Troublewit and Paper Magic
Magicians, conjurors, and performers have used origami and paper magic to astonish their audiences for ages. A pre-creased paper appears to be a plain, flat sheet of paper. But, in a few quick moves, the magician transforms the paper into a 3 dimensional structure. Indeed, it has been suggested by David Lister and others that the flapping bird was invented this way: a traveling magician forgot how to fold a paper crane and made the flapping bird instead. [Photo: Brian Cox demonstrates troublewit].
There is a type of magic called Troublewit which is based on origami folds. In troublewit, a piece of stiff paper is pleated repeatedly, accordian-style. As well, internal creases are made, at an angle, in between the pleats. The pleats allow the paper to be compressed into a relatively small size while the internal creases allow the paper to be opened into a surprising variety of shapes. [Photo: troublewit hat by geoorigami.]
Troublewit is usually performed with a story. At the appropriate moment of the story, the pleated troublewit prop is transformed into different shapes. Most audiences are familiar enough with paper that they do not percieve troublewit as the same kind of magic as, for example, sawing a person in half. Nevertheless, with an experienced performer and proper lighting, troublewit can be entertaining and quite stunning. [Photo: troublewit props from JCRMagic.com.]
Typically, each troublewit prop can be manipulated into 3 or 4 shapes. But, you can buy (or make) different troublewits where the internal creases are placed differently: these would produce different shapes. Common shapes are fans, lanterns, hats, bowls, dumbells, vases, candles, cakes, and so forth. [Photo from “The Universal Self Instructor” in A Jonze‘s flickr site.]
It is not clear who or where troublewit was invented, but it has been suggested that troublewit was known as early as 1710 (Complete Origami) and perhaps as early as 1676. The craft was popularized by Harry Houdini and today, performers still use troublewit as demonstrated by the sale of troublewit props and books. [Image from JCRMagic.com.]
Read more about troublewit from:
- video of Jay Marshall performing Troublewit
- watch video of Troublewit Inspired chair
- information from John Smith’s web site
- The Universal Self Instructor, (1884) in A Jonze’s site
- Photos of Professor Hofzinser and troublewit (circa 1850) from Seeing Impossible Bodies: Fascination as a Spatial Experience by Patricia Pringle
Origami Tricks and Illusions
There are other origami models which are noteworthy. Some of these are interesting in a private sort of way while others can dazzle an audience.
- XYZ – square by F Ow
- XYZ – diamond by F Ow
see similar diagrams for intersecting planes
- Magic Rings by T Yenn
- One Piece Flipper by S Chen
- Simple Flasher by C Palmer & J Shafer. Watch video from mbjb
- Flasher hat by J Shafer. Watch video from Exploratorium
- Flasher Big Bang by J Shafer. Watch video from mbjb
- Spring Into Action by J Beynon. Watch video from Matthew
Paper Magic Tricks and Illusions
There are many other magic tricks that involve paper and cards. Some of them involve tearing a piece of paper into bits and then having them magically reassemble themselves. Other tricks involve having the paper attached to a thin (invisible) string. The magicain then covertly maneuvers the string to make the paper appear to float in midair.
The following videos are fun to watch and if you watch carefuly, the secret is revealled. There are many origami paper magic books that are good for young magician.
- Metamorphosis Bill to Butterfly . Cool magic trick where a dollar bill is transformed into a flapping butterfly.
- Animated Origami Bill by lairmagic is a very cute combination of dollar-bill origami and magic. Short, sweet, and nicely done!
- interlocking rings. What looks like two interlocking rings is magically pulled apart to show that it is made from one piece of paper. Diagram for this origami can be found in Origami to Astonish and Amuse by J Shafer; or watch video
- MagicSafire Paper Butterfly by MagicSafire.com. Have you ever wondered by magicians have a “lovely assistant”? To distraction you, of course! This video shows paper butterflies fluttering around as if they are real. How does she do it? Must be invisible threads pulling them.
- Floating Paper Ball from adammilestone. Very nicely done!
- How to do the torn and restored paper magic trick by FreeMagicSchool. This video is 9 minutes long but it is a good lesson on how to make a torn sheet of paper reassemble itself.
- the same trick is show here by baltasar890 (2 minutes).
- secret of Vanishing Card from Joker060606. Once you see this video, you will understand how many disappearing acts work: slight of hand!
- Hayashi’s magic tricks: this guy is a great performer, some of his magic tricks involve paper, cards, dollar bills, and toilet paper. Check it out.
Books about Paper Magic and Troublewit
- Paper Magic: The Art of Paper Folding, by R Harbin
- Houdini’s Paper Magic by Harry Houdini
- Self-Working Paper Magic by K Fulves
- Troublewit by Norman Cummins
- Complete Origami: by Eric Kenneway
- The New Origami by Steve and Megumi Biddle
- See origami paper magic books here