Self-Working Rope Magic: 70 Foolproof Tricks


Seventy of the best rope tricks ever devised using overhand knots, slip knots and square knots. Dissolve knots, cut and restore ropes, make ropes magically shrink or grow longer, rope escape tricks, flourish knots. 423 illustrations and clear, easy-to-follow directions make performing these startling feats foolproof.

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Self-Working Rope Magic: 70 Foolproof Tricks

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Seventy of the best rope tricks ever devised using overhand knots, slip knots and square knots. Dissolve knots, cut and restore ropes, make ropes magically shrink or grow longer, rope escape tricks, flourish knots. 423 illustrations and clear, easy-to-follow directions make performing these startling feats foolproof.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486265414
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 12/1/1990
  • Series: Dover Magic Books Series
  • Pages: 176
  • Sales rank: 632,889
  • Product dimensions: 5.42 (w) x 8.51 (h) x 0.37 (d)

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Self-Working Rope Magic

70 Foolproof Tricks

By Karl Fulves, Joseph K. Schmidt

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1990 Karl Fulves
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-15664-4


The Preliminaries

Use soft, untreated white cotton clothesline for the tricks in this book. A supply of inexpensive rope can be found in department and hardware stores. Cut off the length you want. Then remove the core by pulling it from the outer sleeve as shown in Figure 1. Discard the core. When the rope has been cored you will find that it is soft and flexible.

To keep the ends from fraying with use, they can be taped as shown in Figure 2. You can also dip the ends of the rope into a clear adhesive and let them dry. A method favored by some professional magicians is to wind white thread around the ends. A simple alternative is to trim the ends of the rope before using it.

For many of the tricks in this book a rope about 36" long is recommended. Experiment with different lengths. Pick the one you feel comfortable with. If a longer rope is required, a good rule of thumb is to measure off a piece that goes from the outstretched hand to the foot as shown in Figure 3.

When performing knot-tying tricks, you may find that a kink or twist develops in the rope. A quick way to remove the twist is to run the hand over the rope several times as shown in Figure 4.

Sometimes a trick gains in effect if a rope of a color other than white is used. The easiest way to obtain such rope is to purchase it through a magic shop. Sashcord is a good substitute. It can be obtained in specialty shops. Colored ribbon can be substituted for rope in some tricks in this book.

Some of the tricks require rings. Large plastic rings may be found in ring-toss games. Smaller plastic and wooden bracelets are obtainable in department stores. Brass rings up to 3" in diameter are sold in leather-goods shops. Wooden rings in a variety of sizes can be found in shops stocking embroidery goods. If you do not have a ready supply of rings, you can still try out most of the ring tricks in this book with rings cut from cardboard. The flat kind shown in Figure 5 can be cut from cardboard. The kind shown in Figure 6 can be cut from circular cardboard boxes like oatmeal boxes.

Sometimes a rope must be prepared in advance. Typical is the trick in which a rope has been knotted beforehand. The knots must be concealed from audience view when the trick is introduced. The prepared rope can be placed on the table behind some other object. It can also be kept in a briefcase from which apparatus is removed as required in the performance. Still another approach is to keep the rope in the inside pocket as shown in Figure 7. The right hand opens the jacket. The left hand reaches inside and grasps the rope in such a way as to conceal the knot in the closed fingers.

Rope tricks lend themselves to many patter possibilities. Circus clowns will use rope as a belt or suspenders. A piece of rope can be substituted for the wire that connects the phone to the base as shown in Figure 8. Use a toy phone in your act. Mention that a friend taught you a trick over the phone. As you speak, remove the wire (really a piece of rope) and perform a rope trick with it. A piece of rope can also be used to wrap up a box of tricks. Remove the rope, do a trick with it, then do tricks with the other apparatus inside the box.

In some of the tricks in this book the ends of the rope will be labeled with letters of the alphabet. This is to make it clear how the rope is to be handled. You can mark the rope in a similar way so that you have easy visual cues to follow as you learn the handling.

Although all of the tricks in this book use rope, some of them can be performed with no loss of effect if string is substituted. The core removed from the rope in Figure 1 contains several strands of soft, flexible cotton string which may be used in such tricks. The advantage gained is that string takes up even less space than rope. If you carry close-up tricks in the pocket and space is a problem, use string instead of rope.


