The Crazy Mans Handcuffs
EFFECT: A rubber band is stretched between the left index finger and thumb, and a second rubber band, dangling from the right index finger, is lowered into the half circle created by the left thumb and index finger. The right thumb moves into the loop of the band dangling from the right index finger. This locks the bands together, stretched between the index fingers and thumbs of both hands. There seems to be no way the bands could separate without taking the bands off of the fingers, andyet that is exactly what happens. With no cover or confusion, the rubber bands seem to melt apart, one strand at a time. The fact that this is repeated twice only adds to the mystery. Finally, the spectator holds one of the bands, and the performer's band melts right through it.
COMMENTS: One handling or another of this is in the repertoire of a lot of the "in" guys already, and they might be tempted to pass over reading this. That would be a mistake. There are thoughts and finesse printed here that few have witnessed. I feel that the method to follow represents the cleanest, most direct handling of one of the greatest close-up effectsof all time. To be more specific, one of the greatest close-up effects of all time for a working magician. I am not claiming it is a "High Art Concept" or that the theatrical structure will warm souls, but when your criteria is practicality, portability, clarity of effect, being angle proof, no preparation time, naturalness of props, and audience involvement, this effect is close to the top.
But there are other reasons, more difficult to explain, that make this a truly great effect. I will try to explain by talking about Richard Ross. Have you ever seen him perform the Linking Rings? His routine is so elegant, and the illusion so magical, that his peers awarded him the Grand PrixofMagic for his performance. He was named the number one manipulator on our planet, largely because of how beautifully he manipulated the rings. I was young when Mr. Ross won his title, but I reasoned out that he didn't win because of new methods. Just like the ancient Chinese, he used a ring with a gap in it to link the rings, but what made it magic was that no one could tell when the links and unlinks took place.
He took advantage of the fact that from a stage, you just can't tell if the rings are actually linked together, or if they are just being held against one another. He made me believe that he was capable of truly impossible links and unlinks because of his understanding of this principle. After watching him, you realize this property of the rings is one of the primary keys (no pun intended) to the success of this classic effect.
Are you still with me? Fine. So what does all that have to do with The Crazy Man's Handcuffs? Everything. When done correctly, this simple rubber band trick takes full advantage of the exact same principle as the Linking Rings do on stage, because an audience can't tell when the bands are just being held flush, but locked together, or if they are being held flush, but are actually separate. And far from being less effective done close-up, 1 feel the principle is made all the more effective.
But principles are little more than words if they are not put to use. Many performers did the Linking Rings before Richard Ross, but he perfected a handling that took full advantage of the illusion. Many have done versions of the rubber band penetration, but few, if any, milk the illusionary aspects as effectively as the handling that follows.
Before going into my presentation and ha; idling, I want to make certain that historical credit remains accurate. Arthur Setterington, from England, apparently invented the effect itself. Herb Zarrow (of Zarrow Shuffle fame) realized its potential and cleaned up the handling enough to fool those who might have seen this little known effect before. Mr. Zarrow showed it to Lou Tarrnen, who then pushed for its inclusion in TARBELL SEVEN. Harry Lorayne, one of magic's great authors, wrote the seventh volume in the Tarbell series, but since Mr. Zarrow didn't personally walk Harry through the handling, it was inaccurately written up. In the meantime, Dennis Marks (a member of New York's "Inner Circle") moved to Los Angeles, California. Dennis was able to perform the illusion beautifully, so before long, it became a pet secret of the L.A. "magical underground." Finally, Dennis showed it to Bob Jardine, who became the resident magician at the Magic Castle for awhile. Few have ever performed this as well as Bob, so it soon became his trademark effect. It is fairly safe to say that anyone else in the country who does this effect, and that includes myself and David Copperfield, does it because they saw one of these three people doing it. The timing, thinking, finesse, and structure of what follows is my own. Why have I spent so much time on the history of the effect? Because, as I stated earlier, I feel it is one of the greatest close-up magic effects of all time, and if you learn it from these pages, it will be one of the most usable effects you will ever add to your repertoire.
