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The Inexhaustible Jack O'Lantern
by Professor Spellbinder
For Experienced magicians only!

Joseph Hartz, born in 1836, was directly influenced by the “Father of Modern Magic” himself, a performance by Robert-Houdin. About 1877, Hartz conceived the idea of taking a standard magic effect of the time, the Inexhaustible Hat, and “enormously increase the quantity of the articles, produced; and secondly, to produce them under more difficult conditions ? namely, on a stage so bare that it afforded apparently no cover for even the smallest object.”—Hoffmann. The result was Hartz’s Devil of a Hat, for which he became world famous and which implanted the idea of a magician producing everything imaginable from a top hat firmly in the minds of the theater-going public.

As a Wizard-style magician, I tried many different variations on the “inexhaustible container” idea. A Wizard’s hat is not the easiest thing to handle, being pointy at one end and rather floppy over all. I had better success with a carpetbag satchel and later with a hatbox, but my favorite container was the Halloween Jack O’Lantern because it came with its own theme (Halloween) and expectations as to what it might contain.

I also took on the original challenge that Hartz faced as mentioned by Hoffman: to “enormously increase the quantity of the articles, produced; and secondly, to produce them under more difficult conditions ? namely, on a stage so bare that it afforded apparently no cover for even the smallest object.”—Hoffmann.

Those big tables would have to go. I had no intention of dragging around large tables and shelves, setting them all up and breaking them all down afterwards as must have been poor Hartz’s fate on the road. Let a bare stage mean “a bare stage.” If I needed anything on which to display items, they would have to come from the pumpkin (like the skeleton leg table shown in the diagram above).

The nature of a Jack O’Lantern adds one additional “difficult condition” for the magician. You can’t see into a Top Hat, but you can see inside a Jack O’Lantern through the cut openings of the eyes, nose and mouth. Objects would not only be produced from it, they would first flash into existence inside the pumpkin under the watchful eyes of the audience.

My last self-imposed “difficult condition” was that the pumpkin should be able to change facial expressions as if it were alive and part of the act. It’s not a ventriloquist figure and has no “lines” but it should be able to look hilariously happy, or angry, or sad, depending on what I am producing from it.

Here's my modern variation taking the idea further than Hartz ever dreamed possible.

For Experienced magicians only!

WJ14-08

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