Magic Quarterly
Chapter 2 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 05 March 2009 01:36
When the Jadoo-wallah has sat himself down with his bag and baskets in their correct places he usually proceeds to show the following tricks:--
  • The cups and balls.
  • The bamboo sticks.
  • The ring on the stick.
  • The ball in the glass box.
  • The bunder-boat.
  • The bowl of rice.
  • The coloured sands.
  • The rope trick.
  • The egg bag.
  • The swastika.
  • The dancing duck.
  • The mango tree.
  • The basket trick.


I will attempt to describe each trick for the benefit of those who have not actually seen them performed, and will then attempt to give a lucid explanation of how these tricks are done.


The performer has three cups of wood, somewhat similar to crude wine glasses overturned, the base of the wine glass forming the handle by which the cup is manipulated. Under these he places, without detection, little woolen or cloth balls and extracts them in the same mysterious manner. Similarly he shows two balls, one under each of two cups, and by a drone on the "bean" or musical instrument, one ball flies magically from the one cup to join its mate under the other. Various combinations and permutations of this sleight complete the experiment which is accompanied by a running patter of "Go Bombay" "Go London."

In my opinion this trick is the only one in which the Indian conjuror shows any aptitude at sleight-of-hand, and the average Jadoo-wallah is very good at it. It is a trick that at first needs a little practice, but it is easy to learn and can be made into a first-class stage or drawing room entertainment. One of our greatest exponents in London performs the trick with three breakfast cups inverted, three lumps of sugar, some walnuts, and tangerine oranges to a most amusing patter about Cuthbert, Clarence, and Algernon, who are represented by the three lumps of sugar and undergo all sorts of misadventures in the night clubs in the West End of London.

The explanation is simple.

Hand position

Instead of three balls the performer has four. One of these he conceals in the palm of the hand by which he lifts the cup. The handle of the cup can be grasped between the outstretched fingers--(first and second)--and the ball is securely held by the muscle at the ball of the thumb. By bending the first and second fingers that hold the cup, its lip is brought in close proximity to the secreted ball. By a sharp or jerky movement forward to place the cup on the ground, and at the same time releasing the muscle of the ball of the thumb, the woolen ball naturally finds its place under the cup and the deception is complete. The performer then picks up one of the three exposed balls and pretends to place it in his bag or into the other hand. A blow on the "bean" and Hey! Presto! the ball appears under the cup that a moment ago was placed apparently empty on the ground.


Hand position 2

I will not go any further into the combinations and permutations, which are unlimited, of the trick. Once a person has mastered the easy exterity described above to get the ball into the cup, he can devise urther developments for himself. The diagrams given will, I trust, lear up any misunderstanding that may be left after reading my explanation. If there is still any uncertainty, for a few annas or pence, any itinerant conjuror will show the sleight, and ten minutes practice ought to bring matters to a satisfactory conclusion.

This may be a fitting opportunity to disabuse the minds of some about he amount of practice undertaken by a really first-class performer. I onsider that a man who is an expert needs no practice at all. leight-of-hand to him is just as innate as hitting any shaped ball ith any shaped stick, is to a man with an eye for games. The artists ho drew these illustrations, draw anything instinctively. Years of ractice will never make the faces of a pretty girl that I draw look ess like an amphibious cow. But I have frequently given  performances f two hour's duration without any previous practice whatever, beyond  quick rehearsal to see that all the various properties are in their orrect places, ready at hand when wanted. I do not want the person ho wishes to do a few tricks like the cups and balls, and those which  will describe later, to be discouraged under the impression that not eing a born conjuror it will be useless for him to attempt small
tricks without constant and monotonous practice. A little attention and trouble will make him "hot stuff" with the cups and balls and will lead him on to higher things.


Last Updated on Thursday, 19 March 2009 16:51
Chapter 3 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 05 March 2009 02:36

We have now the second trick that is usually shewn by the Jadoo-wallah, that of the bamboo sticks, essentially one of purely Indian origin.

