Split in two: magicians to celebrate 100 years of sawing people in half


One hundred years in the past subsequent weekend, an English magician known as Percy Thomas Tibbles actually and laboriously sawed by a sealed wood field that contained a girl.

It was a sensation and has since turn into one of the perfect recognized magic methods, carried out with all method of instruments and ranging levels of blood – all the time involving somebody lower in half and almost all the time with them miraculously put again collectively.

On Sunday 17 January, the Magic Circle will mark the centenary of sawing somebody in half, an phantasm as iconic, its president Noel Britten stated, as pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

It has a “rich and fascinating” historical past, Britten stated, though the explanations for its nearly on the spot reputation in 1921 might not be the noblest. Suffrage was the recent matter of its day so was it “for every person who thought it was great that women were getting the vote there were other people who thought it great that a woman was being put in a box and sawn in half?”

The magician PT Selbit performing the sawing trick. Photograph: Jasper Maskelyne/ David McKay Company

The phantasm was invented by Tibbles, who understandably went by the stage name of PT Selbit, and was first carried out on the Finsbury Park Empire in north London on 17 January 1921.

Since then it has been carried out by numerous magicians in many various methods. “It is a very simple, clear idea and is easily understandable as impossible,” stated Will Houstoun, magician in residence at Imperial College’s department of surgery. “As an effect it has a neatness about it and has a huge amount of scope for development and reinvention.”

Houstoun stated Selbit’s unique phantasm didn’t have the girl’s head and toes protruding the field, which might turn into the custom. The sawing was additionally actual and sluggish. “It would have been quite a lengthy process … I suspect attention spans would be slightly different today.”

The Magic Circle is planning a night of on-line occasions across the historical past of the phantasm telling tales resembling how the BBC shocked the British nation in 1956, broadcasting a Panorama programme that featured the Great Sorcar slicing a young woman in half with a circular saw.

Because the present was stay and out of time, the presenter Richard Dimbleby stepped in to say goodbye earlier than the girl got here again to life. “The switchboard was jammed with people thinking they had just witnessed a murder,” stated Britten.

Simon Drake in Secret Cabaret.
Simon Drake in Secret Cabaret. Photograph: Channel 4

Houston stated one of probably the most memorable variations for him was by Simon Drake in the late night 1990s Channel 4 show Secret Cabaret. It concerned medical employees sawing by Drake from his crotch up to his chest and Drake not waking up. “You don’t forget it,” stated Houstoun who was too younger to watch it in the primary place.

The US magician David Copperfield will present viewers spherical his magic museum in Las Vegas and discuss his interpretation, using a huge “death saw” which cut through him after he failed to escape the table.

Naomi Paxton, an academic and performer and the Circle’s equality and diversity officer, will discover the phantasm’s hyperlinks to suffrage and reveal how Selbit audaciously invited the militant suffragette Christabel Pankhurst to turn into half of his act by being the girl sawn in two.

It got here after Pankhurst had marketed her providers in a newspaper for “remunerative, non-political work” and whereas it was entrepreneurial of Selbit to provide, it was additionally “hugely disrespectful,” stated Paxton. Unsurprisingly, she stated no.

The night can even see Debbie McGee, the partner of the late Paul Daniels on stage and in life, recounting her experiences of being frequently dismembered. “Debbie has been sliced, diced, cremated, crushed, divided and decapitated more than most so has a great story to tell,” stated Britten.

Details of how to watch the Facebook streamed occasion can be on the Magic Circle Unlocked Facebook page.



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