A photo taken at the 2002 exhibit "Magic: The Science
of Illusion" at the Science Museum of Minnesota.
|Here's another person's photo, of "Headless Pam."|
Here's a visual explanation of a similar illusion used on the cover of the publisher Dover's reprint of a magic book from 1876, Modern Magic: A practical treatise on the art of conjuring by Professor Hoffman.
|The "Sphinx" was another headless illusion, |
first introduced in 1865.
Here's the description from Modern Magic, which quotes a contemporary newspaper account:
…Most intricate is the problem proposed by Colonel Stodare, when, in addition to his admirable feats of ventriloquism and legerdemain, he presents to his patrons a novel illusion called 'the Sphinx.' Placing upon an uncovered table a chest similar in size to the cases commonly occupied by stuffed dogs or foxes, he removes the side facing the spectators, and reveals a head attired after the fashion of an Egyptian Sphinx. To avoid the suspicion of ventriloquism, he retires to a distance from the figure supposed to be too great for the practice of that art, taking his position on the borderline of the stalls and the area, while the chest is on the stage. Thus stationed, he calls upon the Sphinx to open its eyes, which it does - to smile, which it does also, though the habitual expression of its countenance is most melancholy, and to make a speech, which it does also, this being the miraculous part of the exhibition. Not only with perspicuity, but with something like eloquence, does it utter some twenty lines of verse; and while its countenance is animated and expressive, the movement of the lips, in which there is nothing mechanical, exactly corresponds to the sounds articulated.Living Room Scribbles>>
This is certainly one of the most extraordinary illusions ever presented to the public. That the speech is spoken by a human voice there is no doubt but how is a head to be contrived which, being detached from anything like a body, confined in a case, which it completely fills, and placed on a bare-legged table, will accompany a speech, that apparently proceeds from its lips, with a strictly appropriate movement of the mouth, and a play of the countenance that is the reverse of mechanical? Eels, as we all know, can wriggle about after they have been chopped into half-a-dozen pieces; but a head that, like that of the Physician Douban, in the Arabian tales, pursues its eloquence after it bas been severed from its body, scarcely comes within the reach of possibilities, unless, indeed, the old-fashioned assertion that “King Charles walked and talked half-an-hour after his head was cut of” is to be received, not as an illustration of defective punctuation, but as a positive historical statement.
Modern magic: A practical treatise on the art of conjuring>>