Cut in Half
Magicians have been cutting innocent women in half since the first days of magic, and they have been getting better and better at it. However, if we were to choose just one version of ‘cutting lady in half’ trick as the best, there is little doubt Criss Angel would be a winner. Not only is his adaptation of the trick way more horrifying and disturbing than most, it is also much harder to figure out just how he did it.
But let’s look at the trick first. In the basic version of this illusion, Criss asks a woman to lie down on a park bench. He asks two other spectators to hold her arms and legs, and when they each pull in their direction, the woman’s body seemingly splits in two parts as she screams in pure horror:
However, a newer version of this trick is even more mindblowing. In this version, two people are cut in half and then switched – the girl gets the guys legs and vice versa.
First thing to understand is that all the people participating in this trick are stooges. Yes, that includes those running around and screaming in horror. They are actors, and I will let you be the judge of the quality of their acting.
However, even knowing that, the trick still seems impossible. So, what are the most probable explanations? As far as the first version is concerned, the most popular theory seems to be that the ‘woman’ is actually two people – a handicapped woman with the lower part of her body missing (probably suffering from a disorder called sacral agenesis), and a contortionist who ‘provided’ the legs.
Are there really people out there with the whole lower part of their body missing? Yes, there are. One of such people actually got pretty famous because of his condition. His name was Johnny Eck and – believe it or not – he actually performed a trick very similar to this one back in 1937. In fact, the trick performed by Eck was most likely where Criss got the inspiration for this amazing illusion.
Criss of course couldn’t use (now deceased) Eck, but Eck was far from being the only one with this condition. So who did Criss use? It is rumored that the woman in the first version of the trick is Rose Siggins, however I have not seen any serious evidence for that claim, and it is not really clear from the video. But as long as we know how the trick was done, the identity of the woman really isn’t that important.
Now, what about the second version of the trick? Those are clearly two completely different people. Did Criss manage to find two more people with sacral agenesis and convince to be on his show? It is certainly possible. However, I notice a lot of camera meddling in this version of the trick and it seems possible to me that it could be done solely with some clever video editing and some props. Pay attention to how much we actually see and how much is only implied. Did we actually see half a woman crawling on the floor, or did we just see something that looked like half a woman crawling on the floor? It is still possible that Criss used half-bodied people and contortionists for this version too, but I can imagine this trick being achieved purely through video trickery.