Easy Magic Tricks for Beginners - Cremated Alive

The curtain rises and a young and beautiful girl, clothed in white, is introduced to the spectators as the victim who has been doomed to cremation, which will be instantaneously accomplished. The girl mounts upon a table placed at the back of a kind of alcove, consisting of a three-sided screen, and above her is suspended a big fire-proof sack, folded up as shown in Fig. 1.

Fig. 1.

Excerpt from the book: Three Hundred Things A Bright Boy Can Do

The table upon which the victim stands ready for sacrifice appears to have four legs, and under this table burn, or appear to burn, four candles, the purpose being to indicate to the public that the space beneath the table is open, perfectly free, and beyond suspicion of any trickery. The sack, which forms a cylindrical screen under which the victim is to be burned, has been previously handed round to the spectators, so that they might assure themselves that it was entire, without any hole or split, lacing, or other artifice allowing of an escape from behind—a precaution invariably taken to allay the too ready suspicions of incredulous spectators. All these verifications being made, and the audience perfectly satisfied as to the bona fides of the case, the sack is lowered upon the victim, a pistol is fired, and the cremation commences.

Flames and smoke (see Fig. 2) soon indicate to the terrified spectators that the fire is pursuing its destructive work. When the flames have ceased, the sack, composed as we have stated, of an incombustible material, is raised, and there is seen upon the table, in the midst of the still smoking d├ębris, only a few bones and a skull (Fig. 3.)

Fig. 2.     Fig. 3.

An examination of the conditions under which the disappearance has taken place does not in the least reveal the methods by which it has been so rapidly accomplished; but as it is clearly inadmissible that the sacrifice of a young and beautiful person should thus take place every evening for the simple gratification of the public, one is, of course, pushed to the conclusion that there must be some trick. And a trick there is of a most ingenious character, as will be seen by the following explanation, the comprehension of which will be aided by Fig. 4.

Fig. 4.

In this particular case the illusion is a happy combination of suitable appliances underneath the scene and of the well-known properties of plane mirrors placed on the incline. The table upon which our victim mounts for cremation has, as a matter of fact, only two legs, instead of four, and the two others are only seen by the spectators as a reflection of the two real legs in the two glasses inclined at an angle of 90 degrees with each other, and at 45 degrees with the two side panels of the three-fold screen which contains the scene of the disappearance. It is precisely the same with the two candles, which, in consequence of their reflection in the mirrors, appear to be four in number, whilst the central rod hides the edges of the mirrors.

Thanks to the combination of the glasses and panels, and to the adoption of a uniform surface for these panels, the reflection of the two sides in the two lower glasses appears to be but the continuation of the panel at the back. The triangular box, of which the two glasses comprise the two sides, and the floor the bottom, has its surface formed of two parts; the one made up of the top of the table itself, and the other of pieces of mirror which reflect the back panel, and pieces of material of the same colour as the panel itself.

It is easy from this to understand the whole course of the operations, more or less fantastic, which the spectator watches with such breathless interest. As soon as the victim is hidden by the sack which comes down upon her, she at once escapes by a secret trap-door in the top of the table, as is shown in Fig. 4; she then rapidly puts into position the skull and bones, as well as some inflammable material, to which she sets fire when she hears the pistol shot. She then, closing the trap, tranquilly retires, and remains hidden in the triangular space arranged between the back panel and the two glasses until the fall of the curtain.
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