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Colonel Stodare performing the Sphinx illusion

The Sphinx Illusion

Alfred Thompson, the well-known theatrical manager and raconteur, of London, related the history of the illusion,
"I remember the first time T ever saw the curious ocular illusion known as the Sphinx Table. As I took an interest in all illusions
which could be adapted to stage effects, and had heard from adepts that the new illusion was not only a marvel but absolutely undetectable, I attended the first performance of the resuscitated Sphinx, first performed at the Egyptian Hall, Piccadilly, London, by a wizard calling himself Colonel Stodare. This clever trick was really invented bv a young man named Thomas Tobin.

"I was well in front and not too near, and after the usual rabbits had disappeared out of hats and become watches and the various pocket handkerchiefs had been turned into bouquets of flowers, the novelty was introduced as a climax and the sight-seeing
public had a wonder to exercise its mind on for months to come. On the stage not far from the footlights was a three-legged table on the top of which was spread a small velvet cover with a border of gold fringe hanging over four inches. No room for a drawer beneath the table and clear space under and between the legs as far as the back of the stage. Simply three attenuated legs and a flat top covered with velvet. On a side table near the proscenium stood a handsome plush-covered box about a foot square. The lid, unlocked by Stodare, was opened on the side facing the spectators. In the box was seen the head of the Sphinx; a life-size head of a handsome Egyptian wearing the typical striped head-piece, and a collarette round the severed neck; for there was nothing but a head on a short neck in the box. The eyes were closed and the long eye-lashes fell on the cheek, which glowed with vital blood. Closing the lid for a moment, Stodare carried the box, by a handle on either side, from the table to the three-legged table and set it down in the center.

"Stodare reopened the box, which had never quitted our sight, and as the lid fell forward the Sphinx, still there, slept the sleep of thousands of years—but only to wake at the voice of the wizard. The splendid, calm, majestic eyes opened at command. I had no doubt, even before the lips opened and the voice spoke in measured, rythmic tones, that the head was genuine and not made of
wax; but the more I looked and the more I calculated, the farther was I from a solution of the first mystery I had witnessed since I
commenced the study of modern magic.

"The whole apparatus was in full light, not only of gas, but of a calcium directed on to the wondrous face while the box was open.
Until the close of the exhibition I sat there dumbfounded and positively unable to answer the Sphinx enigma before me. Just before
the conclusion I happened to rise in my seat, so certain I felt that some unexpected detail might disclose the whole secret to me; and in a moment the whole illusion was swept away. I saw where the body was concealed. I knew the trick and I went away perfectly
happy at being the only one in London, besides the inventors, who could have reproduced the marvelous sorcery elsewhere. And the
whole affair was given away for lack of a silk handkerchief. As I stood up, my eye caught, hovering between two of the table legs the marks of two rings, such marks as may be often seen on a mirror when the light falls at a certain angle upon it.

"Those two finger marks, though close to the carpet, gave me the key to the riddle of the Sphinx. In my mental photograph I
saw the confederate kneeling hehind the tahle, his head passing through superposed apertures, out of the top of the tahle. and into
the bottom of the box. The figure was concealed from view by two mirrors of pure silver plated-glass, set at such an angle as to
reflect either side of the room (on the stage) in such a way that what to the eye was evidently the same room seen beneath and beyond the table, was really only a reproduction of those sides visible in the mirrors between the legs of the table.

"This Sphinx was the sensation of London for weeks following."


Colonel Stodare




 

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