The Monk Transposition
The Spirit Cabinet is over but the volunteers are still on stage. David reflects on what the audience has just seen as eerie music plays in the background.
"I don't know whether you really believe in spirits or not but certain places in the world seem to have the reputation of being haunted. Monasteries high in the mountains for instance where stories of ghosts and demons scare away curious visitors."
"My theory is that the monks just want to be left alone. They create an atmosphere of fear to keep people away. But they don't just tell spooky stories. They act them out." David reaches behind the spirit cabinet and produces a monk's habit. "They wear big cloaks like this," he says as he wraps it around himself. "That in itself makes them look mysterious."
"Not only that but they wear sinister hoods." He pulls the hood up around his head. Already he has begun to transform himself into a ghostly figure. The lights dim and a single spotlight hits the cloaked figure as soft haunting music starts to play.
"And I've heard they put on grotesque masks like this." He takes a strange mask from behind the cabinet and slowly puts it on. "And finally, they sometimes wear these weird hands." He picks up a ghoulish novelty hand with unusually long fingers and puts it on.
Then he turns to one of the volunteers on stage, a young man, points the long taloned finger at him and says, menacingly, "You! Come here."
The young man steps forward nervously. David hands him a microphone and says, "I want you to take this microphone and repeat what I say exactly because if you are ever possessed by spirits you will hear it in the voice first. Now say after me. I have enjoyed the séance."
The man obeys, "I have enjoyed the séance."
"No," says David, "more dramatically. You're too close. Step a little further away." The man steps back and then repeats the phrase once more, "I have enjoyed the séance." He says it again but not to David's satisfaction. "No, you're still too close. Move further back."
The man walks down the sloping platform that leads to the auditorium and from the stalls he says, "I have enjoyed the séance."
The man walks further down the centre aisle and continues to say that he enjoyed the séance. "Further," says David, as a long finger points to the back of the stalls. Now, as the young man moves and talks, his voice begins to change. It gets lower, more gravelly and there's a hint of a foreign accent. Then it gets stronger and more familiar. Finally the audience recognise it for what it is. It's David's voice!
There's a ripple of excitement throughout the auditorium and everyone turns around to see not the young man but David, illuminated by a strong spotlight, once again dressed in his smoking jacket and walking towards the stage. He's smiling and keeps repeating into the microphone, "I've enjoyed the séance. I really did enjoy the séance."
A strong spotlight follows him as he walks onto the stage. He pauses some way from the cowled figure. "Well ladies and gentlemen, as I said, I've enjoyed the séance and I hope that you have. But if this is me," he says pointing to himself, "that can't be me. Let's have a look." His assistant Raj removes the monk's mask and cowl to reveal the young man, utterly mystified and bemused as to how he came to be dressed as a monk on stage.
The audience applauds and bright music plays as the volunteers go back to their seats in time for the interval. For the young man it will be a period of intense interrogation as everyone asks him just how he managed to disappear from one end of the theatre and reappear at the other.
Revelations: If you are reading this book in chronological order you won't be surprised to learn that the man David chose from the volunteers was the same man who was tormented by the spirits in the cabinet. He was one of the identical twins and David used the principle again to create a transposition effect.
Earlier (usually during the Table Lévitation) the secret twin had sneaked through the back of the spirit cabinet and set up the props required for the transposition. At the beginning of the routine he was hidden at the rear of the cabinet dressed in a duplicate of the monk's habit that David wore. He had the hood up and a mask in his hand, all ready for a switch. In performance David reached behind the cabinet for the habit and put it on in full view. He then put on the hood. At this point his face was in shadow but could be clearly seen if he raised his head to the spotlight.
He briefly stepped behind the cabinet, ostensibly to pick up the mask he had mentioned. But it was the twin who came back out with the mask held in his hand. Meanwhile David had stepped behind the spirit cabinet and picked up another microphone. Then came a really strong subtlety. The twin held the mask in his outstretched hand and slowly brought it towards his head and placed it on his face. His face was half in shadow and he wore a false beard to match David's real beard. As he brought the mask close he mimed to David's voice. The action was so bold and open that no one suspected that it wasn't David himself putting on that mask. The continuity of the voice totally overrode the glimpse the audience might have got of the young man's face.
David continued to speak into the microphone as the hooded twin mimed the action of telling the young man (his twin brother) to step further back. By the time the young man was half way along the aisle David was at the stage door, still talking into the microphone.
David now completed his exit, switched off his microphone, and walked around the side of the theatre to the front entrance. It was important not to rush. David did not want to be out of breath when he next appeared.
In the theatre the young man's voice was becoming strangely altered. He had learned to impersonate David's voice, at least to a reasonable degree. As he got close to the end of the aisle, and his voice was already nearing David's tone, David quietly entered the rear doors of the auditorium and ducked behind the rear row of stalls. At an appropriate moment he simply swapped places with the young man and walked forward as himself.
The effect on the audience was amazing. Their attention had been focussed entirely on the monk on stage. It only remained for David to reveal that the hooded figure on stage was now the young man and the routine was brought to a close. David deliberately did not stand too close to the hooded man. He didn't want the audience thinking that there was any opportunity for trickery at this stage. It was important that Raj disrobed the figure and took the mask (together with the beard) away. Firstly it looked more open. Secondly, it meant that the young man did not have to indulge in any play-acting that might give him away. It may have looked unconvincing for the confederate to take the robe off himself. Would his actions have seemed natural? Probably not, hence Raj's vital role at this point.
This routine lead directly to the second interval in the show. The young man went back to his seat to join his girlfriend. She had arrived in the company with her boyfriend's twin. Now she was reunited with her real boyfriend who readied himself for the barrage of questions he would inevitably be asked by other members of the audience.
At the end of the Man, Myth & Magic show David always had a Question and Answer session on a variety of subjects. At one of the shows someone from the audience said, "Tell me Mr Berglas, have you ever seen that young man before," pointing to the man who helped with the séance. Everyone wondered what David was going to say, especially the magicians in the audience. "Well," began David, "now I come to think of it, except for two rehearsals and an earlier show this week, I've never seen him before in my life." It got a huge laugh and yet left the audience none the wiser as to how the feat was accomplished.
When David first started the Man, Myth & Magic show at the Hendon Classic it almost turned into a disaster. On the Friday his daughter Irena, only four years old at the time, asked him to tie her shoelace. He bent down and as he did heard a terrible cracking sound in his knee. He immediately fell over in excruciating pain. A visit to the doctor told him that he had torn a knee cartilage The doctor recommended an immediate operation.
"I can't," said David, I have a three hour show tomorrow." The doctor laughed and told him that he had no chance of doing any shows, the pain would be unbearable. Unwilling to cancel what had taken him so long to set up David sought alternative medical advice but everyone said the same thing, have the operation. He didn't listen to them.
Instead he arranged for two doctors to be backstage and inject painkillers into the injured knee. David couldn't walk so when the curtains opened the audience found him sitting on a barstool. With some restructuring he managed to do most of the show from that seated position. The most difficult thing to handle was the finale to the second part of the show in which he had to walk back through the theatre and onto the stage.
As a result the finish was even more bizarre than usual. When David reappeared in the theatre he wasn't alone, nor was he standing. Instead he was sitting in a wheelchair that was being pushed by a second hooded monk. The audience presumed this was just a piece of bizarre showmanship. Stranger things have happened in theatres.
Even today David can't walk past the Hendon Classic without recalling the utter surprise on people's faces as he sat clinging to his wheelchair and was pushed at high speed through the streets of Hendon by a mad monk!
Continue reading here: Part Three
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