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Criss Angel Pulls Woman In Half
Status: Magic trick
image On YouTube there's a video of magician Criss Angel taking the old "sawing a woman in half" trick a step further. He actually pulls a woman in half, whereupon her upper half crawls away in horror while her legs remain behind wriggling. I, like many other people, have been trying to figure out how he does this trick. All I can conclude is that it's achieved by clever editing of the camera footage. (Which, if true, would make it less a magic trick than a special effect, but entertaining nonetheless.) My reasoning is that the (half of a) woman who crawls away at the end is probably not fake. She's likely a woman who, in real life, has no legs. But this cannot be the same woman who initially walks to the table and lies down on it. (No, I don't think she was using robotic legs, or anything like that.) They are two different women. Which means that at some point the camera must have been turned off, and the one woman replaced the other on the table. This also suggests that everyone in the crowd were actors. That's my theory. But I'm actually hoping it's wrong, because it would be cool if he could have done this without turning the camera off at some point. (Thanks to Captain DaFt for the link.) (And I could have sworn I once posted about another Criss Angel trick in which he crawled through a glass window pane, but for the life of me I can't find the post about this.)

Update: Archibold pointed out that Snopes has a page about this video in which they point out that Ricky Jay has written about a similar early version of this trick in Learned Pigs & Fireproof Women. Sure enough, he has. Participating in this early version of the trick was Johnny Eck, a legless & thighless man who starred in the movie Freaks. So I was right about the woman at the end of the video actually being a legless woman. But this leaves the question: was the woman standing in the crowd also the same legless woman? If so, that's amazing. If not, then I still have no idea how a switch could have been made without the camera being shut off. But I've now got to assume that it's a real trick and no camera tricks were employed.
Categories: Body Manipulation, Magic, Photos
Posted by Alex on Sat Jun 24, 2006
Comments (114)
More from the Hoax Museum Archives:
That's pretty amazing. Snopes has a page on it, too.

They claim that it was not done with any camera tricks. They also say to watch the video multiple times with a skeptical eye, and you might be able to figure it out. I'm not sure how they're so positive of their reasoning. Either way, I'm still stumped on the issue...

Oh, and I know which page your talking about with the glass, Alex, but I can't find it either. I think it was in the forum...
Posted by Archibold  on  Sat Jun 24, 2006  at  12:14 PM
Well, snopes says they know, and they say it's got nothing to do with the camera.
Posted by someone  on  Sat Jun 24, 2006  at  12:26 PM
Sorry, Archibold. I didn't see yours.
Posted by someone  on  Sat Jun 24, 2006  at  12:27 PM
After a little bit of searching, I found it! 😊

Here it is, Alex. Just as baffling to me as this one:

Oh, and I just got Hippo Eats Dwarf and I love it...
Posted by Archibold  on  Sat Jun 24, 2006  at  12:29 PM
I'd have been much more impressed if it was filmed using only one shot. There were so many cut aways that there were numerous places where they could have switched women if they'd wanted to. Not that I'm saying they did...but if they'd wanted to.
Posted by Nettie  in  Perth, Western Australia  on  Sat Jun 24, 2006  at  09:10 PM
Look at that big loose fitting skirt she's wearing. If it was really done in front of people who were not in on the trick I think that she was balancing on top of a midget, or a contortionist(sp?) that is bent over backwards.
Posted by BigDan  on  Sat Jun 24, 2006  at  09:42 PM
There is another video of him, also on youtube, I think, where he has some people rest him on a fence - one of those cast iron spikey ones - and gets impaled on it. It is really gross to see him drop down and the spikes come up. He starts yelling and all the bystanders freak out. Haha. Then he laughs. It is weird. I got grossed out a bit and couldn't watch him climb off of it. Ew.
Posted by thephrog  on  Sun Jun 25, 2006  at  01:09 AM
I haven't seen this particular Chriss Angel trick, but from having seen multiple episodes of his cable show, I can say that he absolutely does use confederates for at least some tricks. He did at least one levitation trick on this week's show that could only have been accomplished with the use of confederates.

Hey, no shame in that. My wife happened to have been one of the observers years ago when David Copperfield did his train car levitation trick. From what she told me, Copperfield uses a lookalike for some of his tricks.


