Conjuring Credits

The Origins of Wonder

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Serpent Silk or Self Untying Handkerchief

Al Baker, in Al Baker's Book One, 1933, p. 38, claimed the invention of this trick circa 1908, supported by several bits of anecdotal evidence. However, in The Magician Monthly, Vol. 9 No. 10, Sept. 1913, p. 160, Sidney Josolyne contributed “An Original Knot Trick,” which is in essence the same trick and method claimed by Baker. Josolyne prefaced his write-up with: “This effect was suggested to me by an experiment in Mr. Naldrett's book, Magic of the Moment…”, which was published in 1912. Josolyne later included the trick in his booklet, Weird Wonders for Wizards, 1925, p. 10.

Variations on the trick turned up under J. Marks's and A. F. Bowen's names in Thayer's Magical Bulletin, Vol. 9 No. 9, Feb. 1922, p. 129, and Vol. 11 No. 11, Sept. 1924, p. 170, respectively; and under Bert Horsman's name in Bagshawe's Magical Monthly, Vol. 2 No. 9, June 1925, p. 560; and under Sid (Lorraine) Johnson's and Peter Fay's names in The Linking Ring, Vol. 3 No. 4, Oct. 1925, p. 49, and Vol. 5 No. 1, Sept. 1926, p. 21, respectively. Lorraine called the trick “old stuff” and mentioned Josolyne; Fay claimed invention of the trick before it became a catalog item, and may have been the first, as he claims, to use a reel with it. But before these, George W. Hunter progressed the effect by finding a way to make the silk slowly knot itself, then untie the knot in The Magic Wand, Vol. 12 No. 118, June-Sept. 1923, p. 56. Given all this attention and Joselyne's counterclaim, it is clear why Baker took the effort to establish his 1908 invention with corroborative anecdotes.