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After-Dinner Tricks

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The tricks in this chapter are designed for you to do after dinner, right at the table. All the things you will need are found at the table, or in the pockets of your audience.


You vanish a lump of sugar and cause it to pass right through the table.

Secretly get a lump of paper-wrapped sugar, the kind you find in most restaurants, and carefully unwrap it, so the paper remains intact. Close up the end of the paper so it looks as if it still contained sugar. Place the piece of real sugar in your lap.

Show the paper and handle it as if it were a real lump of sugar. Place this make-believe piece of sugar on the table. Call attention to it. Raise your right hand above the paper, and bring your palm down sharply on the table and flatten the paper. Let your audience see that the sugar is gone. Then reach under the table with your left hand, and get the piece of real sugar out of your lap. Lay it on the table, showing that the sugar has apparently penetrated the table.


You pick up a small butter knife and place specks of paper on its blade. The spots vanish, appear, and jump on and off the knife.

Slightly moisten two small pieces of paper napkin or newspaper. Stick these to one side of the blade of the knife, about an inch apart.

Hold the knife between the thumb and index finger of your right hand. The following is called the "PaddleMove," and although it may sound difficult it is really very easy to do. What you do is to appear to show both sides of the knife while actually you show only one. With the tip of your right thumb on the right edge of the handle, and the tip of your forefinger on the left edge of the handle, the blade of the knife should point to the right as it is held horizontally. Your palm should be facing slightly upward.

You will seem to show the other side of the knife if you turn the knife over so that your palm faces downward. Move the tip of your thumb forward, and the tip of your forefinger backward, turning the knife over between your thumb and forefinger. This turnover is done at the same time you turn your hand over. You must practice this motion.

Show the knife (which really has two spots on only one side) spot-side up and call attention to the fact that it has spots on one side (pretend to turn it over using the method described above) and spots on the other side. Now place your left hand over and around the blade of the knife, spot-side up, and pretend to wipe the spots off. What you really do is to turn the knife over under cover of your hand. Using the same method you can show that both sides are blank. Be sure to show your audience that your left hand is empty. Now place your left hand over the knife again, and show that the spots have come back.

Then remove one of the spots, and show how the spot from the other side vanishes also. You will apparently have only one spot on each side. Now remove the last spot, and by turning the knife over, you can show that the spot on the other side has also vanished. Place the knife on the table, so that anyone who cares to, may examine it.


You cause a salt shaker, covered with a sheet of paper, to penetrate the table.

Place a coin on the table in front of you. Place a salt shaker an top of it. Tell everyone to watch the coin as you are going to cause it to do something very strange. Say that since the shaker is made of glass, the audience can still see through it.

Now take a sheet of paper and bend it around the salt shaker, so that the paper retains the shape of the shaker. Pick up the shaker with the paper around it, and tell everyone to watch the coin. Cover the coin again with the paper-covered shaker, tapping the glass of the shaker against the coin so that it makes a noise.

Lift the shaker once again, calling attention to the coin, and bring the shaker to the edge of the table, and let it fall into your lap. Place the paper (which still looks as if it holds the shaker) over the coin again. Raise your hand above it, and bring your hand down on the paper, crushing it flat. Pick up the paper and apologize, because the coin is still there. Tell your audience that you made a mistake and made the salt shaker go through the table! Reach into your lap and bring the shaker up and place it on the table.


You print the initials of a spectator on a lump of sugar. The sugar is then dissolved, but the initials are found on the spectator's hand.

Ask a spectator what his initials are, and print them on the wide surface of a lump of sugar. Use a pencil with a soft lead or pen with indelible ink. After you have written the initials, secretly press your right thumb down hard on top of the initials, and they will be printed on it. Drop the sugar into a glass of water with initials faceup so they may be seen. Take the spectator's right hand in your right hand, his palm down, your thumb (with the imprint) next to his palm, and your fingers over the back of his hand. Ask him to place his hand, palm down, over the mouth of the glass. Press your thumb slightly against his palm and transfer the initials to his hand.

