Editor's Note. All of Hans Trixer's contributions to magical literature show the desire for quality and straightforward effect. Many will remember his very fine version of the broken and restored thread trick and none who saw Fred Kaps handling of this version at the Magic Circle Golden Jubilee TV performance will forget its truly magical qualities. The Needle trick is a perfect follow up to the broken and restored thread and Hans has done a great deal in avoiding the use of the mouth as a repository for the needles and thread without sacrificing any of the main effect, i.e. the magical threading of the needles.
We know that this is a trick that many Pentagram readers will add to their repertoire for it has the advantage of being equally suitable at close quarters or on a well lit stage. To our good friend in Southern Rhodesia we say on behalf of our readers. ' Thank you very much!'
THIS classical magic effect—often said to be Houdini's invention (although this is most uncertain) has suffered many degradations by improvements. In spite of razor blades and small electric light bulbs. I believe the original idea of using ordinary sewing needles is still the best.
I remember having seen as a kid—I must have been no more than 10 or 11 years of age at that time—the needle miracle performed by a Chinese looking performer on a stage in a big music hall. Not having been stung by the magic (spelling) bee yet, I was immensely impressed, proof that I remembered the feat throughout the years.
1 still maintain, having tried it with success, that the Needle Trick is fit for big theatres, provided proper lighting is available. The dangling pieces of polished steel show up in a concentrated spot light so well that the effect is a spectacular one, even in a big show.
The only thing I never liked about it was the highly unaesthetic handling of putting the needles into the performer's mouth, although I know of magicians who have the personality and manners to put this over in a less offensive manner (at least to me) than most. To overcome this drawback Mr. Trunk, the dean of Vienna's wand wielders, invented years ago a version in which the needles never were put into the mouth. Everything was done with the performers hands. His version was published first in the serializing of his Magical Memoirs in the German Die Magie and subsequently in book form. English magicians were put in touch with this method and presentation through the pages of Abracadabra when Trunk's book was serialized by the translation of Henk Vermeyden of Amsterdam. Hans Trunk's idea greatly appealed to me, although he made use of a little cushion tailors often used to keep pins and needles handy. This called for the use of a table which I wanted to avoid.
After some experimenting 1 worked out the following method for the Needle trick, which can be done without any tables, chairs and the like. Everything necessary is carried on the performer's clothing.
This variation of the classical effect was evolved about four years ago and described in the Dutch magical magazine Triks. Since then it has served me on many occasions and, as I mentioned before, in big halls with a seating capacity up to 600 people.
As you will see presently some advance preparation of the performer is necessary in the first described version.
If I can help it I like to do my tricks without having to stuff my pockets full of paraphernalia or any other advance preparations. Thinking of a simplified method to perform the Needle Trick suddenly gave me the idea, which I have described in the second version. In this version no previous set-up is necessary as you will see and above all, the trick can be performed without a jacket, something all magicians in less temperate climates will greatly appreciate.
Let me tell you first how to prepare and set up the necessary ingredients for the Needle Trick, which will cost you no more than a shilling or about 15 cents. Buy two packets of sewing needles, which usually contain a selection of different length needles from sewing to darning which makes the effect all the prettier. Besides this you need only a reel of cotton, not unlike the cotton used for the Hindu Thread Trick of which you may care to find my version in a former issue of the Pentagram. The same kind of cotton—i.e. ordinary doubled cotton without the addition of glue etc.—is required, white being of course the best colour.
For the first version you also need a short piece of fishing tackle made of nylon, being colour-ess. In case you have no nylon handy, a short length of pink or flesh coloured cotton will do about as well as any other. Take about 8 or 10 needles from each packet and separate them into two equal lots. One lot you are going to prepare, the other needles are ready for use. Take a piece of the white cotton (about 3 foot long) and thread one of the needles from one lot. Make a single knot on top of this needle, so that it can't move along the thread any more. This needle should be about three inches from the end of the cotton. The remaining needles (seven to be almost exact—at least if you are using eight in total) are also threaded on to the cotton and each one secured with a single knot. The needles should be at irregular intervals—This prepared lot of needles should last you a very long time and many shows.
For the first version of the trick to be described you also need one more preparation. For this you take one of the needles from the
second lot and thread the nylon or flesh coloured cotton through it. This you make into a loop which should be about one inch and a half in diameter. (Figure 1.)
Let me just mention, that nylon is by far preferable to cotton as it tends to stand open almost by itself and so make the execution of one of the vital moves of the routine easier.
With this preparation of the required articles finished you are all set for the fixing-up of your show.
