The Marvelous Orange Tree
Designer: Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin
The Orange Tree illusion created by Houdin in the early 1830s was a technological marvel. Houdin would vanish a lady’s handkerchief and then draw attention to a small potted tree sitting on a table. The tree was actually an automaton that allowed the tree to suddenly bloom several real oranges. These could be tossed to the audience. For the finale, the top orange split in four sections and two butterflies flew out of it holding onto the edges of the lady’s vanished silk handkerchief.
John Gaughan created a duplicate version that illusionist Paul Daniels used (shown in the photos). Another version was created that was more “hand-held” as shown in the photo with a hand crank.