The performer takes two small bamboo sticks which have threaded through them a piece of string at each end of which is a bead. He holds these sticks together and when he pulls one bead the other is naturally drawn into its stick. He now takes a knife and passes it between the sticks ostensibly cutting the string between them. He again pulls one bead and wonderful to relate the other bead is still drawn in towards its stick, as before. He now separates the sticks and holds them in the shape of a "V," and one can see that there is no string between the sticks. Still the same thing happens. When he pulls one bead the other is drawn into its stick.

Stick Positions

This little trick is usually sold as one of a box of tricks for children at any of the toy shops in England. The explanation is given in the diagrams below, which show that the string does not pass directly through each stick, but from one side only, then through its centre down to the bottom, across to the other stick, up through its centre, and out through its side. Consequently passing the knife between the sticks cannot harm the string in any way.

The Indian conjuror goes still farther than the trick as supplied in the child's box of tricks. After pulling the string to and fro while the sticks are held as a "V" he separates the sticks completely. The same result occurs nevertheless. When he pulls one end of the string the other end is drawn towards its stick. This is brought about by a different construction of the apparatus than that described above.

In this case the string is put through one side of the stick and is attached to a small weight that can move freely up and down the hollowed out centre of the bamboo. When the stick is held vertically the weight will drop and the bead attached to the visible end of the string will be automatically drawn in. When the performer wishes to leave the pulled string out, he must incline the stick to a horizontal position when the weight will not slide down. The diagrams will show how the sticks should be held while showing the trick. It can be easily manufactured or bought in a bazaar for a few annas.


Later Positions


The sticks are put away into the basket, and the magic wand is produced for our next little experiment, that of putting a borrowed ring on to the middle of a stick that is held at both ends. Almost every European in India has seen this performed in India for it is the favourite of the Jadoo-wallah, and is the most effective of the small tricks that he can show. It takes up a considerable time and is simplicity itself.

In case any of my readers have not seen the trick in India, or on their way out at Port Said, I will describe it. The performer either borrows or uses his own thin cane, and passes it round to his audience to show that it is devoid of all mechanism. He then borrows a wedding ring, which he also allows to be freely examined. He gets A and B, two of his audience, to hold the ends of the stick each by one hand. He
then boldly proclaims that he proposes to pass the ring on to the middle of the stick without either A or B letting go of their respective ends. In order, however, not to divulge the secret he must pass it on under cover of a handkerchief. He takes the borrowed ring and wraps it up in the middle of the handkerchief which he asks some one to hold, and to feel the ring wrapped up in it. In order to let everyone know that the ring is really there, he takes the stick from A and B and gives a tap on the ring. He then gets A and B to hold the stick once more and persuades C, who is assisting with the handkerchief, to hold it over the middle of the stick. The performer holds the corner of the handkerchief and instructs C to let go his
hold on the word "three." "One! two! three!" The handkerchief is sharply pulled away and the borrowed ring is seen to be spinning on the middle of the stick!


The Shah at Work

This is how it is done. The stick is an ordinary one, thin enough to pass easily through a wedding ring. The only prepared article is the handkerchief, in one corner of which is a duplicate wedding ring sewn into a small pocket. It does not matter whether or no it is exactly similar to the ring that is borrowed, as the performer takes care that the owner of the borrowed ring does not get a chance of feeling the duplicate even through the folds of the handkerchief. When the performer takes the borrowed ring to fold in the handkerchief, he folds the one that is already sewn in it, and secretes the borrowed ring in his hand. He takes the stick from A and B to tap on the ring folded in the handkerchief, really to slide the borrowed ring into the middle of it. He hands the stick back to be held by A and B but keeps his hand over the ring now on it, thus concealing it until it is covered by the handkerchief. When the handkerchief is pulled away on
the word "three" it takes with it the ring sewn into its corner and as it brushes the stick it makes the borrowed ring on the stick revolve apparently as if it had just arrived in that position.

