“It’s pretty simple,” said the lovely young assistant. “He’ll give you instructions as you go.”
I was doing my due diligence Friday evening on what to expect when the moment came for magician John Kaplan to saw me in half on stage at Calvary Community Church during a performance to raise funds for the Kamloops Pipe Band.
“Just make sure to keep your elbows bent and your arms out of the way.”
“Or I lose ‘em,” I nodded in understanding.
“No, but they might get crushed.” She wasn’t smiling.
“Crushed,” I said.
“Well, probably not,” she said, thinking it over. “But it might hurt a little.” She still wasn’t smiling.
Hoping she was just enjoying a little magician assistants’ humour — as I’m sure morticians and executioners do to relieve stress — I nervously approached my task, putting my trust in the assurances of Jon Wilson and Shannon Pennington of the pipe band that “there’s nothing to it.”
When they asked me some weeks ago if I’d “volunteer” for this gig, I figured that, at the least, I would surely find out how magicians cut people in half.
Taking my seat in the auditorium, I was hopeful the whole thing would be over quickly and I could then relax and enjoy the rest of the show, assuming I was lucky enough to live.
It soon became evident it was not to be over quickly. The “audience volunteer” would be called up as the grand finale, Kaplan said. If you’re going to saw somebody in half, I guess you might as well keep the audience anticipating, and the victim sweating.
Kaplan, who hails from the Coast, maintains a frenetic schedule performing all over B.C. with two lovely assistants, a tech guy and a daunting assortment of props. The show is called Abracadazzle.
My pulse quickened when Kaplan mentioned three options for his special stunt with the volunteer — the sawing-in-half trick, the guillotine, and death by acupuncture, the latter consisting of several spikes roughly the size of William Wallace’s war sword being driven through your body.
Before I could fully reconcile this, I was called up on stage. Kaplan and his lovely assistants directed that I choose from one of three placards, which would determine my fate. “Please don’t let it be the swords,” I said silently, having watched Braveheart more than a time or two.
“Which one would you prefer?” Kaplan asked me. (“Say ‘levitation’,” he whispered as he turned off his microphone momentarily.)
“How about levitation?” I obeyed.
“Not an option!” he declared as the placards were held in front of me.
“Number 2!” I announced bravely.
It was the swords. Before I could protest that maybe I was depriving some other lucky volunteer of this once-in-a-lifetime experience, I was laid out on a board, elbows bent, arms up, a contraption placed over my body.
After some seemingly interminable patter, Kaplan pushed hard on the contraption; my arms flew out as if dead. Let this be a trick and not the real thing, I thought as my life passed before my eyes.
Just as I was sure I was moving towards a bright white light, the thing with the swords in it was lifted away, I has helped from the stage, and went home glad to be alive.
But I still have no idea how he did that trick.