"The Pegasus Page", as it has come to be known, a brilliant invention of Herbert Milton,6 is one of my favorite mental effects and, thanks to some small but telling refinements of which I am rather proud, it is one I've successfully used to baffle audiences and magicians throughout the world.
You will certainly have anticipated that the torn page appears in the spectator's hands through the agency of a Teleport Envelope. You load the secret compartment with a folded page torn from the book you will use. This page should be torn unevenly from the book, leaving an easily discernible portion of it still attached to the binding.
You will need a duplicate book as well, which you will use to force the identical page removed from the first book. Any riffle force will serve the purpose here nicely. When using new paperback books, I have employed the old idea of creasing the spine at the force page, which provides a break discernible to you as you riffle off the pages. However, more often these days I will use another method for creating a riffle break, an idea of Barrie Richardson's, which allows you to force almost any page and leaves no trace of preparation in the book:
Place a small coin in the gutter of the book, near the bottom edge and between the page you wish to force and its facing page. I always take the precaution of wrapping a rubber band around the bottom end of the book while it is in my attache case, so that the coin cannot accidentally fall out. As I take it from the case in performance, I can quickly strip off the band and leave it behind.
'See his "Page of Mystery" in Percy Naldretf s Collected Magic Series: Volume Six (1925), p. 18-23. Arthur Emerson later popularized Milton's trick and named it "The Pegasus Page" in his Third Evening at the Magic Circle lecture notes (1968). Related effects are Annemann's "Whim of Tituba" in number 67 of The }inx, Nov. 18,1939, pp. 463 and 465; and Corinda's "Zarkamorta ii" in his Thirteen Steps to Mentalism, pp. 201-206.
Holding the book in your left hand, near the bottom of its spine, walk downstage to the first row of the audience and ask someone to call stop as you riffle through the book. Riffle the pages off your right thumb until the spectator stops you. At that moment let all the pages above the break created by the coin escape from your thumb, and raise the outer end of the book slightly, causing the coin to slip from it and into your cupped left fingers. Hand the book, opened to the desired spot, to the spectator in his seat and direct his attention to the proper page, requesting that he note the page number and memorize a few words that he sees there. As he does this, and all eyes are on him, you can take advantage of the moment to let the coin in your hand drop into a convenient pocket.
Now we come to the vanish of the page from the book. To accomplish this you must switch the book just used for the page force for its duplicate, from which the forced page has been removed. At the moment this rests, ready to be grabbed, in your attaché case. The switch may seem bold when described, but I assure you, I've never been caught doing it, and I've performed this trick for some of the best posted magicians in the world.
First, you must have had the foresight to have selected for your primary assistant a gentleman in shirtsleeves and a woman sitting with friends. You target one of these types because neither will be carrying a pen. (If a woman is called up, she will leave her purse with her friends rather than bring it on stage with her.) It is this person who is given the apparently empty Teleport Envelope and asked to seal it.
After forcing the page and having a few words noted, retrieve the book from the spectator in the audience, letting it snap shut, and turn to the spectator on stage, who you have positioned roughly downstage center. "Do you have a pen?" you ask. As he begins to tell you that he hasn't, continue, "That's no problem. Here is one for you."
As you are talking, you stride calmly to your open attaché case, which sits on a side table, stage left and a bit upstage of the spectator. Its raised lid is turned toward the audience, so that no one can see into the case. You are at this point holding the force book in your left hand. Place both hands momentarily behind the lid and quickly switch the two books as you seem to search for a pen. With the duplicate book now in your left hand, raise this hand to the top edge of the lid to steady it, as with your right hand you continue to look for a pen. The book should be at least partially in view above the lid. Search for a few moments more, then pretend to discover the pen, which is waiting conveniently for you in a compartment of the lid, and bring it out with your right hand. Do not rush the switch of the books in the case. Just exchange them calmly and without hesitation. It is also vital that you not look at your left hand at any time during the switch. All your attention should be focused on your right hand as it searches for the pen. Another thing that lends misdirection for this switch is a continuous line of entertaining commentary.
Now walk back to your on-stage assistant and hand him the pen, asking that he record the number of the selected page on the sealed envelope he holds. While he does this, return to your helper in the audience and hand him the book, asking him if he would mind joining the two of you on stage. Position him downstage right, several yards from the spectator with the envelope, and ask him to hold the book out in front of him, pressed between his palms.
So now we have our one helper on one side holding a book with the chosen page torn from it; and on the other side is the other helper, clasping an envelope containing that missing page. Everything is poised for the climax. But there is one piece of the puzzle yet to be explained: How do you let the audience hear the spectral page as you teleport it from the book to the envelope?
The answer is embarrassingly simple, though no one has ever guessed it. In your inside breast pocket you have a miniature tape player that contains a clear recording of a page being torn. The speaker of the recorder is turned outward and you are wearing a wireless mic to pick up the sound and broadcast it. The tape player is activated by an on-off switch placed near the edge of your jacket, or at your side where your elbow can press it, or under your toe inside your shoe—wherever you find it most convenient.
So all you need do at this point is act. Stand between the two spectators and ask the one with the envelope what page number he wrote down. Turn to the second spectator and ask if that is indeed the page he selected in the book. On receiving confirmation of this, you proceed to make several dramatic gestures toward the book, eventually activating the sound of the tearing page. Triumphantly ask the helper with the book to open it to his selected page. When he does so, he finds only a tatter of it left in place! You then hand a pair of scissors to the helper with the envelope and ask him to cut it open. Have him look inside and discover the torn page. Next, have him unfold it and verify the page number.
Bring the two spectators together and ask your second helper to make sure it is the page he memorized a passage from. As he testifies to this, calmly take the scissors and envelope from the first spectator and pocket them. To wrap everything up visually, take the book and page in your own hands and match the torn edges, providing final proof that it is indeed the same page and striking a stance that cues the audience for applause. It will be immediate and sustained.
Conclude by presenting the book and torn-out page to the second spectator and send both helpers back to their seats. Years ago I bought several thousand remaindered paperback books at just pennies apiece, so that I could do this trick for many years. I enjoy leaving the spectator with an ungim-micked book to ponder after the show (a thing not feasible with the original Milton method).
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