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Oct 05

THE FT TOP 23 STRANGE PHENOMENA No 2. The Indian Rope Trick

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The Indian Rope Trick has become one of the most famous magical effects of all time, a doubly impressive feat since it was never actually performed. The recent book, The Rise Of The Indian Rope Trick, details the creation of the hoax by the journalist Fred S. Ellmore (a pseudonym – SELL MORE do you see), and elements of the act made their way into the repertoires of various ‘Indian conjurors’* subsequent to “Ellmore”‘s articles. Unfortunately I don’t know much more than that because my copy of the book suffered a mysterious disappearance of its own, as I left it in a restaurant.under the effects of a magic potion.

It seems to me that the Rope Trick, technically speaking, shouldn’t be too difficult to achieve with the right combinations of wires, mirrors, stagehands, etc etc. But what would be the point? For one thing the trick in its ‘pure’ form involves the magician being ‘offstage’ for quite a while, which can kill the tension. For another the point of the Trick is that it happens outdoors, in some dusty provincial square. For a third it’s probably just too famous: everybody knows what is meant to happen, so where’s the surprise and wonder when it does? Magic is about misdirection, and the Rope Trick is the ultimate misdirection – it’s much more useful to magicians as a thing of rumour and reputation than something more concrete.

*aka men in brown make-up who had mostly been pretending to be French the year before, rather than real Fakirs**.

**the clue is in the name.

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