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The Devil's Hank that is not!

Updated: Jan 11

"Vive le mouchoir du diable!"


The "devils hank" is an accessory known and used by countless magicians who perform in all realms of magic from close-up to stage. The "devil's hank" more than likely originated in France where it is still known as "le mouchoir du diable". The "devil's hank" is known similarly as "Tuefelstuch" in German, "Pañuelo del diablo" in Spanish, "Mefisto Tørklædet" in Danish, "Fazzoletto del Diavolo" in Italian and... well, you get the point!



This cigarette card was issued in 1887 by W. Duke, Sons & Company and is one of a set of 24 collectible cards in a series entitled "Tricks with Cards". The effect described on the card reads:


"The performer exhibits a common colored handkerchief and places underneath it, a pack of cards, and requests some one to hold it for a moment. Before the spectator can touch it, the pack disappears and the handkerchief is shown perfectly empty".


From the description of the effect we learn two things. In the day the handkerchief was a well known accessory and most probably used not only as decoration, but to wipe ones nose. I remember as a child that not many Christmases passed


Number 15, Mouchoir du Diable, from the Tricks with Cards series (N138) issued by
W. Duke, Sons & Co. to promote Honest Long Cut Tobacco

without the obligatory pack of cotton handkerchiefs! We also learn that the spectator was able to hold the pack of cards through the handkerchief BEFORE the pack vanished into thin air! The handkerchief could then be freely shown to contain nothing. I am not at liberty to reveal what is written on the back of card No. 7 here, but needless to say the "Mouchoir du Diable" described above is NOT the "devil's hank" as we know it today.


Professor Hoffmann's Modern Magic


Prior to the above cigarette card Professor Hoffmann published "Modern Magic" in 1876. In this tome he describes "The Demon Handkerchief" which is likewise titled " Le Mouchoir du Diable" in parentheses. This is NOT the devil's hank as we know it today!


"Modern Magic - A Practical Treatise on the Art of Conjuring" by Professor Hoffmann (Angelo Lewis) - 1876

Professor Hoffmann describes "The Handkerchief for Vanishing Money" (which is similar in principle to the "Mouchoir du Diable" outlined on the cigarette card) and the "Demon Handkerchief" which allows the magician to vanish small objects within the folds of the said item, but apparently nothing that is larger than "about four inches". The "Demon Handkerchief" does allow the spectator to grasp the object to be vanished through the fabric prior to the vanish. Unfortunately Professor Hoffmann fails to describe how the objects that disappear can be recovered (one would assume in secret out of sight of the audience).

Thus far all versions have utilized the handkerchief as an accessory to vanish objects only.


Harlan Tarbell


The Tarbell Course in Magic is considered by many to be THE encyclopedia of magic and indeed as part of the original correspondence course published in 1927 there is a section on egg magic. When the course was republished in book form in 1942 (Volume 2) the reader can find "Tarbell's Unbreakable Egg". The description and illustration show what is nearest to the devil's hank as we know it today. The explanation calls for THREE handkerchiefs of the same appearance to make up ONE "special double handkerchief"! I checked out Nelson Enterprises No. 19 catalog (1942) and at the time a plain color "magician's silk" 15 inches x 15 inches square cost 45 cents each. $1.35 USD in 1942 would cost $24.28 at today's value, but sad to say this would not have done the job of making a "devil's hank".


Nelson Enterprises: manufacturers, publishers, and dealers of mental magic and the allied arts. Catalog no. 19 (1942)

There have been countless "Devil's Hanks" over the past decades all of varying sizes, fabrics, colors, techniques and quality. I am yet to discover if my "secret pattern" used to make up the Devil's Bandanas, Pocket Devils and custom handkerchiefs is the first to use a SINGLE piece of fabric to achieve its goal!


"Vive le mouchoir du daible!"





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