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Q: Substitution Trunk Trick ( Answered,   1 Comment )
Subject: Substitution Trunk Trick
Category: Arts and Entertainment > Performing Arts
Asked by: mr_mcloy-ga
List Price: $8.00
Posted: 23 Jul 2002 12:29 PDT
Expires: 22 Aug 2002 12:29 PDT
Question ID: 44227
I would like information on how magicians & Illusionists perform the
"substitution trunk" trick. It is a Houdini trick type trick, and it
may have been invented by him, although I'm not sure about that.
Commonly referred to as "metamorphasis" in
magic shows, it is where a magician will chain, lock & tie his
assistant into a trunk, stand on top of the trunk and raise a sheet
(or something to hide the trunk and himself for a few seconds) and
then lower the sheet where his assistant appears where he was. The
assistant then goes about unlocking, untying & unchaining the box,
opens it to find the magician himself in the box (or trunk). It is an
amazing trick and I have yet to find anything other than books on how
to do it or places to purchase the box. I am not interested in either.
I would like to know how it works, not where to find a book about it
or how to build a trunk.
Subject: Re: Substitution Trunk Trick
Answered By: gopalkamat-ga on 23 Jul 2002 13:50 PDT

I found a post on Google Groups that talks about how this trick is

"Next, was the bit first done by Houdini, not surprisingly enough,
him being probably the only magician in this century to do anything
that was actually creative.  From what I have read, this bit is
called 'Metamorphosis', and, physically speaking, the performance is
impressive in the speed in which it was done...and after knowing how
it is done, the speed is more impressive than the actual cleverness
of the effect.  The cuffs are fake, and the bag has two openings, 
from which the male performer slides out of immediately, and then
through a door in the back of the trunk, croutching down behind the
trunk, while waiting for his old-looking wife to finish flashing her
behind.  She pulls the sheet up, while he sneaks up behind her, 
grabbing the sheet from her.  At the proper time, she drops behind 
the trunk, and reverses the process (putting on an outer white suit)
so as to appear locked in the trunk.  The exchange on the top of
trunk is apparently admired in magic circles."

This makes sense.  To check the post out, visit the Google Groups page
Presumably (from the article), these secrets were revealed on a NBC
late night special.  Seems like a sensible way to do this trick. :-)

There's also a book available that claims to reveal most of Houdini's
secrets including the Metamorphosis:
"Biggest secrets", by William Poundstone, QUILL 1993, ISBN
This book was suggested by the alt.magic.secrets FAQ owner and must be
genuine.  Check the alt.magic.secrets FAQ here:

The book can be bought from the Barnes and Nobles site here, if you
need it:

The search terms I used on Google Groups were:
"metamorphosis trick revealed"

Hope this helps.  Thanks for using Google Answers!


Request for Answer Clarification by mr_mcloy-ga on 24 Jul 2002 09:38 PDT
could you explain how the hand cuffs work? In the show I saw, the
magician and his assistant walked out into the audience and asked
people to assure themselves that the handcuffs were in fact legit, and
I saw them personally, they looked quite real. So could you find how
they worked as they were a large part of the trick itself. Thanks

Clarification of Answer by gopalkamat-ga on 24 Jul 2002 10:19 PDT
I read several posts on the alt.magic website that suggest that such
"trick handcuffs" that look exactly real but can be opened without a
key can be ordered to be custom-made, although I am not yet sure how
they do them.  Would you like me to find more information on where to
find these ?


Request for Answer Clarification by mr_mcloy-ga on 27 Jul 2002 21:53 PDT
Sure, I'd like to know how those cuffs work if it's not too much trouble.

Clarification of Answer by gopalkamat-ga on 28 Jul 2002 08:34 PDT
Most custom-made 'trick' cuffs have a special safety release that
allows the user to get out of them.  They also come with keys that can
open them, but of course, the magician knows about the safety release
and can use it for the trick.

I looked hard but was not able to find any further details on the
mechanism of how these handcuffs are built and the like.  If you're
not satisfied with this reply, please feel free to request further
clarification and I'll be glad to help you out.

Subject: Re: Substitution Trunk Trick
From: pinkfreud-ga on 23 Jul 2002 14:06 PDT
Although Houdini used a sub-trunk whose trap was at the back (as
described by gopalkamat-ga,) most modern illusionists use a trunk with
a trap on the top, which enables an even more rapid exchange of the
magician and the assistant.

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