Need A Quote From Dunninger Book....

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Postby Ray Eden » 01/15/04 08:57 AM

Help! I'm writing an article and I need a quote from "Dunningers Complete Encyclopedia Of Magic". My copy is in storage in the US and I'm in Finland.

The reference that I need:
I seem to remember that near the beginning of the book he writes about how the Egyptian magicians duplicated Moses and Aaron's miracle of changing the rod into a snake (Exodus 7:10-12). He mentions a type of cobra that becomes rigid. If someone could help me with this reference I would really appreciate it.

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Postby Nicholas Carifo » 01/16/04 01:57 AM

Hello Ray,

The story you mention is in the first few pages of Volume one from The Tarbell Course in Magic. However, upon looking again at it after reading your post, I did not find any explanation of the type of snake used.

I did try to find the quote in Dunnigers Encyc of Magic, but I unfortuantely could not find anything about that story or illusion easily, tho I have not fully read that book, so I could have missed it somewhere.

Possibly you are remembering the quote from Tarbell, and maybe somewhere inside one of the volumes the illusion and type of snake is mentioned. If I find it I will post. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

However, I have in the past heard the name of this type of snake mentioned, so someone here may have that information. From what I recall tho, it was not a cobra, but more of a smaller, less dangerous snake, but I could be wrong. Try a web search, or go to google and do a "newsgroups" search that will search years and years of alt.magic postings where this just might pop up.

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Postby Ray Eden » 01/16/04 02:35 AM

Thanks for the help. Would you believe that I've never read the Tarbell series? So, that's not where I read it; although I would be interested to know what Tarbell has to say.

I spent about two hours last night searching the internet, but was unsuccessful. I came up with a supposed reference in the Westcar Papyrus, but, alas, was unable to find the full text on line. Hopefully, someone has the answer out there.

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Postby Edwin Corrie » 01/16/04 09:00 AM

In my work I do a lot of Internet searching to find the meanings of obscure terms, so this seemed like a good challenge.

If you enter the terms "snake moses staff rigid" in Google (without the inverted commas), you get a number of potentially relevant hits. I haven't explored them all, but the following mentions a type of snake and refers to Walter Gibson's Secrets in Magic:

The following talk about temporarily hypnotising or paralysing snakes: ... c=665&st=0

There are lots more hits if you feel like exploring them, but the above may be enough for your purposes.

Good luck with the article!
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Postby Bob L » 01/16/04 09:20 AM

"The Rigid Snake Trick" ?

Man, I wouldn't touch that with a six-inch TT.

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Postby Guest » 01/16/04 01:55 PM

If you need info on Dunninger you may want to contact Joe Attmore who wrote a book on him and did a great deal of research. He's a very nice guy and would likely be as helpful as possible. He is a member of IBM Ring 216 and they can help you get hold of him. If that doesn't work let me know and I'll get the info for you.
Steve V

Postby Ray Eden » 02/03/04 10:06 AM

Thanks for the tips, and I'll try to contact Joe Attmore.

My reference to Dunninger was that I'm sure I saw a small graphic and explanation in "Dunningers Complete Encyclopedia Of Magic" regarding this. There are so many things in the book, that its easy to read over something. I would also be interested in the quote from Tarbell if someone is willing to transcribe it.


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Postby Guest » 02/03/04 03:01 PM

If I'm not mistaken, the following books mention the snake effect:

Milbourne Christopher's Encyclopedia of Magic
Jeff Sheridan's Street Magic

Postby Guest » 02/03/04 03:05 PM

I think I got the Christopher book's title mixed up. I'm referring to the very large history book.

Postby Ray Eden » 02/04/04 09:58 AM

Milbourne Christopher's Encyclopedia of Magic!

That's it! Okay, so I got the first part of the title wrong. Regardless, it seems that I've found my answer. The snake is the Egyptian cobra (naja haje), but just to be safe, I'm trying to contact some serpent specialists to confirm.

It seems that Walter Gibson in his book Secrets of Magic explains the trick as well. He names the snake, whereas, I don't think that Milbourne Christopher does. I understand that the effect is still done by Egyptian snake charmers. I would love to find some video of that!

Thanks to everyone.


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Postby Richard Hatch » 02/04/04 12:39 PM

Alas, there is no such book as "Milbourne Christopher's Encyclopedia of Magic". What Rafael likely meant was his ILLUSTRATED HISTORY OF MAGIC, but it does not make reference to the trick in question. I just went through DUNNINGER'S COMPLETE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF MAGIC to see if the trick was there and struck out, though there were several tricks with snakes, including a talking serpent skull and a kind of Lota bowl with snakes hidden in it! I think you are mixing the Dunninger book up with Walter Gibson's SECRETS OF MAGIC ANCIENT AND MODERN. Page 13 is devoted to "Pharoah's Serpents" and the illustration shows an ancient Egyptian sorcerer who has just thrown a snake on the ground and three courtesans recoiling from it (I'm looking at the 1967 issue of this book. The illustrations in the earlier edition--1928?--are different...). Gibson says it was probably done the same way it is done today, using a species called the "naja haje" or Egyptian cobra. "A peculiarity of this snake is that it can be made motionless by pressuere just below the head. Thus temporarily paralized, the naja haje becomes rigid, like a stick, but when it is thrown on the ground, it is jolted back to action." John Keel in his 1957 classic JADOO gives an eyewitness account of this effect on page 47, though he spells it "naje haje" ( shows Gibson's spelling is favored 1,070 to 49!).
I hope this provides the needed references (used copies of all the books referenced are currently available from !)
On a related topic, can Biblical scholars tell me whether the fact that the Pharaoh's sorcerers could duplicate Aaron's feat implies that both were performing a trick (the "miracle" being that Aaron's snake ate the Pharaoh's snake) or that the God of Moses was more powerful than the God of the Pharaoh (which would imply more than one God...). Just curious. My Biblical knowledge is based less on the King James version than that of Cecil B. DeMille!
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Postby Guest » 02/04/04 02:02 PM

