Introduction by Annemann: I honestly believe that this one man miniature spirit cabinet routine is far beyond, in merit and effectiveness, anything yet conceived. Certainly the manifestations are out of the ordinary and Mr. James has managed to use several magical principles in a way not originally intended. The absence of complicated preparation will be found quite refreshing. The routine that follows will undoubtedly find wide use in the club programs of many performers. The act opens with a very strong effect, follows with a quick surprise item, then runs through three more effects and ends with a weird and startling climax.
Introductory patter theme: "It is the firm belief of many people that walls of a room retain the impressions of violent or unusual incidents that have taken place within that room. People who last were seen in the best of Spirits and apparently with everything for which to live, have, after spending a portion of a night in such a room where, unknown to them, some distraught person once committed suicide, in turn re-enacted the tragedy in a manner identical with the first suicide. It is suggested that such individuals were psychic to a high degree and were influenced by the impressions retained in the walls of that particular room."
Effect: The performer offers to demonstrate a few experiments that he has been conducting along that line. He introduces a box which, he claims, was made from material taken from the room of a house said to have been occupied for a number of years by a poltergeist.* The front of the cabinet has been replaced by a curtain that may be drawn back and forth on a rod to reveal or conceal the interior. The inside of the box is painted black. The top of the box is a hinged cover. On top of the box rests a skull and the whole is in full view on a slender and thin topped table.
A bright red rubber ball is carelessly tossed to one end of the box and a drinking glass placed at the other end. The curtain is drawn for a few seconds. When the interior of the box is shown again, the red ball has been
* Hereward Carrington describes this word as meaning literally, "Noisy Spirit." A house is said to be haunted by a poltergeist when bells are rung, furniture upset, crockery broken, etc., by no apparent, normal means.
placed in the glass, apparently by a playful spirit. Any spectator may step forward, remove the glass and the ball, and examine both as well as the box!
The inside of the box is concealed again by drawing the curtain. The top is raised and a handkerchief is tossed inside. The spectator, who has stood by, opens the curtains, removes the handkerchief and finds that a knot has been tied in the center of it.
In each end of the box is a hole. In the center of the hinged lid is a screw-hook on the under side. A length of white cotton tape is folded in half and another spectator places a safety-pin through the tape about an inch from the doubled end. The tape is now threaded through the box with the ends protruding out of the holes. Someone in the audience lends his or her finger ring and it is hung onto the hook inside the box. The box is now turned with its curtain side away from the audience. The playful poltergeist's presence is invoked. A volunteer comes forward, grasps one end of the tape and draws it from the box. The borrowed ring actually is threaded on the middle of the tape and is held securely in place by the pin! The ring, still on the tape, is returned to the owner and the volunteer allowed to examine the cabinet.
The cabinet is turned with the curtain side towards audience. A cellophane wrapper is removed from a cigar and the cigar is placed into the glass tumbler. When the tumbler is now put into the open cabinet the spook is found to be a tobacco addict, for the cigar is seen to smoke furiously.
Lastly the lid of the cabinet is raised to accommodate a quart bottle of milk, which remains in full view of the audience. A straw is inserted in the bottle and the thirsty spook immediately imbibes a quantity of the fluid. The performer states, rather apologetically, that his poltergeistic friend always drinks a lot of milk at bed-time, and that now it will be necessary to cease manifestations. "Even spirits have to observe union hours," quips the performer as he takes his bow.
Preparation: The box I use is a radio cabinet. It's size is 7 x 7 x 17 inches. After using it for a long time I find the size just about right. The length may seem long to some, but the greater the distance between the glass tumbler and the rubber ball (first effect), which are placed in opposite corners of the cabinet, makes a very good looking stunt for the opener.
The holes at each end are 1 1/4 inches in diameter. The size allows of the cord with ring being easily pulled through. The screw-hook is of a No. 5 size. This is in the exact center of the lid, on the inside, being in line with the holes in the cabinet's ends. The final bit of cabinet detail (the only bit of fakery) is a needle size hole in the lid about 2 1/2 inches from one end and at the center of the lid's width (or depth). The small hole will never be noticed.
