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.

Magic! The “Girl Without a Middle”

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.

“The Girl Without a Middle” has become a classic standard illusion since its invention by P. T. Selbit, an Englishman whose birth name was Percy Tibbles (1879 – 1938). The original version involved a man, not a woman, but it soon featured the fairer sex.

The woman is secured in the cabinet with restraints at neck, arms and legs. The doors are closed and blades inserted at the shoulder level and the waist. When the doors are open, the head and legs are still there and can move, but the middle section is gone. The back of the cabinet behind the missing section is open so the audience can see there are no mirrors or hidden compartments – but the middle is gone!

Will Rock’s “The Girl Without A Middle”
On display in Magic! through Sept. 6

The version on display in the exhibition was owned and used by Will Rock (1907-1995) an American magician who presented a full evening show under the auspices of Howard Thurston (1869 – 1936).

Discover the Magic! exhibition in style at Magic VIP Nite! During this exclusive event, the evening of Mar. 18, view the exhibit at your leisure, see your favorite magic tricks up close with live performances, and enjoy complimentary appetizers and a stocked cash bar. First 250 people receive a magical swag bag. Tickets are limited, so purchase yours today!

Magic! Prepare to be dazzled

The Great Moscow State Circus, 2008
Creative Commons License photo credit: dirkjanranzijn

Who isn’t totally amazed by magic? A seemingly empty hat, a rope cut to pieces and a magician handcuffed and locked in a trunk. And…


Suddenly, the empty hat has a cute, fluffy bunny; the rope is whole and solid; and a magician appears to open the trunk and reveal a confused, bound assistant locked inside.

These tricks inspire a sense of wonder, even in adults. We know its not “real” magic, or sorcery…there is illusion, deception and misdirection behind every performance. Still – that knowledge doesn’t make it any less spectacular, or any less mysterious. Magicians can make the seemingly impossible, real.

Though their methods are enshrouded in secrecy, magicians combine the art of performance with a variety of scientific disciplines, including math, physics and psychology, to create their dazzling effects and fascinating illusions.

And the countdown is on! Just two weeks from today, you too can experience the wonder of magic, up close, in our new exhibit, Magic! opening February 26, 2010. This exhibit has it all, with over 100 artifacts and relics from the incredibly rich history of magic. See the water trunk that Houdini escaped from, a rapping hand that answered audiences questions, and much, much more. Be astonished by live performances and magicians who wander through the exhibit.

Looking for even more? Join us for our distinguished adult lectures, come to our VIP night, or take a hands-on class in magic!

Scott Cervine, guest curator of the exhibit, explains how he started down the road of being a magician in his first post in an ongoing series on Magic. In the days leading up to the opening and throughout the run of the exhibit check back here for exclusive videos and descriptions of the unique items on display.

You can buy tickets in advance here; grab them quick, before they all disappear!

Having trouble seeing the video? Click here.

Magic: The Science of Wonder [12 Days of HMNS]

Today is the Eleventh Day of HMNS! In the spirit of the classic holiday carol, we’re taking 12 days to feature 12 different videos that preview or go behind-the-scenes of a holiday museum activity, here on the blog (or, you can get a sneak peek at all the videos on – we won’t tell).

The holidays are a magical time – now, that feeling can last into the new year, thanks to our upcoming exhibition Magic: The Science of Wonder.

Presenting an array of artifacts connected with legendary performers of the past and present, such as Harry Houdini; Harry Blackstone; Doug Henning; and Penn & Teller, the exhibition will also feature film and video clips of famous magicians, as well as guest illusionists performing live. In addition, the “University of Magic” inside the exhibition encourages visitors to learn a magic trick of their own.

This extraordinary show examines how science and magic are intertwined, tapping into our universal desire to know “How does that work?” In this special clip, presented by our guest curator Scott Cervine, see if you can figure out his illusory feat of wonder.

Need to catch up?

The First Day of HMNS – Explore: Snow Science
The Second Day of HMNS – Preview: The Chronicles of Narnia Exhibition
The Third Day of HMNS – Preview: Disney’s A Christmas Carol
The Fourth Day of HMNS – Investigate: The Star of Bethlehem
The Fifth Day of HMNS – Shop: The Perfect Gift
The Sixth Day of HMNS – Marvel: Faberge
The Seventh Day of HMNS – Glimpse: Spirits & Headhunters
The Eighth Day of HMNS – Behind the Scenes: HMNS Greenhouses
The Ninth Day of HMNS – Revealed: Gem Vault
The Tenth Day of HMNS – Discover: HMNS at Sugar Land

Get into the holiday spirit! Visit our 12 Days of HMNS web site to see the videos and get more information about each event, exhibit and film:

Happy Holidays!