Peter Warlock

THIS IS a slate trick for children. The effect is straightforward.

The conjurer after showing three slates to be blank on both sides, numbers two of them, one and two respectively, then placing them number side towards the audience in a small stand. Adjacent to the stand is a small house, and in this house there lives a little man who will help the conjurer with this trick with the three slates. Picking up the third slate, one of the audience is asked to give him the name of an animal. " Now," says the conjurer, " I'll write the FIRST LETTER of that word on this slate, and strange and wonderful thought it may seem, the little man will leave his house, rush behind SLATE NUMBER ONE and draw the SAME LETTER. Just watch the slate, the little house and myself all AT THE SAME TIME."

Now immediately the conjurer puts chalk to the slate in order to write the first letter of the animal's name, the door of the house opens and stays open. About five seconds after the writing is complete, the door closes.

" Did you see the little Man?" asks the conjurer. The answer is, of course, in the negative. " Well," continues the conjurer, " He left his house and drew the letter on the slate!" At this point slate number one is turned round and on it the letter drawn by the conjurer has been duplicated. " Look, we'll go a bit further this time and you see whether you can see him. Don't forget he moves very quickly, but you might just see his red coat." The slate is cleaned, re-numbered and replaced in the stand.

Now the conjurer writes on the third slate, the full name of the animal. Similar business as before with the door opening and shutting and when the slate is turned round the full word is written on it.

Finally attention is drawn to slate number two. Taking the third slate and cleaning it, the conjurer makes a comical drawing of the animal. There is, of course, the opening and shutting of the door and then the completion of the trick when the third slate is turned round and a similar drawing is found on it.

With young children in particular the visual side of the effect, i.e., the opening and shutting of the door in the house, brings forth many imaginative qualities and there will be many who will see the flashing red jacket of the little man who isn't there.

The Requirements

Three school slates of identical size.

One loose fitting flap, which obviously will be common to all the slates.


The Little House. This may be as plain or elaborate as you wish. The principal feature is the door which is so constructed that it may be opened by a pull on a thread and closed when the pull is relaxed. The most reliable idea I have found is shown in the following sketch:—

A pull on the thread makes the counterweight rise, and when the pull is relaxed, the counterweight causes the door to close.

A stand to hold the slates. Again this is a matter for simplicity or elaboration. Nothing is gained by being elaborate in this case and the following illustration shows a stand which fulfils all the requirements needed, i.e., the slates are held firmly and there is no chance of the stand falling one way or t'other.

It is hardly necessary to say that the choice of animal is hardly a choice in the true sense of the word, and before commencing his preparation for the performance, the animal decided upon is that beautiful and intelligent citizen, the Cat. Hie three slates are then placed in a row and thinking of them as One, Two and Three, the additions shown in the following illustration are made firmly with chalk.

The flap is now taken and placed over the written side of slate number one. This slate is placed on slate number two and finally both slates are placed on top of slate number three.

The table used by the conjurer must have a fairly large surface. A card table will do and it should be placed in this position the stand for the slates and the little house being set upon it as shown:—

The motivation of the door is best done by an assistant off-stage. Actually the thread used for activating the movement as it is carried across the table surface and down one of the table legs, can be so fixed by means of a small staple at the bottom of the leg so that even in a room it can be used by an assistant either concealed behind a screen or simply seated as part of the audience. The movement of the hand holding the thread is very little indeed. With the stand and house set on the table the slates with a piece of chalk placed on top are put down just in front of the stand.


The slates and chalk are taken from the table by the left hand. Slipping the chalk into his pocket with the right hand and then tilting the dates towards himself, the conjurer with his right hand removes the topmost slate which, remember, has chalked on its surface the two letters and is covered with the flap. The writing on the surface of the second slate is concealed from the audience because of the simple fact that the surface is tilted away from them. The first slate, fingers keeping the flap in position, is shown on both sides. " This we'll call slate number one," says the conjurer, and then placing this slate flap side undermost on the two slates held by the left hand. His right hand goes to his pocket removes the chalk and on the uppermost slate he writes a large ' 1.' This slate is now taken off the stack leaving the flap behind on top of the second slate. Handling must be natural and slate Number 1, care being taken that the writing previously concealed by the flap is not glimpsed, is placed into the stand on the side nearest to the little house. The second slate with the flap covering the drawing is shown on both sides and it is placed on slate three flap side undermost. This slate is marked ' 2 ' and similarly it is taken away leaving the flap on slate three.

The second slate is placed in the stand alongside slate number one.

Now, chalk in one hand and slate in the other, the conjurer gets the word cat from a member of the audience. There is no need to go to the trouble of some kind of force, for by suggestion the word will be forthcoming. The conjurer tells of his little friend in the little house and how when he, the conjurer draws anything upon the slate, this little man will do the same on slate number one. " Just watch!" he says. " To make it easy for him we'll use the first letter of ' Cat,'" and with that remark the conjurer starts drawing a letter "K" on the non-flap side of the slate. At the same time the assistant in charge of the thread moves it so that the door opens in the house. The conjurer's mistake with the initial letter of the animal's name will bring forth jibes from his audience who will also have seen the door open.

The conjurer apologises and asks for correction. " C " they will tell him, and so the " K " is crossed out and the letter " C " placed in one corner of the slate so that it is comparable with the letters made on slate number one. " There," he says, " my little friend has copied what I have written on the slate." As this is said the assistant allows the door of the house to close. Never at any time does the conjurer give any conscious attention to the opening and closing of the door.

Slate number one is now taken from the stand, turned around and it is seen that the writing on it agrees with that which the conjurer did on his slate.

" Let's try it once more," and then placing slate number one on top of the slate he is holding (the flap on the latter being undermost and held in place with the left hand fingers), he takes a handkerchief from his pocket and cleans off the letters. Then he turns it over and cleans off the " 1." Finally he places slate number three with its attendant flap on top of the original slate number one and then cleans off the letters on its surface. This slate is then lifted leaving the flap behind and with similar handling to that used with slate number one, it is placed in the frame alongside slate number two.

This time the full word " C-A-T " is drawn on the slate and the conjurer tells his audience that if they watch very, very closely indeed they may catch a glimpse of the little man's red jacket. Believe me someone will see him and the cry will be taken up by all those who do not wish to be thought good viewers.

Needless to say after the door opening and closing process has been repeated, the slate in number one position is turned and it is seen that the little man has written the full word " C-A-T."

To complete the effect and without changing slates, the one marked " 1" being placed aside, the conjurer makes the drawing of the animal whilst the door opens and ultimately closes. When slate number two is turned round the conjurer's drawing is seen to be duplicated.

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