The Indian Rope Trick: History of an Illusion

Historian and magician Peter Lamont considers what can be learned by studying the history of a famous conjuring trick – or con trick?

Until a few years ago, historians of conjuring were agreed upon the history of what was often called the world’s greatest conjuring trick – the Indian rope trick. This is the legendary feat in which a rope rises into the air without any means of support, whereupon a boy climbs up the rope and disappears at the top. It has been discussed not only by magicians but also by scholars of religion, psychical researchers, and in endless articles in the popular press. The debate about how to explain what is ostensibly an impossible trick has provoked a wide range of extravagant theories, but the history of the trick has been less controversial.

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