The Haunted Key

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Postby Tabman » 03/16/05 01:57 PM

Kind Sirs: I am looking for early print references to the effect known commonly as The Haunted Key. If anyone has any information to share, I'd appreciate it. Thanks again.

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Postby Guest » 03/16/05 05:36 PM

The only reference to a key that turns in one's hand that I have seen is in Harry Baron's book Close up Magic for Beginners. I actually own the rights to this book (not particularly relevant to this enquiry come to think off it). However I am also very interested in this question as some years ago I purchased the rights for a similar effect from the creator. I released the effect as the Key to Borley Rectory. The effect was created by having a key that was machined to be perfectly balanced and that would turn without any effort at all. Additionally I added to the package a key that was machined to be the exact opposite and was almost impossble to make turn on one's hand. The idea that the second key was switched in to catch out those who thought they knew how the effect worked. My further particular interest in this effect is related to the fact that soon after I released my key for which I had paid the inventor a sum of money that he donated to Cancer research, Supreme Magic here in the UK were able to release a cheap version of the same effect under the title of the Haunted Key. This effect was purchased in large quantities by a US dealer and when I had a discussion with the representative of the US company his only argument was that the effect was based on using a balanced key such as mine. His additional argument was that the effect was virtually in the public domain and he seemed to ignore the point that one might find a key that would work but actually producing a key that was specially balanced was my effect and available as the Key to Borley Rectory. I still consider that the effect I had paid for was my property and that the concept of making a special key was my property as well. Any comments from magicians out there? Martin Breese
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Postby Tabman » 03/16/05 05:57 PM

Hi Martin, thanks for the detailed reply to my query. I've been told that Eugene Burger has done some writing on this subject and have been pointed toward several other modern texts with references to the haunted key. I was asking because I am in possession of a beautiful looking antique key that works perfectly for the effect and was interested in casting a few but I don't want to step on your toes at all. I remember your Key to Borley Rectory. What a great name for a trick.

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Postby George Olson » 03/16/05 07:17 PM

Martin:

Do you have any of these for sale?

GO
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Postby Tabman » 03/16/05 07:27 PM

Originally posted by George Olson:
Martin: Do you have any of these for sale?
I'd be interested in a set as well if you have more than one for George.

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Postby Guest » 03/16/05 07:43 PM

John Mulholland's Book of Magic has the "Spooky Key" on page 76 of my 1963 edition. I think that is where I learned the key effect, but I thought it went back a century or two before that...I could be wrong, but, anyway, there is a printed reference....

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Postby Bill Palmer » 03/16/05 10:22 PM

One version of the Haunted Key was published in German before the Key to Borley Rectory was released, if my dates are correct. This is the story that is in Setzt Euch zu Meinen Fen by Punx. This was published in 1977. The translation, Magical Adventures and Fairy Tales, was published in 1988.

Neither of these predates the Mulholland reference, of course. Also Van Cleve had it in a set of lecture notes that he presented at the TAOM convention in 1973 in Arlington TX.

None of these used a specially balanced key, though.

The Punx version had a bit I have never seen anywhere else. This was the fingertip balance.
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 03/17/05 01:40 AM

Originally posted by Bill Palmer:
The Punx version had a bit I have never seen anywhere else. This was the fingertip balance.
Funny you mention this. I always tought the fingertip balance was the original way to perform this effect... I knew it in the seventies, but I don't know where I learnt it (perhaps it was shown to me).

However, John Fisher's "Body Magic" (currently at Martinka's auction) describes the fingertip balance and the key turning inside a book, saying (I think: I'm not by my library :( ) they are two old effects. Strangely enough, he doesn't mention the effect known as "The Haunted Key". The book was published in 1979 in the USA, perhaps earlier in the UK (1977 comes to mind...)

Is the Haunted Key a later effect?

