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Impromptu Tricks

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These tricks look impromptu. They are called "close-up" tricks, because they are good for small groups. They will all seem to be done on the spur of the moment, without active beforehand preparation. You might also call them "pocket tricks" because the items you will use for them can all be carried in your pocket. These tricks are good when a group of friends are sitting around and someone says, "Show us a trick."


You rub the end of a wooden toothpick on your sleeve, and hold it close to some small bits of paper on the table. The paper will fly away from the toothpick as if it were magnetized.

Put a few small scraps of paper on the table. Rub the toothpick on your sleeve. Bring the toothpick slowly towards the paper. As you do this, blow gently through your mouth towards the paper. This is what makes the paper move. No one must see you blow, of course. Anyone else who tries to do this trick won't be able to "magnetize" the toothpick. Instead of a toothpick, you could use a pencil.


When you bring one toothpick close to another one, one of them will fly up into the air.

Place one of the toothpicks on the edge of the table, so that part of it sticks out over the edge. Rub the other toothpick on your sleeve and bring it up under the tooth pick on the table. The one on the table will jump into the air as you barely touch its end. In doing this, you must get the nail of your second finger under the end of the toothpick in your hand and give it a slight "flick" as you touch the ends of the toothpicks together.


You place a rubber band around your first and second fingers and it will jump to your third and fourth fingers. Let everyone see that the rubber band is really around your first two fingers. Pull at the band with the thumb and forefinger of your other hand. Pull first from the front and then from the back. On the third pull, from the front, before you let the band snap back, close your hand so that all four fingers are inside the band. From the front it will look as if it were only around the first two fingers. Now open your hand and the band will be snapped very quickly around your third and fourth fingers, leaving your first two fingers free.

When doing this trick, use a fairly large rubber band, one that is loose on your fingers. It will be easier for you to slip all your fingers into it.


Get a spectator to link two safety pins together. The trick is to separate them by pulling them apart without opening either one.

Take the pins from the spectator, and hold one pin in your left hand with your thumb and forefinger, by the small end, with the opening of the pin facing upward. Turn the other pin around the end so it hangs from the upper bar of the left hand pin, small end at the top, both sides over the lower bar, and the left side over the upper bar. The pins should form an X.

With the pins in this position, hold them tightly and pull your hands apart quickly. The pin moving to the right will slip through the catch of the other pin without forcing it to spring open.

A large blanket pin is the best size to use.


You hold a pencil between your fingers and it bends as if it were made of rubber.

Hold an ordinary lead pencil with the thumb and forefinger of your right hand, about a third of the distance from the end. Hold it horizontally with the longer part of the pencil pointing towards the left. Hold it very loosely and move your hand up and down in short, quick strokes, letting it move somewhat like a seesaw. The pencil will seem flexible enough to be bending in your fingers.


Take a safety pin and pin it through the edge of a handkerchief. Get two spectators to hold up the handkerchief. If you know the secret, you can pull the pin back and forth along the handkerchief without damaging it.


Get two spectators to hold up a handkerchief. Take the safety pin and pin it through the handkerchief near the edge. The small end of the pin should be on the top edge of the handkerchief, with the head of the pin above it. The open side of the pin should be to the right, and the solid side to the left, completely over the edge.

Take hold of the pin by the small end and move it almost parallel to the upper edge of the handkerchief.

Pull the pin quickly, but steadily to the right. The pin will seem to be running through the material but you will really be folding the material over through the catch of the pin. It will sound as if the handkerchief were being ripped. When you stop moving the pin, it will still be through the handkerchief, but the cloth will be undamaged. Be sure to always use a heavy handkerchief. Practice with scraps of cloth until you get the feel of the trick.


You apparently pull a button off a spectator's coat or vest, and cause it to sew itself back on.

Place three buttons which would match a man's coat vest in your left hand coat pocket. A black, brown, and gray button will do.

Find a spectator whose coat buttons match one of those you have in your pocket. (Vest buttons are easier to handle, but sometimes it is difficult to find a man with a vest.)

Ask him to step forward, and with the correct color button in your left hand, unbutton his coat. Place your right hand under the cloth of the coat, and your left thumb over the lower half of his coat button. Get the loose button, hidden from view, under your left thumb. Pull at the man's button with your right hand a few times covering the button for an instant. With your fingers under the coat, slide your left thumb upward, causing the loose button to come into view and hiding his button.

With your right hand, you apparently pull off his button-actually it is the loose one-and hold it up for him to see. Before he realizes what has happened, fingerpalm (page 9) the button in your right hand. Wave your right hand at his coat, and moving your left thumb off of his button, show that it has restored itself. Drop the extra button into your right-hand coat pocket.


A weight on the end of a string, held by a spectator, swings back and forth in answer to the questions addressed to it.

Use a spool, a light fishing sinker, a rubber ball, or even a stone. Tie or tack a 12-inch length of string to the weight. On the other end of the string, tie a ring about 1?2 inches in diameter, or tie a loop of the same size in the end of the string.

Hand this "Swami" to a spectator, and have him place his right forefinger in the loop and hang the weight in front of him. Tell him to keep his finger extended, as if pointing, and to hold it very still. You are going to ask him some questions. He is not to answer, but Swami will, by causing the weight to swing to and fro for a "yes" answer, and in a circle for a "no" answer.

Ask him several simple questions that can be answered with a yes or no. No matter how hard he tries to keep his hand still, the weight will move and answer his question.

Why does it work? I don't know, but it does! Try it!


You roll a five dollar and a one dollar bill around a pencil and make them change places.

Borrow a five dollar bill and lay it face-up, flat on the table. Borrow a one dollar bill and lay it face-up on top of the five. Call attention to the fact that the one dollar bill is on top of the five.

