This first illusion is one of the most commonly used, but least known about secret in stage illusions, namely the staircase. The staircase makes the appearance or disappearance of a magician (or assistant) very easy to perform. There are several reasons why it is so effective, but let's first explain exactly what it is and how it works.
Typically, a magician walks up some stairs onto a raised platform, and the audience thinks that the magician is being generous for allowing them to see underneath the platform. The magician immediately drops into the top of the stairs (hidden behind a cloth), the stairs are taken away, and all attention is focused on the cloth. The cloth drops, and the magician has gone! Because the suspense has been built up over a minute or two, as a grand ending, the magician might even suddenly appear at the back of the auditorium!
As you can see, the stairs really are a magician's friend because out of all the apparatus that is shown on stage, the stairs look the most innocent.
The audience reasons 'well I can see that the magician has to get up to the platform, so he walks up the stairs, and it's nice of him to show me that there is nothing underneath the platform.'
The reality is that the raised platform is only there in order that the stairs can be used! Can you see why it is so effective now?
The other important factor is that once the magician has walked up the stairs and drops down inside them, they are wheeled off stage immediately. This means that at the end of the illusion, the audience often forget that there were any stairs at all! They are so focused on the platform that they completely forgot about the stairs!
In case you were wondering how the magician or assistant exits the stairs, normally the stairs are open on one side of the treads. So they are built to be used on either the left or right hand side of a raised platform. Again, the audience assumes they are just a normal set of steps, but seen from the rear of the stage, they have a gaping hole where the hidden person can easily climb out of.
There are other little touches added such as a soft foam or carpet inside to cushion the person as they come down inside the stairs, and often they are built on a frame so that the audience can see underneath, through to the backdrop. Again, this helps to add to the perception that the stairs are normal. If the stairs were built as a big box down to the floor, some audience members might be suspicious.
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