For simplicity's sake let us take the various moves as they occur.

     A. Borrow a stick and hand it round for examination.

     B. Get A and B to hold it at the ends.

     C. Borrow a wedding ring.

     D. Take the handkerchief from the pocket. (The duplicate
     ring sewn in the corner being held preferably in the right

     E. Pretend to wrap up the borrowed ring in the handkerchief,
     in reality wrapping up the corner ring, and secrete the
     borrowed ring in the right hand.

     F. Take the stick from A and B and tap the folded ring with
     it, now being held by C. While doing so, slip the borrowed
     ring into the middle of the stick. G. Hand the stick back
     to A and B but keep the hand on the stick over the ring.

     H. Get C to cover this hand with the handkerchief, holding
     the ring over the middle of the stick and instruct him to
     let go on the word "three."

A neat little trick that can be performed by anybody who takes the trouble to practice it a couple of times.


Last Updated on Thursday, 19 March 2009 16:51
Chapter 1 PDF Print E-mail
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Thursday, 05 March 2009 01:20
Shah Mahommed

Since the world began Magic and wizardry seem to have held a great fascination for mankind, an example being in the story of the Witch of Endor. That this tendency has in no wise altered is clear from the popularity of conjurors, illusionists, and so called magicians who still, be it East or West, attract an audience so easily and so surely. This little volume is written in the hopes that it may prove of interest to the thousands who reside in India, and those other thousands who, visiting its coral shores from time to time, often discuss in wondering amazement how the Indian conjuror performs his tricks. It is also written to uphold the reputation of the Western conjuror against the spurious ascendancy held by his Eastern confrere.

Before describing the many well known tricks that are shewn by the "house to house" Jadoo-wallah, and explaining how they are done, we will compare the average Indian conjuror with his mystic friends in Europe, America and China.

Let us for a moment picture in our mind's eye the stage and person of the European or American conjuror. A few small tables with spindle legs (upon them a steel frame or so, transparent and decorative) are exposed to our view. The performer appears with rolled up sleeves in close fitting clothes and by the end of his performance has filled the stage with several large flags, a bouquet of flowers and, may be, a beautiful lady, all, possibly produced from a top hat. His performance is given to the accompaniment of amusing patter and is brightened with the colour of the articles he produces.

He may be an illusionist pure and simple and does not indulge in sleight-of-hand at all. In this case the comparison with the Indian Jadoo-wallah is not a fair one, as the latter has not the means to purchase the complicated mechanism necessary for up-to-date illusions as shewn by European magicians.

Whether or no his superior education is the reason, the European conjuror gains in skill and shows his inventive genius as time goes on. His effects are studied, and his paraphernalia embraces more and more varied articles. The disappearance of a Christmas tree with all its candles lighted is an excellent example to what he has risen. He takes an interest in his profession or calling and strives to outdo others in neatness or by inventing an exclusive trick to which his name can be given and handed down to posterity. This may be the result of large fees that can be earned at the "Halls" or by private entertainments by those at the top of the tree. But these fees are open to a conjuror of any nationality, and I am confident that the interest the European takes in his hobby has more to do with his superiority than education and large fees. The ruling Princes of India are very fond of watching a clever conjuror and can pay enormous fees, but no Indian conjuror appears to appeal to them. A Western performer always wants to give his best to his audience and takes a pride in mystifying them. David Devant, who is one of the greatest living exponents has quite recently written an article in the Strand Magazine of his dreams of tricks that he would like to be able to do. To meet the late Charles Bertram "at home" was a study in itself. To have seen him playing, as a child would play, with a pack of cards until he stumbled across a new sleight and watched the enjoyment written all over his face, was a proof of his deep interest in his hobby.

