Bright Side

10 Century-Proven Road Show Tricks Being Revealed


One of the most famous magicians in the world, David Copperfield, once said, "The real secret of magic lies in the performance." In one of his tricks, he makes a train carriage rise above the ground, levitate, and vanish. How does he do that? It turns out that the greater part of any magic trick is thorough preparation, practice, and the art of making the audience see what you want it to see.

Magic is equally enthralling for people of all ages. Good tricks fascinate us and no matter how many times we watch them, they keep us on the edge of our seats until the very end. The more professional and breathtaking the trick, the stronger our desire to know what lies behind it.

Bright Side gathered a list of a few secrets behind some of the most well-known magic tricks. With our simple explanations, you’ll find out how these tricks are carried out and you can even try to perform some of them on your own!

10. A moving piece of cloth

This trick includes a piece of cloth that moves as if there’s a creature hiding underneath it. The audience is expected to believe that it's a ghost summoned by the magician while he moves his hands above the cloth.

How it’s done: The magician uses a colorful kerchief that hides a piece of thin wire in one of its selvages. One end of the wire is bent a bit and by pressing it the magician makes the wire rise. That’s how the illusion of the moving cloth is created, and the colorful pattern of the kerchief helps to distract the audience's attention from the details.

9. Needle through the balloon

A knitting needle is pushed through a balloon without popping it. In fact, this trick is quite easy to perform and you can give it a try at home.

How it’s done: Thoroughly cover the needle in oil. The places where you pierce the balloon are crucial. Push the needle through the "strong" points of the balloon where the layer of latex is thicker. These areas are at the top and at the neck of the balloon.

Make sure you push the needle through these 2 points and the balloon will not pop. You can use a knitting needle, a long needle with a thread, or even a pencil for this trick.

8. Cut and restore

The magician cuts the rope in 2, then folds the halves in one hand, makes some mysterious movements with the other hand, and then shows us an intact rope with no cuts.

How it’s done: Here is one more trick that you can try to perform yourself. The point is that what the magician cuts is not actually the original rope, but a small piece of an identical rope that is folded in the same hand that holds the rope. The magician hides the cut piece and shows us the original intact rope.

7. Solving a mathematical problem with a piece of magic chalk

At the beginning of this trick, spectators see 2 small chalkboards. The magician writes a mathematical problem on one of the boards. The solution space is left blank. Then, the 2 boards are placed face-to-face with a piece of chalk between them.

The magician shakes the boards, then opens the boards and the spectators see the solution of the problem written on the board right where it is supposed to be.

How it’s done: One of the boards has a secret panel that fits right within the frame of the board and has a mathematical problem and the solution written on it. It is placed facedown within the frame so that the numbers cannot be seen. When the magician shakes the boards and then opens them, what the spectators see is this secret panel that falls faceup onto the neighboring chalkboard.

6. Pushing a coin through glass

The magician pushes a coin through a glass table top.

How it’s done: The magician uses 2 identical steel coins for this trick. One of the coins is placed on the glass while the other one stays hidden in the magician’s palm. An essential accessory of this trick is a ring with a magnet attached to it that stays hidden beneath the magician's fingers.

The magician holds the palm with the hidden coin under the glass and covers it with the hand with the ring that is over the glass so that the coin on the palm is attracted by the magnet through the glass. The magician guides the attracted coin right to the place where the first coin is. When the top hand is lifted, the coin that was below the glass falls onto the other hand’s palm; at the same time, the coin that was originally placed on the table is pulled onto the magnet on the ring. This is how the melting-through-glass effect is created.

5. Pulling scarf through neck

The scarf is tied around the magician’s neck. The magician pulls it away with force, the scarf rests in the magician’s hands, creating the effect of being pulled right through the neck.

How it’s done: Here’s another trick that’s pretty easy to recreate at home. All you need is a long scarf or a rope. Tie the scarf following the instructions in the photo above. You need to create 2 loose loops and pull one through the other.

This knot deceives the spectator and creates the illusion of a tightly tied scarf around your neck. Swiftly pull the scarf away and the loops will release to create the effect of the scarf passing right through your neck.

4. Surviving the cut

The magician cuts the arm with a hunting knife, plunging the blade through the skin and muscles. The trick looks really cruel and dangerous. However, at the end of the trick, the magician’s arm is safe and sound and has no cuts.

How it’s done: The secret of the trick is the knife. It has a sliding blade with a semicircular notch in it. When the notch surrounds the arm, it creates the effect of the blade being pulled right through the muscles.

3. Knife throwing

In one of the scariest tricks, the magician throws knives at an assistant who is tied to a big target. Luckily, the assistant is safe and sound at the end of the trick!

How it’s done: The magician never throws the knives, but only aims at a target and then hides the knives in a secret pocket. Another assistant hides behind the target and holds a special device that shoots the knives from the back of the target. The assistant releases the devices right at the moment when the magician "throws" the knife and it creates the illusion that the thrown knife gets stuck in the target right beside the assistant.

2. Catching bullet with teeth

The magician loads a rifle with gunpowder and a bullet. Then the rifle is given to the assistant who then shoots at the magician standing within shooting distance. After the shot, the amazed audience can see the magician holding the bullet with his teeth.

How it’s done: The rifle used for this trick is not real. The shooting effect is just recreated with the help of a special mechanism hidden inside the gun. When loading the bullet into the barrel, the magician uses a special plunger with a tiny magnet at the end. The magnet attracts the bullet and the magician hides it until the end of the trick when the bullet appears right between his teeth.

To create a more dramatic effect, there’s sometimes a sheet of glass placed between the assistant and the magician. At the moment of shooting, the glass is broken with the help of a special mechanism and it creates the illusion of a real shot. Marking the bullet with some special sign before loading the gun and demonstrating the same marked bullet in the end adds to the show and completely baffles the audience.

1. The disappearance of the Orient Express carriage

In one of his most fascinating tricks, David Copperfield makes a carriage of the Orient Express disappear in front of a crowd of spectators. The carriage is covered with cloth and lifted above the ground. When Copperfield pulls the cloth away, there is no carriage underneath.

How it’s done: One of the theories has it that there is a special rigid frame-like construction built around the carriage repeating its outlines. After the carriage is covered with the cloth, it is pulled away and the cloth rests around the frame. When the spectators see how the carriage is lifted, what they actually see is the frame covered with the cloth.

The purpose of powerful spotlights isn't just to create a magical atmosphere – their main function is to distract the spectators’ attention and to keep them concentrated on the frame with the cloth while the train carriage gets pulled away.

As you can see now, many popular tricks can be easily explained and quite often swift hands, artistic impression, visual effects, and the magician’s personal charm are the things that really baffle our minds.

Which of the revelations surprised you the most? Would you like to try any of the tricks? Feel free to share your impressions in the comments!

Illustrated by Ekaterina Gapanovich for Bright Side