Last week I had the pleasure of performing a small set of rope magic for a group of about eighty campers at a bucolic family campground in Acadia, Maine. This one-week retreat was the highlight of the summer as my family and I enjoyed hiking, camping, and lake and beach activities in this wonderful environment. At the end of the week, there was a talent show with acts including singing, ukulele-playing, a trombone and piano piece, Haiku reading, a comedy sketch, and myself performing, “Feats With Rope!” This routine is made up of four small, old rope magic tricks that I strung (Ha!) together for this occasion. On their own, these tricks aren’t very strong, but performed together as part of this theme, they each came off very well, garnering “Ahh”s and much applause throughout.
Feats With Rope!
I am seated at the front of the room facing the audience. I am holding a two-foot long piece of rope between my hands.
“Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Peter Ross and tonight I’m going to show you some feats with rope!”
With that line I stick out out my legs and toss the rope onto my ankles. Some groans from the audience at the pun, but also much laughter.
“Ok, let’s begin for real.”
I take back the rope and hold it between my two hands again.
Feat Number One
“Let's’ say you’re in a canoe and you have a piece of rope and you need to tie a knot in it.”
I tie a simple knot in the middle of the rope.
“Ok, that’s easy enough. Not very remarkable.”
I untie the knot and drape the rope over my left hand in preparation for the classic one-handed knot maneuver.
“But let's’ say you only have one hand to tie this knot. The other hand is otherwise occupied holding a book.”
With my right hand I pick up a hardcover book off the floor and hold it open.
“Ok, so you’re in a canoe, you’re reading a book, but you also have this knot that you have to tie. I know, this is a common predicament.”
I am sitting in the chair with my left hand raised holding the rope draped over it, while my right hand is holding an open book.
“And not only do you have to tie this knot with one hand, you also need to do it quickly because you’ve just reached an exciting part of the book and you don’t want to stop reading for too long.”
“So let’s see how this might happen.”
I look back and forth between the book and the rope three times. There is much laughter from the audience as they imagine me sitting in a canoe in this ridiculous situation. On the third time I look at the rope I pause and then commence with the lighting-fast, one-handed knot. Cheers and applause erupt from the audience. I toss the rope to a boy in the front row and shout, “Feats with rope!” He passes the rope around for people to see it’s a real knot.
[Editor’s Note: I really like how Mr. Widdle turned the old one-handed knot stunt into a fleshed out, funny little piece. And by the way, Mr. Widdle tells me that it is a bit harder to execute the one-handed knot sitting down (while holding a book with the other hand) rather than the common standing position.]
Feat Number Two
“Let’s say you’re standing on the swimming dock holding three pieces of rope. First, you have this tiny, splindly piece that’s really no use for anything. Then you have this medium-sized piece that could be pretty useful. Finally, you have a long piece of rope that’s maybe a bit too long for what you want to do.”
I am standing now, holding three pieces of rope of different lengths in my left hand, in preparation for performing “Professor's Nightmare,” a classic of rope magic.
“So you’re standing on the swimming dock, holding three pieces of rope. Why you’re standing on a dock holding three pieces rope, I don’t know, but there you are.”
“The thing is, the ropes are different lengths, and you need them all to be the same length for what you will be doing. Again, I don’t know what you’re going to do with the ropes, but I’m sure it’s an important project.”
“You don’t have scissors to cut them all to the same size, so you have to try it another way. You bring up the ends of the rope into your hands like this...then, and this is where you need some strength, you stretch all the ropes to be one length.”
I perform the “stretch” showing all the ropes to be the same size. Gasps of astonishment are heard from the audience. I then “count” the three ropes to again prove they’re the same length.
As I ball up the ropes in my hands, I say,
“Just remember if you happen to ball up the ropes and toss them aside, they will return to different lengths again.”
More “Ahh”s from the audience. Applause.
“Feats with rope!”
Feat Number Three
“Ok, let’s say you’re walking on the beach and you have this piece of rope.”
Laughter from the audience at yet another ridiculous scenario in a setting that they’ve all experienced this previous week. I am holding a coiled three-foot length of rope.
“You’ve got this rope, but what you realize is that you need a long stick instead. And you don’t see any sticks on this beach. So what you can do (which many people don’t realize is possible), is that you can hypnotize rope. You do it like this.”
I slowly uncoil the rope so that I am holding it horizontally by the middle of it. It is perfectly straight, like a stick [Editor’s Note: Magicians will recognize this trick as the old “Stiff Rope”].
“Ooo”s from the audience.
“Please don’t try this with a snake.”
“You see? The rope is perfectly straight now, and useful for whatever you need it for. I’m not really sure what that is.”
“But remember, in this hypnotized state the rope is sensitive to loud noises.”
I snap my fingers and the rope returns to its coiled up original state. Applause.
“Feats with rope!”
Feat Number Four
“For this last feat I need the assistance of two volunteers.”
I call up two people who stand to the left and right of me, each holding an end of a twelve-foot rope.
“Ok, let’s say you’re on a hike and you see some blueberries on the side of the trail. You want to pick those blueberries, but for some reason there are two people holding a rope blocking your way.”
“So what do you do? Well, of course, you politely ask the people to please lower the rope so you can get to the blueberries.”
I ask each person to please lower the rope and then I step over it and pretend to pick some blueberries.
“Ok, now you want to get back on the trail, but the rope is blocking your way again, and you don’t want to draw attention to yourself again because really, you’re not supposed to leave the trail on a hike, right?”
“So what you can do (and this can be a bit dangerous, but with practice it can work), is you can slowly...pull the rope...through your body.”
I pick up the rope in the center from behind and pull it through my torso to the front. [Editor’s Note: Magicians will recognize this trick as, “Rope Through the Body”]
Gasps of amazement from the audience and then applause as I gather the rope up, take a bow, and say,
“Feats with rope! Thank you!”
[Editor's Note: I must commend Mr. Widdle on this routine, as he took several rope tricks that many magicians would consider too old or too corny (One-Handed Knot, Stiff Rope, Professor’s Nightmare, Rope Through Body) and combined them into one presentation that was well-suited for the audience and setting at which he was performing. In addition, this routine allows for the switching out of rope effects to perform again for the same or similar crowd, as almost any rope trick can be considered a “Feat with rope!” For example, next time, he might consider using the Linking Ropes, as that also has comedic possibilities within this routine.]