Billy Mccomb – Impromptu Hat Coils

Billy McComb

Impromptu Hat Coils

I suppose I must have been around eleven when I first saw the phenomena I am about to relate. Edgar Benyon performed a massive production from a bowler hat which one could see and borrow in those days. Back-stage, a minion staggered in with a huge armful of toilet rolls. Various solutions for this peculiar addition to the Benyon magicana did suggest themselves, but I was quite shaken to find Edgar bearing down on the load with a hack-saw. He took one of the rolls and sawed it into four, sideways. The subsequent four rolls were laid, one by one, for each show at the bottom of the hat load. The cardboard centre was removed and the first few inches of the centre of the coil was lifted so that it could be grasped in the fingers easily.

After the first couple of tugs, a stick was taken from an assistant and the coil was developed by whipping the stick up and down. Until then, I don’t remember ever seeing a hat-coil produced in this, the classic fashion.

I was most impressed with the host of paper produced and the speed generated by the action of the stick. It always got a really wonderful round of applause. I recognize now that the Tambo production we were always apt to look down on and pass back and forth in magic auctions at lowish prices was actually a terrific applause-pulling finale to an act. Supposedly due to the shortage of paper during the last War, it got sort of lost and forgotten.


You’ll probably think I’m off my rocker when I mention this following gag because everybody knows it. But strangely, nobody ever seems to do it.

You must recall that old stunt where you run a needle with some white thread through your coat just under your shoulder. Leaving about two inches exposed, you put the rest of the reel into your inside coat pocket. The screams you get from people who casually go to remove the “small bit of thread” and find they are tugging out a few yards!!!

Over the years, there are several lines one can use… I suppose I’ve used them all and had various reactions from different people. Things like… “You do realize you have unraveled my vest. What are you trying to do? Last time anyone did that, the sleeve fell off my suit” or, to a magician, “You’ve just wrecked my Rising Cards, old son!”

When it was set-up and the person had pulled the thread, I’d break it off, leaving about a quarter of an inch. Then, if I wanted to use the gag again at a later time, I only had to pull the thread out a bit more and we were all set. I found threading the needle to go all through the coat bit again was inconvenient.

Sorry for mentioning such an old oldie but, if you haven’t tried it, please do. You’ll get a laugh out of all proportion to what you expect.