The prepared string of needles is folded as follows: Seize one of the end needles in the left hand. Place the next needle in succession next to it and see that the loop of cotton between those two needles lies nicely away from them. Repeat this folding until all eight needles form a neat little package with all the loops over them. (Figure 2.)
Place one of the two ends next to the loops and stroke them nice and flat. Then fold them back over the needles and fold them up again, so that they cover about 2 / 3 of the needles. (Figure 3.)
The other free end of the cotton is now wound around the completed parcel and the ultimate end of this cotton is placed between the points of the needles. You will notice that the other free end will stick up from the package due to its greater length than that of the loops. The completed package should look like Figure 4. This is about all the preparation you have to do after each show.
Be careful to make this package neat, because on it depends the correct unfolding of the needles at the climax of the performance and with this the success of the effect.
Here now is the set-up for the show. The parcel of needles is pinned behind your left lapel.
The seven unprepared needles of the second lot go behind the right lapel, and the needle with the loop also is placed behind the right lapel, not against the front part of the jacket but against the rear side of the lapel itself. Preferably also a bit higher than the rest of the needles so that there can be no mistake about the location of the loop-needle.
And with this, plus the reel of cotton handy, you are all set for
Show the cotton and tear off a piece of about the same length as the cotton of the prepared parcel of needles. I usually perform the Hindu Thread Trick first and commence the Needle Trick with the restored piece of cotton. After having shown the three foot length of cotton this is placed across the left palm, centre of the cotton right on the middle of the palm.
The left arm is held slightly bent and the cotton is clearly visible all the time. With an appropriate gesture the right hand is shown empty and after that the cotton is transferred from left to right eventually occupying the same position in the right hand, i.e., across the right palm with the free ends at about equal length.
The left hand now goes behind the left lapel to get a needle. Your face (and your patter) explain however, that you can't find what you are looking for. In the meantime the left first finger and thumb secretly remove the parcel of needles.
The left hand is removed from the lapel and the parcel is dropped from the fingers to rest across the roots of the fingers, where it is to remain for quite a while.
Without interruption the piece of cotton is transferred from right to left again and the flat hand, with the cotton across, is tilted slightly towards yourself to hide the package of needles. Hold the left hand naturally and do not try to hide anything in an obvious manner; it is not necessary.
Immediately the right hand goes behind the right lapel and finds one of the needles. This is shown and the left hand is moved upward a bit until it is about the height of your face. Place the needle with the pointed end between the utmost tips of left forefinger and thumb and display it, while the right hand goes behind the lapel to remove a second needle, which is placed next to the first one in the left hand.
Repeat this business fairly quickly until all your needles have been produced, with the exception of the loop needle.
The needles, of course, are displayed in a neat little fan and the left hand (still with the cotton across the palm and the secret package along the roots of the fingers) is moved slightly from the wrist to catch the spotlights on the needles and make every effort to show them.
Finally you reach behind the lapel for the last needle and in removing it you insert the tip of the thumb into the loop, which should be dead easy. This last needle is displayed in the right hand as all the foregoing ones and in placing it into the left hand the fan of needles is closed in a sweeping movement of the right finger tips.
Without interruption all eight needles are seized by the thumb and first finger of the right hand and the whole parcel is held now by those fingers. Raise the right hand with its bundle and straighten the fingers of the left hand at the same time.
Now bring the free end of the package under the centre of the cotton and lift it off the left hand. Raise the right hand holding the parcel horizontal. The cotton should hang over the needles with the free end of the cotton at the same height.
Grip the hanging cotton with the thumb and first finger of the left hand about four inches under the needles and start winding the doubled cotton around them. Due to the small diameter of the parcel of needles and the length of cotton this would take some time before all the cotton is wound around the bundle. But if you do it fairly quick and make one or two remarks which you can, I suppose, gather from any of Orben's last 25 books, you should be ready without boring your audience too much.
Please remember, in the meantime, that the loop of nylon stays around the tip of your thumb (which is quite a different thing from a thumb tip) all the time. When only an inch or so is left, the remaining cotton is placed between the point of the needles to prevent unrolling of the parcel at any future embarrassing moment.
Now comes the crucial move, which is no move at all if you can manage to forget all you know about magic and magician' and magical movements.
After having shown the little cotton-surrounded bundle in the right hand, you toss it into your left hand, which does not even close over the received parcel. The funny thing, due to the nylon loop, is, that the original packet of needles hangs in your right palm, suspended from the thumb.
If you turn during the tossing movement a little bit to the left, that first package of needles is nicely hidden behind you right palm. No need to stick the thumb up or bring the hand into convulsions to prove it is empty. Just hold it natural and point lightly to the left hand.
