Silks to Christmas Tree Mystery
By Professor Spellbinder

This effect was inspired by Devlin’s 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 Devlin’s original article in Abracadabra and found it in Volume 2, Number 51, Pages 4-6, January 18, 1947. In Devlin’s 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 Rice’s version so the attention is focused on just having the silks suddenly show up on the banner design, but Devlin’s effect has some additional subtleties that are missing from the Rice adaptation.

In the 1970’s, I was working on a silk act and decided to use yet another variation on Devlin’s 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 couldn’t 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 Devlin’s canister with a few improvements.

I turned Devlin’s 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 the silks.

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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