THE BASIC REQUIREMENTS for the Indian rope trick are simple: a length of rope, a small boy, and a wholly credulous audience. In this entertaining study, Peter Larnont examines how one magic trick came to symbolise the mysteries of the Raj and fire the public imagination. From flying carpets and snake charmers, to fakirs who lay on beds of nails and walked on hot coals, the East provided an escape for the increasingly rational Victorian mind, and the Indian rope trick became seen as the ultimate manifestation of this powerful magic.
Eyewitnesses recounted how a magician would throw the end of a rope upwards. This rose until the rope was completely vertical; then a boy climbed to the top where he disappeared. Other versions had the magician following the boy up the rope and also vanishing; bloody limbs and body parts