The Vanishing cane is a familiar prop to magicians, but very few use it in the way this article describes. In fact, since Jay Marshall passed away in 2005, I have not seen anyone do this particular trick.
The trick is very strong. I have witnessed audience members rise to their feet to try to see if the cane might have been dropped out on the floor. They are stunned by the disappearance.
A large cane is rolled into a sheet of newspaper. When the newspaper is unrolled the cane has disappeared.
- A vanishing cane. Either plastic or metal will work.
- A prepared sheet of newspaper. Start with a full size sheet of newspaper. It would actually be four pages if you go by page number count. To this full size sheet of newspaper you must attach another quarter sheet. To do this; take another full size sheet of newspaper and divide it into fourths vertically. Tear or cut off one fourth. Take this strip of paper and glue or tape it to the end of the other full size sheet (so the text lines up with the direction of the text on the other sheet). By doing this you end up with something that still looks like a regular sheet of newspaper, but it is actually one fourth wider than normal.
Note: In the past it was not necessary to make the sheet of newspaper bigger. A standard size sheet of newspaper would work fine. The problem is that in recent years the size of the average newspaper has been reduced. Now they are slightly too small for doing the trick. So nowadays we must make the paper bigger (or find a paper still printed on the old style broad sheet).
This particular handling of the vanish of a cane in newspaper is Jay Marshall’s method. Jay has now passed away. During his career this trick was a standard in his act. He did it many times and understand the nuances of presentation that made it work just right. Pay attention to every detail. As the saying does, “The genius is in the details.” It is the details of handling that make this effect extra special.
- Show the sheet of newspaper and then show the cane, indicating that the cane is solid.
- Wrap the cane in the newspaper by taking a corner of the paper and putting it at about the middle of the cane. You will need to experiment with this to figure out where to start the newspaper so it rolls into a cylinder long enough to completely cover the cane. When rolling the newspaper the corner of the paper must start in back of the cane (on the performer’s side of the cane). This means the newspaper hangs down in sort of a diamond shape with one corner approximately at the center of the cane.
- Hold the paper against the cane and roll it in a forward motion so the paper wraps around the cane. You end up with a cylinder of newspaper that is basically cane shaped and surrounding the cane.
- The roll of paper around the cane will be fairly tight. Too tight for the trick to work properly so you must loosen it up. Do this by giving the roll of paper a twist in the reverse direction from which it was rolled. The roll will retain its shape, but now not be as tight on the cane. This is important. If the roll of paper is too tight the cane will not collapse as it should.
- Since the roll has been loosened up a bit, it is easy to slide the cane out of the larger end of the roll (the end that was formed around the cap end of the cane). Slide the cane about half way out of the roll of paper to show the audience that it is a long solid cane.
- Slide the cane back into the newspaper. As you slide the cane back into the paper, slip the cap off. This will release the cane and cause it to collapse into your right hand. If you keep the other end of the newspaper (the end where the point of the cane would have been) elevated, the pieces of the cane will slide out of the paper and into your hand.
Note: This is the opposite of how the cane is usually used. Normally it collapses into the hand the holds the pointed end of the cane. In this trick the pieces of the cane come to the hand at the capped end.
There is no need to be in a hurry in this. The beauty of this method is the newspaper completely hides the vanish of the cane. It doesn’t have to happen fast. Let it collapse and keep the newspaper titled enough that the pieces slide into your hand.
- Do not pull your hand away from the paper right away. Be relaxed about this. The audience just saw you slide the cane back into the newspaper cylinder. They do not know that anything has happened so they are not looking for anything. Once the pieces are in your hand keep the hand exactly where it is at the end of the newspaper tube.
- With your other hand, grasp the paper tube in the middle and turn it in a half circle, in the process placing it over the hand that has the cane pieces. This means the hand with the cane pieces stays still. The other hand takes the newspaper tube and places it into that hand, down over the cane pieces. This keeps everything hidden.
- This is important. If you do not do this you will never get the best impact out of the trick. Take the hand that does not hold the newspaper tube and with it grasp the center of the paper again. Actually, grasp the corner of the newspaper that is there (this would be the last portion of the paper that was rolled up when making the tube). Slightly lift the roll of paper up and off of the hand holding the cane pieces. The hand with the cane pieces has stayed in the same position the entire time. Snap the newspaper tube so it unrolls. This creates immediate cover in front of the hand holding the cane pieces. This allows you to reposition the pieces so you can palm them better or to just go ahead and drop them into a coat pocket while the newspaper keeps such an action out of view. That is how Jay Marshall always did it. When the paper unrolled he just dropped the cane pieces into a pocket!
That is how it is done. The sheet of newspaper is shown empty. The cane has completely disappeared.
It is worth the effort to learn how to do this. The effect is spectacular. It makes for a very nice piece of magic to use in any kind of stand up show.
My preference is to refer to the cane as a “walking stick.”
With cane in hand, address the audience.
“Did you hear the news about a magician who found a fancy walking stick.”
Show the cane.
“He was impressed. It was sturdy and it looked good. He decided he should preserve this walking stick by wrapping it in newspaper.”
Start wrapping the cane.
“Like I said, this became news. Why?”
Continue to wrap the cane. Show it to be in the newspaper tube, then prepare to demonstrate the vanish.
“It became news because, in spite of the fact that he wrapped up his walking stick so carefully, it completely disappeared!”
Open the paper and reveal the vanish.
“According to the news I heard, when this happened, the people who saw it assumed it was another one of his illusions, so they clapped their hands and cheered!”