I recently got an email asking questions about the Vanishing Birdcage and I figured it might be helpful to more than just the person who emailed me, so here it is:
I see that you have a lot of knowledge about the vanishing bird cage. My dad used to do a little stage magic and this was my favorite! My son is now an aspiring young magician and I’d like to get him this trick. He’s been working on his technique for several years but is still only 11. I know this trick takes a lot of practice. I do not want to spend the thousands to get him a professional cage, but I also don’t want him to be discouraged (or cut!) by an inexpensive and poorly made cage while he learns. I’ve read through several threads on Magic Cafe and it seems most of the Indian cages can be dangerous, although there might be one or two that are ok. It also looks like I need to avoid any with loops?
I am writing to ask if you can recommend any websites, manufacturers, things to look for, things to avoid- any advice at all?
Let’s start with the safety of cages. Yes, they can cut you, but I honestly don’t think that’s really a huge concern. Anything that can cut you can also snag in your sleeve, so you should be inspecting your cage and finding those spots and eliminating them. I check my cages how Billy McComb did, by running a silk over them to find any thing that would snag in my sleeve. Tommy wonder did something similar with a piece of string. I have a couple of the Indian vanishing cages from various eras in my collection and I never really noticed any of them having any wires sticking out (that doesn’t mean that they don’t have any). The bigger concern with the newer Indian cages is that they are super heavy, and this makes the vanish more difficult. If getting cut is a concern go for an Abbott’s style cage with the red ribbon on it. I don’t think Abbotts is making them right now, but they frequently pop up used and should run about $100ish. There’s one on ebay right now for $275, and I DO NOT recommend paying that much for it. https://www.ebay.com/itm/394381494169
There are some totally usable vanishing cages with the loops on the bars. The Milson Worth Vanishing Birdcages with the brass bars work fine and that’s the cage that the Indian Vanishing Birdcages are modelled after. A Milson Worth cage will run about $100-$150. There’s one on ebay right now for $95 and looks decent: https://www.ebay.com/itm/314214210186
The bigger issue is size. I’m 5’8, so average height, but to pull full size cage like the Owen Vanishing Cage or even a full size Abbott cage up your sleeve may be the biggest challenge for an 11 year old. I’d recommend trying to find a small Abbotts cage or the Milson Worth cage as they’re smaller than the “standard” cages. Personally I used a National Magic and Owen Cage and were a bit too big for me, and about a year ago I switched to a Riser/Summers Baby Lindy Cage which is smaller and it works a lot better for me! However the price tag on the baby lindy cage is a lot, and it’s not really what I would recommend for a first cage.
With all of that information, I would lean towards the $95 one that’s on ebay if it was a purchase that you wanted to make now. If you are willing to wait an hunt around a bit, then a small Abbotts vanishing cage.
A question I recently got asked about my Take Up Reelfor the vanishing bird cage is how much can you move around with it on. My answers is that it gives you pretty much full range of motion.
For the last month I’ve been performing 2-3 shows a day and my 45 minutes show ends with the vanishing birdcage. I’m pretty physical in the show, and in the middle of the show I do some trick roping with the take up reel on my left wrist with the pull set to the long position.
Right after the trick roping routine, I could reach over, grab the cage and vanish it. I don’t as the cage is about 15 mins later in the show, but in that picture the working end of the take up reel is in my right sleeve.
For me and how I perform, using a take up reel allows me to do the vanishing birdcage. It’d be impossible using just a wrist to wrist pull.
There are two things that are surprising me about performing for kids on this tour. The first is the lack of rules that I have to go over and the second is that I’m not needing to coach applause. I don’t know if it’s me as a performer getting better, or if it’s them being used to watching TV shows where people applaud for variety acts.
I figured out that the first real magic trick in the show I do is a production of a tennis ball. If I display it and just freeze, they will clap. This is done with no coaching or bits that tell them how to respond. It’s kinda blowing my mind that they are doing it on their own.
I’m closing the show with the vanishing birdcage and I’m getting kids to jump up to their feet and clap…also without any coaching. I’m essentially getting partial standing ovations from kids at a school assembly. I will say that my routine for the vanishing birdcage is structured fairly well, with how it’s paced and with the music cues. Also unlike most vanishing cage routines, my has a reappearance. It’s just the bird that reappears, but it’s a release of the audience’s tension and gives them a moment where they know they are supposed to applaud. I will say it’s the structure of the routine and not the routine that is what’s getting the reactions. The routine is just okay.
