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The Magic Cafe Forum Index » » Grand illusion » » Am I the only one who thinks that the Zig Zag Girl illusion is lame? (9 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

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Profile of ClintonMagus
Zig Zag was a great example of covering all the bases when designing an illusion. I guess I saw this performed four or five times, always knowing how it had to work, but not believing it actually worked that way. The construction of the illusion, the way it was finished, the graphics, and the presentation all worked in concert to make it a powerful thing.

What has happened with a lot of the more recent versions of older illusions is that the graphics, or the finish, or the presentation have been "modernized" to bring them into the present. Problem is, the changes have often been simply for the sake of change, rather than for a purpose, under the guise of "making it mine".

Almost everyone here knows how the Square Circle works. You can change the outside all you want, paint the outer tube, stick on prism tape, and even hinge the box. Paint the inside of the box white, however, and you have a problem.

The "Masked One" can expose methods all he wants, but quality presentations of time-tested effects will always have the audience begging for more.

That's the category into which I put Zig Zag - one of the most beautiful illusions ever created and, with the proper construction and presentation, one of the most baffling.

Amos McCormick
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Profile of Kendrix
I saw Harry Blackstone Jr. do the Zig-zag just in the tradition that Whit describes. This was just before intermission and I swear it lasted 15 minutes. He even brought people up from the audience to touch the assitant's feet, tickle them, etc. I thought it was painful to watch. Lo and behold when the break occurred the audience was all talking about the girl without a middle and how great it was. Zigmont is right you can't look at these effects as a magician. It is what the audience thinks that is important not the "magic community".
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Profile of irossall
Let me start off with a sincere appology if I stepped on anyone's toes here. My inquery was just a sincere attempt to find out what the appeal is for an illusion that I just can't seem to enjoy as I enjoy many other illusions. Peter Loughran states: To say that the Zig Zag is lame, well you certainly have not had the pleasure of performing the illusion for a live audience. First off, maybe I shouldn't have used the word lame. Lame is pretty strong wording and I did not mean to disrespect the people who perform the Zig Zag nor the people who enjoy watching it. Second, I do not do stage Magic and to do a large illusion is out of my league as a performer (and out of my price range). Although I have seen this illusion performed at least 6 or 7 times in the last 30 years, maybe everyone is right, I haven't had the pleasure to watch a good performance.
I would like to take this moment to thank all of you for your input, it gives me much to ponder and I look forward to my next chance to witness this illusion performed.
Respectfully Yours
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Profile of markparker

You should catch David Copperfield performing this on an early special. Great prop great performance. He also used a curved sided blade that replaces the usual awful offset blade method.
A lovely enhancement to the consistancy. I am unsure who built the prop but I would guess at John Gaughan...I'm sure someone can post some info on this.


Mark Parker - - Bespoke Illusion design - Publications -Show consultancy....Vivify a collection of stage illusions limited edition of 500 copies available now.
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Profile of cupsandballsmagic

I don't think you need to apologise, everyone is perfectly entitled to speak their mind, to ask others what they think.

I think many of us tend to forget what others see when we perform. Dissasociation is a very valuable tool. To be able to step outside of yourself mentally and to see what others would see.

Many performers have developed an accute sense of this, being able to "view" things internally from more than one aspect, from "inside" (associated) and "outside" (dissasociated).

Trying to forget that you know the secret is difficult but it is not the secret that is the important thing.

Murray Hatfield
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Profile of Murray Hatfield
Wow some great insights here. The Zig Zag, in my opinion, is the single greatest illusion/puzzle invented in the last hundred years. It is visual, surprising to the audience, in some cases shocking and can be thouroughly inspected inside and out by an audience member. There is literally nothing to hide and nothing to find.

I agree with Whit that the only way to perform it is the way it was intended by it's creator - as a puzzle to be explained by the performer. When I was performing it, I had a volunteer with me from beginning to end to inspect every step of the journey, and to be the catalyst for the audiences amazement.

I think it would be just as powerful today, regardless of the masked wannabee. The power is in the presentation and not simply in the effect.

Just my two cents...
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Profile of M-Illusion
I continued presenting the Zig Zag even immediately after it was "exposed" on television. I found that, tied in with the story-line and other presentational factors, it got no less response than it had prior to the show.

Despite that it's always gotten a great response in my shows, I took it out for three years, mainly to allow for the newer illusions to take shape. It was just put back in the show in January, and it's getting the best response yet.

So, I don't think it's a lame, boring, tired, over-used illusion. I think so much depends on the performer & the presentation. Yes, I, just like everyone else, have seen routines that were bad. But all in all, it's a wonderful concept.

P.S. I have done it both ways, to music, and as a talking, audience interactive routine.
Michael Messing
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When I first began performing illusions (1989), I purposely steered clear of Zig-Zag. I thought it was too common and that everyone would feel like they were seeing the same illusion done by every magician.

Then, I saw Andre Kole perform his show in Nashville. He opened with Zig-Zag and then went on to perform 2 hours of original illusions.

When the show was over, a fellow magician and I hung around to meet Mr. Kole. As my friend and I were talking, one of the audience members overheard us and asked if we were magicians. When we confirmed that, he asked "how did he to that thing where he pulled out the girl's middle?"

