J^lmost in Qonfidenee by VICTOR FARELLI

THE MASKELYNE BOX TRICK (Was the Trunk Unprepared ?)


Many years ago, a number of London magicians, including the late Douglas Dexter, were convinced that the original £500 Challenge Box, invented by John Nevil Maskelyne, was not fitted with a trap, and that except for the locks, it was entirely unprepared.

In 1927, I discussed the matter with David Devant who said that Maskelyne never told him how the original trick was done! Devant added that the box used in connection with the magical sketch, "Will, the Witch and the Watchman", and which he presented during the provincial tours of Maskelyne and Cooke's Mysteries, was provided with a trap and that it was made in accordance with his WILL, THE WITCH AND THE WATCHMAN (Devant's) instructions.

Mr. Devant made a huge success with this sketch which he introduced as follows:

The cabinet having been inspected, inside and out, by a committee composed of members of the audience, the box was submitted to a very thorough examination One of the committee was persuaded to get into the trunk: Devant closed it and sat on the lid. He then started a discussion with his victim about Tariff Reform, remarking to the audience: "I think that this is an ideal way of having an argument with a man!" After some pleasant fooling, the prisoner was allowed to get out of the box, and all but two of the members of the committee were sent back to their seats in the auditorium. These two men were provided with chairs (one on the prompt and one on the O.P. side of the stage) and they were informed that they were at liberty to climb on top of the cabinet, or crawl underneath, at any time during the performance, "In fact", said Devant, "you can do exactly as you like, except enter the cabinet during the sketch. That we cannot allow."

At the required time, the two voluntary assistants helped to lock the '"monkey" in the box, and to seal up the canvas cover in which it was enveloped. After the monkey had made his escape, they examined the knots and testified that they were intact.

In the able hands of the Master, the sketch was entertaining and convincing, but the same cannot be said of the revival recently seen at the Scala Theatre in London. In this version, there was no "audience participation", and an amusing interlude in which the monkey's tail was cut off and made to dance about all over the stage was omitted. Nevertheless, the programme at the Scala, of which the sketch was only a part, was a great success and to the liking of the general public. And that is what matters. (At nearly every performance the House Full notice was displayed).

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