Can anyone imagine an Indian conjuror dreaming of a new trick? "Ghee and khana" (clarified butter and food) form the subject of the majority of his dreams. When he does play with anything it is to caress lovingly the "paisa" or pieces of money that he last earned, not to improve his dexterity but because they will give him a good meal, a cup of arak, (or intoxicating liquor) and a long lazy sleep.

The Chinaman gives his entertainment with his stage well filled with tables covered with gorgeous dragon-be-decked draperies that reach the ground, and behind which useful assistants could be easily concealed. His own garments are roomy and his sleeves could contain a multitude of billiard balls and rabbits. But he gives a showy performance with clean bright articles, ending up occasionally, as I have seen, with the production of twelve large Chinese lanterns all lit!

The Chinaman is the inventor of many of the most beautiful illusions that are performed. One of the prettiest tricks imaginable is that of the production of bowls of gold fish in real water, one of Chinese origin. He has improved from ancient times as an up-to-date showman, and is a wonderful illusionist. To show what can be done in the voluminous garments of a Chinaman, on one occasion, I, in his national costume, produced a large bowl of water which took two men to carry away, then a little boy aged ten, and his younger brother aged five, ostensibly from a shawl without moving from the centre of a stage devoid of trap doors, or any furniture. It was more a feat of strength than skill at conjuring, though, as one may readily imagine, extremely effective.

The Chinaman is also a clever productionist and excels in producing flowers, lanterns and similar articles. His dexterity or sleight-of-hand is good but inferior to that of the European. He has and uses well, many extremely ingenious devices, or "fakes." One in particular has always appealed to me and is worth describing. He takes a piece of tissue paper which he either chews, or moistens somehow and rolls it into a small ball like pulp. This he places on his fan and tosses up into the air several times while it gradually assumes the shape of an egg. After some few seconds it has become a large duck's egg which he places in an egg cup on the table in full view of the audience. This little trick is very effective, easy to do, and can be purchased for half-a-crown at any magical depot in London.

I hope that I have gained my point in showing that the Chinaman is an ingenious and a neat performer. There are many other amazing tricks which were originated in China and the far East, (as the Japanese are as good, if not better than the Chinese) but this egg trick is to my mind the most symbolical of Chinese magic.

The Indian juggler or Jadoo-wallah arrives with a basket large enough to contain a man, as we will see later, a huge dilapidated bag, a voluminous dhotie or loin cloth, and possibly a snake basket or two. He is a poor man or "gareeb admi" and looks it. He starts a whine in the hope of getting an audience through sympathy. If he does not whine he assumes an air of superiority that is somewhat exasperating. At sleight-of-hand he is far below the level of the average European performer. He spoils his art by the continual diving into his bag ostentatiously to dig out the bone of a cow or an antiquated "dolly," of the rag doll type. If only he would do his little tricks away from his impedimenta in clean clothes he would add 50% to the merit of his performance though it would probably be not so entertaining to those newly arrived in India.

I have very little praise to give to the Indian conjuror as an artist, either in sleight-of-hand, in juggling, or as an illusionist. His tricks are as "old as my unpaid bills" and from time immemorial have been performed with the same monotonous patter and the irritating drone of the "bean" or so called musical instrument. I may here say that this musical torture is used to disguise movements of the showman's hand in the same way as the European uses his magic wand, an instrument that does not appeal to me at all, though at times very useful.

The articles used by the Indian conjuror are very very primitive and of indifferent manufacture. The Jadoo-wallah has remained as he was 50, 60, or 100 years ago. The old gentleman whose portrait forms the first illustration of this book told me that the tricks he does were learnt by his great grandfather from a friend in Lahore. This takes us back some 150 years. The tricks have remained the same as when taught at Lahore though my old friend has brought them up-to-date by singing "Ta-ra-ra-boom-de-ay" between each experiment!

The Indian conjuror has never indulged in pure sleight-of-hand to any extent, and has never improved upon any of his illusions.