THE BALL IN THE GLASS: The red rubber ball is 11/2 inches in diameter and made of sponge rubber. At the start of this routine there is a skull sitting upon the top of the cabinet. A thread, about 2 feet long is fastened to the skull and it runs down through the minute hole in the cabinet lid. The other end has been threaded through the ball. The ball has been placed into the glass and when the routine begins the glass and ball are sitting in the center.
After the patter about poltergeists and the building of the cabinet, the glass is picked up and the ball rolled from the glass into the far corner of the box. The glass is placed at the other end (directly under the minute hole in the lid) and the curtain closed.
At this time the performer seems to remember the presence of the skull which is on top of the cabinet. He picks it up with one hand as he relates the fact that it was found beneath the house occupied by the poltergeist. In stepping a bit forward, he causes the thread to be pulled which in turn causes red ball to be drawn against the lid of the cabinet. Pulling the thread just a bit more draws it through and out of the ball with the result that the ball falls directly downward into the glass! The skull is set aside and the performer invites a member of the audience to investigate the cabinet. Of course, he discovers nothing.
THE KNOTTED HANDKERCHIEF: The familiar one-hand knot is made for this effect, when the handkerchief is thrown into the cabinet through the opened lid. The sleight, simple as it is, will be found described in many magic books, the latest description of it appearing in Hugard's "Silken Sorcery." At this point in the routine, psychology plays an important part. The audience is wondering about the ball's passage into the glass; the assisting spectator is worrying both about that puzzle as well as his unexpected prominence on the platform, therefore, so far as he is concerned, a bit of stage fright enters into the situation.
THE RING ON THE TAPE: Following the incidental handkerchief bit, which helps subconsciously to create a feeling that strange powers are at work within the cabinet, we come to one of my original effects.
The tape used is 1/2 inch wide and, if your box is of the same dimensions as mine, 40 inches long. After the tape is threaded through the box, the borrowed ring upon the hook, and the cabinet turned curtain-side away from the audience, the performer invokes the invisible prankster by rubbing his hands, as he says, inside the confines of the wooden walls. This patter allows of a few quick and very practical moves.
1. Remove the safety-pin and lay it on the bottom of the box.
2. Take the ring off of the screw-hook.
3. Loop the center of the tape and tuck it through the ring.
4. Place the pin through the left side of the loop, thus formed, and the half of the tape that runs out through the left (to performer) hole of the box.
5. Enlarge the loop and place it over the screw-hook as shown in illustration. Now when the left end (to performer) is pulled from the box, the ring is automatically threaded upon the tape and found to be pinned in the center.
THE SMOKED CIGAR: The cigar is of wood and is sold as a novelty pencil. Hollow out one end and insert a piece of felt which, prior to the performance, is soaked in very strong liquid ammonia. When the cigar is properly loaded, wrap it in cellophane. The glass also has to be prepared. Before the performance, put six or eight drops of muriatic acid in the glass (the same one used for the opening) and swish it around a bit.
To present, take the cigar from your pocket, unwrap it and drop it into the glass, open end downward. Place the glass immediately into the open cabinet where everyone can see it. In a few seconds, smoke begins to ascend from the glass in clouds. (A touch of novelty can be added here by tossing a box of matches into the glass with the cigar, in case the spirit hasn't any at the moment. Or you can treat the match box with ammonia and use a borrowed cigar.)
DRINKING THE MILK: The reader should have recognized the DeMuth Milk Bottle trick, used here in an entirely new dress. The placing of the straw serves to release the vent disc and makes the "drinking of the milk" action automatic.
However, for those who do not have the DeMuth bottle, an able and inexpensive substitute may be made. Herb Rungie just inserts a small white-rubber ballon into a milk bottle and partly inflates it. Now push the balloon down to the bottom, and fill the bottle with milk. Take an ordinary drinking straw and load it with a thin wooden stick. Insert the point of a darning needle, about half an inch long, into one end of the plugged straw. When ready for the effect, just insert the straw in the bottle of milk, puncture the balloon, withdraw the point of the needle from the balloon, and leave the straw in the bottle. The effect, as you can visualize, is identical with the DeMuth trick.
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