Turning the Clock Back

David featured this unusual routine in his television series Modern Magic. It's a strong and entertaining combination of what at first glance appear to be familiar magical routines. On closer inspection you'll see how the magical has been transformed into the miraculous with the addition of several artful strategies and a theme inspired by H.G. Wells.

The routine begins with the compere introducing David to the viewers and studio audience. " Ladies and gentleman will you please welcome Television's Man of Magic, David Berglas."

The band plays his signature tune, April in Portugal, and David walks forward to applause. "Tonight I would like to show you a number of experiments which we will note on that blackboard."

A variety of apparatus is nearby including a table, some glasses, three cloth-covered balls, a blackboard on a stand and a large Clock Dial. David points out that a number of events will take place during the experiment and that each of them will be written on the blackboard together with the time they occurred. And the time now, on the Studio Clock, is 8.15 pm.

He picks up a clear plastic bag from the table. Inside are three balls. David demonstrates his versatility by juggling the three balls. As he juggles one of the balls disappears. He continues to juggle with two when another one vanishes. As he throws the last ball into the air it transforms into a pack of cards. "Well, we might as well do a card trick," says David.

Taking the cards from their case he asks someone from the audience to select one and sign it across its face. As this is done David moves to the blackboard. It is already marked out in a grid so that the various events and their times can be noted. David writes down, "No 1: Three balls juggled, disappear and change into a pack of cards," together with the time. He glances at the Studio Clock. The time is 8.16 and he writes it down.

David continues the experiment by showing an empty whisky glass and placing it on the table. He covers it with a much larger inverted glass and over that he places a handkerchief, effectively hiding both glasses from view. Borrowing four half-crowns (the largest British coin available at the time of this broadcast) he executes several coin manipulations and finishes with them between the fingers of his left hand as in the Multiplying Billiard Balls.

He takes the first coin in the right hand and throws it towards the covered glasses. The coin disappears and a clink is heard from underneath the handkerchief. The second coin travels in the same magical manner, disappearing from the hand and reappearing, or so the audience presumes, in the covered glasses. The third coin is dealt with a little differently. David throws it out into the audience, it disappears and he points to it as he follows its imaginary journey around the studio. Eventually it too lands with a clink in the glass. For the fourth coin David lifts the handkerchief from the glasses. Now the audience will see the magic happen. The last coin disappears and, this time, visibly appears inside the whisky glass.

The four half crowns are tipped out of the whisky glass, one at a time, into the pint glass and then David returns the coins to the spectators. He makes another note on the blackboard. "No 2: Four coins vanish and reappear in a glass." The time is 8.18.

David returns to the man who selected a card. He has signed it and replaced it in the pack. "Do you know exactly where the card is?" asks David. The man admits he does not. Attention is drawn to a large photo frame standing on the table. It is made up of two sheets of glass held together by rubber bands and the audience can see right through it. David covers the frame with a handkerchief and riffles the cards towards it. On lifting the handkerchief a playing card is seen trapped between the panes of glass, its back towards the audience.

David lifts the two rubber-banded sheets of glass from the photo frame and asks the man to name his selected card. The rubber bands are removed, the sheets of glass separated. The card between them is indeed the signed card.

The card is replaced in the pack and David makes a note of the event on the blackboard, "No 3: Signed card vanishes and reappears in photo frame." Looking at the clock the audience can see that the time is 8.19. David notes that on the blackboard too.

A Clock Dial is introduced. It's simply an arrow that revolves freely on a spindle set in

a numbered dial. A spectator is asked to choose a time. He chooses eleven o'clock and then spins the arrow on the dial. When the arrow comes to rest it is pointing to number 11! Coincidence? David repeats the demonstration with another volunteer. This time the number 7 is chosen. The spectator spins the arrow and again it mysteriously comes to rest on the chosen number.

David notes the experiment on the blackboard. "No 4: Arrow stops at chosen number 11." And under that, "Arrow stops at number 7." He makes a note of the time. It is 8.20.

Four different experiments: three balls changed into a pack of cards, four coins travelled invisibly to a whisky glass, a selected card appeared between two sheets of glass and a mysterious clock revealed hidden thoughts. And every time something happened it was noted on the blackboard.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful," says David, "If in life we had the ability to turn the clock back? If we could turn the clock back we could relive a wonderful experience. On the other hand if it is something not so wonderful, something quite unpleasant, we could turn the clock back and maybe make it happen a different way. But is it possible? Tonight I would like to try. I'm going to set my watch back five minutes and I'd like you to do the same." He encourages the studio audience, the camera crew and the viewers to do the same.

David now stands by the Studio Clock. He reads from the blackboard, beginning with the last experiment. The arrow on the Clock Dial is currently pointing to the number 7 but what happened a minute earlier than that? David moves the Studio Clock hand backwards just a fraction. At that instant the arrow on the Clock Dial eerily moves by itself to the first chosen number, 11. Time is reversing itself.

Reading from the board again David notes the experiment with the signed playing card. He moves the clock hand back, literally turning time backwards, and then asks the


























spectator who signed the playing card to show it to everyone. The spectator looks through the pack. The card isn't there. "Of course at that time it wasn't in the pack. It must have been on its way to the photo frame." David touches the clock and moves the hand back a fraction more. Suddenly and visibly the signed card appears, once again, trapped between the sheets of glass.

David reads from the board once more and notes the experiment with the coins. He turns back the clock and then asks the spectators if he can borrow the half-crowns again. They reach into their pockets but are amazed to find that the coins are no longer there. "Of course at that time the coins would have been in mid-flight." David touches the clock hand, moving it back fractionally, and each time he does a coin visibly reappears in the whisky glass until all four have materialised.

