Self-Working Handkerchief Magic: 61 Foolproof Tricks

Self-Working Handkerchief Magic: 61 Foolproof Tricks

by Karl Fulves

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61 great tricks: pass objects through a handkerchief, dissolve handkerchief knots, make handkerchiefs appear and disappear, transform a handkerchief into an animated mouse, restore a handkerchief cut in half. Learn all the secrets of folds and knots essential to this type of magic. 509 illustrations.
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61 great tricks: pass objects through a handkerchief, dissolve handkerchief knots, make handkerchiefs appear and disappear, transform a handkerchief into an animated mouse, restore a handkerchief cut in half. Learn all the secrets of folds and knots essential to this type of magic. 509 illustrations.

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Dover Publications
Publication date:
Dover Magic Bks.
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Product dimensions:
5.52(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.41(d)
Age Range:
10 Years

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61 Foolproof Tricks

By Karl Fulves, Joseph K. Schmidt

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1988 Karl Fulves
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15662-0



Almost without exception, any trick in this book is one that can be done with handkerchiefs made from cotton, silk or synthetics. In some cases cotton or silk is specified, but you may find that a synthetic blend will work as well. A few of the tricks can even be done with good-quality paper napkins.

Silk handkerchiefs (unlike cotton or synthetics) can be compressed into a small space. Magic-supply houses and shops that sell silk can provide handkerchiefs made from pure silk. The investment in pure silk handkerchiefs will pay dividends over the long run; properly handled and cared for, silk handkerchiefs will last for decades.

In magician's parlance, a handkerchief made from silk is referred to simply as "a silk." In this book, when reference is made to an 18" silk, for example, it means a silk handkerchief measuring 18" on a side, Figure 1. The shop from which you purchase silks will tell you how to care for them. Heat and light tend to fade the colors and cause silk to lose its springiness, so it is best to store silks by keeping them flat and unfolded in a cool, dark place.

Handkerchiefs can be introduced into a magic act in a number of ways. For example, use a handkerchief to cover a piece of apparatus. Uncover the apparatus as if to perform a trick with it. Then seem to remember a trick you once learned with a handkerchief. Do the trick, start to put the handkerchief aside, then appear to recall another handkerchief trick. Do that trick, then another and another, never quite getting around to the trick with the apparatus.

In some tricks in this book, the corners of the handkerchief will be referred to by letters of the alphabet, an example of which is shown in Figure 1. When learning the trick, you may wish to label the corners using a pencil lightly. When you have mastered the trick, you can erase the pencil writing.

Although the sizes of handkerchiefs are specified in many of the tricks in this book, you may find that a handkerchief of smaller or larger size is better suited to your way of working. Also keep in mind that it does make a difference whether a handkerchief is made of cotton, silk or some other material. Try different materials and different sizes to find the combination that is best for your individual style. Remember that, unlike playing cards, handkerchiefs are not manufactured to a common standard. The ideal handkerchief is the one you feel most comfortable with.



A good magic trick should have a clear plot, one that the audience finds easy to follow. The tricks in this chapter use simple props to produce visual magic.

1. Threading the Needle

This trick is perhaps one of the best-known effects with a handkerchief, but the correct handling is little known. Use a 27" handkerchief for maximum visibility. A silk handkerchief works best, but the stunt will work with handkerchiefs made from other materials.

METHOD: Hold the handkerchief by diagonally opposite corners, as shown in Figure 2. Twirl the lower end in circular fashion in the direction of the arrow in Figure 2. Make sure you twirl the lower end only. If you twirl both ends, the handkerchief will quickly unfurl. Continue twirling the handkerchief until it is twisted rope fashion, Figure 3.

Place end A between the right thumb and first finger, Figure 4. The palm-down left hand then grasps the center of the handkerchief, Figure 5. Release end A. Then bring end B up to the position shown in Figure 6. Wrap the upper part of the handkerchief around the left thumb, Figures 7 and 8.

Now bring end B between the left second and third fingers, Figure 9. Up to this point the right hand has not let go of end B. This means that the handling depicted in Figures 2 through 9 can be done in one smooth continuous motion.

When you reach the point shown in Figure 9, you have formed a loop above the left thumb. Release the right hand's grip on end B. Point to the loop with the right first finger and say, "This is the eye of the needle. The problem is to thread this end through the needle."

As you say, "... this end," grasp end A with the palm-up right hand, Figure 10, and bring it forward so that the strand of material grasped by the right hand can move to a position above the left first finger, Figure 11.

Draw end A back behind the left hand, Figure 12. Poke end A at the eye of the needle a few times. Then bring end A back to the position shown in Figure 12 again. Say, "To make it harder, I'll try to thread the needle without letting go of the end."

Quickly bring end A to the position shown in Figure 13, pulling the handkerchief taut as you do so. It appears as if you have threaded end A through the loop. You have actually pulled the center of the handkerchief up into the loop. To facilitate this action, when the right hand reaches the position shown in Figure 12, in preparation for the quick, lunging motion to the right, loosen the left hand's grip on the center of the handkerchief.

