Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Knife in Rice Suspension

In this effect or stunt, a jar is filled with rice, and a knife (pencil, chop stick, etc.) is pushed into the center of the rice. The performer grabs the grip of the knife and lifts, upon which the jar of rice rises with the knife.

In the earliest English print sources so far discovered, the feat is reputed to have come from India and it is usually described as being old. There is no evidence to suggest otherwise. From these early mentions, it seems clear the stunt was known to some extent long before descriptions and the method appeared in English conjuring literature. See, for example, a reference to it in 1914 in Robert Sherman's marketed effect “Gravity?” (see The Sphinx, Vol. 13 No. 4, Jun. 1914, p. 79). A few years later, George Johnson wrote a bare-bones description of the effect, along with a theory as to its working, which was essentially correct, but which Johnson presented with some doubt. This appeared in The Magic Wand, Vol. 8 No. 3, May 1919, p. 42, and suggests that the method was still not widely known in the West at that time.

The earliest full explanation in English may be Winston Freer's, writing as “Aladdin”, in The Sphinx, Vol. 30 No. 3, May 1931, p. 122. In this article, titled “A Wrinkle in a Bottle”, Freer may have been the first to recommend using a clear bottle, rather than a metal vase as the traditional version did.

Eddie Joseph contributed a version, “Suspensamus”, to The Jinx, No. 129, 1941, p. 741. In it, he said he'd seen an Indian conjurer perform the stunt eighteen years earlier, which took it back to the 1920s. Joseph later marketed a version, “Magnetic Rice”, through Abbott's, in 1949. (See Tops, Vol. 14 No. 12, Dec. 1949, p. 26.) At this point he was willing to state, “The basic idea was originated in India centuries ago…” Joseph's manuscript was reprinted over thirty years later in The New Tops, Vol. 20 No. 9, Sep. 1980, p. 44.