Finally, I'd like to thank Daryl for the title, "The Crazy Man's Handcuffs." The only time I ever heard him mention this phrase was during a brainstorming session we had on jekyl Island in 1980. Although I have been using the phrase with this routine since then, I feel certain that the title originated with Daryl at that time. It is being used here with Daryl's permission, so with these important historical credits dealt with, on with the routine.
PRESENTATION: "Wouldyou like to see the trick that drove 14,000 psychiatrists crazy? (I love open-^hs I'-nx.) Keciliy' i once performedio* the AAA, . the American Psychiatric Association, in Chicago, and over 14,000 psychiatrists were there. Of all the things 1 did, this is the one that drove them nuts. I'll grant you this, it was a pretty short for some of them, but even the sane ones wanted to see it again.
call it The Crazy Man '$ Handcuffs' and it starts tike this. Now, I don t call it The Crazy Man S Hand-cujfs' because the psychiatrists. I call it The Crazy Man's Handcuffs' because it would seem crazy to use them as handcuffs because they're just rubber! But it still works, because you can't go over the fingers or the thumbs - the bands would pop off. But watch Aotv'y you will actually see the strands melting through one another. Isn't Ui-H wAd:
"ddr, >most of these psychiatrists insisted that I do it again. They claimed that they didn't know what to Mvk for, because they didn't know what was going to happen. They had no idea Uuii rubber bands could melt right through one another, but''iOV3 they knew, and I did something for them that I don't normally do. Not only did I repeat the effect for them, but I let them watch me from behind. Get as close as you like, look over my shoulder, Si id you will see the exact name view (A I have. Clearly locked together, theyO.ni 'i go over the fingers without popping off, yet one strand at a time, they melt apart!
"One more time, this time watch from below! Can't come through, "ur:,~tgoo over, yet one strand at a time melts through. 1 do An : for myself at home and < fust laugh and laugh! (This Slydini line fits perfect here.)
"But stilt, one of the psychiatrists accused me of cheating. Excuse me, but have we ever worked together? Mv You don't ho lO'di so happy about that! You wouldn't cheat these people, wouldyou? Fine. your index fingers this way you will hook the rubber band on your fingers this way, we will have an
Wiibii?barrier. I will lock my band into yours, so we clearly can't separate, yet still, one strand at a time, the bands melt apart. Can you see now why 14,000 psychiatrists went nuts?"
PROCEDURES: Number 19 rubber bands work best for me. At an office supply store, you can purchase either # 16,17,18, or 19, and it works just as well. If you are looking through your prop drawer, look for thin rubber bands that would make about a three inch oval. Don't take the advice
One band is stretched K-rrt ^i: the right; i ■.■.!;;•■:■ index finger. Thi right h;< approaches with its band dangling from the index finger.
Resist the temptation to show the bands locked together by pulling them against each other. In fact, do not allow the bands to touch each other at alL Particularly important, is not to allow them to rest flush against one another. Why? Because in just a few seconds, you are going to hold them flush against each other while they are actually already apart, but their mind will see them as still together. Since we will be depending on the strength of this view as an illusion, we don't ever want them to get a view of what the reality looks like. We can better get away with the illusion if we don't display the discrepancy of the reality. To display the bands locked together, display them as depicted in FIG. 3. Make absolutely certain they understand the nature of the bands locked together, as you say, "I call it The Crazy Man's Handcuffs,' and it starts like this..."
I have heard others give, as they encourage the use of different types, as well as different colors of bands. They feel it enhances the illusion if they use two different colored bands. They even build into their presentation that the different colors will allow you to know the instant they part. But thaf s just it! You can tell when different styles or colors of bands are unlinked! Do this, and you have cut the legs off of what makes the effect work. Take advantage of the illusion by using thin, identical rubber bands.
Stretch the first band between your left index finger and thumb. The right hand approaches the left with its rubber band dangling from the index finger (FIG. 1). Lower the band inside the area of the left thumb crotch, and insert the right thumb into the lower loop, locking the bands on either side of each other (FIG. 2).
The right thumb enters lower loop of the hanging locking it behind both strands of the left-hand band.
Move the hands around a bit to display the locked nature of the bands, but don't hold them flush against each oilier!
