Effect: At the time he published "Devaluation", Mr. Elmsley was also performing an innovative Okito-box routine, in which he incorporated many of the ideas employed in his Chinatown-half effect. Sadly, with this routine we encounter a piece of magic that has been largely lost—but by those who saw it, not forgotten. It was structured in three phases:
The Okito box is opened and shown to contain live coins: four large British pennies and a Chinese coin of matching size. The four pennies are replaced in the box, which is then capped. The Chinese coin is wrapped in a handkerchief, from which it quickly vanishes. It is found on top of the pennies in the closed box. This comprises the first phase.
For the second phase all five coins are wrapped in the handkerchief, leaving the box empty. Its lid is put on it—then, one by one the four pennies are caused to pass magically from the handkerchief to the box.
The final phase starts with the four pennies freshly arrived in the box and the Chinese coin left in the handkerchief. Suddenly these coins transpose: the Chinese coin visibly transforms into the four pennies, and when the box is opened the Chinese coin is found inside.
Method: Mr, Elmsley recorded this Okito-box routine once only, in a letter to Edward Mario. In return for previous favors, he gave Mr. Mario permission to use the routine in any way he saw fit. No other copy of the description was made. Mr. Mario in turn presented the letter to Jay Marshall, who planned to market a line of Elmsley creations through Magic, Inc. More than thirty years have passed, and the Elmsley Okito-box routine has never been released. The only record of it—other than scant memories of those who saw Mr. Elmsley perform it—is probably lost somewhere In the overwhelming
Marshall archives. Mr. Elmsley no longer recollects the details, but at my urging he has recalled the general structure of the routine.
A magnetic lid for the Okito box and a steel-shimmed shell coin augmented the mystery. Mr. Elmsley was among the first to construct and use a magnetic Okito box, preceding Frank Thompson and Sam Schwartz in the U.S. He recalls, though, that the idea was not original with him. In the 1950s a few magicians in England and Europe were discussing the idea and experimenting with it.
Thin, powerful magnets were not readily obtained in the 1950s, so Mr. Elmsley took a flat alnico magnet from a set of novelty Kissing Scottie Dogs and ground it down by hand on an oilstone to a suitable size. "I think," he recollects, "I took more olf my fingertips than off the magnet, but eventually it was small enough." This he concealed inside a small silver grasshopper, which he cemented to the lid of his Okito box. The silver insect made the box a charming prop, and suggested a novel presentation. The work, though, was far from finished.
To make a steel-shimmed shell coin he glued half a razor blade inside an English penny shell. But he found that the magnet, mounted to the box lid, was not strong enough to pick up the shell; so he then ground down the lid, making it thinner at the place where the magnet rested, until he had a magnetic lid and shell that worked.
He found he also had to make his own "Chinese" coins. These he fashioned out of brass tokens from an amusement arcade, filing them smooth, then beating them with a hammer "to produce mysterious looking markings". One of these brass coins was made into a Chinatown gimmick, it being joined to a filed-down English penny. He also filed the edges of the other brass coin and one of the normal pennies until they fit the shell closely but didn't jam.
Fortunately, today these or similar coins can be bought ready-made in magic shops, and an Okito box with a magnetic lid can also be had, or a standard one modified with much less work than was necessary for the construction of Mr. Elmsley's original.
In addition to the magnetic box (which should be capable of holding five coins), the shimmed shell (not an expanded shell, for this must fit properly into the Okito box), Chinatown penny, matching Chinese coin and the reduced penny, you will need two normal British pennies and a pocket handkerchief.
One can now only conjecture about the Elmsley handling for this routine. I will suggest a possible route for the first phase, though it is unlikely to bare much resemblance to the original. It is offered only to spark the reader's own creativity.
Place the coins into the box in this order: first the Chinatown coin, penny-side up: then the two normal pennies; onto these lay the Chinese coin nested in the penny shell, shell-side down; and on top of all place the reduced penny. Put the lid on the filled box and you are ready.
Set the filled box on the table and bring out the handkerchief. Open it and spread it across the open left palm, letting the hands be seen otherwise empty. Then, with the right hand, remove the lid from the box and set it aside. Let the spectators see that the box is filled with coins. Then pick it up and invert it over the left hand, dumping the coins onto the center of the handkerchief. Let them spread; you particularly want to get the Chinatown coin off the top of the stack and onto the handkerchief, so that its masked center hole is properly camouflaged. This done, you can cleanly the display the coins as four pennies and a Chinese coin. The penny second from the bottom of the stack is actually the shell, which hides the normal Chinese coin.
Set the box bottom on the table, then pick up the top penny and drop it into the box. Do the same with the second penny. Pick up the third and fourth pennies together but spread, so that two coins are clearly seen, and drop them into the box. Thus the shelled coin is on top, with the reduced penny below it. Set the lid onto the box.
Now, with your right hand, pick up the Chinatown gimmick from the handkerchief as you comment on the Chinese coin. Display it briefly, covering the hole with a fingertip; then seemingly replace it in the handkerchief, closing your left fingers over it. Actually, however, you do a pass, stealing away the coin in the right hand.
The Chinese coin is now made to fly from the handkerchief to the closed box. All that you need do Is reveal the vanish of the coin from the handkerchief, then lift the lid from the box. The magnet in the lid will have picked up the shell, leaving the normal Chinese coin exposed on top of the stack.
Set the lid on the table, taking care neither to expose the shell nor to dislodge it. Let the handkerchief drop onto the table. Then, with your left hand, pick up the box of coins and empty it onto the right hand, letting the palmed Chinatown coin, penny-side up, blend hi with the rest.
Place the right hand's coins onto the table, keeping track of the positions of the Chinatown gimmick and the reduced penny. While the left hand retains the empty box bottom, use your right hand to pick up the lid and place in on the box. Then set the box onto the table, secretly dislodging the shell so that it falls to the bottom of the box. Using the shell in this way places you in a one-ahead situation.
Mr. Elmsley can't, at this point, remember the sequence he used for transporting the four pennies one by one from the handkerchief to the box. Given the items in play—a magnetic shell, a penny to fit it, and the Okito box—a number of avenues are open, the shell making possible some very impressive appearances and vanishes. For now that is all that can be said. The reader is left to work out a pleasing sequence for himself.
About the final transposition of the Chinese coin and the pennies, between the box and the handkerchief, all Mr. Ehnsley recalls is that the sequence employed the same principles explained in "Devaluation". Using the box, rather than the pocket, to contain the pennies required, in his words, "some rather complicated Okito-box handling". The pennies were secretly extracted from the box through a turnover maneuver, and the ungimmicked Chinese coin was loaded in, perhaps disguised by the shell. The pennies were palmed in the right hand while the left hand displayed the Chinatown gimmick, Chinese side showing, on the handkerchief. Then, using the moves described in "Devaluation", the Chinatown coin was secretly turned penny-side up and the palmed pennies were dropped onto it, creating as striking instant change. It would then be only a matter of revealing the Chinese coin in the box.
Sensing the potential impact of this routine, and knowing Mr. Elmsley's talent for elegant directness, the loss of handling details and presentation is most disappointing. It is hoped that one day the this routine in full, as written for Edward Mario roughly thirty-live years ago, may eventually surface; or that Mr. Elmsley may be coerced into reconstructing it. But for now, this patchy description, drawn from Mr. Elmsley's memory, provides a basic framework on which the interested reader can hang his own construction. It is a puzzle worth your efforts. Fortunately, another Elmsley coin-box routine has been preserved in full____
Was this article helpful?