The Zig-Zag Girl illusion is a magic trick akin to the more famous sawing a woman in half illusion. In the Zig-Zag illusion, a magician divides his or her assistant into thirds, only to have the assistant emerge from the illusion at the end of the performance completely unharmed.

Since its invention in the mid-1960s by magician Robert Harbin, it has been hailed as one of the greatest illusions ever invented due to both the apparent impossibility of the trick, and the fact that unlike many illusions it can be performed surrounded by spectators and withstand the scrutiny of audience members.

Because of the manner in which the illusion is achieved, it is generally performed with a female assistant, and there are limitations on her height and weight. Some of these issues are overcome in Modern Art, an illusion created by Jim Steinmeyer.

Harbin's original Zig Zag Girl illusion is on display in The Magic Circle museum.

The effect Edit

The assistant (usually a woman) is placed in an upright cabinet, her face, hands, and left foot visible through openings in the front of the cabinet. Large metal blades are inserted horizontally in the cabinet's midsection, dividing it—and presumably the assistant inside—into thirds. The magician then slides the cabinet's midsection apart from the top and bottom thirds, giving the appearance that the assistant's midsection has been pulled away from the rest of her, giving her a "zig-zag" shape. While divided, a small door on the cabinet's midsection can be opened to examine—even touch—the assistant's body inside, a duty frequently performed by an audience member brought up on stage to help perform the illusion. At the completion of the illusion, the assistant's midsection is slid back into place, the two blades removed, and she steps out of the cabinet unscathed.

Further developmentsEdit

In recent years, following exposure of the basic illusion by the Masked Magician, a number of magicians have begun performing variations on the basic illusion. In some, rather than the assistant's face being visible through a hole in the front of the cabinet, their entire head projects out of the cabinet through a hole in its upper surface. In another variation, rather than being divided into three pieces, the assistant is instead divided into five - This variation is commonly referred to as the "Five-Way Zig-Zag".


The method of this trick was explained by the Masked Magician, Val Valentino, as part of a Fox Broadcasting Company TV series called "Breaking the Magicians' Code: Magic's Biggest Secrets Finally Revealed".

The trick hinges on two things: People will not suspect the woman is actually responsible for the trick, and the box is larger than it appears.

  1. The black strips down the sides make the box appear narrow. In reality, all that black space is usable. The box accommodates the woman though it's a very tight fit.
  2. The blades are inserted into the right side of the box. It looks like the blades take up more space; when inserted, the handle fills up the width of the box on the outside: but the blade inside only slices a portion of the box.
  3. The sliding contraption is not as narrow as it seems. Black paint hides a column that gives extra space for the girl. The designer of the box must give the most space to the woman while making it appear as small as possible.
  4. Unlike more conventional magic tricks, this illusion relies heavily on the skill of the woman inside, while the magician outside is just a demonstrator. The role reversal helps the illusion. Because most people assume the woman is just a helpless tool for the magician, few will suspect that she is actually in charge of this trick. The success of the illusion rests on the woman's ability to fit into the smallest possible space.

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