Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Quirkology vanishes Houdini's elephant

Here's something fun from Richard Wiseman's Quirkology blog. I'm not sure how to describe it, so I'll leave it to them to do so below.

We have teamed up with Magic Magazine and Water Closet Press to create a vanishing elephant! Simply download the PDF here, cut out the four pieces, and arrange them so that Jennie the elephant is in the middle.

Then read through each of the pieces, turning each of them through 180 degrees as you go. You will discover the story of Houdini’s vanishing elephant. At the end Jennie will have vanished! Not only that, but if you drawn a rectangle around the original configuration, you will see that the pieces still fit into the rectangle even when Jennie has vanished!

We hope you enjoy turning back time and making Houdini’s elephant vanish again and again!

Download Quirkology's free vanishing elephant PDF HERE.



  1. As I read this, I am watching Orson Welles on The Dick Cavett Show, talking about HH, first comparing him to Edward G. Robinson, in terms of on-stage pugnaciousness ("he was a rough diamond"), then offering this assessment of the vanishing elephant. (And please remember that, as a raconteur, Welles had few equals, but everything he says should be taken with a grain of salt as large as he.)

    After praising his unparalleled skills as a showman, he says "He was also a terrible illusionist, because in the Hippodrome, he used to the do the famous 'Vanishing Elephant.' 'Before your very eyes ...!' (Because he was a terrible illusionist). And there were two men, who pushed out a big box, and then they brought out a baby elephant, and put him in the box, and twenty men pushed the supposedly-empty box off the stage, which showed a certain carelessness in the mise en scene, it seemed to me."

    1. Well, Orson Welles was only 3 when HH was doing the vanishing elephant, so he has quite a good memory (but he was a genius).

      The tales of multiple men pushing the cabinet off stage is hogwash, according to Pat Culliton who wrote a study of the vanish elephant. The curtain closed on it.

    2. As I should have said: "Never let the facts stand in the way of a good story."

    3. Haha. But I do love hearing Orson tell a story. He also tells the Houdini ringing the bells of the Kremlin story.

  2. I've cut up and tried to reassemble the Jennie PDF and still don't get it.

    1. Assemble the pieces so that there's a picture of Jenny the elephant in the center. Pick up the top left piece and read what Richard says. Rotate the piece 180 degrees and read the rest of the text. Now lay down the still inverted piece in the top left position. Then do the same with the top right piece, the bottom left and finally the bottom right. The four pieces will be reassembled and in the center where there used to be a picture of Jenny is now a square hole.

      Copy and paste this link to see a series of photos

    2. Ha! Thanks for the pics. That's clever. :)

  3. Oohhhh . . . Thanks for that. Part of the problem is that my printed page has a thick white border which obscures the edges.


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