The Overhand Knot

Each of these next five chapters is devoted to a particular rope knot. Many of these basic techniques and tricks are used by professional magicians in close-up and platform work.

1. The Basic Overhand Knot

The overhand knot is probably the first knot children learn. For that reason, when you perform magic tricks with overhand knots, even young children can appreciate the magical behavior of the overhand knots you tie. More on the subject, such as one-hand knots and dissolving overhand knots, can be found in subsequent chapters.

To form the knot, hold the rope as in Figure 9, an end in each hand. Cross end A over end B. This produces the situation of Figure 10.

Thread end A through the loop in the direction of the arrow in Figure 10. The result is the overhand knot shown in Figure 11. The overhand knot is sometimes called a half hitch or over-and-under knot.

Youngsters are not aware that it is impossible to tie or untie an overhand knot without letting go of the ends. You can set up a simple challenge by tying the overhand knot of Figure 11. Then ask the child to untie the knot while you hold firmly to the ends of the rope. When he gives up, you can cause the knot to vanish by the following method.

2. Slide Off

The magician ties an overhand knot in a piece of rope. By simply passing the hand over the knot he causes it to vanish.

Method: Use a piece of rope about 36" in length. Tie an overhand knot by the method shown in Figures 9-11. As you pull the knot snug, secretly slip the left third finger into the loop, Figure 12. The left hand is closed in a loose fist. The back of the left hand is toward the audience, so the audience cannot see you slip the left third finger into the knot.

Bring the hands to the position shown in Figure 13, the right hand below the left hand. Then pull the rope straight downward with the right hand. As the rope slides through the left hand the knot will be pulled until it dissolves off the end of the rope. This action is concealed because the back of the left hand is toward the audience. From the audience's point of view the knot has simply vanished from the rope.

To finish the trick, when the rope has been pulled completely through the left hand, make a tossing motion with the left hand as if tossing the knot away. Then open the left hand to show it empty. The knot has vanished.

For the stunt to work, do not pull the knot too snug when forming it. If the knot is fairly loose, it will slide smoothly through the left hand.

3. Betcha Knot

The magician demonstrates a simple method of tying a knot in the center of a piece of rope. After he does it several times, he asks the spectator to tie a knot the same way. The spectator is surprised to discover that despite his best efforts he cannot tie a knot in the rope.

Method: The rope can be 18" to 36" in length. A piece of string or a shoelace can be substituted for rope.

The starting position is important. One end is clipped between the left first and second fingers so that the end is toward the palm. The other end is clipped between the right first and second fingers so that the end is away from the palm. The starting position is indicated in Figure 14, but this would give away too much information to the spectator, so the actual grip is concealed in the following way.

The left thumb pushes up on end A. The right thumb rests against the rope near the point where the rope is clipped between the fingers. The position is shown in Figure 15. It appears as if both hands hold the rope the same way. Anyone who tries to duplicate the feat by gripping the rope the same way with each hand will find it nearly impossible to tie a knot.

Bring the hands together. As you do, separate the first and second fingers from the third and fourth fingers of each hand as shown in Figure 16. At the same time move the left thumb out of the way so end A falls as shown in Figure 16.

When the hands are together, clip end A between the right second and third fingers. Simultaneously clip end B between the left second and third fingers as shown in Figure 17.

Move the hands apart and the knot of Figure 18 will form in the rope. Drop the rope on the table. Ask the spectator to duplicate the feat. Even if you demonstrate the method two or three times he should find it impossible to tie a knot in the rope.

4. Triple Knots

Based on a clever trick of Milbourne Christopher's, this is a fine opening trick. As the audience sees it, the magician shows a piece of rope and separates his hands. Three genuine knots instantly appear on the rope.

Method: The handling is the same as the Betcha Knot (No. 3) but there is some preparation. Before you do the trick, tie a knot in the rope near each end, Figure 19. The position depends on the length you use. If you use an 18" piece of rope, the knots should be about 3" from the ends. If you plan to do other rope tricks and require a longer rope, use a 36" length and make the knots 6" from the ends. The knots should not be drawn too snug.

The trick is done as an opening trick. Hold the rope as shown in Figure 20. This grip is the same as in Figure 14 of the Betcha Knot, but the extra knots are concealed in the hands. The backs of the hands are toward the audience.

