Monday, July 14, 2008

A Maiden in Midair


Professor Herrmann Explains the Trick of "Aerial Suspension."

The first aerial suspension that attracted any considerable attention showed a page, usually a young woman, brought to the center of the stage, hypnotized and stood erect between two slight wooden rods, which had been previously inspected by a committee chosen from the audience, says Professor Herrmann in the Boston Herald. These rods were placed under the woman's elbows, and she was then raised from the floor, so that her feet cleared it a few inches only. After this one rod would be removed, and the performer would cause the body of the page to slowly rise from a perpendicular to a horizontal position, the only support visible being the rod on which the one arm was apparently resting in the lightest and most insecure manner possible. The magician would then pass his wand all around the body of the page in order to convince the spectators that there were no wires or unseen supports aiding in the deception. After allowing the page to slumber in midair for a few moments she would be slowly lowered until her feet touched the ground. Then she would step forward and smilingly acknowledge the applause that always followed this seemingly marvelous illusion.

Now, the manner in which this trick was performed Was this: One of the uprights, or rods, was a remarkably strong one. One end of it fitted into a socket in the stage or the platform used for the performance, while the other end was hollow. When the rods, which were the same in appearance, were placed under the page's elbows, a steel plug fastened about the girl's elbows fitted into the socket on the stage. Now the page's figure was really incased in a network of slight but very strong stool bands, all jointed in such a manner as to allow her to move about apparently without the slightest restraint. The cage, or framework, of steel bands was fitted together with noiseless butt joints that set themselves as soon as the page was raised from the floor and straightened out at right angles with the supporting rod, the joint at the elbow being strong enough to sustain the whole figure the moment it was perfectly horizontal, and thus it was that the page was enabled to lie apparently sleeping in the air, with no other support than the tip of her elbow resting on a slender rod. When the performer desired to release the subject, he simply raised her body slowly, touched a little spring, released the elbow joint, lowered her to her foot, and the performance was over.

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