June 30, 2017

The Floating Ball Routine: An Excerpt from David P. Abbott’s “Book of Mysteries”

Ira writes: In this week’s episode, “The Magic Show,” the magician Teller (of Penn and Teller) talks about everything that went into creating a trick he loves to perform called The Red Ball. He worked on it for a year and a half before it was ready for the stage. Here’s a video of the act from Penn and Teller’s TV show.


The basic method behind the trick, Teller got from a book written by a legendary figure in magic, an amateur magician from Omaha, Nebraska, named David P. Abbott. In the early 1900s, Abbott created such extraordinary tricks that the greatest magicians in the world – Harry Houdini, Harry Kellar, Howard Thurston – came to watch him perform in his living room. The book he wrote in the 1920s and 30s detailing his secrets was never published in his lifetime and the manuscript was lost for four decades after his death.

Here’s an excerpt from Abbott’s chapter on the floating ball. Note the pre-Photoshop painted arrows and the painstaking attention to detail. As Teller told me: "David P. Abbott is clear to a fare thee well. In fact, the reason that so few people have done most of the material in David P. Abbot’s masterpiece of a book is because he gives so much detail that if you're a dilettante, you are not going to pay attention to it. You go 'I can't make this out.' Because you're not sitting there and going through it sentence by sentence by sentence by sentence. The level of detail that he provided was astounding."