Now lay a pencil across the narrow end of both bills, and start rolling the pencil with the bills around it. When you come to the end of the bills the five will "flop over." Stop rolling at this point and begin rolling the pencil backwards, or towards you. The one dollar bill will be rolled under the pencil. When you have finished unrolling the bills, the five dollar bill will be on top of the one dollar bill.


Run a threaded needle through a drinking straw. The ends of the thread should be held by two spectators. Cut the straw in two with a pair of scissors and the thread will not be harmed.

Before you start, make a slit about 1'2 inches long in the center of the straw, lengthwise, with a razor blade. Hold the straw, and have a spectator push the needle through it, pulling the thread through the straw. Have each end of the thread held by spectators. Bend the ends of the straw slightly downwards above the slit which must face towards the floor. This pulls the straw away from the thread. The thread will be underneath the straw. Insert your scissors between the straw and thread, scissors above the thread. Cut through the straw, and you will appear to be cutting the thread as well. Separate the pieces of straw, and let them hang on the thread showing that the thread is unharmed.


You borrow a dollar bill from someone in the audience, then throw it to another spectator. Without looking at the bill you are able to tell its serial number!

Memorize the serial number of a dollar bill and crumple it up into a ball. Place it in your right-hand coat pocket.

Ask someone to lend you a dollar. Tell him to crumple the bill into a small ball, so that he can toss it to you. As you are talking to him, place your right hand in your pocket and get the bill you have hidden. Hold it in the crotch of your thumb on the palm side of your hand.

Catch the dollar bill from someone in the audience in bath hands, and get it into your left hand in the fingerpalm position (page 9). Bring the bill you had in your right hand into view and look toward the opposite side of the audience from which the bill was thrown. Toss it to someone there and ask him to unfold the bill and look at the serial number. Meanwhile put the dollar bill from your left hand-the one that was thrown to you -into your pocket.

Appear to concentrate deeply and call off the serial number you memorized very slowly and with much effort. Have the spectator who holds the bill verify the number. It looks as if you have read the number of the borrowed bill. Ask the person in the audience who loaned you the bill to raise his hand. Look at him, while pointing towards the spectator who holds the bill, and say, "The gentleman over there owes you a dollar!" This gets a laugh. Have the bill returned to the rightful owner.


You wrap a toothpick in a handkerchief and get a spectator to break it. When you unwrap the handkerchief, the toothpick falls out unharmed.

Beforehand, take a handkerchief with a fairly wide hem and force a wooden toothpick into the hem where it won't show.

Show another toothpick to the audience and place it in the center of the handkerchief. Wrap it up very carefully, and ask a spectator to feel it through the hand kerchief. What he feels is the toothpick in the hem, because you have folded that corner of the handkerchief up under its center. Be sure not to let the loose toothpick fall out.

Ask the spectator to break it in two. (He, of course, breaks the one in the hem.) The audience can hear it snap. After making several passes over the handkerchief, flick it open and let the real toothpick drop out unharmed.


You place a thimble on your right forefinger and then pretend to throw the thimble up in the air, and it will vanish.

Practice this move, because it is the basis of all thimble tricks. Place the thimble on your right forefinger. Bend down your finger, so the thimble is gripped in the fork of the thumb and forefinger. It is left there, and you extend your finger, holding all of your fingers apart. Your hand will appear empty. The thimble is held the same way that you held the dollar bill in the "What Dollar?" trick (page 70).

Now bend your forefinger down again and pick up the thimble on it. If these motions are done quickly, and your hand is kept in motion, the thimble will appear to vanish and reappear right before the eyes of your audience.

To do the "Throw-Vanish" trick, start with the thimble on your right forefinger, the back of your hand towards the audience. Make a throwing motion upward. The eyes of the audience, as well as yours, follow the imaginary flight of the thimble. As you make the motion, the thimble is quickly "thumb-palmed," as described above. The thimble has vanished. You may reproduce it from anywhere you wish, by quickly reaching behind your left elbow, under the table, or from anywhere you desire.


Another method to vanish the thimble is to appear to take the thimble from your right finger with the left hand.

Bring your left hand over the extended right fingers. It will cover your right fingers for a moment. While they are covered, you quickly thumb-palm the thimble in your right hand, and wrap your left hand around your right forefinger as if to pull off the thimble. Your right hand will appear to be empty. Open your left hand and show that the thimble has vanished. Produce it from wherever you desire.


You place a thimble on your forefinger, then place a borrowed handkerchief over it, and the thimble will seem to go halfway through it. The thimble is then pushed back, and you return the handkerchief, undamaged.

For this trick you will need two thimbles. One must fit loosely over the other. Use plastic thimbles, and cut away the lower part of the larger one, saving only the tip. When you place this thimble tip on top of the smaller one, it will not show, even at a short distance. To begin the trick, place the thimble, with the extra tip on it, in your left fist. Now place your right forefinger into your left fist and slip the thimble on it, but leave the extra tip in your left hand.

Hold your right forefinger upward and place the handkerchief over the top of it. Stroke your right forefinger with your left hand (over the top of the cloth). Get the false tip into the thumb-palm position (page 72) and as you stroke your forefinger bring the false tip over the top of the right forefinger, and force it over the top of the cloth. It will now look as if the thimble has gone halfway through the cloth. Repeat the stroking business, and then remove the false tip in the crotch of your left thumb.

Now, using your left hand, pull the handkerchief off your right hand, and show the thimble on your right forefinger. Now you must appear to pull off the thimble into your left hand, and as you do so, get the false tip back onto the thimble, and show that both hands are empty, except for the thimble.