Hindu Sword Basket (aka Indian Basket)
The Hindu Sword Basket was a favorite of Colonel Stodare (born Joseph Stoddart) who brought it from India and used it in his stage show in the Egyptian Hall. The illusion likely began on the streets and later transition to the stage. In Secrets of Stage Conjuring (Prof. Hoffman’s English translation of Robert-Houdin’s work Magie et physique amusante), Houdin claims Stodare started using this illusion in his stage work at the hall in 1865. Houdin claimed the illusion had been around for many years before that time, but he likely had not witnessed it personally in India, and it is unclear when the illusion was first developed.
An assistant enters a wicker basket resting on top of a small table. A lid is placed on top, sealing the assistant in the basket. The magician then stabs a sword (or swords) into the basket from each side and through the top. The swords are removed as well as the lid. The assistant emerges unharmed. Alternately, the basket can be shown empty and the assistant can reappear at the rear of the venue. Houdin detailed that the magician stabbed the basket with a single sword repeatedly. Each time, a scream was heard from inside the basket and the victim’s blood was seen on the blade of the sword.
Each of the early versions of the basket used gimmicked baskets to facilitate the vanish and later reappearance of the assistant. The methods of these gimmicks varied. However, modern versions typically do not use gimmicked baskets. Modern presentations may vary, but the sword stabbing theme remains constant.
The photo with basket-only drawing comes from Houdin’s original work Magie et physique amusante.
The line drawing with the girl is from Paul Osbourne’s workshop plans.
The performance photos is of Colonel Stodare.
The “real” basket with lances and sword through it is by Dominik Magic