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Gypsy Thread

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The Gypsy Thread, also known as the Hindu Thread, is one of the classic effects in close up magic, performed by many magicians including Mark Wilson, Slydini, Doug Henning, David Blaine, and of course Eugene Burger. Burger's handling can be found in his book Spirit Theater (Kaufman and Greenberg, 1985).

In effect, a three or four foot length of thread is removed from a spool of thread. The thread is broken into numerous short pieces of varying lengths. One of the pieces is separated from the rest, which are rolled tightly into a little ball.

The little ball of pieces is placed onto the center of the single strand, where it mysteriously clings in place.

The two ends of the short piece are pulled. The small ball comprised of pieces jumps and dances on its little tightrope, as the ends are pulled farther apart, ultimately revealing the thread to be completely restored to its original condition.


Written explanations go back to at least 1500s, and can be found in J. Prevost's La Premiere Partie des subtiles et plaisantes inventions (as "To Cut a Thread into Many Pieces, Then Seem to Have Rejoined Them All Together") and Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft ("To burne a thred, and to make it whole againe with the ashes thereof"), both published in 1584.

Sach's Sleight of Hand (1877) describes an early close-up version of a cut-and-restored thread, and another version of this effect was published by Elbiquet in A Text Book of Magic in 1913.