When bringing the handkerchief to the position shown in Figure 13, make sure the right hand is either above or below the left hand. This insures that the audience gets a clear view of the loop. To finish the stunt, release the right hand's grip on end A. Then grip the handkerchief at point X in Figure 13 and pull the handkerchief out of the loop. This strengthens the illusion that you really did thread the loop.

2. Comedy Production

If you do a trick in which a pencil is used, you can produce the pencil in an amusing way. The magician drapes a handkerchief over his empty left hand. Instantly an object pops up under the handkerchief.

The magician removes the handkerchief to reveal—his first finger, Figure 22. The handkerchief is then turned over, revealing the pencil.

METHOD: Use an opaque 18" handkerchief and a pencil about 5" long. At the start have the apparatus in a briefcase.

When you are ready to present the routine, grasp the handkerchief at the upper corners. Hold the pencil behind the handkerchief with the right thumb. When the apparatus is in the correct position, lift it out of the briefcase and display the handkerchief, Figure 14.

Release the left hand's grip on the handkerchief. Turn the left hand palm up and bring it to the center of the handkerchief, Figure 15. Drape the handkerchief over the left hand, Figure 16. Note that the pencil is hidden by the handkerchief and also by the left arm.

Push the pencil upward so it is above the corner of the handkerchief, Figure 17. Curl the left fingers inward, clipping the pencil through the handkerchief with the left third finger. This is shown in Figure 18, with the handkerchief removed for clarity. The actual situation is indicated in Figure 19.

The right hand pulls corner B out from under the handkerchief so that corner B lies against the left arm, Figure 20. It should appear as though you are making slight adjustments to the position of the handkerchief. Announce that you will make an amazing production. Snap the right fingers. Then quickly bring the left first finger to a vertical position under the handkerchief, Figure 21.

Since the handkerchief is opaque, the audience doesn't know what object you have produced. Pause for a second to let the audience's interest focus on the left hand, then lift up the forward corner of the handkerchief (corner C) with the right hand and bring it back onto the left arm, Figure 22, to reveal that you have produced your first finger.

Wiggle the first finger as you say, "A moving finger. As you know, the moving finger writes." Pause here, then add, "And this is what it writes with."

As you speak, grasp the canter of the handkerchief and the pencil with the right hand, Figure 23, and adjust the position so that the pencil is now firmly grasped by the left middle finger.

Then lift off the upper layer of the handkerchief with the right hand to reveal the pencil, Figure 24. The handkerchief can now be used for a trick like "General Rise" (No. 21) where the pencil is made to penetrate the hankerchief magically.

3. A Glass of Helium

The magician explains that he has a glass of helium that is covered so the lighter-than-air gas does not evaporate. A pencil or pen is pushed down into the center of the glass, Figure 25. Instantly the pen shoots several feet in the air, Figure 26. Similarly, other objects, such as coins, rings, pingpong balls and match packets, become airborne after being immersed in helium.

METHOD: This trick was devised by the author. The secret is that a rubber band is placed around the glass beforehand, Figure 27. The glass is then covered with an opaque handkerchief.

To present the trick, pick up the handkerchief-covered glass with the left hand. Place the right hand under the handkerchief and grasp the glass. The left hand pushes a pen down into the center of the handkerchief, Figure 25, so that the end of the pen rests on the rubber band. This has the effect of pushing the rubber band downward. When the left hand releases the pen, the pen will shoot upward as shown in Figure 26.

Straighten the handkerchief so it lies smoothly over the top of the glass. Pick up another small object, such as a 6" ruler. Push it down into the center of the handkerchief, but do not engage the rubber band. Release the ruler. Nothing happens. Remove the ruler. Shake the glass as if to stir up the helium. Then push the ruler down into the glass so it engages the rubber band. Release the ruler and it will jump into the air.

To finish so the apparatus can be examined, curl the right third and fourth fingers inward, Figure 28, so they touch the portion of the rubber band at the base of the glass. Force the rubber band back so it slides off the bottom of the glass. It is held in place by the right thumb, Figure 29. Gently ease the thumb back so the rubber band will jump up to the top of the glass, where there it can be picked off by the left thumb and first finger, Figure 30, as the handkerchief is whisked away from the glass. Turn the glass upside down and shake it, remarking that the helium has vanished.

The trick can end on an unexpected note. Get a bright red handkerchief, fold it in half and roll it into a cylinder. Drop it into the glass as shown in Figure 31. It should just fill the inside of the glass to a point about ½" from the top. At a distance it will look as if the glass is filled with a liquid.

With the red silk in place, prepare the glass as shown in Figure 27. Perform the routine as written above, using a white opaque handkerchief to cover the glass. When you remove the white handkerchief, it appears as though you have a glass of liquid. Say, "It looks like tomato juice, but the helium has evaporated, leaving me with just this."

Slowly draw the red silk out of the glass. From the audience view it will appear as if a glass of red liquid has been transformed into a red silk handkerchief.

4. The Holdup

The story is told of the time the magician was walking home late one night when he was accosted by a thief who demanded his valuables. The magician had no money or credit cards, but did have a gold pen and pencil that had been in the family for years.

