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Andrew MAYNE - Voodoo Box

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Voodoo Box

Text of Andrew MAYNE - Voodoo Box



  • T h e U o o d o o B o xI've always been a little uncomfortable with effects where you shove swords throughsomebody. It's not the dangerous aspect of the swords that bothered me, rather it'sthe lack of motivation. Why am I putting my faithful, dedicated assistant into harm'sway? Obviously the goal is to entertain my audience, but is there a reason why I'musing swords in a violent way? Wondering about this lead me to thinking about reasonswhy a magician might want to demonstrate the apparent invulnerability of his assistant.This lead me to thinking about alternatives to swords which kind of felt cliched. Ieventually stumbled upon the idea of using umbrellas when I found a bunch for sale ata dollar each. I picked up a couple dozen and began to experiment with them. Oneprevious idea is my effect Brain Damage in my Shock FX video. Another idea is theVoodoo Box described here.

    The purpose of the Voodoo Box is to protect someone from bad luck. The part of badluck is played by 21 umbrellas that are shoved through the box while the magician'sassistant is inside. The assistant is a bit reluctant and the magician a tad overzealous,the end result is that the box works and the assistant is unharmed.

    With a little preparation and practice (perhaps cool background music) you have aneffect that borders on weird. Some people will be convinced that the assistant is nolonger in the box. Others may guess that the assistant is some kind of super humancontortionist. Encourage all of those theories. The more open you seem about howthe effect is performed, the more mysterious it will appear to your audience.

    I spent a total of $30 to make this effect. The umbrellas were not difficult to find at a"Dollar Store". It took some time to find the right way to place the umbrellas, buteventually I found it with the help of Matthew Barber. Poor Matt spent quite a bit of timein the box as I tried to figure out the best way to make the effect work. I thank him forhis patience. It's not an easy job to be a human guinea pig in my laboratory.In the next few pages you'll see a little bit of explanation about the different kinds ofdeception that go into this mystery. What I like most about this effect (other than it onlycost $30 to build) is the fact that even if they guess the assistant is still in the box insome twisted fashion, it looks impossible. In an age when audiences will watch amagician perform a card trick in one moment and hammer a nail into his head the next,the transition from trick to stunt has become seamless and audiences are equallyentertained either way.

    Have fun and please, please do not hurt your helper!


    Andrew Mayne

  • ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^M

    the effectThe magician introduces hishapless assistant and askshim to step inside of a box.He explains that this is noordinary box. This is aVoodoo box used to ward ofill wishes and bad luck.

    The magician reveals a pile ofumbrellas. Each one having beenopened indoors, is guaranteed tobring with it bad luck.

    The reluctant helper kneels down inside of the boxand has it closed over him.

    The magician wastesno time in picking upthe first umbrella toshove into the box.

  • the secretAlthough it looks like umbrellaspenetrate the box from everyconceivable angle, the helper actuallypositions his body between theumbrellas. From the outside it lookslike there's no space, in reality he'sable to fit between them {provided theydon't have a large build!).

    As the magician places eachumbrella into the box theassistant grabs the tip himselfand pulls the umbrella through.The magician does not shovethe umbrella through. Let merepeat that for the sake ofclarity; THE MAGICIAN DOESNOT SHOVE THEUMBRELLAS THROUGH!!!The assistant pulls theumbrellas from within andguides them around hisbody...that's because THEMAGICIAN DOES NOTSHOVE THE UMBRELLASTHROUGH!!!

    Never, ever shove theumbrellas through the box!You could hurt the assistantthis way. It also makes the trickmore difficult, if not impossible.

  • There are four reasons why this trick is deceptive:

    1. With umbrellas penetrating the fourcorners and the middle of each side andtraveling at an angle, it appears that theumbrellas effectively penetrate most of theinner volume of the box.

    2. Although the actual area the umbrella penetrates is not that large{diagram 1), the "blooming effect" of the umbrella fabric makes it appearthat the umbrella penetrates a much larger area (diagram 2)


    diagram 1 diagram 23. The corners and edge of the box are spray-painted darker thanthe rest of the box to make the box appear smaller.

    4. By posturing himself as wide and inflexibleas possible, the assistant makes it appear thathe's not likely to bend around the umbrellasin an agile manner.