Basically, if you ever see "Copperfield" wear sunglasses in the course of one of his tricks, it ain't him, it's the lookalike. My wife says the two are very similar in appearance, except for the eyes, which explains the shades.
Posted by Cranky Media Guy  on  Sun Jun 25, 2006  at  01:09 AM
:lol: I got mentioned on the front page!
Maybe I should post more often!

Oh, and I didn't research enough to learn that was Johnny Eck from Freaks in the older trick. However, I'm glad that you pointed that out, as Freaks is one of my favorite movies. I find that interesting that Snopes would be so smug about the answer, yet give away a clear clue to find it. However, I still can't figure out the legs. The contortionist theory from BigDan actually sounds to be the most plausible.
Posted by Archibold  on  Sun Jun 25, 2006  at  12:35 PM
Big Dan,
You have a good theory about it.

Why would a volunteer laughed and walked away when seeing her legs standing up? It doesn't make any sense. She SHOULD look shocked and maybe demand to put her torso back to her legs immediately. Also, why did not they filming her torso putting on her legs at the end?
Posted by Mike  on  Sun Jun 25, 2006  at  02:48 PM
i hope you don't believe that's real. it wasn't digitally manipulated, but it's been edited. between the 1:22 and 1:23 mark watch the background. the original woman was replace with a handicapped person with no legs and the crowd is in on it like with most illusionists.

That was one of the person who posted at
Posted by Mike  on  Sun Jun 25, 2006  at  03:07 PM
To find a woman without legs wasn
Posted by Unfairly Balanced  in  Earth  on  Mon Jun 26, 2006  at  01:55 AM
well.. i watched it like 10 times now...
and this is what i think:
there are simply 2 girls: one legless and one dwarf. The legless one is being carried by the dwarf. Therefore they chose a long black skirt hiding up a whole dwarf. It looks like there are only legs in the skirt, but note that it is a very very long one(compare it to the other ppl around at the beginning, they look all much smaller).
It's a perfect illusion but no magic at all
Posted by frank  on  Mon Jun 26, 2006  at  04:54 AM
(0.00-0.30)note that the woman is not moving at all standing in the back(first 30 seconds) this is due the fact that the dwarf is busy carrying the legless woman and can hardly move around.
(0.40)Note when the woman is sitting on the bench, she immediately puts her hands on the bench(like pushing hardly herself up so that she doesn't fall backwards)
From the moment on the magician is hitting on her belly, the dwarf crawls even a little deeper in the skirt and also hides his arms.

Please check the pictures i did, i drawed in the 2 persons in blue and red:
Posted by frank  on  Mon Jun 26, 2006  at  05:12 AM
That dwarf must have some pretty fat legs..
Posted by X  in  McKinney, TX  on  Mon Jun 26, 2006  at  01:30 PM
watch the lady when she walks over and sits down on the bench, and then lays down. there is no way that it is a dwarf and a legless woman at that point. it has to be camera trick and the switch is after she has laid down.
Posted by Grain  in  Bay Area, CA  on  Mon Jun 26, 2006  at  01:31 PM
Speaking of Criss Angel, and a person being pulled in half...

I don't know how this guy does it...
Posted by Archibold  on  Mon Jun 26, 2006  at  06:16 PM
I examined that movie closely. While Criss is picking out people, you can see the women stands perfectly still, as to hold her balance. The skirt is wide and long to hide the fact that she is a torso on top if a contractionist who bent as depicted here:

My guess is they are held together by some kind of harness.
Now, as he leads her to the bench you can see him putting his hands on her 'back', leading the (contortionist's) legs the right way.
Then, when she sits down she holds on tight to the edge of the bench while Criss leads her backwards so she won't fall backwards or loosen the harness. He has the girls hold the legs and arms while he unlocks the harness by 'pushing' the middle of the woman.
The girl holding the feet is an accomplice. Observe how Angel tells the girls to pull simultaneously, but the girl holding the feet isn't pulling at all, for this would pull the contortionist off the bench. Also she is the only one who could see under the skirt and see the 'legs' person. As the torso screams and 'runs' off, the attention is distracted from the legs, or any odd shape the skirt might have. All in all a neat but classic trick of distraction and misleading the audience
Posted by Tobester  on  Tue Jun 27, 2006  at  01:17 PM
There is a simpler explaination, that is often used in some of these 'live' TV tricks. The woman is led to lie down on the bench. The magician tries the trick, and cannot ("the spirits are not willing, blah, blah"). The crowd is then told, "now is a good time to sign the release form for filming" and are led off for a few minutes out of sight. The swap is made and when they return the woman is still lying on the bench, only this time it is a differnt woman (as described above). TV viewers never see this slight of hand, as the editing hides it. A straight edit is not a camera trick. This way much of the crowd is real, while only a few are confederates. But don't put it past a magician to have the whole crowd in on the illusion and merely acting. That is the greatest trick of all - to make you believe them!
Posted by Jim  on  Tue Jun 27, 2006  at  03:13 PM
The most obvious part of this trick, and the one that gives away that he's using a confederate, is that he seems to pick a random woman at first, then explains that she's not right to fit the bench and chooses another woman.