If you do this all like you would do it with a single parcel of needles, you are doing all right. If, however you try to convince yourself, that you have two bundles one of which has to be hidden, you may rest assured that your spectators will know as well as you do.
Assuming the parcel is safely in the left hand, freely shown to anybody interested, you blow on to the bundle just to kill time. After having noted, apparently, that your magical air conditioning has been effective you bring both hands together and at the tips of the fingers you grasp one free end of the duplicate parcel with the thumb and first finger of the right hand, while the same fingers of the left hand take charge of the other free end.
A short pull in an outward direction by both hands makes the parcel untie itself and you will notice, at least if you have followed my instructions of folding the needles, that the parcel will unroll perfectly and a string of cotton with the needles threaded onto it is dangling between your hands.
The duplicate is safely hanging inside your right palm and you need not worry about it.
If you like taking risks and living adventurously you may conclude like I often do: Turn to the right and bring your right hand up over the height of the shoulder, at the same time giving a short sharp jerk with the right hand kind of backwards. This makes the duplicate parcel of needles fly around the thumb and it lands on the back of your hand. Old timers may recognize this move. Before the war there was a little wire loop in (dealers) existence which was flesh coloured and had a little hook attached to it and which was used to make a pocket watch disappear from the bare hands. I believe this thing was the original idea behind the Stilwell silk ball.
In the above version with the needles no rubbing movements of both hands is executed but the parcel is just swung around the thumb. Properly timed in the upward movement of the right hand it is guaranteed indetectable.
To round up the performance the free dangling string of needles (the left hand has been removed in the meantime) is lowered into a little receptacle on the table and the looped parcel is slid off the thumb the moment the end of the long string is put away. This leaves you clean and at the same time you are sure the string of needles will not be messed up and can be prepared for the next show without untangling an unholy mess first.
Now for the second version of the Needle Trick.
This is even more speedy in performance as all the needles are removed at the same time, and singly. Here the set-up is quite different and you neeed only the string of needles, prepared exactly as before. No loop-needle is necessary here.
In addition you need the little folder in which the needles come.
The preparation is as follows. Push the eight needles (unprepared) into the centre of the folder. Now lay the prepared parcel on top of it and close the folder. (Figure 5). With this you are ready for the performance.
After having torn off your cotton you hang it over the left elbow, not over the palm. The ends should again be about equal.
Remove the folder from your pocket. The flap should now open to the left. Push the flap open with the right thumb and press it down with the left one. Open the top and bottom flaps of the folder with the right thumb while holding the folder tilted slightly so that nobody can look inside. Bring the left thumb over the duplicate parcel and pull away the entire folder with the right hand only, in the position shown in Figure 6.
Turn to the right and raise the hand to show the contents of the folder. The duplicate bundle rests (again) across the roots of the fingers of the left hand while the whole hand makes a pointing gesture towards the folder in the right. The left hand is held flat and the needles just lie on the palm.
Turn front again and bring the hands together. Placing the open folder with the side flap over the duplicate parcel of needles. Remove all the needles from the folder with right thumb and first finger at the eye-ends. Drop the folder on the floor or on a nearby table of chair. Under no circumstances put it into a pocket, as you don't want to arouse suspicions by putting the left hand out of sight.
Place the needles between the thumb and first finger of the left hand and fan them out as in the first version. Seize the cotton now with the right thumb and first fingers and hang it over the needles which remain in the left hand. Close the fan and make a parcel as described before.
When the parcel is finished and the ends are safely tucked between the points of the needles, it is taken up by the right hand and displayed. Then follows the tossing business as in the first method, only the parcel from the right hand is retained in this hand as it can not hang. Don't let that worry you though, because if you do it as you would do it with a single parcel (see the sermon above) you are quite safe.
While blowing on the parcel of needles in the left hand the right thumb manoeuvres the duplicate bundle in a position parallel with the right second finger. One end of the parcel should be at the root of this finger. By bending the finger slightly the whole parcel is pinched securely and connot fall during the following concluding manipulations and operations.
Seize the free ends of the cotton as described in the first version and separate your hands while standing facing your audience. The bundle will undo itself and the threaded needles will make their appearance. The hands are held (slightly curled fingers!) with the palms towards the spectators, but due to the position of the duplicate packet along the second finger of the right hand, only a spectator lying on the floor right at your feet would be able to see this parcel.
This kind of concealing by the way I saw for the first time in 1947 from John Ramsay when he did some coin moves, while holding a cigarette in the same hand.
Well, there you are. A complete book almost, about the needle trick. Try them both and find out which one suits you best. Always work with your fingers as far open as possible, which enhances the effect tremendously.
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