  • These are the dimensions for the box and umbrellas I used tocreate this effect. You might want to experiment with a larger orsmaller box depending on the size of your assistant. Theumbrellas are pretty standard in size.

    ACME BOX CO.54 (/m

    20 inches

    23 inches rb^C/YYi

    ^U32 inches


    20 inches

    23 inches 23 inches

    andrew mayne's voodoo box

  • r ~l


    L J

    The slits in the box are "L"shaped with the point beingapproximately 3 inchesaway from the corner.

    Each cut is approximately 3inches in length.

    Each side of the box is thesame.

    'liGcflu- 3 inches

    3 inches


    ROY rn

  • materia.sLarge boxes can be purchasedat office supply stores such asOffice Depot. You can also findthem at storage facilities andplaces that rent movingvehicles.

    21 umbrellas are used in thiseffect. I purchased the onesshown here for $1 each at a"dollar store". Dollar stores likeDollar Tree often have a bunchof them in a rack.

    on^ Acan of flat black spray paintis used to shade the cornersand edges of the box.


    A knife is used to create the slits in the boxfor the umbrellas to pass through.

  • preparationAfter you've found the right-sized boxfor your assistant to fit inside, preparethe box with the slits as shown in thediagrams.

    Use the spray paint to darkenthe edges of the box and thecorners. Use very lightapplications. The purpose isto let the shading look subtle.

    Widen each slit by shoving anumbrella through. This will make theperformance of the effect much easierif the holes are already the right size.Don't worry if you holes get torn. Thebox is supposed to look old and worn.This is a messy looking effect.

    tMake sure that your helper can fit insidethe box with enough room to guide theumbrellas through. If not, try a bigger box.They're cheap. You can afford it.

  • performanceExplain to your audience that you're goingto demonstrate the amazing properties ofyour "Voodoo Box". Invite your helper outon stage to assist. Ask them to step insidethe box. Close the top of the box on them.

    Pick up the first umbrella. Place it through thecenter of the front of the box. Let your helperpull it through. DO NOT SHOVE THEUMBRELLA!!!

    Each umbrella should be placed carefullyso that your assistant can see theumbrella coming and pull it through.

    Each umbrella should be placed intothe box following this pattern. This wayyour assistant will know where toexpect each umbrella to come through.

  • Place each umbrella with care.Let your assistant pull it in asquickly as they feel comfortable.Your skill comes into play inpretending that you're the oneactually forcing the umbrella intothe box.

    Place all the umbrellas throughthe slits. Place a final umbrellathrough the top if your assistantcan manage it.

    Step back from the box for amoment. Pull out all theumbrellas very quickly. Open afew of them as you pull them outto show that the umbrellas arereal.

    Open the box and have your assistantwait for a moment. Once a certainlevel of tension has been reached,have your assistant stand up to hiswell deserved applause.

    Performance note:The whole effect will appear muchfaster and professional if you havesome fast paced music playing inthe background for the entireeffect. An instrumental music loopwould be perfect.

  • Voodoo Box FAQHow much time will it take to make Voodoo Box?You can make it in under 30 minutes (after you get the materials).How expensive is Voodoo Box to make?I made mine for $30 with materials I found at the store. I bought the umbrellas from the dollarstore for a buck each. I've checked with several other dollar stores to make sure they carrycheap umbrellas, they do.

    I have a show next Saturday; will I have enough time to build it and perform it?Build it, yes. Perform it well, maybe. That depends on how good you are at practicing andpreparation. Most of the work is done by your assistant in the box. If they're a quick study andunderstand what's going on, you should be able to get the effect ready with a couple hoursintense practice.

    How many people does Voodoo Box take to perform?Two people. One in the box and one to place the umbrellas in.

    Can Voodoo Box be performed surrounded?Absolutely.

    Does Voodoo Box fold down flat.Very.

    How can an audience be fooled by something so simple?It's a similar concept to the sword basket with a few extra twists. There are several methodsof deception being employed to make the effect work.

    How can an audience be fooled by something so cheap?Some illusions are really expensive, some aren't. This is one of those effects where thematerials lend themselves to being inexpensive. A sub trunk is just a crate, a straitjacket isjust canvas and lots of black art effects are just

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