The MAGIC of Puppets - Part 2
Combining Puppets with Magic!
by Steve Axtell & Tom Ladshaw -
Axtell Expressions, Inc.


You probably are aware of the standard Magic Drawing Board which many consider a classic of magic now. You draw a cartoon face on a drawing board and it comes to life and talks then you erase it off the board while it’s talking! A new development is the introduction of radio control technology to it, so you don’t have to touch the board while it is talking yet ­ just like a puppet ­ you control it’s mouth and eye movement in real time as you see fit. More information about the Remote Control Magic Drawing Board here.

Here are some more wonderful ideas for combining magic with puppets. These are from the fertile mind of Tom Ladshaw Vent / magician and Lecturer, and were originally published in his book, "The Magical Ventriloquist". The word VENT referred to below means "ventriloquist".



The Effect: Puppet instructs vent to remove a small flower from inside his jacket. Vent or magician pulls the “flower” out...but it is only a stem...the flower bud has fallen off somewhere. The puppet says it’ll have to be restored by magic. Puppet says the magic word and...presto! The bud magically reappears on the stem.

The Secret: A simple item available at your magic supplier. It’s called the “Blooming Bud” or “Appearing Bud.” It’s a small “stem” that is actually a narrow tube covered in green feather material that looks like a plant.

There is a small stud on one side of this tube that controls the bud. When the stud is slid upward, the bud emerges from inside the tube and “appears.”

SPECIAL NOTES - This little trick is a fun item that may be used as a warm-up for the show, as well. Consult some of David Ginn’s material for ideas on comedy warm-ups and uses for this wonderfully-versatile item specifically.


The Effect: A plastic tumbler is seen sitting next to a bottle (soda, beer, etc..) The bottle is picked up and the liquid is poured into the tumbler.

As the liquid is pouring, the glass suddenly begins to levitate off the table and float in mid-air! The tumbler eventually floats back down to the table at which point the vent or magician puts the bottle down to pick up the tumbler and drink the contents.

The Secret: As the title might suggest, this trick uses a specially-prepared tumbler. There is a short, clear plastic rod attached to the inside base of the tumbler. There is also a length of monofilament (clear fishing line) secured to the end of the rod and extending approximately six- to eight inches outside of the tumbler. The “free” end of the monofilament terminates in a loop that is slightly larger than the lip of the bottle you’ll be using.

The liquid in the bottle should be dark so that it may be easily seen.

Begin with the tumbler mouth down over the bottle. The loop should already be attached to the lip of the bottle. Pick up the tumbler and place it mouth-up on the table. Pick up the bottle - taking care to not move it further than the length of monofilament - then begin pouring. Pour slowly and steadily. The thin stream of liquid should just cover the monofilament.

When you have the thin stream of liquid pouring steadily, lift the bottle upwards. This will cause the tumbler to “hang” from the bottle by the monofilament. When the tumbler is nearing as full as you need it to be, allow it to “float” back down to the tabletop.

With the tension removed from the monofilament, the loop may be disengaged from the lip of the bottle and the bottle removed from the table. Then the tumbler may be picked up and used to do the drinking bit, etc.

SPECIAL NOTES - This is a commercially-available item at magic shops but may be easily constructed at home. Try it using different types of tumblers...I’ve used a martini glass in the past. Also - instead of a bottle, a soda can may be used. Simply loop the monofilament over the pull-tab and proceed as in the original presentation.


The Effect: A small single flower on a stem is shown. The puppet tells the vent or magician it’s a special present for his girlfriend. When the puppet leans over to smell it (or when he “breathes” on it,) the flower “droops” over to a ninety degree angle! It may then “stand up” again as needed.

The Secret: A specially-made faux flower with stem. The flower is controlled by a finger-ring at the very bottom of the stem. When the ring is pulled, the flower “droops.” When the ring is released, spring tension draws the flower back upward.

SPECIAL NOTES - This is no great mystery, but it’s a cute gag that may be used in a variety of ways. The puppet can breathe on it, he can tell you to sniff it, etc. Any of those actions can apparently cause the flower to “die.”

This wonderful little utility prop is available from most magic suppliers.


The Effect: A small pan is shown empty. Several “ingredients” are tossed into it followed by a lit match. With a whoosh, flames leap out of the pan. To extinguish it, the cover is placed over the pan momentarily. When the cover is removed, the charred contents have transformed into candies, a small cake or even a live dove!

The Secret:’s a gimmicked pan! A shallow pan that nests just inside the pan proper is concealed inside the cover. When flames leap out of the pan, the cover is placed on it, automatically releasing the inner pan. That extinguishes the flames and reveals another “interior” of the pan...loaded with whatever you can fit into it.

