As mentioned earlier, I like to spend time in used book shops, looking for items that have fallen by the wayside, the victims of a fit of cleaning, or a hobby forgotten. One I’ve found – and recently read – is Hugard’s Annual of Magic 1937.
One thing I enjoy about this book is the variety of effects. Hugard goes from sleight of hand through stage illusions, and everywhere in between. It includes a DIY construction chapter, too, under ‘Some Useful Gimmicks’. The book speaks for its times when you realise that there are 11 effects in ‘Cigar and Cigarette Manipulation’, and only eight in ‘Cards’. Presumably, it was cheaper to smoke then.
An interesting few effects are provided in the chapter ‘Impromptu Trickster’, including an Impromptu Linking Rings using – you guessed it – cigarettes. The stand-out for me in this chapter is the bizarre Shot in the Eye. This routine really encapsulates dedication as a performer. The first paragraph:
Small pellets of shot can be introduced into the eye so that they rest between the eyeball and the lower lid, and can be kept there for any length of time without causing the least inconvenience. They should be rubbed into the corner of the eye next to the nose, one by one.
Now, forgiving the fact that rubbing pieces of metal into your eye is probably painful, not good for you, and certainly not impromptu; I can’t imagine the reaction of the audience as said pieces of metal start dropping out of your face. Hugard was Australian, so maybe that’s saying something.
The final chapter, ‘Hugard’s Bullet Catching’, is a fair bit of work, but probably worth a read if your idea of entertainment involves having complete strangers shoot at you in public. Of course, as an Aussie, Hugard takes New Zealand to task, realising whilst performing there, one of his committee was trying to see if the bullets were indeed loaded and live. Hugard manages to thwart this curious interloper, but is not so lucky when performing the illusion at the ‘Theater Royal in Wellington’. Another audience member manages to load something into the muzzle of the rifle, which then hits Hugard:
Luckily the trick was the last item in the show and when I got to my dressing room I found three small pellets of shot had hit me in the chest.
Lesson learned: from that point, Hugard only performed the illusion with the house lights up. No mention is made if he went on to put these pellets into his eye.