The Snake Basket

I have loved the Khyber Cobra trick ever since I was a kid and saw it performed at the Boston Magirama/Magical. It is just one of those tricks that is so fun it just sticks in your head. It’s a classic. Collector’s Workshop makes a terrific remote controlled version of it. But since my lottery number hasn’t come up yet, I have developed this version. Its main advantage is that it is cheap to make. Its disadvantage is that you cannot walk into the middle of the audience to make it work. Plus…it takes some practice to pull it off well. Practice! Did he say practice?! Yes I did! Imagine that in the magic world. But you’re playing with a puppet. It will be as fun as working with a Zombie Ball or a Dancing Cane. Trust me.

I’ll start with telling you how I make all my prop tables. I use old mike stand bases. Preferably the kind with folding legs, not just a round weight at the bottom. Old heavy-duty music stands work good too. The kind you see in classrooms. Anyway, I take the pole off and replace it with a threaded galvanized piece of tubing from the hardware store. Next I find a plumber’s flange that will fit the threads of my pipe. The galvanized pipe usually has a thin coating, which will cause paint to peel off of it. To avoid this I clean it with a rag soaked in Acetone. This usually does the trick. Then I paint it black or sometimes silver. Touch up Paint from the auto store works real well though is more expensive than regular spray paint. I attach the plumber’s flange to whichever prop or in this case tabletop I wish to use. Drill a small 1/8″ hole about half way up the pipe. Screw on your tabletop.

I have a small 12″x12″ tabletop made out of thin ply or Masonite. I attach a block of 2×4 wood to the underside in the exact center of the table. I then screw in the flange to the block of wood. I take a 1/2″ drill bit and drill a hole through the wood and the center of the flange. Now we are ready to build the snake basket.

If you’re going cheap go to a flower shop and buy a wicker basket for flowers. If you want to upgrade, go to an import store and you can often find very Egyptian looking baskets. Whatever your tastes you are going to drill a 1/2″ hole in the bottom of it. This may ruin the integrity of the basket and you may want to reinforce the hole with duct tape. I love duct tape.

From the hardware store get a 1/4″ dowel. From the toy store get a 2 or 3 inch rubber ball. Drill a 1/4″ hole halfway into the rubber ball. Stick the dowel into the rubber ball. Take a pushpin and stick it almost all the way into the other side of the dowel.

Get some catgut, fishing line, or the beading stores sell its great black beading nylon thread for a buck a spool. This stuff is great for lots of thread magic. It is thin and it is strong. But whatever you use, turn your table upside down and push the thread into the small hole that you made. If it seems to get stuck or is not going in anymore, blow into the bottom of the pipe. This should get the thread down through the tabletop. Take your dowel and put it through the hole in the basket, pushpin side first. Take the thread and tie it tightly to the pushpin. Set the table upright with the basket on the table, rod and ball inside. If you pull on the thread it will make the dowel rise. See where we are going?

Get a penny whistle, recorder or flute and attach the thread to the end of it. Secure it with clear tape. Make sure you have at least enough thread to easily put the flute on the table when the dowel is all the way in the basket.

Next you need to make a snake. I just got a green knee sock. Took a semi-circular piece of cardboard and put it down inside the toe. I made some eyes out of construction paper (craft shops also sell a variety of eyes who’s eyeballs move) glued them to the sock on top of the cardboard. Then I made some buckteeth out of white cardboard and glued them to where the mouth should be. Then I glue a feather to the top of his head. To the inside of the teeth I put a piece of double-sided tape. This will hold the selected card in place later.

Now I pull on the flute to get the dowel to rise and I put the sock over it. I do not attach the sock to the bottom of the basket; it causes too many problems. We are now ready to go.

I begin by introducing the snake and the snake basket. I play a little tune on my flute. As I do, I lean back and I raise the end of the recorder up. This pulls on the string and the snake rises out of the basket. Keeping the string taught by holding the flute well away from the basket I introduce my snake. I then play the tune again, lowering the end of the flute and leaning in toward the basket. I put the flute on the table next to the basket.

Next, I have someone select a card and sign it. When they return it I “pass” it to the top or casually double undercut it to the top. When I place the deck in the basket I press the top card onto the double-sided tape on the snakes teeth. I then take the rest of the deck and sort of toss it like a salad. Mixing up the cards for the snake. I then play the flute as before and when the snake rises the signed selection is in its’ mouth.

Another method is to have a card fountain in the basket, when you put the deck in, start the card fountain and quickly play your tune making the snake rise with the signed selection in its’ mouth.

So there you go. Another classic of magic the easy way not the “techno” way, but still just as fun and amazing for the audience. Good luck. Practice this one to get all the movements right with the flute and the snake. Experiment. Find you own way to perform this trick and you will have lots of fun, laughter, and a magical memory maker for your audiences.

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