Tales From the Darkside 119: Levitation

In a nice bookend with last week's episode, which ended with a man lost in a circus of the mind, this week we open on a pair of teens headed in to visit a very literal county fair! It seems that one of the teens is something of a magic buff, and he's excited to see the only man besides Houdini to have mastered 'Wireless Levitation'. Or, if you want to put it in its starkest terms, 'real magic'. Before we continue with the plot, however, let's just pause to consider that, shabby as the characters correctly identify it as being, this is by far the most impressive set ever built for an episode of TFTD!

Way to guy, production designer!

The magic fan desperately tries to convince his friend to join him in the magic tent, where the Great Kharma might well reveal the secrets of his greatest trick! Of course, he has no good reason to think that Kharma's going to teach him anything, except, we assume, a lesson about curiosity killing the cat.

The act proceeds apace with some simple pieces of prestidigitation, and the fan grows impatient. Where is the levitation trick that Kharma is so famous for? Finally he has enough, and becomes disillusioned with his supposed idol. Which is odd, because he demonstrated a trick that involved beheading his assistant live on stage with a guillotine, and then having her walk out, alive and well from the back room. This is the kind of trick that shows up all the time on televised depictions of a magic act, because it's easy enough to do with editing, but a real-life version of it that looked that good from five feet away would certainly be worth applauding.

The fan decides to confront Kharma, and demand an explanation. He finds the magician a washed-up and defeated old man, who claims never to have performed the 'Wireless Levitation'. Although twenty-five years ago he told the London Times that he learned the trick of Wireless Levitation, but now he says that it was just a press agent's fancy, and he's never been anything more than a simple trickster and showman. The fan refuses to believe that magic isn't real, despite Kharma's insistence. Finally the old man breaks down and admits that he did perform the trick in question, but not the four times that the London Times reported - he did it three, and then the fourth time something went... horribly wrong!

In what could be considered a jarring about-face, Kharma quickly goes from claiming there's no such thing as magic to admitting that it's real, but saying that it's far too dangerous. Proving an inability to take yes for an answer, the fan starts calling Kharma a fraud, then storms off, leaving the old man alone to consider a faded black and white portrait-

-of his former assistant, who was killed when the Levitation trick went wrong. That assistant? His daughter!

The fan's arrogance is all-consuming however, and he isn't willing to let tragedy alone. So he returns for the last show of the evening, and berates Kharma into performing the Levitation trick by revealing all the secrets of how he performs his slight of hand tricks. The provocation has its desired effect, and Kharma finally agrees to perform the ultimate trick - even though he's stated clearly that he's not strong enough for the task.

The fan allows himself to be hypnotized and lain across two chairs as Kharma tells him to 'let the threads of gravity drop away'. The trick works, and the fan floats up into the air with support of any kind:

But the trick proves too stressful for Kharma, who's unable to gather enough energy to perform the key second half of the trick: 'bringing him back down'. While Kharma suffers some sort of an episode, collapsing to the floor, the fan drifts through the torn ceiling of the tent, and off into the sky, presumably never to be seen again!

So we've learned a valuable lesson: No matter what Larry David may tell you, it's important to never ask a magician how to reveal how he performs his tricks.


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Anonymous said...

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