Form the Betcha Knot as shown in Figures 16-18. The result will be three knots in the rope as shown in Figure 21. The appearance of three knots is surprising and a signal for applause from the audience.

5. Dissolving Double Knot

Two ropes are tied together with a double overhand knot. The spectator pulls the knot as tight as he wishes, yet the ropes immediately separate from one another.

Method: The ropes are about 18" long. For clarity one rope will be shown shaded in the diagrams.

Hold one rope in each hand near the end. Cross the end of the left hand's rope over the right hand's rope, Figure 22. With the aid of the thumbs and first fingers, twist end B around end A so that they are in the position shown in Figure 23. As you do this, remark that you will tie the ropes together securely with a double knot. The twist of Figure 23 appears to be the first knot.

Cross end B over on top of end A. Hold end B in place with the right thumb and first finger. The position is shown in Figure 24. Then bring end A around end B in the direction shown by the arrow in Figure 24. Pull the knot tight as in Figure 25. The spectator can even tug on the knot to tighten it as long as you hold the knot in place with the thumbs and first fingers.

Grasp both ropes at the knot with the right hand and place them in the left hand, Figure 26. Pretend to adjust the upper and lower ends of the ropes with the right hand. You really allow the strands below the knot to unravel.

Grasp the ropes below the knots as shown in Figure 27. Separate the hands with a quick motion. The ropes will magically separate from one another.

6. The Captive Knot

One of the classic tricks with an overhand knot is to tie a knot in the center of a piece of rope, then knot the ends together. The spectator is asked if he can untie the overhand knot without first untying the ends of the rope. When he gives up, the magician performs the feat by an apparently magical means.

The following is an up-to-date approach to this trick.

Method: Use a rope about 36" in length. You are seated at the table across from the spectator. Hold the ends of the rope as shown in Figure 28. Bring the right hand behind the left hand as shown in Figure 29. Then bring the rope across the left palm to the position of Figure 30.

Hold end A firmly between the left first and second fingers. Using the right hand, tie an overhand knot in the rope with end B as shown in Figure 31.

With the rope in the position shown in Figure 31, have the spectator grasp the ends. Slip your hands out of the loops. The spectator ties the ends together with three or four knots. The situation is shown in Figure 32. Ask him if he can untie the overhand knot without untying the ends of the rope.

When he gives up, take the rope from him. Place it below the level of the tabletop. Run the overhand knot up to join the knotted ends of the rope as shown in Figure 33. Tighten the overhand knot so it blends in with the other knots. Then bring the rope up into view. The knot has apparently been untied by magic. Slydini has suggested that after you have brought the overhand knot up to join the other knots, you tie a tangled slip knot in the center of the rope. Then bring the rope up into view. Pull the rope and the knot dissolves. Thus the audience thinks it actually saw you dissolve the overhand knot.

Offer to repeat the trick. Untie the rope. Then form the knot by the method shown in Figures 28-31. But this time, instead of handing the ends of the rope to the spectator, slide the rope off the left wrist and into the lap, Figure 34.

It appears as if you tied a knot in a rope and merely dropped the knotted center of the rope into the lap. In fact, the knot will dissolve as soon as it slides free of the hands, Figure 35. The spectator is unaware of this, since the center of the rope is in the lap and therefore out of his view.

Hand the ends of the rope to the spectator to hold. Keep the center of the rope in the lap. Tangle the center of the rope, then bring it into view. Slowly pull the tangles out to show the knot is gone.

7. Ghost Knot

The magician demonstrates how to tie a knot in a rope while the spectator holds the ends. The spectator then ties a slip knot in the center of the rope. While he holds the ends, the magician magically converts the slip knot to an overhand knot.

The finish is unexpected. While the ends of the rope are in view, the magician causes the center of the rope to become linked to a buttonhole in his jacket!

Method: This ingenious routine was devised by Horace Bennett. Two ropes are used. One rope is switched for the other but the clever angle is that the rope is switched a little at a time and in full view of the audience.

You need a rope about 48" in length and a duplicate rope of the same length. Preparation consists in tying a knot near the center of the duplicate rope. This extra rope is secretly put on the lap at the start of the routine. One way to do this is to have each rope coiled in the inside jacket pocket. Remove both together and place them in the lap. Then bring the unprepared rope into view.

