Magic! Radio Cabinet and Come Along Cuffs

How much do you know about magic? It’s time to see through the illusion! The Magic! exhibit is now open at HMNS. Throughout the run of the exhibit, check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display from curator Scott Cervine.

Radio Cabinet

This “radio cabinet,” built by Massachusetts illusion builder Charles Catulle, was repainted by CBS artists and introduced into the Harry Blackstone Jr. road show, which had a record-breaking run at Broadway’s Majestic Theater.

A woman is tied into a large cloth bag and placed in the cabinet. The top of the bag is drawn through a hole in a tray inside the cabinet, and all the doors of the cabinet are closed. After rotating the cabinet to show all sides, the top is opened and the cloth bag is pulled through the hole in the tray – the woman has apparently vanished.

Come Along Cuffs

A “come along” cuff, such as these, secures only one hand, but has a handle to keep the cuffed prisoner under control. These cuffs were used by Harry Houdini in one of his breathtaking escapes.

Magic! Doll’s House Illusion and the Crystal Clock

How much do you know about magic? It’s time to see through the illusion! The Magic! exhibit is now open at HMNS. Throughout the run of the exhibit, check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display from curator Scott Cervine.

Doll’s House Illusion

This classic illusion was invented by British music hall performer Fred Culpitt (1877 – 1944) circa 1927 and quickly became popular worldwide due to its practicality and deceptiveness and remains popular to the present day.

The doll house is opened and shown to be empty (often removing the toy furniture in the process of displaying the house). However, when the door is closed, the roof immediately pops open in the center and a full-sized (generally adult) female doll too large to have been hidden within the empty doll house steps out.

The Crystal Clock Dial

This classic stage effect dates to the 19th century and remained popular into the early 20th century, but is seldom seen today.

In this spiritualistic feat, a number from one to twelve merely thought of by an audience member is divined by the spirits when the freely spinning clock hand mysteriously slows and stops on the spectator’s number.

The Discoverie of Witchcraft

How much do you know about magic? It’s time to see through the illusion! The Magic! exhibit is now open at HMNS. Throughout the run of the exhibit, check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display from curator Scott Cervine.

In 1563, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, a law was passed making the practice of witchcraft a felony. This led to the persecution of many innocents and so outraged a gentleman farmer, Reginald Scot, Esquire (1538-1599) that he decided to publish an exposé of the fallacies of such superstitious thinking.

He had previously written the first known book in English on the cultivation of hops (A Perfite Platform of a Hoppe Garden, 1574).  In 1584, his self-published The Discoverie of Witchcraft became the first book in English “debunking” such superstitions. But it was regarded by many as heretical, since it countered the teachings of the Church of England at the time. King James I of Scotland wrote an entire book, Daemonologie (1597) defending his belief in witchcraft against the arguments presented by Scot and others. When James ascended to the English throne in 1603, he is said to have ordered all copies of Scot’s Discoverie publicly burned by the Royal hangman. Many of the surviving copies, like this one, have severely reduced margins, which may have resulted from trimming away the charred edges of copies rescued from the hangman’s fire.

The importance of Scot’s book to conjuring is due to his extensive discussion of conjuring tricks, explaining their natural—not supernatural—basis by revealing the basics of sleight of hand. That it pained him to expose the secrets of this already ancient art is clear in introduction to this section of his work: “… being sorie that it falleth out to my lot, to laie open the secrets of this mysterie, to the hindrance of such poore men as live thereby, whose doings herein are not only tolerable, but greatly commendable, so they abuse not the Name of God, nor make the people attribute unto them His power…”

Scot had learned much of the magicians’ repertoire from a skilled French-born named John Cautares who earned an “honest living” as a laborer. Scot chiefly discussed tricks with balls, coins and cards, but also apparent feats of self mutilation and even decapitation. In doing so, he gave us an intimate portrait of the 16th century conjuring repertoire and its technical basis. Although Scot’s intent was to expose—rather than teach—magic, his book formed the basis of conjuring literature in English and several other languages (it was quickly translated into Dutch and German) for more than 200 years. It is also said to have been used by Shakespeare as a source for his plays when dealing with the themes of witchcraft.

Magic! The “Tayade Indian Cups”

How much do you know about magic? It’s time to see through the illusion! The Magic! exhibit is now open at HMNS. Throughout the run of the exhibit, check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display from curator Scott Cervine.

These 20th Century Wooden Cups by the Indian maker D. A. Tayade are based on an ancient, traditional design. Unlike the traditional conical Western cups, these do not stack and the knob on top is used to lift and manipulate the cups.

Despite the technical differences, the structure of such routines is similar in that small cork balls appear, vanish and transpose between the cups, ultimately leading to the surprising revelation of something other than small balls (larger balls or fruit) under the cups.

The traditional Indian performers, known in Hindi as “Jadoo Wallah,” perform the cups seated on the ground, rather than sitting at or standing behind a table.

See Richard Hatch’s version of this classic illusion in the video below; Richard also performs live in the exhibit on certain days. Click here for the schedule.

Can’t see the video? Click here.