I’ve been looking for this clip for a long time for three reasons!

One: It’s one of my favorite magic illusions. It just looks great to an audience.

Two: When I was in college, I played the role of Houdini in a musical about his life–and I got to perform this illusion.

Three: And finally, the woman in the clip above, performing with Doug Henning, is actress Didi Conn. I was in the play Carousel with her when I was in junior high school–she was a grade ahead of me–and I thought then that she was the best dancer I had ever seen. Later she became famous for her role in the film Grease as “Frenchie.”

My Favorite Illusion: Robert Harbin’s Zig Zag Girl


I’m not one for the large illusions, but to my mind Robert Harbin’s Zig-Zag Girl is  the greatest magic stage illusion ever. It’s simple, understandable, and utterly impossible looking. Doug Henning made it popular, performing it in his Broadway show The Magic Show, and for a while in the 1970s it seemed like every illusion show featured it (often without the approval of Harbin). However, these things go in cycles, and it’s not seen as often, modern day performers going for more glitz.  To my mind, the low-tech look of the Harbin prop is part of its charm.

Click on the video to watch Harbin himself performing it. You can tell that this was a relatively early version of the prop as it still retains a cross bar that the assistant has to duck under, an element which Doug Henning’s design managed to eliminate.