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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/17/05 07:41 AM

Originally posted by Marco Pusterla:
Originally posted by Bill Palmer:
[b] The Punx version had a bit I have never seen anywhere else. This was the fingertip balance.
Funny you mention this. I always tought the fingertip balance was the original way to perform this effect... I knew it in the seventies, but I don't know where I learnt it (perhaps it was shown to me).
[/b]
Charles Cameron published the fingertip balance in 1976 in DEVIL'S DIARY, crediting it to Dr. Jaks, who showed it to him in strictest confidence, saying it had never been published. I believe, however, that the Jaks' version had appeared in THE PHOENIX, though I don't have it handy to check at the moment. If so, it seems likely that Punx was familiar with the Jaks' handling, which likely predates it (Jaks died in 1960).
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Postby Richard Hatch » 03/17/05 10:22 AM

Jaks' fingertip handling was published in PHOENIX issue 246 (January 11, 1952), p. 984, with an illustration by Jaks. No earlier references to the effect are given there. Curious that Jaks would tell Cameron it was unpublished and swear him to secrecy (I assume his contact with Cameron was after this date, though I could well be wrong on that...)
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Postby Tabman » 03/17/05 11:17 AM

Thanks for the tips. The Dr. Jaks' illustration is amazing, thanks Richard. Since that type of key was in use for a long time, one would think that magicians have been doing this effect for quite some time. Maybe it's been passed along by word of mouth???
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Postby Ken Becker » 03/17/05 11:46 AM

I bought mine back in 1942 at Snyder's Magic Shop in Cleveland when I was just a kid.
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Postby Edwin Corrie » 03/17/05 02:34 PM

Both versions (palm and tip of middle finger) are included in Martin Gardner's Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic. The fingertip method is attributed to Dr. Jaks, complete with the reference to Phoenix magazine. Perhaps someone with the original Hugard's Magic Monthlies can check for the first publication date, which may have been before the 1952 Phoenix issue.

The Harry Baron book mentioned above (from 1972) is the only other place I remember seeing it, though it seems like the sort of trick you'd find in beginners' books.
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Postby Guest » 03/17/05 02:47 PM

Oh, I hope nobody picks it up and puts it in a bunch of beginner's books....Have you ever had a card selected and shuffled into a deck...Then have spectator spread the cards all over the table face up...Then tell the spectator that you will have your key unlock the mystery of what his/her card is....Priceless!!!!! It works even better if you can do it with the cards face down....

Added note, 23 March: Somebody suggested not to use cards; I somewhat agree and am thinking about maybe Tarot cards, Living and Dead billets, etc.

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Postby Tabman » 03/17/05 04:43 PM

Originally posted by Opie R.: Then tell the spectator that you will have your key unlock the mystery of what his/her card is....Priceless!!!!!
Nice idea Opie. Thanks, another use for the key.

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Postby Guest » 03/17/05 06:17 PM

Thank you...Here is a link to a routine using the key and a Glorpie. If you get to the site and have to log in, go ahead, and then search for message 3710.3....

http://forums.about.com/ab-magic/messages?msg=3710.3

opie
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Postby Jim Maloney_dup1 » 03/17/05 06:18 PM

The effect goes back at least to 1935. In the "More Greater Magic" section of the Kaufman edition of Greater Magic, there are a series of entries on Nate Leipzig from Hilliard's notebook, including the following:

"Leipzig's Key on Fingers: Large key balanced on tip of second and third fingers. Heavy end of key turns round. Secret: Slight, almost subconscious sagging of finger."

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Postby Guest » 03/17/05 07:00 PM

Originally posted by -=tabman:
I've been told that Eugene Burger has done some writing on this subject ...
-=tabman
That would be Spirit Theater.

I believe Ormond McGill also published a version in a series of six books that was later re-published as one book with a different title. Forget what it's called.
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Postby Marco Pusterla » 03/18/05 02:21 AM

Originally posted by Rafael Vila:
I believe Ormond McGill also published a version in a series of six books that was later re-published as one book with a different title. Forget what it's called.
That should be "Psychic Magic", published by Abbott in the forties (?), then reprinted by Supreme in the sixties (I have a 1968 date), but the material had already been published in "Tops" in 1937, in a series of articles. I'm not sure about a collected edition of the books, but it may as well exist ("Real Mental Magic"? Don't know, I don't own it... :( )

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Postby Marco Pusterla » 03/20/05 04:57 AM

Originally posted by Edwin Corrie:
Perhaps someone with the original Hugard's Magic Monthlies can check for the first publication date, which may have been before the 1952 Phoenix issue.
Hugard's Magic Monthly, Vol. XI, nr. 8 (Aug. 1954), pag. 91. The text credits Dr. Jaks for the version on the fingertip but gives no credits for the version in the palm of the hand.

