply tightening his lower jaw, the transmitter causes his temples to press slightly against the receiver’s forefingers. In this manner the receiver is informed of the number. Suppose the number was 153. The transmitter would press his jaw once, signifying one; then after a slight interval, he v make five presses; then another interval, and three presses. Thus any number of moderate length can be “transmitted” quickly and undetectably.
Ten presses signify zero.
6. Reading Sealed Message
A name is written on a slip of paper, which is put, written side down, into an envelope. The envelope is sealed.
Holding the envelope to his forehead the magician instantly names the written name.
Method: A flap is cut in the face of the envelope. This side of the envelope is down, so the cut is not seen. When the message is inside, the magician raises the envelope to hi9 forehead. At the same time his thumb lifts up the flap and he sees the written name.
7. Improved Envelope Test
This is the most effective of all sealed envelope readings. Take a few envelopes and glue them together. Cut out a space in the Center of the envelopes large enough to hold a small tobacco tin. The tin contains a sponge, saturated with alcohol.
A number of genuine envelopes are placed upon the dummy stack, and, of course the bottom envelope of the dummy pile is complete. Thus the hidden sponge cannot be seen.
A number of envelopes are given out, with slips of paper. Names are written on these slips which must be inserted, writing down, in the envelopes. The magician gathers up the envelopes, and adds them to those he still has, so that the envelopes containing the questions come directly on top of the alcohol sponge.
The magician then draws out the lowermost of the question envelopes and holds it to his forehead. The alcohol renders its transparent and the magician can read the name or message that is within. This is repeated with all the remaining questions. The envelopes should be laid on the table, leaning against a lamp, which will quickly dry the alcohol, and make the envelopes opaque once more.
8. The Great Rope Tie
The magician is seated in a chair behind a screen. His arms are crossed, ropes are tied about his wrists, and the ends of the cords are fastened to the chair rungs.
As soon as everyone has left him alone, bells, placed beside the magician, begin to ring. Articles are tossed over the screen. But a half-minute later when the magician invites people back to see him, he is tied as securely as before. He must be untied to be released.
The magician does not escape from the ties at all, but he does release himself sufficiently to ring the bells and throw things from be’ hind the screen. By sliding down in the chair, the magician can raise one arm over his head, and can then slip under the other arm. Thus he is partially free. After ringing the bells, he slides back into the ropes just as he was before. As the ropes have not been tampered with, the inference is that some unseen force, and not the magician, rang the bells.
The magician can also tie a ring on the string, as an additional effect.