Tarbells Mysterious Firecrackers

I designed this effect for use when I have children assisting me, although it may be performed with grownups assisting as well. Firecrackers are typical of Chinese effects and this one is something a little different. I know you will enjoy adding this mystic experiment to your repertoire of effects.


Three large firecrackers are shown. One is red, one yellow, and one green. A hat is borrowed and two children are asked to come up to assist you. Performer tells children that it is difficult to remember colors, especially more than two at a time. For this reason, he wants them to pay particular attention to see whether they can keep track of three colors. Magician drops each firecracker into the hat, naming the color of each. He then removes the red one, shows it, and wraps it in a piece of paper. He gives this to one of the children to hold. This leaves the yellow and green firecrackers in the hat. Performer asks one of the children to select one of these two colors. Assume that he selects yellow. The wrapped firecracker is then taken out and shown to have turned to yellow and the red one is found back in the hat.


1 — Three imitation firecrackers, red, yellow, and green, respectively. These are made of wood and are lacquered. A piece of string is used for the fuse. They should be about four inches long and seven-eighths of an inch in diameter, Figure 1.

2 — Red celluloid shell to fit over red firecracker. This shell should fit easily so that firecracker can slide in and out. Red firecracker with shell over it must look the same as it does without shell. Also other firecrackers should look like the red one when slipped inside red shell, Figure 2.

We can furnish you with the set of three colored firecrackers and red shell at reasonable price.


Have hat and sheet of paper on table. Arrange the three fire crackers on table with red shell over red firecracker. Have hat also on table. If you borrow hat for experiment, place it on table after you have secured it from spectator.


Pick up the three firecrackers.

"I want a boy and a girl to help me celebrate the Fourth of July."

Go down into audience and give green firecracker to a small boy and the yellow one to a small girl. Get them to hold firecrackers high up, then bring them into the aisle and finally up to the stage. Ask their names and introduce them to each other. Assume their names are Ruth and Ben.

"Ruth, we each have a large firecracker, or as we sometimes call them, cannon crackers. You know what a cannon cracker is, don't you? It is just a little firecracker grown up. These were born in China and if they keep on growing, they will be great big ones. Do you like to shoot firecrackers? Ben, how are you on colors? You look quite patriotic. Are you a color expert? Each of you hold your firecrackers back of you and I shall do the same. Now, Ben, tell me the color of each one of the firecrackers we are holding. What color have you? Green. Fine. What color has Ruth? Yellow. And I? Red. That's well done, Ben. Now each of you give me your firecrackers and I will see whether Ruth can memorize colors also. Suppose we use this vacant hat."

Step back to table. Hold the three firecrackers in your left hand and pick up hat with right. Show hat empty and give it to Ben.

Have Ben hold hat up above his eye level. It must be high enough so that neither the two children nor the audience can see into it, Figure 3.

"Ruth, name the colors as I place them slowly into the hat, one at a time."

Hold up red firecracker in right hand.

Place in hat, covering top of firecracker with right hand. When it is well down in hat, allow firecracker to slip out of shell on to bottom of hat. Raise end of firecracker again far enough to free shell from it. With right hand still in hat, holding shell, call attention to yellow firecracker in left hand.

"The next is yellow."

Place left hand in hat so that yellow firecracker can be slid into shell easily. When this is accomplished, allow yellow firecracker with red shell over it to lie on bottom of hat beside red firecracker, Figure 4.

"And the last is green."

Place green firecracker in hat.

"Ruth, can you remember that many colors? Let me remove one of the firecrackers."

Pick up the yellow firecracker with the red shell over it and remove it from hat. To all appearances, it is the red firecracker.

"If I remove the red one, what colors are left in the hat? That's right — yellow and green. Let me wrap this red firecracker in a piece of paper."

Roll sheet of paper around the firecracker and hold it in place with the rubber band. Figure 5.

Give it to Ruth to hold, warning her to hold it straight horizontally.

"Do you feel the firecracker all right? Well, hold on to it tight and do not let it fall out of the paper to the floor. You say, Ruth, that we have a yellow and green firecracker left in the hat. Choose either color that you want. Use your own free will in making the choice. Which color do you choose?"

Assume that she chooses the yellow one.

"Yellow. Now, Ruth, remember that I gave you your own free choice in the matter. Now I shall give Ben the remaining green firecracker to use as a magic wand. Ben, did you ever startle an audience with prestidigitation? Well, you can do it now. You can hold the wand and wave it when I tell you to."

Have Ben hold hat with left hand and take green firecracker from you with his right hand.

"As matters stand, I think Ben has the green firecracker, Ruth the red one, and the yellow one is left in the hat. All right, Ben. waive the wand. Ruth, you selected the yellow one, didn't you? The fairies must have heard you for they took the red one away from you and gave you the yellow one instead. It all happened when Ben waved his magic wand."

As you say this, take paper tube from Ruth and grasping shell from outside of paper, tilt tube so that yellow firecracker will slide out into your hand, Figure 6.

Give yellow firecracker to Ruth and toss paper tube with shell inside carelessly on table. In this way, audience is led to believe that there is nothing inside of paper tube. You may even give Ruth a quick glance inside of paper tube before tossing it aside. When shown quickly, shell will not be visible to her inside of paper tube.

"If we look inside the hat "

Take hat from boy with left hand and turn it so that opening is toward audience. At the same time, remove red firecracker with right hand.

"We find that the red firecracker has traveled over here."

Take firecrackers from children and thank them for assisting you.

When Ruth is given her choice of colors between yellow and green, suppose she chooses green. In this case, remove the green firecracker from the hat and give it to Ben. Then proceed as follows:

"Remember, Ruth, I gave you your own choice color. Seeing as how we are going to use this as a wand for Ben, we have to be quite particular. Ben here is quite a prestidigitator. I think Ruth believes you are Irish because she selected the green wand for you. Now, Ben has the green firecracker. Ruth, what color have you? Red, you say. Wave your wand, Ben."

Take paper tube from Ruth and let yellow cracker slide out of it. Toss paper aside.

"You see, Ben is playing tricks on us, Ruth. You have the yellow cracker and not the red one. However, I believe we will find the red one here in the hat."

Remove the red cracker from the hat and show hat to be empty. Return hat if borrowed and dismiss children to conclude experiment.

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