Shah Mahommed Singing

He seldom has any patter worth listening to and that which he uses consists usually of "Beggie, beggie, aow" or "Beggie beggie jaow." "Bun, two, three, four, five, white, bite, fight, kite." Amusing to a casual observer but hopeless from an artists point of view.

Latterly some Indian conjurors have attempted to give in India performances on European lines. They have purchased the necessary paraphernalia from London and have as much idea of using it to its best advantage as a crocodile has of arranging the flowers on a dinner table. Our Indian Jadoo-wallah usually gets himself into a very tight fitting third or fourth hand evening dress on these occasions, to show, I presume, how European he is. The audience is more concerned with the possibility of its bursting and their having to leave the theatre for decency's sake than they are of the feats he is attempting to imitate.

His patter is excruciating and, to hide his want of skill in sleight-of-hand, he moves his hands and arms in grotesque curves, with his body so bent that it is almost impossible to see what he is trying to do. I have never yet seen any Indian give an English performance that would be tolerated on the sands at Slushton-on-Sea the seat of my ancestral home. While writing the above I have in mind one of these Indians, an impossible person, who, as Court performer to several of the Ruling Indian Princes, makes the astonishing total of Rs. 1200 or L80 a month.

The only native conjurors that I have seen who are consistently good  at sleight-of-hand, (and they are Arabs or Egyptians) are the invaders of the ships at Port Said, and their one and only good point, magically, is their manipulation of those unfortunate chickens. Their "Gillie, gillie, Mrs. Langtry" is more up-to-date and an improvement upon the "Beggie, beggie, aow" of India.

It has always been a marvel to me how the Indian conjuror has gained his spurious reputation. I can only ascribe the fact to the idea that the audience start with the impression, sub-conscious though it may be--of Mahatmaism, Jadoo, or any other synonym by which Oriental Magic is designated. This allows them to watch with amazement tricks that are so simple that no English conjuror would dare to show them to his youngest child.

Without partiality I can safely assert that of the three types under discussion, the European, the Chinaman, and the Indian, the average European conjuror is the most skilled particularly at sleight-of-hand. He certainly excels in card manipulation which is seldom touched by the Oriental magician. In illusions he is beyond comparison, as many of our readers may certify who have seen the wonderful productions by Messrs. Maskelyn and Cooke, Devant, and their many followers. The gradual disappearance of a lady in evening dress, visibly, and in mid stage growing smaller and smaller until she is small enough to be put into a paper bag, which is rolled into a ball and thrown away, is an illusion that no Oriental will ever attempt to compete with. Such illusions can be seen at any time of the year at the Palace Theatre and other halls in London, in Paris and even Bombay.

There may be many who will readily disagree with my disparagement of the Indian Jadoo-wallah. I admit that Magic may have come originally from the East. The Egyptians for instance, had wonderful illusions that were freely used by their priests in the temples mainly for the extortion of money or valuables from their gullible disciples. These illusions were merely mechanical devices such as the mysterious opening and shutting of doors on the sound of a certain word like "Abracadabra." These devices can be duplicated by our skilful mechanics, but would not be worth very much these enlightened days as a lucrative investment.

It may also be said that the comparison to the detriment of the Indian is not a fair one as he has no stage upon which to perform, whereas the European gives his show usually in a roped off portion of the drawing room, or on the stage of a concert hall. The reason of this is that the European cannot as a rule collect his audience in the open. When he does get an outdoor assembly he is just as much an adept as he is indoors. Many of my readers may have regrettably to agree with me, especially those who have met our "three card trick" friend, or the perfectly good gentleman with the thimbles and the pea, at Ascot.
Last Updated on Sunday, 05 April 2009 20:40


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Chapter 1
  A COMPARISONSince the world began Magic and wizardry seem to have held a great fascination for mankind, an example being in the story of the Witch of Endor. That this tendency has in no wise altered is clear from the popularity of conjurors, illusionists, and so called magicians who still, be it E...

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