I’m working on the routine this tour and it’s getting better, but still has a lot of work that needs to happen. Most of the new bits I’ve been trying have been falling flat. This is just a case of continuing to write and hopefully it will eventually stick.
I’ve completed day one of the school assembly tour. The show went better than I expected. One way that I worked on the show was listening to recordings of it while I drove my car. This is a very effective way to learn a show. It’s also a great way to work on the show. While listening to the show you will hear bits where you need filler or it will spark ideas for bits.
After the first two shows, I learned that my audio needed some tweaking, it needed to be louder or quieter at different spots.
Another thing I’ve notice is that my style for school assembly shows has really changed. I’m lower energy, but still fairly energetic. I also am not doing rules for the kids and for two shows it seemed to work. We’ll see how it plays out in the long run.
I also noticed that I have two tricks that are virtually the same trick in the show. Both are essentially a one out of five prediction, but both are presented very differently and also 30 mins apart in the show. I don’t think anyone notices that they are the same effect.
I’m also thinking that next week I’ll be doing the show with just a hand held microphone and not a headset microphone. This will allow me to set up quicker, but also I need to keep up with my handheld microphone technique.
I took this tour to work on stuff and I’m definitely doing that! There’s only one trick in the show that I’ve done in a show before. -Louie
Here’s another idea I’ve always wanted to try with the Vanishing Birdcage:
While I was at FISM I picked up a smoke device. These have come a long way since the late 1990’s when I became aware of them. This particular unit has a timer, so it you hit a button and it delays however long you set it, then it emits smoke for as long as you program into it. It’s pretty cool. The big addition to these is a fan that propels the smoke, and that’s the thing that I think was missing from a lot of the previous attempts at a smoke device.
I know that in the video above, my timing is off a little bit. It’s not a big deal as this isn’t something that I intend to ever do again, I was just curious what it would look like.
I do think it looks really cool, however having the take up reel and smoke device on one arm is a lot of stuff strapped to you and because of that I’ll never do it. I could be missing out… -Louie
Sometimes I have ideas that I know I’ll never do and just aren’t practical, but I want to try them to see how they actually play out. What I wanted to do was add a FISM Flash to the vanishing birdcage. I recently acquired a FISM Flash in a box of used magic, so I was able to give it a try!
I think it does add something to the effect, however I don’t think what it adds makes it worth all of the extra wiring that’s around your body. It would be good for a short act, or a TV spot, but not as something I’d do in a full show.
I’m probably not the first person to try combining the FISM Flash and the Vanishing Birdcage, and I’m sure most people who have tried it came to the same conclusion, which is it’s just not that practical. -Louie
Yesterday I took a quick break from performing on the fair circuit and did a senior show. This was a “monthly activity” for seniors at a retirement community. Most of these places need entertainment and host multiple entertainers a month to perform at things like monthly birthdays, holidays, etc.
If you’d like more info on performing senior shows check out my book How To Perform For Seniors which teaches you how to market and perform shows at these communities.
My current 40-45 minute show fits into the black case, which is briefcase sized.
The yellow case is my audio gear.
The show was put together to visually fill a little bit of space and not look like I’m just using flat handheld props that were selected because they easily fit into a briefcase.
The nice thing about this show is that it can be done using people from the audience, and it can also be done “no contact”, so no one from the audience joins me on the stage or handles any props.
Aside from any COVID restrictions, the no contact option is handy as sometimes you’ll have a less mobile group and it’s not easy to have people join you on stage. Having them interact from their seats is good, however if you physically go to them in the back row, a lot of the audience can’t see what’s happening. When you talk to them from the stage and the magic still happens onstage the whole audience can see what’s going on.
Oh man, I just got home from being on the road for little while and I had a package from Jonathan Neal waiting for me! This arrived the day after I left and I’ve been anxiously awaiting it! I had ordered two of his parakeets for the vanishing birdcage! These aren’t rubber, they are silk on the outside.
These little guys are amazing looking and collapse into virtually nothing! I like them as they visually have more “pop” than the plain ol’ yellow canary that I had been using.
Unfortunately my cage is in California right now and I’m in Seattle, so I can’t try them out just yet.
A couple of days ago I wrote about there being two kinds of Nielson Latex Canaries and that I prefer the lighter color as it’s thinner. The reason is that it’s a thinner latex. If it happens to stick out of the cage during the vanish it doesn’t really hang up on your sleeve. Here’s what the cage looked like after I pulled it out of my sleeve yesterday:
When I noticed that I made a quick video to explain the difference:
While the difference in the firmness of the latex isn’t much, one thing I’ve learned about the cage is that a lot of small things that end up making a huge difference! -Louie