Almost back at the beginning. The board notes that, "Three balls disappear." David hands the empty clear bag to one of the spectators. He then goes over to the clock and moves the hand backwards once more. Unexpectedly the three balls visibly reappear in the bag!

"That's wonderful," says David. "Now let me just calculate something." He revolves the blackboard on its stand and starts to chalk a calculation on the blank side. "We started at 8.15 and we finished at 8.20 so that Wait a minute. A thought has just struck me. If we really turned the clock back we wouldn't have written anything on the board. Would we?" He turns the board around. The grid lines are still there but all the writing has disappeared.

"Wow! This works really well. Let's do it one more time just for fun." David moves the Studio Clock right back to 8.15 and the next thing the viewers see is the compere who says, "Ladies and gentleman will you please welcome Television's Man of Magic, David Berglas." The band play April in Portugal and David makes his entrance again from the back of the set. Déjà vu? He takes a bow and then says, "Tonight I would like to show you a number of experiments which we will note on that blackboard." The audience laughs.

"Well, maybe we've taken this a little bit too far," says David. He takes off his watch, resets it and, if the audience want to escape this time loop, suggests they do the same.

Revelations: The time travel theme isn't original with David, he remembers seeing someone apply the theme to a cut and restored rope presentation many years back. But the visible reversal of time in connection with the moving of the clock hand makes this one of the strongest time travel routines to date. The spectators actually see time going backwards as the various effects unfold.

You may have recognised some of the apparatus from the description of the performance. The Coins in Glass is an adaptation of the effect marketed during the 50's by Jack Hughes. Instead of working the effect on the traditional plinth, David had the mechanism built into the table. In fact two mechanisms were used so that the trick could be repeated for the time travel effect. The coins shot up through slots cut into the green baize of the tabletop. These openings were invisible even from a short range and easily withstood the scrutiny of the camera.

The photo frame was another marketed product that went under the name of Television Frame. It enabled a selected card to appear between two panes of glass. Again a double mechanism was built into the tabletop so that the effect could be repeated.

Both the Coin in Glass and Television Frame mechanisms were operated by a backstage assistant who worked a series of nylon lines. Each line was tied to an eyelet that was screwed into a wooden batten and numbered so that the assistant could follow his script and all the cues.

Another line, a thin thread this time, was used in the Clock Dial apparatus. This was the standard dial and arrow and the weight in the arrow could be adjusted so that it would point to any number on the dial. Next to each number on the dial was a small hole. A tiny needle could be pushed into any one of the holes and lock the arrow in position. A thread attached to the needle was used to pull it free of the dial later in the routine so that the preset weight would move the arrow back to the final number.

The juggling balls used were actually the cloth covered spring balls usually used in connection with the Crystal Production Casket. The balls could be compressed easily. Three were in the plastic bag at the beginning. Another three were squashed flat and held in a second plastic bag hidden behind the table. The balls stayed flat because they were held between two sheets of cardboard glued to the top of the bag, which, in turn, was clamped shut, by a large bulldog clip.

The blackboard had a flap hinged at its centre and the line of the flap was hidden by one of the chalk marks. By operating the flap, as the board was turned around, all the writing could be made to disappear. A small clip held the flap in place both before and after it was used.

The Studio Clock was a genuine timepiece, David still has it and it still works. It stood on a thin pedestal that raised it to shoulder height. The unit was on castors so that David could move the clock around the studio floor, a facility that was vital for the routine to work as a television piece.

David had briefed the director before the show. The key to the effects was that when the audience saw David moving the clock hand backwards they would also see the balls appear in the clear bag, the card appear in the frame, the coins in the glass and the arrow move on the dial. It would have weakened the effects if the camera had to cut from David and the clock to another shot of something magical happening. The only way of guaranteeing that the director could get the shots he needed was for David to move the large Studio Clock next to the effect.

The disappearance of the balls and the production of the pack was a mix of juggling and sleight of hand skills. David stole the pack from a clip beneath his jacket and ditched the balls, in their squashed condition, in a specially tailored rear trouser pocket. The card case was sealed with a strip of sellotape to prevent the cards coming out mid flight.

For the reappearance of the balls David gave the spectator the gimmicked bag, removing the bulldog clip just before he handed it over. He had spoken to the spectator before the show and told him to hold the bag tightly at the top until he got an appropriate cue. "When I go to the clock and look at you, the moment I push the clock hand back a fraction I want you to release your grip." It might surprise some that David did not explain to the spectator exactly what was going to happen but he finds that the reaction from spectators who have been pressed into co-operating with him is much better and more natural if they only know what is absolutely necessary.

The man who selected the card had met David during the warm-up of the show. David asked him to practise taking a card, signing it and holding it up to the camera. The man behind the camera was one of David's assistants. He said that the shot wasn't quite right and suggested they do it again. They did, David forcing the same card from another pack and the spectator signing it. The spectator thought he saw each card torn up and thrown away. In reality they were retained and loaded into the Television Frame while a duplicate of the card was torn up.

On air the same man had the same card forced on him and signed it once again. For this one gentleman, time really did appear to be repeating itself.

Sleeving explained the vanish of the coins. As each coin disappeared the backstage assistant operated the Coins in Glass apparatus. At the conclusion of the effect David placed the glasses over the second mechanism hidden in the table and was all set for the repeat.

David appeared to return the coins to their owners but a blending of bluff and sleight of hand meant that he retained all four coins. He didn't do anything elaborate. Merely pretended to drop the coins in their jacket pockets and hurried them to sit down again as he said, "Just put it away. I'll need it again in a moment."

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