This illusion has mystified thousands of the theater-going public, in fact, it has been the “piece de resistance” of many illusion acts. The ordinary method of procedure is as follows: The person who is to be suspended in the air, apparently with no support—usually a lady—is first put in a hypnotic (?) sleep.
She is placed on a couch in the middle of the stage, and in most cases the spotlight is brought into play. The performer then takes a position close to the couch and with dramatic effect makes a few hypnotic passes over the subject.
She then slowly rises from the couch until she has attained a height varying from 4 to 5 ft. above the stage, as shown in Fig. 1.
The couch is then taken a way and a hoop is passed over the floating lady. The performer now causes the lady to float back to the couch or board that she may have been resting on, after which the so-called hypnotic spell is withdrawn.
Raising the Subject in Midair
In spite of the claims that the illusion owes its origin to Hindoo magic, it is nothing more nor less than a clever mechanical contrivance, the construction of which will be readily understood by a glance at the accompanying illustrations.
The bottom of the couch, if one is used, contains a cradle-like arrangement which fits the recumbent form of the lady and is connected to a heavy sheet of plate glass by means of a rod, D, Fig. 2, attached to one end, and running parallel to the side of the cradle.
When the glass is lifted, the body of the subject is also raised, seemingly at the will of the performer. This is accomplished by the aid of an assistant beneath the stage floor. The plate of glass, E, Fig. 3, passes perpendicularly through the stage down to a double block and tackle.
The end of the cable is attached to a drum or windlass and the plate glass held steady with guides at the sides of the slot in the stage floor, through which it passes. The winding up of the cable naturally forces the plate glass and cradle up, causing the lady to rise.
Some illusionists place the lady on a board on two ordinary trestles and cause the board to rise with the lady on it, as shown in the illustration, thus obviating the use of heavy paraphernalia as in the cradle attachment. The cradle attachment is also generally accompanied by a 2-in. iron bar, used in the place of the plate glass, the performer or operator standing at the rear of the couch to conceal the bar as it comes from beneath the stage. However, the method illustrated is the one generally used.
Direction the Hoop Takes In Passing over the Board
The solid hoop is passed over the body in the following manner: Start at the end, B, Fig. 2, passing the hoop as far as C with the hoop on the outside of the back horizontal rod. The side of the hoop toward the audience is then turned and swung clear around over the feet at A and entered between the rod and board on which the lady rests. The hoop is then carried as far as it will go back toward the end B. Then the side nearest the operator is passed over the head of the body apparently the second time and passed off free at the feet. Thus to the closest observer the impression is given that the hoop has encircled the lady twice. The illustrations give in detail the working of the illusion above the stage floor. No set rule is used for the tackle and drum below the floor.
Excerpt from the book: THE BOY MECHANIC VOLUME I 700 THINGS FOR BOYS TO DO WITH 800 ILLUSTRATIONS 1913, BY H. H. WINDSOR CHICAGO POPULAR MECHANICS CO. PUBLISHERS