MEMOIRS - 09 - The Great Indian Rope Trick

From time to time the Great Indian Rope Trick flares up in the Press, and attracts a large measure of attention. Very soon the interest dies down, but not before a number of people have had time to send to various Editors, accounts of what they profess to be their first hand experiences of this ever recurring wonder.

To describe the general effect of this trick, I will quote the description as given by a person, who, when a boy of twelve years of age, said he saw this trick performed, outside the Post Office in Kimberley, South Africa, in the year 1899. He said, "I clearly remember a crowd of people at the corner of the Market Square. I saw an Indian take a piece of rope and throw it into the air. The rope went straight up for some distance, and remained rigid; and then a small boy climbed the rope. He seemed to go out of sight, and eventually, I saw him walking up the road, when he again joined his colleague."

Another eye-witness, from India this time, describes what he saw. His description was practically the same, a rope being thorn into the air and becoming rigid; then a small boy climbs up it and vanishes when he reaches the top of the top; the rope then falls to the ground, limp again. And that is the general description of the Great Indian Rope Trick. Has it ever been done? Or is it just a myth?

The subject of the Rope Trick has been contested for years. Investigations have been made all over the World, particularly in the East. Rewards have been offered, and are still being offered, to anybody who can perform the Great Indian Rope Trick in the open, before a committee of expert Conjurers; but up to now nobody has ever claimed the rewards.

Some people think that certain Indians have the power of mesmerising or hypnotising people against their will, and that this is the solution and only possible explanation.

Most Magicians say that this trick is impossible, and has never been performed.

The Occult Committee of the Magic Circle in London has devoted quite a lot of time, investigating, interviewing and cross questioning people, who say they have seen the trick performed, and as a result, the Committee is absolutely satisfied that the Rope Trick is a myth. On being cross questioned, the people claim to have been eye-witnesses of this trick, have given evidence of such a nature, that no court of law in any country would admit it for a moment. Some of these people appear to think that they have only to make their statements with sufficient emphasis, and they will be accepted and believed by everybody.

To prove to you how misleading and false some of these reports and descriptions are, I will give you one instance of how a group of Magicians staged the Indian Rope Trick, just for fun, and how it was reported in the Press as genuine.

Some years ago, at a small town in England, a number of magicians had gathered together for a Conference, and they were entertained before the conference started, at the house of Mr. A. This gentleman led his guests into his garden, where in a spirit of fun, he had a wire stretched between two large treetops. From this wire was suspended a rope. They all made a ring round the rope and were photographed, gazing up at it, and pretending that they were witnessing the Great Indian Rope Trick.

One of the guests was dressed as an Indian. Of course the trees at the side of the rope, and the wire from which it was suspended, were not reproduced in the photograph; and the photographer, who was also a Conjurer, had done his work well; and all you could see in the photo was a rope, standing rigid in the air without any visible means of support, and a group of men round the rope, gazing upwards. A newspaper man was later shown this photograph, no doubt as a leg pull; but the reporter either believing the story, or spotting a good copy, made use of the opportunity, and the photo, with a story which was afterwards reproduced, in A London paper. The headline reading, "The famous Indian Rope trick performed in England." Then it went on to describe to its readers how a rope had been thrown into the air and how a small boy had climbed up it and vanished into thin air, and the reproduction of the photo supported the truth of the story. I need hardly say that this account was a tissue of lies from beginning to end.

Three years later a country paper repeated this story, and added, "There were no trees or objects of any kind within yards of the rope." It is fairly obvious from this and other such reports that there is no foundation for statements from people professing to have seen the trick performed. So we must come to the conclusion that the Great Indian Rope Trick is a Myth and has never been performed.