SPECIAL NOTES - This is an ideal “closer” effect for your act....the puppet can name all sorts of silly “ingredients” that you patiently place into the pan. Finally you place the cover on and lift it back off, revealing the “load.” This load can be candies for the birthday children, etc. Virtually anything that will fit into the “load pan” may be’s a wonderfully versatile prop!

(AxNote ­ Our Bubba the Bullfrog can be made to appear in a larger Duck Pan. You can then transform a balloon tadpole into a full grown bullfrog!)


The Effect: Several silk hankies are placed into a clear tube. An opaque cylinder is placed down over the clear tube. When the cylinder is lifted, it is seen that the hankies have vanished and in their place is a live dove, several large oranges or a huge load of candy!

The Secret: Works essentially like the Dove Pan. There is another secret clear tube hidden inside the opaque outer cylinder. When the cylinder is placed over the clear tube then removed, the “load” tube stays in place inside the outer clear tube. The silk hankies are compressed down into the base of the outer clear tube and thus “vanish.”

SPECIAL NOTES - Like the Dove Pan, this is a very versatile item. Virtually anything that can fit into the inner load tube may be produced.

Use it to change the puppet’s red tie into a green one, etc. Or make several small bits of cloth, etc. transform into a hand puppet that can hold a conversation with you and your puppet.


The Effect: A small aluminum “vase” is shown and water is poured from it.

The vase is completely emptied into a bucket. After sitting for several moments, the vase is upturned over the bucket again and the same amount of water that “emptied” from it before gushes forth. This is repeated many times and with each repetition it gets more absurd and gets more laughs.

The Secret: A water-tight chamber built into the wall of the vase holds the additional water.

SPECIAL NOTES - This is a wonderful running gag (pardon the pun.) After each short “bit” in your act, you can nonchalantly pick up the vase and empty it. The less said, the more incongruous...and the more laughs!

A very funny bit - for the right audience only - involves having the puppet sit on the large model of this special vase... and it need to be “emptied” every so often... Use this idea with care!

Another funny bit is to have an audience member hold the vase over his head in between each “empty”... Ask him if he feels it getting heavier, etc.


The Effect: The vent or magician reaches into the air and “plucks” a coin from it. He does this repeatedly, eventually producing a number of coins.

The Secret: The are numerous methods to bring about this effect. There are sleight of hand methods, small hand-held gimmicks, special pails that deliver the coins into your hand, etc.

SPECIAL NOTES - The best way to decide which version of this classic of magic is right for you is to take a trip to your favorite magic supplier (or talk to one you trust.) Compare what’s available with your skills and get the optimum version.

Check out a combination of the coin catcher gimmick and a pail that’s gimmicked to make it sound as if a coin is dropped into it when it really isn’t.

This is a wonderful routine that is fertile with much humor. Spend some time with it and you’ll have your own signature routine.


The Effect: A small, opaque bottle is displayed. The vent or magician claims that a tiny Genie lives inside the bottle. He even speaks to the Genie and the audience plainly hears the tiny voice reply. A length of rope is then dropped into the bottle for the Genie to hold. The Genie says he has the rope, then the vent or magician lets go of the bottle. Amazingly, the bottle stays suspended on the rope! The rope is now removed from the bottle which is subsequently shown empty (and may even be passed for examination.)

The Secret: An opaque bottle with a tapered neck and a small ball made of rubber or cork that is hidden inside the bottle. When the rope is placed into the bottle and the bottle slightly inverted, the ball rolls down and “locks” the rope into position against the neck of the bottle. The rope will stay in this position until the rope is pushed slightly, thereby releasing the ball. The rope may now be removed and under misdirection of handing the rope out for examination, the bottle is inverted and the ball allowed to secretly roll out where it is “palmed” in the hand. The bottle may now be examined, as well.

SPECIAL NOTES - So many vents have used this bit over the years that it probably needs no explanation. This is a wonderful “opener” for a vent act or a great bit to use when you need some extra time. This bottle (also known as a “Genie Vase” or a “Prayer Vase” is not gimmicked, nor is the rope, so it’s easily made. The shape is important (the ball must roll up against the rope and secure it properly) so be sure to take a good look at the illustration. Some bud vases (available at most arts and crafts stores) are ideal for this effect.

A great presentational idea is along the same lines as the previous trick, “Moe’s Ring Escape.” Call the small genie “Moe” and you can use the same tagline at the end of the routine when you show that the bottle is actually empty.


I hope you enjoyed this month’s article written by Tom Ladshaw.

Next we'll explore some Magical puppets & props!

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