The fact that the bands are so narrow that the mind's eye can't instantly tell which strand is in front and which is behind is only one of the key factors in this effect. The other fact fundamental to its success is that the secret move takes only one second to execute, and it occurs at the perfect moment in the routine. Erdnase said, "The resourceful professional, failing to improve the method, the moment." It was his way of saying that technique is only part of deception. Equally, if not more important, is the moment the move is done. In this routine, there are several ways to prove the bands are locked together, and it is during the most convincing of all the locked displays, that the secret move takes place. At the moment it seems least possible you could deceive them, at the instant they would least suspect it, the dirty work is done. Very, very few effects can be structures with such elegant timing.
Once they have clearly seen the bands locked together, you will separate the hands several inches, pulling the bands against one another. How many times do you do this? Do you do it twice, in order to establish the move before doing the dirty work? Do you do it three or four times to wear down their attention? No, no, NO! Only pull the bands against each other once. As you do, you will execute the key move shown in FIGS. 4 through 9. The stretching and relaxing of the bands takes only two seconds. One second for the stretching, and one second to return to your original position. Move any faster and you will seem rushed, move any slower or add any movements, and you will only detract from the clarity of the effect.
As the hands start to separate, the left hand will move at a slight angle away from you, as the right hand moves back toward you. The band
As you say, "...because they're only rubber," you pull the bands against each other. Notice that the bands cross the fingers at the base of the fmger-nails. The right middle finger is key position.
This stretching of the bands against one another lasts only about one second. The hands move toward each other again, reducing the tension on the bands. At the same time, the right index finger and thumb start to separate again. The more these two separate, the closer the hands come together (FIG. 8). The right middle finger still controls a small portion of the band, only letting go when the right index finger extends above the left-hand band. Make a mental note about this extension of the right index finger above the left-hand band. At the end of the movement, you are in the position shown in FIG. 9, with the bands free from one another.
The movements just described are perfectly timed to the words, JJ...be-
• cause they are just rubber. " It's important that these words, pointing out the nature of the substance, are timed ;o the actions which illustrate the properties of that substance. Time this single "showing" move-nent to this vocal statement and it will pass as just a meaningless gesture, instead of a technically 'undamental move.
The bands should be flush against me another, with a perfect square :ormed by the two bands in the exact :enter of the four fingers. As I said, :he stretching and relaxing of the Dands takes only two seconds, and should be done only once. The position shown in FIG. 9 is held for just a beat before continuing the movement. If you pause just a beat, you won't seem rushed, but obviously, you can't let them stare at the bands.
It is crucially important to the illusion that when you bring the bands to the position shown in FIG. 9, that your hands do not cross a certain plane. For the illusion to work, there is one, and only one, specific plane for both strands of both bands to occupy; it is the plane that puts all four strands perfectly flat against one another. If the bands bend against each other at
The right index finger is now passing above the strands of the left-hand band, completely itself away torn the thumb. Now that the index finger isabove the left-hand band, the right middle finger can release its pinch against the index finger.
This is the key position upon which the whole illusion is based. The right-hand band is free from the left-hand band, which it was just stretched against. The square by the four crossing strands should dis-
from all four fingers.
all, then you destroy the illusion. FIG. 10 shows how pressing the bands against one another reveals the actual condition of the bands. Take care not to cross this plane, and the eye of the spectator's mind will see the bands as still locked together.
There are now four possible movements for "proving" the bands are still locked together. We will use only three of them, once each. Of course, many movements are possible, but 1 refer to the only four which retain the integrity of the illusion. I have chosen straight movements over circular ones, because they seem more controlled and are easier for the spectators to watch,
Remaining on the plane that puts all four strands flush without bending them, the right hand smoothly continues its movement by moving down past the left index finger. FIG. 11 shows how the right hand moves past the left index finger, stretching its band. Be sure to move slowly enough so as to remain above suspicion. Continue by moving along the single plane to FIG. 12, and finally, to the position shown inFIG. 13. From there, return to the starting position shown in FIG. 9. By keeping the band moving in these "meaningful" directions, you seem to be continuing to verify the situation without overproving, while preventing them from focusing on the strands long enough to make out the reality.