Sorry for the run-on sentence, but this sort of switcheroo is an extremely old school tactic for swapping in someone who's in on the gag.
Posted by SicTim  on  Wed Jun 28, 2006  at  04:45 PM
It wouldn't surprise me if more people were in on the trick...
Both girls pulling seem to be in on it. the girl holding the arms pulls way too hard and then holds on to the 'torso' as she puts her gently on the ground. A more plausible reaction would be to let go of the arms as one would not be held responsable for pulling somebody in half.
Oh and in retrospect i don't think the leg person is bent backward but forward:

known in yoga as 'Uttanasana'
Posted by Tobester  on  Thu Jun 29, 2006  at  08:52 AM
I think that Tobester's theory is pretty close. (Except for the contortionist part) But i have a Q for everyone here. When the lady was pulled in half, did anyone notice the hand of Chriss Angel on her "stomach"?

its a splitsecond..
-maybe he made a mistake because he pressed down on it a little too much. It looks as if the midportion is made of cardboard or something... (making the skirt area even smaller for a contortionist to fit into) But do you guys think its still possible? Maybe if the contortionist is really that good??
Posted by Mihael Keehl  on  Fri Jun 30, 2006  at  06:57 AM
:) im confused?
Posted by nancy  on  Sat Jul 01, 2006  at  06:11 PM
I just watched the video a half dozen times after reading the posts on here. What gave it away to me was the post somebody made saying that dwarf must have pretty fat legs. Watch the movie again and focus on the legs of the woman on the bench. When she first lays down and the blonde grabs the woman's ankles, they are indeed fat ankles. The blonde's hands don't go all the way around. Then look right after the last camera cut before Criss pulls the woman apart. All of a sudden, the blonde's hands easily go around the ankles. And when the bottom half of the woman is standing, the ankles and feet look like they belong to a child. It was a woman who laid down, and then she was switched for a torsoless woman and a little person.
Posted by raybrn  on  Sun Jul 02, 2006  at  09:55 AM
"Iowa Cherry Pie" on Snopes made this observation:

The woman that walks to the bench is not the same woman they pull apart.

Notice they camera cuts away right before the pulling and when it cuts back - the woman on the bench now has:
a. shorter arms
b. her hair in a pony tail that shows her ears (they were completely covered seconds before)
c. her shirt is now tucked in to the skirt, instead if out

I might have to rethink my theory.. it looks like there are 2 different women involved after all
Posted by Tobester  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  12:36 PM
or even three, if you catch my drift
Posted by Tobester  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  12:37 PM
it's a woman born this way (with no legs),on top of a prosthetic, computerized device specially made for this trick, that's all.
Posted by Ray  on  Mon Jul 03, 2006  at  05:49 PM
To those who watch Criss Angel's show on A&E, it's easy to think that people watching his more outrageous tricks are in on the act, simply because whether he is cutting himself in half or impaling himself on a fence, you never see him get up or put himself back together (lol).
Posted by g  on  Wed Jul 05, 2006  at  09:32 PM
note that you NEVER see blood on the blade or get a look at the "exposed cut." never. even as the camera pans around, one of the audience "just happens" to block the view which might have shown some blood and guts.

it's obviously not "really real" because human beings don't operate that way in real life, no matter how hard the audience screams.
Posted by plusaf  on  Wed Jul 05, 2006  at  10:21 PM
The wonderful bit about the Johnny Eck version of the trick was, of course, the participation of his twin brother as the "volunteer", therefore adding that extra touch of versimilitude.
Posted by Ledasmom  on  Mon Jul 10, 2006  at  04:20 PM
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