Thompson, the well-known theatrical manager and
raconteur, of London, related the history of the
"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 yearsbut 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.
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
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