If you've always thought that good illusions cost hundreds, and even thousands of dollars to purchase, magician and designer Andrew Mayne can change your mind. Mayne has made an industry of his own adapting traditional illusions into low-cost, build-them-yourself plans. While good illusions require precision and high-quality work, Mayne's illusion plans only call for common household tools and readily found, low-cost materials.
Mayne's Voodoo Box is a variation on the classic sword box. The magician reveals a box. An assistant steps inside the box and top is closed. The magician then shoves twenty-one umbrellas through all sides of the box at various angles. After a moment, the magician removes the umbrellas and opens a few to show that they are real. The box is opened and the assistant steps out unharmed. It's a full scale stage illusion that packs flat, may be performed surrounded and allows for detailed inspection of the props.
The Voodoo Box is designed to be built in under 30 minutes (after purchasing materials) and for less than $30. The foundation of the effect lies in a cardboard box that you may purchase from a storage facility or a place that rents moving vehicles. The only tool you'll need is a box cutter or knife.
The biggest expense lies in purchasing umbrellas. In the instructions, Mayne says that he found cheap umbrellas for a dollar each at a dollar store. But if you aren't so lucky, lets say that you can only find cheap umbrellas at two bucks each, this factor effectively doubles the cost of the illusion.
The illusion is easy to build. Throughout the booklet, Mayne offers clear instructions and plans for constructing the illusion with lots of pictures and illustrations. He also offers tips on using spray paint to visually enhance the effect.
The illusion takes practice to perform, particularly on the part of your assistant. It's also up to you to work up the presentation with either patter or music. The illusion packs flat. It is, after all, a card board box. But you will still have to find a way to haul around the umbrellas.
Some will feel that a cardboard box looks cheap on stage, however, the box can work in a magician’s favor-depending on his or her style. A cardboard box is something that audiences are familiar with, and as a result, can appear innocent and ungimmicked. A flashy, professional sword box, on the other hand, often looks like a magician’s prop.
I’ve often seen professional magicians perform with edgy illusion props that look as if they’ve been pulled from a junkyard or construction site. It’s all in the presentation and performer’s style. Perhaps the only downside of the cardboard box is its durability. But once you know where to purchase boxes, you can always make replacements.
Andrew Mayne is not only a creative and clever illusion designer, he offers excellent plans for building his low cost illusions. If you’ve always wanted to add an illusion that uses an assistant and offers a variation on the classic swordbox, Mayne’s plans for The Voodoo Box, at only $14.95, are worth the look.
-Wayne N. Kawamoto
The Voodoo Box (plans) - $14.95