Now keep in mind that was the first illusion he presented yet it was the one that stuck in his mind. I decided then and there to buy one.

I have used that Chalet Zig-Zag for 12 years now and it never fails to get a gasp when I pull the middle out! It still blows people away. (And no the Masked Magician did not ruin it. People don't recognize it and they don't remember what was explained.)
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Profile of Lothar
The zig zag is my favorite illusion. The best presentation I have ever seen was done by Melinda. She zig zagged one of her hunky male dancers, but not before she ripped off most of his clothes. Her cabinet had a muscular male figure painted on the front. It was more deceptive due to the man's size.
Has anyone else ever seen the zig zag done with a man inside the cabinet?

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Profile of magic4u02
My feeling has always been that it is not the illusion that makes the magic, it is the presentation that makes the magician. Take the easiet or simplest of effects and with a great presentation you achieve a great entertainment value. Make the people smile, laugh and have fun and that is the true magic.
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Profile of cupsandballsmagic

Fay Presto regularly uses a male assistant in hers and, believe it or not in a restaurant!

Yup, she wheels it up to the table (on occasions) and does it close up (or so I am informed... anyone witnessed her do this?).

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Profile of Lothar
I have a video of Faye doing her zig zag on a waiter in the restaurant. My zig zag is being built for a large hunky man . It will have a cartoonish strongman figure painted on the front. This will make the illusion more deceptive since the guy will be so large.

"Macho Magic"
"Taking men where no man has gone before"

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Bill Hallahan
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Profile of Bill Hallahan
I like it.
Humans make life so interesting. Do you know that in a universe so full of wonders, they have managed to create boredom. Quite astonishing.
- The character of ‘Death’ in the movie "Hogswatch"
Steve Dela
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Hi Guys I thought I would add my two cents!
I don't own this illusion but it is my favourite illusion of all time! I have been lucky enough to see the original ZIG Zag at the Magic Circle Museum in London! it is the smallest I have ever seen! it looks on the footage of Robert Harbins performance that the girl is realy tall but he must have just been very short as the box is very small!
it is my favourite as this is the illusion that paved the way for all the present wheel on wheel off illusions! well done that man!
Steve Dela
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Nick Wait
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In short no I don't find it lame. It's one of the greats. A real puzzler. Looks like real magic even when you know the secret.
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Profile of donsmagic
I first saw the Zig Zag perormed by Harry Blackstone Jr at Abbott's in Colon Michigan in the early 1970's. I was absolutely astounded. Infact, when I got older I had Owen Supreme make me one that was absolutely beautiful and the audiences really loved it!
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Profile of tabman
I've got some video of Robert Harbin performing it in the 1960s on the stage of The London Palladium. We just viewed it last week again for the umteenth time. It is absolutely baffling in his hands.

His original prop works smoother and has better extension than many of the updated units I've seen over the years. Nothing lame about it at all in the originators hands and an outstanding routine all the way around from his calling it a contraption to his kicking the girl's shoes out of the way.

...Your professional woodworking and "tender" loving care in the products you make, make the wait worthwhile. Thanks for all you do...
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Profile of Rip
I remember as a child seeing Harbin on TV performong Zig Zag. If memory serves me correctly it was 'The Royal Variety Command Performance' live from The London Palladium. It was sooo MAGIC I could hardly wait to get to the library to track down every magic book I could and start on the road to becoming a magician.

For a long time it was the most performed illusion in Europe and over the years I must have seen upwards of 50 magicians perform it in too many situations to even recall: stage, cabaret, circus, childrens shows, parks, trade fairs, restaurants, back of a truck, even on a beach... some excellent performances, others perhaps a little lacking but every time it still seemed magical and got great audiance reaction. Familiarity did not seem to breed contempt, at least from a non 'magical' audiance.

I still think Harbins presentation is the best though (ok... Alan Shaxon a close runner up). He had a 'reason' for every movement he made and every word he said to make it seem impossible. IMO his box design has never been improved upon (and on occasion quite the opposite!).
The closest thing to his presentation I have seen in recent years is The Pendragons performing Modern Art, every action carefully chosen to strengthen the illusion.
I don't think a truely magical experiance HAS to include smoke, lazers, flashing lights and lots of chrome... even after its exposeure the Zig Zag can still have a strong impact on an audiance.

Guess I'm still a fan after all these years:)
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Profile of Chezaday
The Zig Zag can not be ignored .. this was my very first illusion ... and still holds a special place in my heart. Shure I've replaced it in my show with Modern Art .. but I still have mine and just would never sell it. I think my favorite memory of this illusion was watching the Great Blackstone Jr. performing it ... and mentioning the "Tickle Box .. that's one of two." He would get away with it everytime on TV .. and it just kills me everytime.

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Profile of hugmagic
Not lame in any way. Just in need of the proper presentation and thinking behind the presentation.

Study the Harbin thinking or the Blackstone Jr. and see how and why they do it.

It stills fools the laymen bad.
Richard E. Hughes, Hughes Magic Inc., 352 N. Prospect St., Ravenna, OH 44266 (330)296-4023
Write direct as I will be turning off my PM's.
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