The Magic Of Japan

DIABOLO (Russell Sharp)

Whilst Russell Sharp tends to think along mechanical lines as witness his present series of articles in " Abracadabra," he has been good enough to send us a couple of items with no mechanical associations. One, a coin vanish we published last month, the second is the present effect which is a glorified version of " Snowstorm in China."—Editor.

FOR A TRULY oriental touch in a magic programme I guess there's little to touch " Snowstorm in China" (actually it's a Japanese trick therefore my title!). To get a certain completeness and lengthen the trick the following routine came into being.

Effect. Phase 1.

The magus shows five sheets of coloured paper. They are placed together and torn across several times; finally they are squeezed into a ball. The ball of paper is then dropped into a narrow glass goblet. Taking a fan and gently fanning the goblet, the ball of paper rises and falls. The fan is placed aside and the ball of paper tipped out into the magus's hand. Showing his hands to be otherwise empty, the ball of paper is unfolded to show the pieces of tissue restored.

Phase 2.

The pieces of paper have a quarter of their length torn away from them. These quarters are pushed into a glass, a jug of water is taken and some of the water poured on to the paper in the glass. Taking a chopstick with the right hand the sodden papers are lifted from the glass the left hand taking hold of them and squeezing out the surplus moisture. The chopstick is placed down, and the fan is taken again, used to fan the left hand, and from it a stream of vari-coloured serpentine pours on to the floor. When all the serpentine has flowed from the hand which is shown to be empty, the paper is picked up from the floor.

Phase 3.

From the serpentine, strips of different colours are torn, crumpled, and dropped into the glass of water. Once again the chopstick is taken by the left hand and the sodden pieces removed. Once again the left hand takes them, squeezes them. Once more the chopstick is placed down, the fan taken. The left hand is fanned and from it a cloud of squares of coloured paper emerge completely filling the stage !


1. One large Japanese folding fan.

2. Ten sheets of tissue paper each measuring ten inches by eight. Two are red, two blue, two green, two yellow, and two purple.

3. A small coil of serpentine (mouth coil.—

4. Some large sheets of coloured tissue paper.

5. A glass jug containing water.

6. A narrow glass goblet. It should be approximately twelve inches high. Alternatively a straight sided lamp chimney could be used.

7. A length of hair or nylon thread. The exact length can only be arrived at by experiment.

8. Two chopsticks or thin wooden sticks.

9. Some Scotch tape.

For the " snowstorm " effect the large sheets of tissue will have to be taken and cut into pieces measuring approximately three-quarters-of-an-inch square. The best way is put the sheets together and fold them several times and then using a very sharp pair of scissors cut through as many thicknesses as possible. (This has been well described by Dai Vernon in his priceless book " Select Secrets," and the actual " Snowstorm " effect follows the procedure laid down by him), I guess you'll find the pieces stick in wads and so just place them in a cardboard chocolate box.

place on the lid and shake the box until you have thousands of separate pieces. Make up plenty of pieces whilst you're about it!

The Preparation.

First of all place five of the colour sheets of tissue on one side. These are pieces that the audience see first of all.

Now take one of the remaining five sheets and with the aid of Scotch tape fix one end of the length of hair (see illustration 1). Place the remaining four sheets on top in alignment and then roll the sheets into a ball so that the corner with the hair goes in last, i.e., the minimum length of hair goes inside the ball. Now taking the glass goblet (or lamp chimney) drop the ball of paper inside and see how great a length of hair is necessary to go from the ball of paper to one of your coat buttons. The length should be such with the goblet held at shoulder height, and about twelve inches away from the body, the hair should be taut. This means that an outward movement of the goblet will cause the paper to rise in the goblet. Supposing that the outer sheet of paper in the bundle is red, by means of a little rubber cement affix the ball of paper to the sheet of red paper that you placed aside at the beginning. The second illustration shows the place at which it should be affixed. The remaining pieces are placed under the red sheet and they are folded three times lengthwise like this (illustration 3).

The papers in this state are placed inside the inner breast pocket so that the bundle is furthest from the magus's body. The goblet is placed on the table (the table should be on the performer's left). The fan, in a closed state, is placed just in front of the goblet. This set-up now accounts for everything that takes place in Phase 1.

Phase 2 concerns the change of paper to serpentine. The articles concerned are the chopsticks, the coil, the jug of water and the glass. Take the coil and with the aid of a small rubber band affix it to one end of the chopstick (illustration 4). This method allows for a quick release and gives no complications. This chopstick is placed at the rear of the table on the right of the magus so that the end with the serpentine attached is hidden from view. With the glass and jug on the left-hand table all the preparation for the second phase is complete.

Preparation for Phase 3. Let's take the words of Vernon: " Assemble the stacks of small squares so that when pressed together they are about an inch thick. It does not matter how irregular the edges, it is not necessary for the papers to be squared up. These stacks are placed in the centre of a square of tissue about five inches by five inches and the four corners are brought up around the package and screwed down close to the cut papers. The resulting tail is then cut off fairly close and to prevent the package from opening when handled, a piece of transparent Scotch tape is stuck over the twisted part which will hold the package securely.