Please note that I'm typing from memory: I checked this reference last night, and I'm not 100% sure the month was August and the page was 91 (could be 81).

Hope this helps, ciao!
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Postby Tabman » 03/20/05 05:45 PM

Thank you kind sirs for the information helping me in my quest to dig for the origins of this favorite effect. Now, I need to track down several pieces of literature including the issue of the 1937 Tops. You guys are the best!!!

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Postby Guest » 03/20/05 09:13 PM

You know that the Tabman has class! And class never goes out of style!

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Postby Guest » 03/22/05 11:13 AM

I am sorry to report that the Haunted Key is in a rather popular beginner book by Jon Tremaine. Two editions were available:

1. Two volume set, Amazing Book of Magic and Amazing Book of Card Tricks

2. Compilation of both, called Amazing Book of Magic and Card Tricks

Atleast this is a quality beginner book with all color photo illustrations. Only the palm version is shown, not the fingertip version. I have the two-volume edition, having stumbled upon it at a Books-a-million or Barnes and Noble bookstore. I have a fondness for quality beginner books, as my son is age 8, just the age that I took up magic.

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Postby Guest » 03/22/05 11:22 AM

Opie,

Thanks for the key/glorpy routine, and the card/key idea.

Try this: Control the chosen card to the top, deposit some salt on it from the fingernail (a la the $100 Kick Location), and cut it to the center. Then, do your key bit, the key turns by itself to unlock the chosen card. Then smack the deck on the long side with the key, and the deck cuts itself at the chosen card.

Tabby:
Where did you get your key? All I can find is small ones that are too light. Did you ever get a reply on the KEY OF RECTORY manufacturer?

Jon
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Postby Tabman » 03/22/05 11:39 AM

Originally posted by Jon A. Hand: Tabby: Where did you get your key? All I can find is small ones that are too light. Did you ever get a reply on the KEY OF RECTORY manufacturer?
Jon, I found it when we sold my grandmother's house in southern Maryland. I came across it when we were packing all her stuff. The house was built in 1794 and had been the headmasters house for the oldest military school in the USA. My grannie was a packrat. The key is an antique. I'm going to cast a few and offer them to the community soon as I get caught up.

Ive been behind due to a tree falling on my house, then I ran a chainsaw into my knee cutting limbs away, then I picked up the flu from the emergency room, I guess. Today is the first day in over a month I've felt like working at all.

Here's a pic of my key.

Image

I never heard from Martin on his key but you could drop him an email and ask him. He's a friendly guy!!!

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Postby Guest » 03/22/05 11:55 AM

Jon, Thanks for the kicker idea...I too have been thinking about different presentations, especially with the spectator holding the key and you (the magician) just kind of "touching" the fingertips; there are some potential miracles with that approach...

Tab: Your key, with the little rings around the shaft, appears to be the perfect spirit/haunted key....

One of my many keys is the old "Ring on Key" key. It is heavy and works pretty well for the turnover. At one time I had a whole routine worked out for the ring on key and the haunted bit, but I cannot find my notes on it...As I recall, the patter line was about a dearly- departed person being called up at a seance. First the spirit showed its appearance by the "turnover" and then manifested itself through its appearance as a wedding band on the key, as a spectator held it under a hank. The finale was that the ring vanished (under the hank) off the key, leaving the key just an ordinary door key.

Thanks guys...Now I am fired up and motivated to dig up all my keys from the junk heaps...

opie
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Postby Bob Farmer » 03/22/05 03:09 PM

Martin Breese's "Borley Rectory Key" is a wonderful prop that will fool those who may have come across the original method in a beginner's book.

Fiendishly, the key will not turn over for anyone but the performer and can be examined.

I believe I may have sent Martin my routine for this (it involves Victorian coffin keys used to prevent being buried alive) -- ask Martin -- this is a great prop.
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Postby Guest » 03/22/05 03:52 PM

Opie,

Another idea:

Force a Queen, and patter for a kidnapping, or a SHREK scenario, whatever. Set up the old Card Through Hank trick. Hold the hank/deck in the left hand, and pull out the haunted key. Patter to set it up, and as it turns over in the right hand, lower the thumb in the left hand to let the card penetrate the hank. You are "unlocking the cell", and only the Queen emerges from the prison.