Pause with the "square" in the bands centered between the four fingers, then slowly seem to separate one strand at a time. 1 look them in the eyes and say, "Isn't thatwiHl"
You have gone too far here. All four strands be flush, but unbent. If the hands are anything but straight at this point, they will reveal the true condition of the bands.
You have gone too far here. All four strands be flush, but unbent. If the hands are anything but straight at this point, they will reveal the true condition of the bands.
At this point I intend to repeat the effect twice, but notice that as I do, I am continually changing their view of the effect. My presentation makes it seem that I am giving them a better and better perspective, but I am actually making certain they never get a chance to focus! The view from the frontis actually the best one for the spectator, so I give them this view before they really know what
is going to happen. Once they know what is supposed to happen, I turn around and make them watch over my shoulder. On the third penetration, I turnbackaround, but I hold my hands up in the air so they can watch from below. My attitude says "good, better, best," but the perspectives are actually "good, bad, worst" Are you starting to see why I love this effect?
Ask the spectator to point their index fingers at each other, and then curl them (FIG. 14). Have them hold onto the band very firmly with their index fingers as you approach with the second band (FIG. 15). The me-
Ask the spectator to point their index fingers at each other, chanics and timing of this release are the same as before, but this time, as your right hand moves back toward you, stretching the bands, use your left hand to steady the hands of the spectator (FIG. 16). If both hands move at the same time, the gestures will again seem natural and spontaneous. Once free, return to the position shown in FIG. 17, move your band right and left once or twice, then slowly separate the bands.
Bob Jardine was the first person to involve the spectator with this effect. He would have someone at the bar hold onto a swizzle stick, and he would cause the rubber bands to penetrate the stick. The above ending was inspired by Bob, and it is printed here with his permission.
FINESSE: Just a couple of points to make. Look at FIG. 18. This reveals a very common problem. The bands are too deep on the fingers. By having the bands this far onto the fingers, you restrict the view. Ideally, the bands should circle the fingers at the base of the fingernails. The reason most people have trouble with the bands rolling down their fingers, is because they separate their index finger and thumb in a rigid straight fashion, resembling a "V™. If, however, they were to form a "C" with the index finger and thumb, the extra bend near the tips of the fingers help the bands rest comfortably at the base of the fingernails.
FIGS. 19 and 20 show the second most common problem. In FIG. 19 the right index finger has reentered the band, but has not extended above the left-hand band; yet the right middle finger is about to release its pinched portion. If this happens, you end up as in FIG. 20, without the bands being crossed, and you definitely want to try and end up as in FIG. 9 because the illusion is so good.
Your band is free, after it';: the release the right index finger. Return to this position, pause for a beat, then move the right hand and forth against band before displaying the penetration.
The right middle finger pinches the upper strand of the right band against the top of the right middle finger. The right finger has moved into the thumb's opening of the hand, BUT the right middle finger is about to release its port before the index finger is above the left-hand band.
These bands are too deep on the fingers. This a clear view of what is going on. Try to keep the bands at the base of the fingernails.
Ideally, again, you should try to create this interest in the area that will be equal distance from all four fingers. Since this is where the penetrations actually take place, it is here that their unconscious interests are drawn. FIG. 21 highlights another great quality of this effecVmethod. The point where the rubber bands meet is dearly the most dynamic spot, yet this is the furthest point from the true action. Try to intersect the bands at an equal distance from all the fingers.
Finally, I tried to structure this with the thought that any movement that doesn't add, detracts. Every extra move, literally, has been eliminated. Only one pull-back for the release and only three (or less) proving movements to follow, Nothing else.
I feel like I have just given you a mental vitamin capsule, full of thoughts evolved over a decade. Ifyou have followed this write-up with rubber bands in hand, and you have understood all of the esoteric things I have tried to say, then we should both be delighted.
The results of not extending the right index above the left-hand band. You won't be in position to take advantage of the the
Notice how dynamic the spot is where the bands intersect You are only in this position for an during which interest is on the while, the right middle finger is pinching the band against the index finger, allowing it to do the dirty work under cover of the natural misdirection.
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