" With a razor blade, cut two slits along the side of one of the folds in the package and push the second chopstick so that it will hang securely near one end. The stick is now placed nearby the other stick so that this package is hidden by the table top."

With this done you have completed all the preparation for the three phases of the trick.

The Presentation.

Tell your audience that you will show them some oriental magic, and then let the whole thing speak for itself with a background of music.

Show both hands clearly empty and remove the papers from the inside pocket with the left hand. As the left hand takes the papers it closes over the ball of paper attached to the sheets. Bring the folded sheets in front of the body and holding them at shoulder height, turn the left hand so that the palm is seen to be empty. At the same time the right hand comes across and takes the pieces at the right-hand side. The ball of paper is now nearest to the performer's body. Using the fingertips only, open out the sheets. The right hand takes a sheet at a time from the left hand and as each sheet is taken it is placed behind the sheet of red. Finally the left and right hand separate, the left hand taking away the red sheet which should now be the one nearest to the audience and places it behind the others. The position of the papers is now as it was at the beginning.

The papers are now torn into halves and then quartered. The pieces are screwed into a ball. All this is done as much as is possible with the fingertips so that throughout the procedure the palms can face the audience and be seen to be empty. Now you will have a ball of torn papers to which is stuck a ball of untorn papers. In the final stage of screwing up the torn papers, bring the ball of untorn paper to the front. Hold both balls as one between the thumb and first finger of the right hand. Don't forget that attached to the untorn papers is the length of hair! The right hand apparently places the ball of screwed up paper into the left hand where it is taken at the fingertips. Actually in the process of passing the papers the ball of torn papers is torn away from the untorn ones and fingerpalmed as the movement is made. The right hand then moves down and takes the goblet and when it is raised to shoulder height the ball of papers held in the left hand is dropped inside it.

The right hand reaches down for the fan. (Don't forget, you've still got a ball of torn papers fingerpalmed!) The fan is opened and the goblet held to the left of the magus as the fan comes into action. With the fanning the left hand moves forward slightly and the ball of paper rises. It is allowed to sink and then to rise again and finally to sink. The fan is replaced on the table, and then the left hand tilts the goblet allowing the ball of paper to fall out into the right hand which, still keeping the original torn papers palmed, holds the untorn ones at the fingertips. The right hand moves forward allowing the hair to break away from the paper ball and at the same time the goblet is replaced on the table. Both hands assist in opening out the papers and showing that they are restored. End of phase 1.

The right hand holds the papers and the left tears off about a quarter of their length. The right hand crumples up the remainder and in this crumpling the ball of torn pieces is screwed up with them. The unwanted pieces are then thrown offstage. At this point the magus is holding just five small pieces of paper. He places them inside the glass and taking the jug of water pours some more into the glass. The chopstick with the coil attached to it is picked up with the right hand. In the taking the hand completely conceals the coil, the left hand comes across takes the other end of the stick and pulls it from the right hand which has the effect of allowing the coil to slide from the stick and the rubber band to expand and drop unnoticed on the floor. The stick is used to stir the papers around and then it is passed back to the right hand which, with its aid, lifts the sodden paper from the glass.

The left hand takes the paper at a point just over the mouth of the glass and removes it from the end of the stick, then squeezing out the surplus water. The motion of squeezing must be accentuated, for then the performer drops the stick and takes the paper from the left hand and still continues the squeezing. At this point he gets the sodden papers into a crotch palm position. They are apparently passed back to the left hand, actually however, the coil is taken by the left hand the palm position being held. The right hand picks up the fan again and fans the left hand. The fan is placed down and the right hand still having the wet papers palmed reaches inside the left fist and starts pulling at the centre of the coil. Once the movement is started the serpentine will flow from the hand. When it has all been released the left hand is opened and shown to be empty. The right hand picks up the serpentine and both hands take part in bearing of different coloured strips. These are finally taken in the left hand whilst the right hand places serpentine and sodden pieces on the table in front of the fan. Once more the performer is clean, simply holding a number of strips of coloured paper.

Finally to phase three, the " Snowstorm." The strips of papers are crumpled and dropped into the water, once more the right hand takes a stick, but this time the stick with the package on it from the table. Precisely the same moves take place so that finally the right hand holds the sodden strips and the left hand has inside the package of small pieces. As the right hand goes for the fan, the pieces are dropped, the presence of the serpentine concealing them. The fan is picked up opened out. The left hand turns its back to the audience and the fingers break and loosen the packaging. Fanning immediately below the hand a terrific shower of coloured paper is produced. Once the " snowstorm " is started, fan as hard as possible so that the pieces will scatter in a wide direction and, in fact, seem to fill the stage.

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