Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Indian Needle Trick

Cardano, in his Subtlety and Subtle Inventions, 1550-1560, described the feat of swallowing and regurgitating a packet of nails and a length of thread: “producing nails and thread from one's mouth”. Cardano does not mention that, upon regurgitation, the nails were threaded or tied to the thread. The feat seems one only of regurgitation of dangerous items. Balthazar Bekker in De Betoverde Weereld, 1691, Book IV, Chapter 4, Item 5, p. 28, translates the passage about the nails and thread feat from Cardano's Latin into Dutch. Only when we get to the 1694 French translation of the Bekker text (p. 67), are “threaded nails” mentioned, which has proved a misleading translation that suggests that Cardano had described the Needle Trick.

It has been recorded and generally accepted that, c. 1818, Khia Khan Khruse (stage name of Louis Antonio Khruse or Cruz) was the first to substitute needles for beads in the trick of swallowing lose beads and thread and bringing the beads back up threaded (see Sidney W. Clarke's Annals of Conjuring, 2001, pp. 396 & 398). The Needle Trick did not come from India, but this was probably assumed due to Khruse's stage identity as an East Indian conjurer and the identification of the bead-threading trick with India.