Designer: Franz Harary
The magician places his assistant inside a contraption with a box covering her middle and a second box covering her head. Her feet remained exposed throughout the illusion. The magician then opens the front of the box covering her head and twists the head of his assistant making multiple revolutions. After this, he opens the front of the cabinet and shows that her middle section (clothes and all) has now become twisted in a small, slim line. The process is reversed and the assistant emerges unharmed.
The Twister illusion has been around since the mid 1980s. The earliest “whispers” for an originator have the idea originating with Lou Lancaster around 1981. Supposedly Lou shared his idea, but he never did anything with it and no one ever built one based on his conversations. The first few Twister models were built around 1986. Some of those first builds included the following:
- Franz Harary (designer and builder)
- Lynetta Welch (builder) – First performed by Ed Alonzo on “It’s Magic” in 1986
- Mark Kornhauser (designer) and Bill Smith (builder)
Franz Harary is credited as the first independent creator of the Twister illusion. Harary said the idea came from his head twister illusion that he developed. He thought to apply the principle to a sword box that Ed Alonzo was using at the time. While sitting in a Denny’s restaurant on July 18th, 1986, Harary drew up the first design for the twister illusion on the back of a paper place-mat and gave the design to Alonzo. Harary recalls the exact date because it was his birthday. Ed’s wife at the time, Lynetta Welch, worked with Alonzo to build the first Twister illusion from these plans. Harary had also created a prototype from 2×4’s in his backyard. He didn’t have the right tools at the time, but went ahead and threw something together. Because of the crude nature of the prototype, Harary had permitted a temporary design flaw in that the head box was 3 inches taller than it needed to be. However, instead of removing the flaw as expected to improve the illusion, almost every Twister created after that time kept this design flaw!
Ed Alonzo performed the first Twister in 1986 on It’s Magic in downtown LA at the Variety Arts Theater. Alonzo told Harary to bring his video-recorder and Harary was certainly surprised to see his idea had come to life. Genii magazine (Aug. 2009) reported the following:
Harary admits that there was a period when there was some friction between him and Alonzo over the illusion. “I think it was my pride,” he admits. “I probably didn’t think that he would really build it before I did.” Others started copying the illusion, so Harary decided to market it with Bill Smith as the builder. In the mean time, comedy magician Mark Kornhauser had become involved. “After the first night we performed the illusion at the Magic Castle,” says Ms. Welch, “the stage manager says to us, ‘Mark Kornhauser is going to be mad at you; he had the same idea.’” Harary contacted Kornhauser after this revelation. “Mark tells me that he had a similar idea,” says Harary, “so I think, ‘okay, parallel idea.’ So Mark’s name was put on the advertising.” Together they agreed that it may be in their best interest to sell the design, and it was marketed as “Mark Kornhauser and Franz Harary’s Twister” for sometime. Eventually, Harary’s name was dropped from the marketed name, but certainly not from the history of the Twister.
Although Harary developed the idea for Twister, because of its immediate popularity he decided he would not perform the illusion as originally planned. He then developed another unique version of the Twister that involved the head and body both rotating instead of just the head. He is now the only performer using that version, and it’s reserve exclusively for him.
On May 3rd 2013, Franz Harary officially released the Twister into the public domain. He still reserves exclusive rights on his own additions (with both head and body twister), but is now allowing the magic community to freely build the basic Twister illusion from this point forward.1
 All information here including Twister release is from email exchanges and phone calls between Franz Harary and the Illusion Repository