Silks to Christmas Tree Mystery
By Professor Spellbinder
This effect was inspired by Devlins
Silk Mystery, published long ago (1947) in Abracadabra, but
also found in The Rice Encyclopedia of Silk Magic,
Volume 1 (1948).
The effect as published in the
Rice Encyclopedia, showed a twenty-four inch square black banner
with a large spider in white in the center. The banner is held by
an assistant. On top of the banner are six silk handkerchiefs of
various colors, which the magician picks up one by one and pokes
into a metal canister with his finger. The canister is handed to
a helper from the audience, and the magician waves his wand over
the canister. When the helper opens up the canister at both ends,
he shows the audience that it is simply an empty metal tube. The
silks have vanished. Another wave of the wand towards the banner
and the silks visibly appear attached to the legs of the spider,
making a colorful finish.
Mark Damon, member of The Magic Café Forum, undertook some
research to locate Devlins original article in Abracadabra
and found it in Volume 2, Number 51, Pages 4-6, January 18, 1947.
In Devlins original effect, the banner is only 14 inches
square, begins with just the outline of a web on it, and ends
with both the spider and all six silks at the finale. I prefer
Rices version so the attention is focused on just having
the silks suddenly show up on the banner design, but
Devlins effect has some additional subtleties that are
missing from the Rice adaptation.
In the 1970s, I was working on a silk act and decided to
use yet another variation on Devlins idea from the Rice
adaptation. I replaced the spider design for the banner. To
further speed up the effect, I grabbed the silks and vanished
them all at one time with a sleeve pull, instantly. At the same
time I pretended to throw the silks towards the banner, and the
assistant caused the silks to appear on the ends of the design.
Quick and easy and very visual.
However, I couldnt always depend on having an apprentice
handy to hold the banner, so of necessity, that mother of
invention, I developed a solo version in which the banner was
hung from a stand. That meant I would have to vanish the silks,
then walk over to remove the banner from the stand and operate
the appearance myself. Since this solo arrangement would never
match the speed of my sleeve pull vanish, I went back to
Devlins canister with a few improvements.
I turned Devlins metal canister into a clear plastic tube.
One end of the tube was covered with what was then called
Saran™ Wrap, but is generally simply called by
the generic name Plastic wrap today. The clear
plastic wrap was held on with an elastic band, and I usually had
a helper from the audience put this covering over the end of the
tube as a way of having the tube examined.
The audience saw me poke each silk, one by one, into the open end
of the plastic tube. Since you can see the silks through the
clear plastic tube, it all seemed open and aboveboard. I then
picked up my wand, which at the time was a gaudy version of a
decorated tree branch- more like a Harry Potter wand than the
traditional black wand with white tips. The wand was used to push
the silk down to the closed end of the clear plastic tube, and
the audience could see through the tube to follow the silk as
well as the pushing movements of the wand. Each silk followed in
the same manner; pushed by finger into the top of the clear
plastic tube, then pushed down onto the growing stack of silks at
the bottom of the tube.
I then took one last silk, always a white one, and covered the
clear tube, handing it to a volunteer from the audience to hold.
Then I took my wand and pushed down on the white silk from above,
forcing it and the wand through the silks and breaking out of the
plastic wrap at the bottom. The clear tube was clearly empty.
My helper and I approached the hanging Banner, and I had the
helper wave the wand, causing the silks to reappear on the points
of the star.
I also was able to dispense with the helper from the audience as
well as the white silk cover. I would hold the clear tube, with
all six silks bunched up in a stack inside, and suddenly, they
would visibly vanish. I could then push my wand through the tube
and the audience could see the passage of the wand through the
tube, proving without a doubt that it was empty. Setting the tube
aside, I then operated the banner to cause the reappearance of
Thanks to Walt Lees, editor of
Abracadabra, for giving us permission to include a copy of the
original 1947 Devlin Silk Mystery with this effect.
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