MEMOIRS - 13 - The Three Sticks

Once you begin to understand the workings of the native mind, and how they react to suggestion, it is not difficult to estimate how a Native would act when confronted with a situation which embraces autosuggestion; and his knowledge can be very useful on occasions. A friend of mine was the manager of a Sisal Estate on the east Coast of Africa, just North of Mombassa, and I spent a very enjoyable holiday with him. During my stay there, I gave a Magical performance in the Compound for the benefit of the Native Labourers, and I was afterwards held in great awe and esteem by all the Natives on the Estate.

Soon after this, my host told me that he was having a lot of trouble, owing to pilfering and theft, and that he was then investigating the matter of a Gold watch which had been stolen from the house of one of the European field-managers, and he had traced the theft down to one of three boys; but which of the boys had actually stolen the watch, he could not determine, as he had no definite proof, and the watch could not be found, and had certainly been hidden away very carefully. The huts had been searched again and again, but no sign of the stolen watch. He did not desire Police investigation, as he wanted to settle the matter himself. I then suggested that I might be of some use to him, if he let me handle the matter in my own way. This he agreed t do, so I had all the boys brought before me and seated in a semi-circle. I then told them about the theft of the watch, and he said that three of the boys were under suspicion, and that one of the three knew where the watch was hidden, and now I would give them a demonstration of how the White Man’s Magic could find the guilty man, and that he would tell me where he had hidden the watch. I purposely made no threat of punishment, as I estimated that the fear of the unknown White man’s Magic would be sufficient to produce the state of mind I required in the suspect.

I then had the three boys, who were under suspicion, brought before me, and, in view of everybody, I magically produced three short pieces of twig, and, although these were all exactly the same length, I placed them in my hand, in such a manner that the tops of the three twigs were perfectly even, but the bottom ends of the twigs were hidden in the palm of my hand, so that the boys could not see the length of them. I then told the three boys that the twigs were all of different lengths, and that each boy in turn was to come forward and take a twig out of my hand and place it behind his back, without looking at it.

When this had been done, I again impressed upon the boys that the twigs were of different lengths, although, of course, all three were exactly the same; and then I told them that the guilty boy was now known to me as had taken the longest twig; and after waiting a moment or two, I told them to bring forward their twigs for examination. When the twigs came into view, I saw immediately, that what I thought would happen, had happened, for the guilty boy, to make sure that he had not got the longest piece, had actually broken a small piece off the end of his twig, so that now, it was the shortest of the three, as the others were exactly the same length. The boy was self condemned, and confessed to the theft, and eventually produced the watch from where he had hidden it.

My part in the business was over, and once again, the Power of the White Man’s Magic had been demonstrated.