Upside Down Production Box

Upside Down Production Box
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Designer: Robert Harbin

The Upside Down Production Box was created by Robert Harbin and detailed in the “Magic of Robert Harbin. Owners of this book are authorized to build and perform the illusion.

This illusion was recreated by David Bull (Le Grande David) and detailed in Magic Magazine V14 N6, Feb. 2005.

Paul Daniels also performed the effect, having many of Harbin’s original props and using a recreated outer box built by Gil Leaney in the 1980s.

The magician shows an empty box. The lid is closed and handed to an assistant who holds it lid-downwards. The magician then opens the box and produces an assortment of items including two tables, silks, a spring snake, a giant die box, and a giant stack of fishbowls.

Harbin’s original prop was built in Eric Lewis’s workshop (by Harbin himself) soon after he had left the army and WWII. He used it for many years as his closing effect. Harbin said, “some hooligans broke into my car, and destroyed among other things this famous box I have never had the heart to re-make it.”

A newspaper clipping reported the following: “Robert Harbin, the magician, may have to go on the Blackpool Palace Variety Theatre stage tonight without some equipment for one of his magic acts. He is hoping that before he takes the stage someone will have found the foot-square black box that was taken from his car while it was parked outside a South Shore hotel between nine o’clock last night and 9-30 this morning. His loss has been reported to the Blackpool CID. Mr. Harbin says the missing box was wrapped in a black overall, which was marked “H.” Inside the box were: a miniature imitation pyramid, a folding table, a white square with black spots, a 12ft spring snake, 12 yards of cashmere scarves tied together. ‘These things,’ said Mr. Harbin, ‘are of no use to the general…'” and the article is cut off at this point in our copy.


The “Gazette – 7” photo from Magic of Robert Harbin shows the following news clipping:

South Shore police had today recovered part of the contents of the magic box which disappeared on Sunday night from the car of stage magician Robert Harbin, who is appearing at Blackpool Palace Theatre this week. Near the Beach Hotel, a policeman found a 1ft. cube dice. And in a street in South Shore a boy came across a rope of 12 “magic” scarves. Still missing: A skeleton, 12ft.-long spring snake made in Japan and described as “probably irreplaceable,” folding table, a spotted scarf and the box.
“It may be,” said the police this afternoon, “that the various articles have been dropped all over Blackpool, and that eventually the whole lot will be returned.” The magic box was to have been a feature of Mr. Harbin’s opening show at the Palace last night. Instead, he presented his levitation illusion, in which a woman from the audience is suspended in mid-air without any apparent means of support. The trick was enthusiastically received.

The original outer box was never rebuilt, but the other pieces of the routine remained. Bloomsbury Auctions showed that the original Harbin prop was sold in March 2010. Here are the auction details as reported from Bloomsbury.


444. Harbin (Robert) Goldfish Bowl Production, a quantity of props including five glass bowls, wooden platform, imitation flowers, fake chicken, etc., in original wooden chest

est. £300 – £400

These are the original props used by Robert Harbin to produce a stack of goldfish bowls, sometimes with other items from the Upside Down Box, (see following lot), featured in performances at the London Palladium, on his Canadian tour, and at the Carnegie Hall. The bowls can be seen in the illustration of Harbin with the Upside Down Production Box in Magic of Robert Harbin, p.40, and the props in the page of diagrams. A note of authenticity by Paul Daniels is included with the lot.

Sold for £420
Sale 714, 25th March 2010


However, Bloomsbury was a bit misleading in this auction as the original wooden box was destroyed and the box they referenced was the box created by Gil Leaney in the 1980s for Paul Daniels (blue box in photo).

Item 445 was for this “original” blue box used by Daniels.


445. Harbin (Robert) Upside Down Production Box, the wooden box decorated in colours and silver, with two collapsing stands and other accesories.

est. £200 – £300

The original box with some of its contents was stolen from Harbin’s car. The present box was made for Paul Daniels by Gil Leaney in the 1980s and used by Paul Daniels, whose note of authenticity is included in the lot. The trick is described and illustrated in Magic of Robert Harbin. The surviving original props are offered as the preceding lot.

Sold for £800
Sale 714, 25th March 2010


Photo Credits: David Bull (red), Bloomsbury Auctions (blue)

  • Upside Down Production Box