**** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE **** **** ROTATE ****

Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!


A Few Tricks For Christmas
by [?]

But mention of the two numbers reminds me of a trick which I haven’t forgotten. It is a thought-reading illusion, and always creates the maximum of wonderment amongst the audience. It is called


As before, you ask a gentleman in the company to write down a number on a piece of paper, and a lady to write down another number. These numbers they show to the other guests. You then inform the company that you will ask any one of them three questions, and by the way they are answered you will guess what the product of the two numbers is. (For instance, if the numbers were 13 and 17, then 13 multiplied by 17 is–let’s see, thirteen sevens are–thirteen sevens–seven threes are twenty-one, seven times one is–well, look here, let’s suppose the numbers are 10 and 17. Then the product is 170, and 170 is the number you have got to guess.)

Well, the company selects a lady to answer your questions, and the first thing you ask her is: “When was Magna Charta signed?” Probably she says that she doesn’t know. Then you say, “What is the capital of Persia?” She answers Timbuctoo, or Omar Khayyam, according to how well informed she is. Then comes your last question: “What makes lightning?” She is practically certain to say, “Oh, the thunder.” Then you tell her that the two numbers multiplied together come to 170.

How is this remarkable trick performed? It is quite simple. The two people whom you asked to think of the numbers are confederates, and you arranged with them beforehand that they should write down 10 and 17. Of course it would be a much better trick if they weren’t confederates; but in that case I don’t quite know how you would do it.

I shall end up this interesting and instructive article with a rather more difficult illusion. For the tricks I have already explained it was sufficient that the amateur prestidigitator (I shall only say this once more) should know how it was done; for my last trick he will also require a certain aptitude for legerdemain in order to do it. But a week’s quiet practice at home will give him all the skill that is necessary.


is one of the oldest and most popular illusions. You begin by borrowing a gold watch from one of your audience. Having removed the works, you wrap the empty case up in a handkerchief and hand it back to him, asking him to put it in his waistcoat pocket. The works you place in an ordinary pudding basin and proceed to pound up with a hammer. Having reduced them to powder, you cover the basin with another handkerchief, which you borrow from a member of the company, and announce that you are about to make a plum-pudding. Cutting a small hole in the top of the handkerchief, you drop a lighted match through the aperture; whereupon the handkerchief flares up. When the flames have died down you exhibit the basin, wherein (to the surprise of all) is to be seen an excellent Christmas pudding, which you may ask your audience to sample. At the same time you tell the owner of the watch that if he feels in his pockets he will find his property restored to him intact; and to his amazement he discovers that the works in some mysterious way have got back into his watch, and that the handkerchief in which it was wrapped up has gone!

Now for the explanation of this ingenious illusion. The secret of it is that you have a second basin, with a pudding in it, concealed in the palm of your right hand. At the critical moment, when the handkerchief flares up, you take advantage of the excitement produced to substitute the one basin for the other. The watch from which you extract the works is not the borrowed one, but one which you have had concealed between the third and fourth fingers of the left hand. You show the empty case of this watch to the company, before wrapping the watch in the handkerchief and handing it back to its owner. Meanwhile with the aid of a little wax you have attached an invisible hair to the handkerchief, the other end of it being fastened to the palm of your left hand. With a little practice it is not difficult to withdraw the handkerchief, by a series of trifling jerks, from, the pocket of your fellow-guest to its resting place between the first and second finger of your left hand.

One word more. I am afraid that the borrowed handkerchief to which you applied the match really did get burnt, and you will probably have to offer the owner one of your own instead. That is the only weak spot in one of the most baffling tricks ever practised by the amateur prestidigitator (to use the word for the last time). It will make a fitting climax to your evening’s entertainment–an entertainment which will ensure you another warm invitation next year when the “festive season” (copyright) comes upon us once again.