The spectator is seated across from you at the table. He may also be seated at the right. Tie a loose knot in the unprepared rope and have the spectator hold the ends of the rope. Explain that you cannot untie the knot unless the spectator lets go of the ends.

Take the ends from him and untie the knot. Now pretend to tie a knot in the center of the rope again, but in fact tie a false knot. To do this hold the rope as shown in Figure 36. Move the right hand forward and to the left, creating a loop in the rope, Figure 37.

Hold the loop between the left thumb and first finger, Figure 38. Let the right end of the rope fall free in front of the loop. Then thread it through the loop in the direction of the arrow in Figure 38. Display the false knot as shown in Figure 39.

Drop the center of the rope into the lap. Hand the ends of the rope to the spectator and tell him to hold them firmly.

Place the hands below the level of the tabletop. Quickly thread one end of the duplicate rope through your jacket buttonhole, pulling about 6" of rope through.

Now take the center of the other rope and make a jumbled knot of it. Of course this is a fake knot but it should look complicated, as if you tried and apparently failed to untie the knot in the center of the rope by magic.

Bring this false knot up into view and put the center of the rope on the table. Then commence to untie it by pulling out one loop at a time, turning it this way and that, until the knot is completely untied.

Offer to repeat the trick. Again tie the fake knot of Figures 36-39. Drop the center of the rope into the lap. Then take the ends of the rope, tie them and hand them to the spectator.

As you go to the lap to form a complicated fake knot in the center of the rope, pull the end of the duplicate rope a bit further through the buttonhole and tie the ends of the rope together in the same manner as you did the ends of the rope held by the spectator.

Bring the center of the first rope into view, displaying the complicated knot in the center, Figure 40. Untie the knot as described above.

Here the routine changes. Take the knotted ends of the visible rope from the spectator and hand him the center of the rope. Ask him to try to tie a knot in the center of the rope. The patter is to the effect that it is not as easy as it may look.


Excerpted from Self-Working Rope Magic by Karl Fulves, Joseph K. Schmidt. Copyright © 1990 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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Table of Contents

The Preliminaries
The Overhand Knot
1 The Basic Overhand Knot
2 Slide Off
3 Betcha Knot
4 Triple Knots
5 Dissolving Double Knot
6 The Captive Knot
7 Ghost Knot
The Slip Knot
8 Quick Slip Knot
9 Slippery Knot
10 Ringo
11 Name a Number
12 Convertible Knot
13 Soap on a Rope
14 Miller's Sliding Knots
The Square Knot
15 Basic Square Knot
16 The Granny Knot
17 Time in a Knot
18 Half a Square
19 Enough Rope
20 Siberian Rope Release
21 Square-Knot Paradox
Special Effects
22 Pop-Off Knot
23 The Fake Knot
24 Sliding Knot
25 "Here, Spot!"
Flourish Knots
26 Throw Knot
27 One-Hand Knot
28 Self-Taught Ropes
29 One-Hand Figure
30 Fake Unknot
31 The Double Knot
32 Double-Ring Ceremony
Dissolving Knots
33 Not Knot
34 Dissolvo
35 Pull-Away Knot
36 Posi-Negative Knots
37 Pretzel Knot
38 Triplicity
39 The Penrose Knot
Cut-and-Restored Rope
40 Vishnu Rope Mystery
41 Impey's Impromptu
42 Karl Germaine's Method
43 Hindu Turban Mystery
44 Scissorcut
45 Knot at All
46 Victor Rope Trick
The Hunter Knot
47 A Possible Impossibility
48 Fooling the Expert
49 Neale's Knot
50 Double Cross
51 Hunter Killer
Ropes That Think
52 Liar's Ropes
53 Thought Knots
54 Wishing Rings
55 Spirit Knots
56 Séance
57 The Hanging
Miracle Move
58 Miller's Move
59 Hummering I
60 Hummering II
61 Releaso
Psychic Rope Ties
62 Telekinetic Ring
63 Fourth-Dimension Knot
64 Locked in Place
65 Watch the Watch
66 Gysel Spirit Tie
67 Spirit Music
68 The Kellar Tie
69 Six Glasses
70 Adam's Apple
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