Billy Mccomb – The Five Ringsof William

Columnist:
Billy McComb

The Five Rings of William

After a season of working the Rings “as written,” I decided that the same effect could be obtained with five rings as with eight or nine or any greater number. Bob Harbin disagrees with me. Even so!

For those of you who are still interested, the rings required are two singles, two linked and a key with a diagonal opening. This is, I believe, the set advocated by Jack Miller in his five-rings routine; so at least, those who have read the routine inform me — I haven’t read it. The suggestion that a key-ring with two slits should be used I discarded as it seemed to complicate matters.

The Effect:

Five rings are counted. Two of them are linked and thrown out to be examined. These are the only rings that are examined by the audience. I don’t like horsing around in the audience — trotting on and off the stage loses their attention. Since I fling these two rings out, I use a 6″ set. You can throw out 12″ rings if you like and you can then bill the effect as a death-defying feat.

The linked pair outflung, the performer is left with three. One ring is passed up each arm and the remaining one is held in the right hand. A shake of the right arm and the ring on it passes down over the cuff, over the hand and into the ring which the hand holds. This ring is passed to the left hand and the move repeated. The rings are then separated by a reverse action. One of the hanging rings is taken by the free hand and drawn up over the arm. The held ring changes hands and the other ring finds its way onto the other arm.

The linked rings are taken back and the others are laid aside while these are separated. Four rings are then placed over one arm and the fifth held in the hand. The four rings are shaken onto this, linking through as soon as they touch it. They are finally passed through the fifth ring onto the arm again, leaving the performer where he started, with five single rings. So much for the effect.

The How:

The rings are held in the left hand at the outset in the following arrangement from the thumb-crotch outwards: Key, single, chain of two, single. These are counted by the usual “drop-count” from left hand to right.

You have plenty of chance to separate your bands except when counting the two. Don’t, of course, make this too obvious but let it be casual and natural. Practice before a mirror the action you are supposed to be doing and then try to duplicate this exactly when doing the dirty work. That’s old advice too, but it’s still good.

The rings are returned to the left hand where they resume their first position (Figure 1). The outer single is taken in the right hand. This has apparently to be linked with another ring in the left hand. Push the left forefinger between the two rings of the chain of two, supporting the outer ring by the second finger only

Bring the right hand single against the rings in the left hand, counting ‘one,’ repeat ‘two.’ On the third tap, leave this single on the left forefinger and permit the ring on the left second finger to fall. The effect is that the ring that was held in the right hand has become linked into the outermost of the rings held in the left. These two rings are taken from the left hand and handed out for examination.

You are left with the three singles. Place one up each arm and hold the key in the right hand with the opening just behind the little finger and hidden by it (Figure 3). Jerk the ring on the right arm downwards and outwards so that it strikes against the hand at the little finger. The momentum will carry it through the gap in the key (Figure 4). This sounds like a helluva juggling feat but is really quite easy. You’ll have to play around with the move to get it properly but it’s worth it. I like it much more than the old rubbing together move.

The key is transferred to the left hand so that the gap is now hidden by the left little finger and the same move is repeated. The three are then taken in the right hand and held up by the left thumb. Passed to the left, they are returned to the right again so that the slot in the key comes back to its position behind the little finger and the left, taking the outer of the hanging rings, brings it up onto the right arm again, guiding the ring through the gap in the key.

Repeat this with the other ring onto the left arm. This done, shake the ring down from the left hand into the curled fingers. Again, it links into the key but, this time, the linking is not disclosed, the two rings apparently simply lying side by side in the left hand. The ring on the right arm is shaken down into the hand and transferred to the left.

Recover the set of two, in folded condition, in the right hand and apparently pass it to the left. Actually, as the hands come together, take the single from the left beside the pair in the right and place these three on the table. These will be taken for the three singles. The two rings in the left hand, supposed by the spectators to be the set of two just examined, are returned to the right hand, the solid hanging from the key. The unlinking is again done by passing the hanging ring onto the arm. Leave it there.

Transfer the key to the left hand and reach with the right for the “three singles” on the table. Using only the right hand, let them slide up the arm to join the one already there. Then take the key from the left again and shake all of those on the right arm into it. Allowing the key ring to be held in the right hand by the crooked little finger only (thus concealing the gap), spin the hanging rings with the left hand. Then grab them at their lowermost point as they hang and bring them up again, shaking them through the gap as you do so until they are all once more on the right arm.

Jerk them all into the hand and transfer the bunch to the left. Count them back into the right hand as at the outset. Count more and more slowly and more and more quietly until, at “five,” your voice is almost a whisper. Look up at the audience and smile. on the applause, hold up the rings in the right hand and lift the left hand to the same height.

This makes a pleasant “showmanshippy” gesture on which to finish the trick. The finish is always important — hence the detail.

Well, there it is! Fiddle with it for a while and I think you’ll realize that it’s got something. My earliest memory of magic is of seeing a bloke jangling a lot of rings as if he were berserk. I remember asking, “What’s he meant to be doing?” It’s enough to make even an Irishman say — “Begorrah!”