The trick with the locked and corded box, I believe, is an old one, though perhaps not in its present form. In late years it has been revived with improvements, and popularized by those clever illusionists, Messrs. Maskelyne & Cook and Dr. Lynn, at the Egyptian Hall. There are several ways of working the trick or, rather, of arranging the special bit of mechanism wherein the peculiar features of the box consist. The one I am about to describe is, I think, the best of those I am acquainted with, or at liberty to divulge. Indeed, I don't know that any method is better, and this one has the advantage over most others of allowing the performer to get into as well as out of the box, without leaving a trace of his means of ingress. It will be seen the box is paneled, and all the panels look equally firm and fixed. As a matter of fact, one of the panels is movable, though the closest scrutiny would fail to discover this if the box and fittings are carefully made and adjusted. Fig. 1 shows the general appearance of the box, of which the back is the same as the front. In the box I describe, the end marked + has a movable panel.
The size of the box should be regulated by the size of the performer; but one measuring 3 feet 6 inches long by 2 feet back to front, and 21 inches high, exclusive of the lid, which may be 3 inches, will be of general use. In making the box it is most important that all sides and panels look alike, and that nothing special in the appearance of the end with the loose panel should attract notice. Fig. 2 shows this end with fittings drawn half of full size, and it will he seen from this that the framing, A, is 3 inches wide by 1¼ inches thick, and the panel, B, ½ inch thick.
It will be noticed that the top and bottom rails of the frame are rabbeted to receive the panel, but the sides are grooved, the groove in front rail being double the depth of the one in the back rail.
THE LOCKED AND CORDED BOX TRICK. By DAVID B. ADAMSON.
The dotted line, B, shows the size of the panel; the dotted line, C, shows the depth of groove in the front rail. From this it will be clear that the panel is only held in place at the back and front, and that on sliding it toward the front it will be free out of the groove in the back rail. Three sides of it are thus free, and a little manipulation will allow of its being taken out altogether, leaving plenty of space for the performer to get out, presuming him to have been locked inside the box.
If the panel were to be finished in this way, without further fittings, the secret would soon be discovered; and I now proceed to show how the panel is held in place and firm while under examination.
Determine the size of screws that are to be used in fixing the brass corner clamps. Let us say No. 7 is decided on; and if brass screws are used, then get a piece of brass, Fig. 4, the exact diameter of the screw-head, and a little longer than the thickness of the framing. If iron screws are to be used, then this piece must be iron. Now bore a hole into which this bolt will fit closely, right through the framing at D, Fig. 2. It is most important that the hole should be made close up to the edge of the panel, B, so that when the bolt is in it firmly holds the panel, and prevents it moving from back to front in the grooving. Now get a piece of sheet brass, 1/8 inch thick, and cut it to the shape shown by E, Fig. 2. The width of this piece should not be less than 3/8 inch, and it must be of such length that the end reaches to the middle of the top framing, as shown at L, Fig. 2. This piece of brass is sunk in the top and front framing, as shown by the dotted lines, G, in Figs. 2 and 3, and also in section in the latter.
When the box is open, the lower or short arm of this lever, which is shaped as shown full size, at E, Fig. 8, is kept pressed down on the bolt, D, as shown by the dotted lines, E, E, E, Fig. 2, and E, Fig. 7, by of the spring, J, Fig. 2.
On the box being closed, a pin on the under edge of lid goes into the hole, L, Fig. 3, and presses the end of the lever down in such a way as to raise the claw end of it from D. The thick dotted lines, F, F, F, Fig. 2, show position of lever when box is closed.
It will be noted that the bolt, D, Fig. 4, has a groove cut in it all around, into which the claw fits. This prevents the bolt being pushed backward or forward when the box is open.
The lever must be hung as shown, K, Fig. 2. The exact position of this is immaterial, but it is as well to have the fulcrum as near the end as may be, in order that the claw may be raised sufficiently with only a small movement of the short arm of the lever. Of course, the shorter the arm is, the more accurately the lid and pin must be made to close.
If the pin, pressing short arm down, be too short, the pressure will not be enough to release the claw, and consequently the performer might find himself really unable to get out of the box after it is locked.
The end of the lever should be finished with a wood block, as Fig. 6, larger than the pin on the lid, as represented by L and M, Fig. 3.
The block may be of other material, but should be colored the same as the wood the box is made of, so that, if any one were to look down on it, no suspicion would be aroused, as might be were plain brass used.
In Fig. 5, I show an easy way of hanging the lever. It is simply a piece of wire sharpened and notched, so as to form several small barbs, preventing withdrawal. The mode of fixing will be easily understood by reference to B and C, Fig. 5. Some considerable amount of care will have to be bestowed on fitting and adjusting this part of the work, on which the successful performance of the trick consists, and before finally fixing up, it should be ascertained that all the movements work harmoniously. It will be best to cut the groove in which the lever works from below, and, after the lever is fixed, to fill up the space not required by the lever with strips of wood, H, H. If preferred, the space can be shaped out from the back, i.e., the inside of the framing, and then filled where not required, but as this, however neatly done, would show a joint which might be detected by sharp eyes, it is better to cut from below, though more troublesome.