The Vanishing Piano

Every year the Toboggan Club of Great Britain held a dinner in London. In 1954 it was held at thé Park Lane Hotel and they asked David, who was a member and by now something of a celebrity, to make a speech. I Ie decided to do something more. Something spectacular. But what?

A visit to the Hotel ballroom, where the event would take place, gave him the answer. He would make a piano disappear but he would do it without a covering of any kind. One minute it would be there, the next it would be gone.

On the evening of the dinner Eric James, a well-know pianist on the variety circuit, was sitting at a concert grand at one end of the room, playing background music and sometimes taking requests as the guests arrived. Near to Eric was a five-piece band that would play later in the evening. But for now it was Eric's moment.

When it came time for David's speech he stood up and Eric stopped playing. David turned around and said, "No, please don't stop. It's very pleasant and I won't be long." The music continued to play softly while David said a few words to the guests and thanked everyone

Don Play Softly Piano

for attending. Then he added. "But I'm sure you'd rather see me do something than just talk." They murmured their approval. They were looking forward to one of the miracles they had heard him perform on radio or watched on television.

David reached out to the lady next to him and borrowed a cigarette she was smoking. I le threw it high into the air and it vanished in a huge ball of flame and a puff of smoke. The audience applauded. "No, that's not really spectacular enough for a function like this, is it? Let me do something bigger and better." He looked around and then up at the ceiling. "I know, I'll make the chandelier disappear."

The chandeliers in the ballroom were enormous glittering arrangements of glass and light. It seemed impossible that one of them would vanish. David gazed up at it and made some magical gestures. The lights on the chandelier began to flicker then it started to sway. It was almost imperceptible at first, just a shudder but very quickly the chandelier was moving and the lights flickering as if the whole thing was about to crash to the floor. It was an unnerving moment and a woman screamed. She was joined by several others, all screaming and all fearful that they would soon be caught under a heap of broken glass.

David quickly said, "Yes. maybe that's too dangerous." He paused and said, "I'll make the piano disappear instead. Like that!" He waved his hands towards the concert grand and there was a crash on the big bass drum. Suddenly the piano music stopped and Eric James fell forward off his stool and onto the floor. It was a surreal sight as he lay there in his dinner jacket spread-eagled on the parquet floor. The piano had disappeared!

Eric just lay there and eventually picked himself up, a little dazed and confused. The room was filled with chatter and people stood trying to see where the piano had gone. What happened? Where did it go? It was a question that would dominate the rest of the evening and be talked about for many years to come.

Revelations: And here is the answer. The stunt was planned months ahead. David wanted to vanish a piano but his biggest problem was actually getting one. The method he had in mind required a specially prepared piano and the problem was that they were extremely expensive. He toured shops and auctions all over London but even second hand pianos commanded unbelievably high prices. Then he discovered a piece of information that made the stunt possible. The most expensive pianos, the concert grands, were thrown away as scrap at the end of their life. They had no second-hand value, were of no use to professional musicians, too big for ordinary people's homes and too expensive to refurbish. When David finally found a used concert grand it cost him only £6 and that was the cost of taking it away!

He had all the innards of the piano, the heavy brass and iron work, taken out and then cut the piano into five pieces. Two extra legs were added so that when the pieces were reassembled and hooked together the piano would stand up. After some paint and polish it looked as good as new but, of course, couldn't play a note.

This was the piano that Eric James sat at that night. He mimed his way through his favourite pieces as another pianist played a standard upright that was hidden behind the curtains



of the bandstand. It was impossible to tell that the music was not coming from the concert grand.

David had arranged for a number of friends to infiltrate the dinner. They were all dressed as waiters. It was common that while the core staff at a function might belong to the hotel the others would all be hired in from agencies. So the fact that there were new faces among the staff didn't seem unusual. David's friends did only the most basic duties, such as pouring water and emptying ashtrays.

The illusion of the music coming from the concert grand was so deceptive that guests actually came up to Eric and ask for requests of specific songs. He would reply, in a rather loud voice, "Stardust, yes I know Stardust," so that the pianist behind the curtain would know what to play.

When David rose to make his speech Eric stopped playing as rehearsed and the sudden silence naturally drew attention to the piano. David requested that he continue and then took the lady's cigarette and made it disappear. He used an extra-large ball of flashpaper to create a spectacular ball of flame. This was also the signal to the "waiters" to gather around the piano.

The flickering of the chandelier was the result of a thorough investigation of the Hotel's fuse boxes. They were located in the basement where an assistant was waiting. He listened in to David with the aid of a walkie-talkie, another walkie-talkie being placed near the speakers in the ballroom. At a prearranged cue he would operate the lights.

At one end of the ballroom was a balcony and another hidden assistant pulled a length of nylon fishing line that was used to shake the chandelier. The chandeliers were massive three-tiered towers of glass. They were firmly fixed to the ceiling but the sight of one of them swinging about certainly created a lot of tension among the guests.

As the diners were distracted by the chandelier, David's waiters were busy carrying out the piano in sections. The removal was carefully rehearsed. Two more assistants held open the double doors of the ballroom as the disassembled piano made its quiet exit and silently closed them afterwards. Four of the pieces were carried out of the hotel and spirited away. The fifth piece, the keyboard, was hidden in a linen cupboard and collected a few days later.

When David turned towards the piano the drummer hit the bass drum, the hidden pianist stopped playing and Eric threw himself forward onto the floor. It all happened so quickly and was so convincing that many people swore they saw the piano melt away. Everything had gone to plan perfectly and the stunt was the talk of the evening.

What helped make the event even more puzzling was when the guests told the hotel manager how amazing it was that David had managed to vanish their concert grand from the ballroom. "I'm sorry," said the manager, "but we've never had a concert grand in this hotel!" Now that was spooky.

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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