Tell everyone to watch the initials disappear from the sugar, as the sugar dissolves. When the letters are gone from the sugar, ask the spectator to turn his hand over, and he will find that the initials have transferred themselves from the sugar to his hand.


You make some small paper balls from a paper napkin. They multiply, vanish, and reappear in a surprising way. Before you start, place a small paper ball made from 1, 3 of a paper napkin into your right coat pocket, along with a quarter. When you are ready to start the trick take a fresh paper napkin and, in front of your audience, tear it into three parts. Roll each part into a paper ball, and place them on the table.

To start just ask someone how many balls he sees and as you talk, casually reach in your pocket and get the extra ball in your right hand in the finger-palm position (page 9). Your right hand is palm-down on the table and your left hand palm-up. Reach over with your right hand and pick up a ball with your thumb and forefinger. Place it into your left hand and say, "One." Pick up another ball and place it, along with the palmed ball, in your left hand saying, "Two." Quickly close your left hand. Pick up the third ball with your right hand and say, "This one I'll place in my pocket." Place your right hand in your pocket, but finger-palm the ball and bring your hand out again with the ball, and place your hand, palm-down on the table.

Now say, "How many balls are in my left hand?" Someone answers: "Two." Open your left hand and let the three balls drop on the table. "You're not paying attention. I'll do it again. Watch! I'll place one in my left hand." Pick up a ball with your right hand and place it (and the palmed ball) in your left hand. Close your left hand so that the extra ball won't be seen. Pick up another ball and place it in your left fist, through the top (thumb up). "This one I'll place in my pocket." Pick up the third ball and leave it in your pocket.

Now ask, "How many balls in my left hand?" Someone answers: "Two." Open your hand show that you have three balls.

Say, "Now we'll use just two balls." Place one ball in your pocket. Say, "I'll hold one and I'll place the other one in your hand. When I do, I want you to close your hand very tight-quickly so that nothing can get in or out." Pick up one of the balls and pretend to place it in your left hand but really keep it in your right one.

Pick up the other ball in your right hand, adding it to the ball you apparently placed in your left hand. Slightly squeeze the balls together so they appear as one and place them in the spectator's hand. Ask him how many he has, and how many you have. He will say you each have one. Open your left hand and show it is empty. While you are placing the balls in the spectator's hand, reach in your pocket with your right hand, get the quarter, finger-palm it, and bring your hand out.

Ask the spectator to open his hand. He has two balls. Take the two from him, and place them on the table. Pick up one ball and place it in your left hand. Pick up the other one and place it, along with the quarter in your left hand. Close your hand and ask, "How many do I have in my hand this time?" At this point, the spectator will say almost anything. Whatever he says, you say, "No, I'm afraid you're wrong. I have twenty-seven!"

They won't believe you, of course, so open your hand enough to let one ball drop, say, "One," let the other one drop, "Two," drop the quarter, "and twenty-five, makes, twenty-seven!" Pick up the money and balls and drop them in your pocket.


You pick up a spoon from the table and pretend to bend it in half. By waving your hand over it, it is restored. Pick up the spoon and hold it by its handle. Wave it back and forth a few times. Grip it in your left fist by its handle, handle pointing towards you. Hold it tightly, wrapping your fingers around it as if it were a dagger. Then place the bowl of the spoon down on the table, and wrap your right fingers over your left ones. The backs of both hands will be right side up.

Now place your left little finger under the handle, to keep from dropping it, and make a motion as if bending the spoon by pushing down with your hands. Use a lot of false effort, as if it were hard to bend the handle. Hold the spoon still, and move your hands up to a vertical position. You really don't bend the spoon, but this action makes it appear so. Now with your left hand, lift the spoon off the table. It looks as if the bent part of the spoon is in your left fist. The spoon, which sticks out behind your hand, is actually lifted by your little finger which is under the handle. Wave your right hand at the spoon a couple of times, and drop it on the table, showing that it is really not bent at all.


You place a small marble on the table, and it will roll across by itself. You can let your friends examine it, both before and after it rolls.

