Crystal Sawing in Half
Designer: Les Arnold
Les Arnold developed the see-through sawing (Crystal Sawing) c1976. It was not performed publicly, however, until the early 1990s. Shortly after its performance, Jonathan Pendragon made significant improvements and developed his own version called “Clearly Impossible.”
In the Crystal Sawing, two curved, transparent plastic inserts are used to cover the assistant. Each of the two inserts has an opaque roller blind attached which is used to cover the clear section and prevent the audience from seeing inside at certain times during the performance. The magician shows a low table, designed to split into two halves. An assistant lies down on the table. The magician and another assistant places two clear covers over the first assistant. Roller blinds are then extended to obscure the transparent sections of the covers. Small stocks are used to restrain the assistant’s feet and neck. The magician then saws through the box using either a saw (or sword) and dividers are placed into the box on either side of the cut. With the dividers in place, the roller blinds are then opened to reveal the assistant within the boxes, allowing the audience to see that they are still stretched out full length within, despite the fact that the dividers now pass through their midsection. The two table halves are unlocked and pulled apart. The audience can clearly see that the assistant has indeed been separated into two halves. The halves of the table are then pushed back together, the roller blinds closed, the dividers removed, and the assistant emerges unharmed.
One notable performance was that of Katherine Jenkins. While chatting with TV presenter and magician Stephen Mulhern at a post-awards show party, Katherine mentioned to him that she’d always had an ambition to be sawed in half by a magician. This led to Mulhern inviting her to appear on his Saturday Night phone-in game show “Magic Numbers” (2010), where she acted as his assistant in a performance of Sawing a Woman in Half in which Mulhern and singer Olly Murs sawed her in half using the Crystal Sawing method. This was also the UK television premier of the illusion. (See color photo below)
Another notable performance was done by actress Geena Davis. When she appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in December 1995 to promote her movie Cutthroat Island, she was sawed in half by Finnish magician Axel Blacksmith. This performance is believed to be the US television premier of the illusion.