Elastic Girl (aka Stretching a Girl)
Designer: P.T. Selbit
Just before September of 1922, Selbit developed the Elastic Girl illusion. On stage was what appeared to be a large screen about 7 feet high and 10 feet wide. It was actually a large box. In the front was a hole through which an assistant could place her head. From the center, 4 diagonal slots ran to the corners of the box. Inside the cabinet was a stool for the assistant to sit upon.
A committee was invited on stage to examine the prop. The 4 doors (including sides and back) were opened and the committee was allowed to step through the cabinet and examine it in full. A small “Chinese” girl was introduced (typically a girl dressed in Chinese fashion) and given a “magic potion” to drink. She then sat inside the cabinet and the doors were closed. Her hands, feet, and head were visible in the 5 openings. Ropes were then tied to each of her neck, wrists, and ankles and she was stretched fully to the corners of the cabinet. Her head also rose to the top and could descend to the bottom of the cabinet. Her head was then forcibly revolved 360 degrees. The limbs were then restored and the girl emerged unharmed.
Many variations were created later by other illusionists. Selbit sold his original to a friend named Lt. Colonel Townsend and years later after WWII, it was discovered rotting in Townsend’s garage at Mersham (according to PT Selbit: Magical Innovator).
Photo Credit: Kirkham Magic (this is a photo of Howard Thurston’s prop)