Before dinner place a small ring with a thread attached to it, under the tablecloth. The end of the thread must run under the tablecloth to a secret assistant across the table. If you don't have time before dinner to have someone help you, you can hold the thread in your lap. But it is more mystifying if the marble rolls away from you.

Place the marble on the hidden ring. Your assistant pulls on the thread and the marble rolls across the table. It should roll slowly. As it is rolling, suggest that some one pick it up and examine it. Then pull the ring away from under the cloth.

If you have time to prepare for the trick before your audience arrives, and do not have an assistant, run the thread across the table over its edge, and back under the table. Then, when you pull on the thread, the ball will roll away from you.


You place four lumps of sugar on the table, and cover them with your hands. You can make them jump around and finally make all four lumps appear together.

You will need five lumps of sugar, but the audience must be aware of only four. The four lumps are laid on the table so that they form a square. Here is how they look:

3     4

1     2

The extra lump is thumb-palmed (page 72) in your left hand. Now you are ready to start.

Place your right hand over 2, your left hand over 3. With a wiggle of your fingers, your right hand thumbpalms 2, while your left hand leaves the extra lump at 3. Raise your hands slightly, and show that lump number 2 has vanished, and there are two lumps at 3.

Cover 1, with your left hand, and your right hand goes to 3. Wiggle your fingers, lift your hands, palming the lump at 1, in your left hand. Your right hand leaves the lump it has brought over from 2.

Your right hand, which is empty, covers 4, while your left hand covers the three lumps at 3. When you lift your hands, your right hand picks up the lump at 4, and your left hand leaves the fourth lump at 3.

Now the process is reversed. Your left hand covers the four lumps and palms one, while your right hand leaves a lump at 4. Place your left hand over 1, leave a lump there, while your right hand covers, and removes a lump from 3. Place your right hand over 2, leave a lump-and your left hand picks up one of the two lumps at 3.

Now if you lift your left hand an instant before you do your right, the eyes of the audience will go to your right hand, which gives you a chance to drop the extra lump from your left hand into your lap.


You are able to balance a tumbler or salt shaker, on its edge. Everyone else who tries will fail.

By placing a burnt-out wooden match under the tablecloth, you can lean a tumbler or salt shaker against it, and it will stand at an angle on its edge. If others care to try it, make sure they do so on some other spot on the tablecloth. If they wish to try it where you did it, secretly remove the match.


You tie two lengths of string around a pencil, and then around several borrowed rings. Though they are securely knotted, you are able to remove them even while the ends of the string are held.

For this trick, you may borrow everything you need; a pencil, two pieces of string or cord, each about 2 feet long, and as many finger rings as you can. (You must have at least two. You can use napkin rings if no finger rings are available.)

Have someone hold the pencil horizontally, one end in each hand. Lay the two strings over the pencil with their centers at the top of the pencil and ends hanging down. Using the two ends of one string as one, and the two ends of the other as one, tie a simple single knot, pulling it tight against the pencil. Ask the spectator to let go of the pencil, and give him the two strings at one end, and give the other two strings to another spectator. The pencil will hang down from the center between them.

Now take the finger rings and assuming you have borrowed four, hand two to each spectator, and have them thread the two rings over both of the strings they hold. The rings will slide down against the pencil. Ask each spectator to hand you either one of the ends they hold. Take one from each and tie a simple, single knot over the top of the rings. (This knot exchanges the ends and makes the rings look more securely tied.) Tell the spectators to hold their ends tightly. Place your hand over the knots and the rings, and pull out the pencil with the other hand. As soon as the pencil is pulled out, the rings will drop into your hand. Lay the pencil on the table, and open your other hand showing the rings are free. The spectators will now hold two strings between them, free of rings and knots.

You can also do this trick in a larger or stage version, by substituting a wand for the pencil, and ropes for the strings. Use large rings to take the place of the finger rings used in this version, or tie several silk handkerchiefs on the ropes. The handkerchiefs will come off the ropes still knotted.

You may recognize the principle used in this trick as the one you used in "Walking Through a Rope" (page 50). In this case, the pencil takes the place of the thread in the other trick.