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Chapter 14 - Mirror Trick, Magic Optical Illusion

Many of the more notable magic optical optical illusion tricks were those involving the use of mirrors and the control of light. The mirror magic optical optical illusion has perhaps astounded audiences more than any other magic trick. In this magic optical illusion, a head, not attached to a body, seems to hover in a room.

In this chapter you will find the famous magic optical illusion secret revealed.


Mirror Magic

Strictly speaking there are fewer optical illusions found in the practice of the magician than is generally supposed; that is, the eye usually delivers correctly to the intellect, but the judgment errs for various reasons. The "optical illusion" is due to false assumptions, to the distracting words, to unduly accented superfluous movements of the magician; or in general to downright trickery. Much of the magician's success is due to glibness of tongue and deftness of fingers, but many of the more notable "tricks" were those involving the use of mirrors and the control of light. Black curtains, blackened assistants, and controlled light have played prominent parts in the older magic, but the principles of these are easily understood. However, the mirror perhaps has done more to astound the audience than any other device employed by the magician. For this reason, and because its effects are commonly termed optical illusions, some representative examples will be presented.

In a previous chapter attention was called to the simple but usually overlooked fact that, for example, the image of a face in a mirror is reversed as to right and left. When this fact is overlooked we may be astonished at the changed expression of an intimate friend as we view the face (reversed) in the mirror. Similarly our own features are reversed as to right and left and we are acquainted with this reversed image rather than the appearance of our face as it is. Inasmuch as faces are not accurately symmetrical and many are quite unsymmetrical the effects of the mirror are sometimes startling. It might be of interest for the reader to study his face in the mirror and note that the right ear is the left ear of the image which he sees. He will also find it of interest to compare the face of a friend as viewed directly with the appearance of its image in the mirror. If he desires to see himself as others see him, he can arrange two mirrors vertically almost at a right-angle. By a little research he will find an image of his own face, which is not reversed; that is, an image whose right ear is really his right ear.

A famous "optical illusion" which astounded audiences was the sphinx illustrated in Fig. 90. The box was placed upon a table and when opened there was revealed a Sphinxian head, but why it was called a Sphinx is clothed in mystery because upon some occasions it talked. As a matter of fact it belonged to a body which extended downward from the table-top and this kneeling human being was concealed from the audience by two very clean plate-glass mirrors M shown in the accompanying diagram. The table actually appeared to have three legs but the audience if it noticed this at all assumed the fourth leg was obscured by the foremost leg. The walls, floor, and ceiling of the box-like recess in which the table was placed were covered with the same material. It is seen by the diagram that the mirrors M reflected images of the side walls W and these images were taken by the audience to be portions of the rear wall W. Thus the table appeared to be open underneath and the possibilities of the apparatus are evident.

Magic Optical Illusions
Fig. 90. - An example of a "mirror" optical illusion.

The magician with a fine flow of language could dwell at length upon the coming to life of the head of an ancient statue which he had in the box in his hand. Walking to the table he could place the box over a trap-door and by the time he had unlatched the door of the box, the assistant kneeling under the table could have his head thrust upward through the trap-door of the table-top into the box. After some impressive words, which were supposed to be Hindoo but really were Hoodoo, presto! the Sphinx appeared. It conversed after a period of silence extending back to the days of Rameses when a wrathful god condemned an unfortunate king to imprisonment in the stone statue. The original trick awed audiences for many nights and defied explanation until one night a keen observer noted finger-prints on what proved to be a mirror. Doubtless a careless accomplice lost his job, but the damage had been done, for the trick was revealed. This "optical illusion" is so effective that it, or variations of it, are still in use.

Another simple case is illustrated in Fig. 91. A large plate-glass mirror M was placed at an angle of approximately 45 degrees from the floor. Through a hole in it an assistant's head and shoulders projected and the edge of the opening was covered with a draped cloth. The audience saw the image of the ceiling C of the alcove reflected by the mirror but being ignorant of the presence of the mirror, assumed this image to be the rear wall. This trick was effective for many years. Obviously the mirrors must be spotlessly clean and the illuminations of the walls, ceiling, and in some cases, the floor must be very uniform. Furthermore, no large conspicuous pattern could be used for lining the box-like recess.

Magic Optical Illusions
Fig. 91. - Another example of "mirror magic."

The foregoing examples illustrate the principles involved in the appearance of ghosts on the stage and of a skeleton or other gruesome object in place of a human being. The possibilities of mirrors in such fields are endless and they can be studied on a small scale by anyone interested. The pseudoscope which produces effects opposite to those of the stereoscope is an interesting device.

The foregoing is the faintest glimpse of the use of the mirror, but it does not appear advisable to dwell further upon its use, for after all the results are not visual optical illusions in the sense of the term as usually employed throughout this book.

Continue on to Chapter 15 on Camouflage

 

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About This Book Preface Chap 1, Introduction Chap 2, The Eye Chap 3, Vision Chap 4, Geometrical Chap 5, Figures Chap 6, Angles Chap 7, Depth/Distance Chap 8 Brightness/Contrast Chap 9, Color Chap 10, Lighting Chap 11, Nature Chap 12, Painting/Decorating Chap 13, Architecture Chap 14, Magic Mirror Chap 15, Camouflage

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