Jon
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Postby Guest » 03/22/05 06:25 PM

Bob....the key is a prop--whatever works...

Jon...thanks....opie
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Postby Bill Palmer » 03/22/05 11:03 PM

Punx's method is entirely different from the Jaks method. Instead of balancing the key on the fingertip and relying on ideomotor action to cause the key to turn over, he pressed the tip his thumb against the fleshy part of his fingertip. Then he balanced the key on his middle fingertip. By pulling downward with the tip of his thumb, it changed the contour of the middle finger, which caused the key to turn over.

Does anyone have an earlier reference for this move?

There is another one as well. This is the "key in the lock" turnover. The left hand makes a loose fist, simulating a keyhole. The key is placed into the loose fist, and it rests on the tip of the middle finger. By moving the middle fingertip, the magician causes the key to turn over.
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Postby Tabman » 03/23/05 08:44 AM

Originally posted by Bill Palmer: This is the "key in the lock" turnover. The left hand makes a loose fist, simulating a keyhole. [/QB]
Now, that's really awesome. I haven't heard of this move before. I can't wait to try this one.

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Postby John Smetana » 03/23/05 10:46 AM

Just a request from the wilderness..PLEASE, don't take something as special as The Haunted Key, and turn it into a card trick.

All the best,
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Postby Brian Morton » 03/23/05 10:55 AM

Bob neale has a routine for the Haunted Key in "Tricks of the Imagination," and after each routine, he's got a pretty good bibliography of sources for each -- you might want to look it up...

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Postby Guest » 03/23/05 12:24 PM

John Smetana,

I see where you are coming from. I was merely thinking in real time in response to Opie's idea.

What would you suggest? It could be a nice addition to a bizarre routine.

Jon
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Postby Tabman » 03/23/05 01:30 PM

Brian, thanks for the Robt Neale information. Jon, you could always substitute tarot cards and make it a spooky effect!!!

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Postby Edwin Corrie » 03/23/05 04:07 PM

I have an old trick somewhere with a key on a chain which moves by itself when it's passed over a row of Tarot cards. I also seem to remember a routine using the idea of the key on the hand turning to open a lock, though I've no idea where it was - maybe in an old magazine.
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Postby Guest » 03/23/05 08:50 PM

Edwin, you are probably talking about the Pendulum Effect, which is similar, but a whole 'nother trick....

opie
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Postby Edwin Corrie » 03/24/05 12:45 AM

Yes, the key was suspended on a chain and the method was completely different. But it wasn't the one where the suspended object swings in a line or in a circle as a result of involuntary motion on the part of the holder. In this, the key actually pivoted up quite eerily like a sort of dowsing stick. I can't remember the name or who sold it, but it was a nice effect.
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Postby Tabman » 03/24/05 08:36 PM

Originally posted by Edwin Corrie:
In this, the key actually pivoted up quite eerily like a sort of dowsing stick. I can't remember the name or who sold it, but it was a nice effect.
I remember seeing it advertised or in a catalog many years ago. Hopefully somebody can remember a few more details. I can think of a couple of potential methods but I'd love to get my hands on an original. Thanks for bringing it into the conversation!!!

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Postby Jim Riser » 03/25/05 12:05 AM

Tabman;
FYI - I started making and selling a very large heavy cast brass key which I machined for ring on key and was also perfect for the haunted key routine. I must have started marketing them in the late 1960's or early 1970's. I know many performers bought them for the haunted key option only. The ring on key routine was designed for walk around work and could be done surrounded. I discontinued them about 3 years ago.

You may see an old gif (pretty poor image) of it here:
http://www.JamesRiser.com/Magic/image62.gif

Over the years I made just under 100 of them. You can identify them by the "R" stamped into the key handle (and on the "key" for the tip). Somewhere in my pile of stuff I think I still have a couple keys; but I'm keeping them. In the future I may cast up more keys - if there is enough interest and I can find the time.

I just thought you might be interested in these keys as they do show up now and then.
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