It would be impossible to print in one volume the thousand and one tricks that are occasionally performed. The larger proportion of such tricks have but a temporary existence, performed to-day and forgotten to-morrow. The ingenuity of the maker of new tricks is endless, but his apparent genious generally amounts to nothing more than the changing or blending of one or two well-known tricks and the production of an inferior trick.
During the time that I was exhibiting these acts my methods of preparing for and exhibiting my tricks was as follows:—As soon as I knew where I was to play I would send my advance man to the city or town to make arrangements. If there was to be an escape from a packing case he would go to the best-known store and have a case made and sent to the theatre where the performance was to be given. He paid for the case and made arrangements with the firm to have one or two men, usually shippers, come on the stage to fasten the performer in the case. Admission tickets were given to them. The firm making the case becomes the challenger, and receives a great deal of advertising from it.
On my arrival I would prepare all the apparatus myself, never letting my helpers know how the tricks were done. When the box arrived it would be placed outside of the theatre with a sign on it giving the name and address of the firm making it, and the date when the performance was to take place.
At the time of the performance an invitation is always given for any of the audience who wish, to come on the stage and investigate the apparatus, etc., and to satisfy themselves that everything is being done right. This committee is received by my assistant, in uniform, who shows them to the chairs on the stage while I am making my escape inside of the cabinet. When I am ready for the cabinet to be removed, after the escape, this assistant blows a whistle as a signal for the stage hands to raise the cabinet, which is accomplished by means of a rope dropped over the centre of the stage.
During my stay in a city or town I change my tricks every day, giving new ones at each performance.
In the following pages you will find full descriptions showing just how these tricks are worked; and you must remember that, while they seem very simple and easy after you have read the explanations, yet a great deal of time and thought have been required to work out these apparently simple tricks, and also that they must be carried out with accuracy and smoothness, as any hitch in the performance would look bad and bring suspicion on the performer. He must not overlook any detail or forget any part of his apparatus. All this requires considerable experience, and careful study of the work.
There will be found in the back of this book a few selections from the numerous press clippings that have appeared in newspapers and elsewhere in reference to my work.