The thief took the pen and pencil, put them into a cloth bag and disappeared into the night. The magician reenacts the theft by dropping a pen and pencil into an impromptu handkerchief bag.

"When the thief got several blocks away, he stopped to examine his ill-gotten gains. He was surprised to discover that he had gotten nothing." The magician shakes open the handkerchief to show it empty. The pen and pencil are then produced from a paper bag.

METHOD: Place an 18" handkerchief flat on the table, Figure 32. Fold the bottom up to the top, Figure 33. Then fold the right half over onto the left, Figure 34, to form an impromptu handkerchief bag.

Grasp the bag by the upper corners with the left hand, Figure 35. A pen is placed into the compartment nearest the performer's body, Figure 35. The audience does not know that this compartment of the bag is open at the left. It is thus an easy matter to slip the pen into the left jacket sleeve, as indicated in Figure 36.

Although the secret removal of the pen is well covered by the handkerchief bag, you can create more cover by making sure the back of the right hand is kept toward the audience. A top view showing the correct position of the hands is given in Figure 37. When practicing the handling in front of a mirror, try it first facing front, then facing slightly left and slightly right. Note which position creates the most cover and stand that way when performing the trick for your audience.

After the pen has been secretly placed in the sleeve, repeat the above handling with a pencil, openly placing it into the handkerchief bag but secretly feeding it into the left jacket sleeve. Grasp the handkerchief bag at the top with the right hand. Then shake it out to show that the pen and pencil have vanished.

There are many ways to produce the pen and pencil again. One method is to have an open paper bag on the table. In the bottom of the bag is a folded napkin or towel that acts as a cushion. Lower the left hand into the bag, allowing the pen and pencil to slide out of the sleeve, Figure 37-A. They will fall noiselessly to the bottom of the bag.

Pretend to search for the pen and pencil with the left hand, remove the left hand, act puzzled, then reach into the bag with the right hand and remove the pen and pencil.

5. Mystery Ring

The ends of a shoelace or piece of string are knotted together. The string is placed under a handkerchief. The magician borrows a ring or plastic bracelet. He causes the ring to become linked onto the string, Figure 38. When the ends of the string are pulled, the ring comes off the string.

There are no gimmicks. This is the author's adaptation of a principle developed by Jack Miller and Peter Warlock.

METHOD: Use a 40" shoelace or piece of string. Knot the ends. Place the string in your pocket until ready to perform the routine. Also required is an opaque 18" handkerchief. A linen table napkin can also be used.

Remove the string from the pocket. Hold it as shown in Figure 39. Borrow a finger ring or plastic bracelet. Display the ring as shown in Figure 39.

Place the ring on the table. Then pick up the handkerchief and use it to cover the string as the string is placed on the table. Let the ends of the string protrude from the left side of the handkerchief as in Figure 38.

Place the ring under the handkerchief. When it is out of sight, slide it over the string to about the center, Figure 40. In Figure 40 the handkerchief is shown by dotted lines.

Bring the center of the string down, Figure 41. Place the left first finger at point A and the left thumb at point B in Figure 41. Draw or pinch this portion of the string together, Figure 42. Note in Figure 42 that the left second, third and fourth fingers touch the upper strand of string. This is to keep the strand stationary for the next move.

Place the right first finger at point C and the right thumb at point D, as shown in Figure 42. The right hand then moves the string as indicated in Figure 43.

Remove the hands from under the handkerchief. Then draw back the handkerchief to reveal that the ring is apparently linked onto the string, Figure 38. An exposed view is given in Figure 44.

At this point you can strengthen the illusion by pushing the ring forward with the left hand, Figure 45. The back of the left hand conceals the true situation from audience view. Keep the left hand in place as the left thumb and first finger grasp the handkerchief, Figure 46, and draw the handkerchief over the ring so the ring is completely covered. Grasp the ends of the string and slowly draw the string out, Figure 47.

The ring has somehow come free of the string. All that remains is to lift the handkerchief and return the ring to its owner.

6. No Pockets

Slydini invented a sight gag that produces an amusing visual illusion. The only requirement is that the magician must be wearing a shirt or jacket that has no pockets. Needing a handkerchief for a trick, the magician looks about, then pats the nonexistent pocket and proceeds to remove a handkerchief from it. He performs the trick, then returns the handkerchief to the nonexistent pocket.

There is no patter. It is purely an interlude. Some in the audience will catch it and wonder if they can believe what they saw. No attention is called to it, and the gag is over in a second.

METHOD: Use a handkerchief that will fit comfortably in the hand. A 12" silk handkerchief might be best to practice with. You are seated at a table with the handkerchief in the right trouser pocket.

While talking with others at the table, reach into the pocket, gather the handkerchief in a loose fist, remove it and place in on the lap. Do not call attention to this. Make it appear as if you are searching in the pocket for loose change or some other object.


Excerpted from SELF-WORKING HANDKERCHIEF MAGIC by Karl Fulves, Joseph K. Schmidt. Copyright © 1988 Karl Fulves. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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