The Canvas Box Mystery

This is another effective substitution mystery, similar to the preceding one but less expensive in construction. It may be used as a substitution or an escape.


Performer shows six wooden frames with canvas tacked on one side of each. These are given for examination. The frames are then fastened together and strapped around the performer to form a trunk-like box. A curtained cabinet is placed over and around the box and front curtains are closed. Girl assistant steps inside of cabinet. Curtains suddenly open and performer appears. Box is then opened and girl is found inside.


1 -- Special Canvas Box, consisting of six covered frames.

2 -- Curtained cabinet.

3 -- Flashlight, if desired, for use inside of box. The Canvas Box:

Of the six frames which make this box, two are 26 inches square (these form the top and bottom) — two are 4 feet high and 24 inches wide — and two are 4 feet high and 2 6 inches wide. The lumber used in the frames is 3 to 3 1/2 inches wide and one inch thick. Sizes may be varied if desired.

Figure 23 shows construction of top and bottom frames. In each side there are two holes bored for insertion of wooden pegs on side frames.

Figure 24 shows construction of the two frames 4 feet high and 24 inches wide. Top and bottom edges each have two round wooden pegs. The side edges each have two threaded bolts for thumb screws.

Figure 25 shows construction of the two frames 4 feet high and 26 inches wide. These frames also have wooden pegs at top and holes in the sides through which threaded bolts from other side frames can be placed.

Figure 2 6 shows the method in which the frames are covered with canvas. There is a distance of about one inch between the outer edge of canvas and outer edge of the frame. The canvas is securely tacked on with brass headed tacks placed about an inch apart. All the frames are prepared this way except for one of the side frames, 4 feet high and 26 inches wide.

Figure 27 shows construction of the tricked side frame. A groove about half an inch deep is chiseled out around the bottom and sides of lower half of this frame. Into this groove is fitted another frame. This is about half an inch thick and an inch and a half wide around the edges so that it fits flush with rest of frame. This frame is hinged at the top so that it can act as a door.

When canvas is placed over this frame, it is tacked around top half of frame and then brought down over fake lower half and tacked around it. Thus when fake part is in position, frame looks just like the other unprepared frames, but in reality the lower half is free and can swing out.

Figure 2 8.

Figure 29 shows method of fastening door frame. To hold the door frame in place, special catches are fixed in the lower groove. By pushing down on A with a nail through a hole in the frame, the spring catches at the sides are forced in and plungers released so that door opens. When door frame is firmly in place and plungers set, frame can be examined closely without danger of detection.

Figure 30 shows the canvas box formed from the six frames. The top and bottom are held to the side frames by the wooden pegs and the side frames are held together by the bolts and thumb screws. Straps are placed around the box but they do not interfere with the door. To make your escape when you are inside of the box, all you have to do is push the nail down through small opening in middle of lower edge of fake frame. This releases the catches and door can be pushed out. If performing only an escape, door should then be pushed back firmly into place and catches will lock it automatically. If a substitution is going to be made, be sure that door is not pushed back and locked until substitution is accomplished.

To Prepare for Performance:

Have the frames stacked together on the stage. Place straps nearby. The curtained cabinet is in center of stage. The cabinet for this illusion must be light enough to lift over box.


To Perform:

Ask two spectators to come up from audience to assist you. Have a chair ready on each side of stage for them to sit on.

"In preparing for the next mystery, it is necessary to have a box built, and for that purpose we will use these six canvas frames. Gentlemen, I want you to examine each of these frames and see that each is merely a wooden frame with canvas tacked over it."

Have the two men step forward. Hand frames to them one at a time, showing both sides and calling attention to their strong construction.

"The pegs, screw parts, and holes are for the purpose of construction. Each frame fits into the other to form a box or trunk. To begin with, we shall place this strap on the floor."

Place strap down about three feet in front of curtained cabinet, laying it parallel with front of stage.

"On this we place the small square frame. Then around me I want you to build a wall with the frames. Place the canvas part outside. On the bottom of each there are pegs to insert in the holes in this frame which I am standing on."

As you say this, place the small frame down over the middle of the strap on floor. Then stand on this frame. Have the two men place the side frames around you. Your assistant shows them how to put the frames in place and gives them thumb screws to place on threaded bolts. She sees to it that fake frame is placed at the rear. When everything is secured to the satisfaction of the two gentlemen, you say:

"Now, when I stoop down into the box, place the top down by pushing the holes in it over the wooden pegs in the side frames. Then for extra security, place the straps around the box. My assistant will direct you in the way to do this."

Stoop down into box so that top frame can be put into place. The strap from bottom is brought up and fastened tight around box. The other strap is then placed around middle of box the opposite way and strapped into place.

Girl assistant then asks gentlemen to help in placing curtained cabinet over canvas box. This accomplished, the side and back curtains of cabinet are lowered into place. The two men are then asked to take seats at each side of the stage.

As the girl assistant says the following she stands in cabinet in front of box and then draws the curtains together in front of her, allowing only her head to remain in view.

"In a few moments you will see a strange feat of magic, performed in the twinkling of an eye. Mr. (your name) has been securely placed inside the box. Each side is firmly fastened to the other with thumb screws and straps. All fastenings are on the outside. A person in that box is held as securely as in a steel-bound box or trunk."

The moment she begins to talk, you push nail into opening of faked frame, open door and make your escape. Allow door to fall quietly into place, but be sure it does not close tight enough to lock. You come up to girl's right side while she is saying:

"When I say -- three -- watch! In a second's time will come a peculiar transformation. Are you ready? One - two - three!"

She disappears, and the moment she does so, you step into her place and put your head out between the curtains.

Girl darts around left side and quickly crawls into box, pulling the door tight so that it locks. She gives you some signal immediately, and you open the curtains wide, showing the canvas box.

Have the two gentlemen come up to help you remove curtained cabinet. Then unstrap the box and remove the thumb screws to release the front frame. Lift off the top and take out the front panel to show the girl inside. Assist her from the box and dismiss the two gentlemen.

NOTE: The Canvas Box Mystery may also be performed with the sack and the hands tied behind the back as in the preceding illusion.

This mystery may be used for just an escape, too. In this case, after you are in the box and concealed by the curtained cabinet, you merely make your escape and then push the door tight so that it will lock. Open the curtain and move the box out of the cabinet. After having the two gentlemen examine it, take the box apart to show that there is nothing concealed inside.

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