Of course, Biblical discussions of what was said and/or implied, are among the reasons, there are so many denominations.
But the main theme seems to show, that Moses had the benefit of the power of his God. So regardless if Pharaoh's magicians were doing tricks or using the power of some pagan/satanic source, (Remember satan spoke to Eve, as a serpent.) Moses was able to show his God's power was superior to all others, certainly his staff, now turned to snake, literally having the other snakes for lunch, made his point.
It has been said for those who wish to see a real miracle before they can believe, should wonder after the plagues, frogs, parting of the seas, destroying his army, Pharoah would have thought by then, "wait a minute....". Likewise those following Moses, experiencing manna from heaven, being saved from Pharoah, being led by a pillar of fire, were given (you would think) sufficient proof....But most of them,constantly lived, rebeled, complained, in a way, "Not pleasing to God."

Postby Guest » 02/04/04 02:11 PM

Remember this is a time, when the lines are very to what miraculous feats are for entertainment, or more likely to demonstrate supernatural power.
In the Book of Acts, I believe, a "Simon the magician", tries to barter (I think with maybe Paul) for these powers, and is rebuked.
So we do not know if this is a juggler/conjuror, or a proclaimed mystic, but regardless, someone who wants to use these powers for less lofty purposes.

Postby Q. Kumber » 02/04/04 02:31 PM

I was asked about this Biblical snake some years ago by a priest and my research led me to Will Ayling's book "Oriental Conjuring And Magic" published by Supreme. He also (though his source may have been the same mentioned by Richard Hatch) referred to the naja haje.
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Postby Jeff Haas » 02/04/04 04:40 PM

Ah, poisonous snakes. Always a fun topic!

As anyone who's an Animal Planet fan knows, cobras in general are very smart and aggressive when stirred up.

Here's a good profile of the Egyptian Cobra:

Crikey, there's a lot of info on this snake out there...but strangely, no one today seems to talk about the paralysis trick. I think when you understand that it has neurotoxic venom, it tends to put you off of such stunts.

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Postby David Alexander » 02/04/04 06:16 PM

Heard about stiffening a cobra trick for years...saw C.B. DeMille do it in an animated effect for The Ten Commandements...but would be interested if anyone other than John Keel has ever seen it done first person.

I suspect that grabbing the snake and pressing some special spot behind its head would only make the snake angry and you, possibly, dead. I mean, you've got to wonder how people find these things out in the first place.

I think this may be one of those oft-repeated "truths" that start someplace and are endlessly repeated as factual, bolstered by writers like John Keel who explains the Indian Rope Trick in his book. Unfortunately, the "Indian Rope Trick" has been shown to be a product of a Chicago newspaper writer in the late 19th or early 20th Century.
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Postby Q. Kumber » 02/04/04 11:45 PM

David Alexander may well be right. Pressing the cobra on the back of the head may well be an early urban legend.

I bet Moses had it concealed in a vanishing cane.
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Postby Ray Eden » 02/05/04 02:14 AM

I'm trying to contact some serpent specialists to confirm or deny the possiblity of this feat.


On the Theological question:

My background is theology which is one of the reason I chose this topic for my article for the magazine.

It should be noted that this feat was done by G!d for Moses (Ex. 4:2-4) as proof of his mission to Pharoah (along with his hand becoming leprous), and it was actually Aaron (Ex. 7:10-12) who performed the feat in Pharoah's presence. Aaron went on to perform all of the rest of the plagues against Egypt as well.

NOTE: The Westcar Papyrus gives the account of a magician changing a wax figure of a crocodile into a living beast and changing it back to wax by taking it up by the tail.

Each of the miracles/plagues against Egypt attacked Egyptian gods in some form. The Egyptians worshipped the Egyptian cobra, and it was a big part of Egyptian life. The first miracle of Aaron -- from a Jewish or Christian point of view -- attacked the snake cult. Further, it took a 'trick' that was commonly performed and used by magicians, and made it into a real miracle (sort of like Tommy Wonder doing the Cups and Balls after 10 or 15 of us had done them :-). The miracle not being the transformation of the rod into a snake, but that Aaron's snake consumed the magician's cobras. Thus eliminating the 'trickery' (the Hebrew suggests covertness, trickery and deceit) used by the Egyptian magi.

Egyptian art work depicts various Pharoahs holding a scepture, which is infact the immobilized Egyptian cobra, according to various sources.

If there is interest... I will post my article under this thread once it is ready. The article is a treatment on originality.

In the Book of Acts, I believe, a "Simon the magician", tries to barter (I think with maybe Paul) for these powers, and is rebuked.
It was actually Peter with whom he bartered. Simon was impressed with the results of Peter laying hands on someone and their receiving of the Holy Ghost (Act 2 explains what happened when someone receives the Holy Ghost).

Act 8:14-20
Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost.

And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Saying, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.

But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.


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Postby Guest » 02/05/04 10:21 AM

Sounds like an interesting article. What publication is it for?

2 times I have seen magicians act as if they had seen Moses do his stuff in Pharoah's court:
The first time Copperfield was performing, "Flying", and watching magicians in the lobby, absolutely STUNNED at what they had seen...shaking their heads in disbelief, over what had been accomplished.
The second was watching Rene Levand perform at The Magic Castle, while some very top-notch close-up performers,(names to us) stood in the back, aboslutely STUNNED at what they were seeing, actually groaning in appreciation/admiration, as they saw what he did and could do.
Like watching Arthur Rubenstein or Andre Watts, in a concert, and saying, "That's what a piano can sound like!"

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