The famous illusion with a magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat is probably one the most well-known tricks in the history of magic. I will explain how this trick is done and why magicians use rabbits instead of other animals.
So, without beating around the bush, how is this trick done?
To pull a rabbit out of a hat, there are several different methods. The magician can either sneak the rabbit inside the hat using sleight of hand or use a false bottom to cover the rabbit at first and pull it out when needed.
While there are other methods, these are the two most common ones when performing the hat trick.
How do magicians pull the rabbit out of an empty hat?
Just like with any other magic trick, it’s usually a mix between sleight of hand and misdirection. However, there are many different methods for the famous hat trick, but I will explain the two most common ones here.
Both of these techniques are pretty well known and aren’t really used by professional magicians anymore, but they give you a general idea of the trick.
Method 1: Sneaking the rabbit in when picking up the hat
This method only works when the magician is performing on a stage with the audience sitting in front of him. He also needs a table or a box to hide the rabbit from the viewers.
The principle itself is rather simple:
The rabbit is hidden underneath the table, and when picking the hat up, the magicians puts the rabbit inside. While this might sound easy, the actual performance has to be very well practiced to make it look good.
This video shows the Masked Magician doing the trick:
As you can see, the rabbit is put into a handkerchief beforehand and it gets hung behind the table.
When the hat now is placed on the table with the opening at the bottom, the magician can slide it over the rabbit and put it inside when grabbing the hat.
As I already mentioned, this move needs to be smooth and requires quite some practice before it actually looks good. The most important part is misdirection – which means distracting the spectators – in the right moment.
Another way of doing this trick is using a prepared hat with a false bottom. This does require some preparation, but it’s not as challenging for the magician as the first method.
Since the rabbit is already inside the hat, the magician can move very freely and doesn’t need a table or anything else to cover his movements. Furthermore, it allows him to be surrounded by the audience and still perform this illusion, without anyone spotting his technique.
You can see the necessary preparation in this video:
The used material for covering the bottom should be the same as the hat or at least look the same. For most hats, using a black cloth with a matching surface should work perfectly fine.
The false bottom has to match the hat perfectly to make this method work.
One thing to keep in mind when using this method is the lightning since the false bottom shouldn’t look any different when the lightning or the angle of the audience changes. It’s a good idea to check the setup before performing this illusion in front of the actual viewers.
To make the rabbit appear out of the hat, the magician simply puts it below the cloth beforehand and is done with his preparation. During the performance, he can show the hat from all sides – since the false bottom covers everything – and then simply pull the rabbit out whenever needed.
A famous performance of this illusion by Penn and Teller
Penn and Teller are two world-famous magicians that have their own show and have performed countless tricks over the last decades. They are professionals, and you watch them doing the magic hat trick live on TV in this video.
When you watch the video closely, you are probably able to spot the moment when Teller sneaks the rabbit in the hat.
Keep in mind though that this a live performance on TV! His sleight of hand was flawless, and even if you reveal the trick when watching the video a few times or even in slow motion – it’s a very clean performance.
Why magicians use rabbits for this hat trick, and not other animals
Whenever it comes to pulling something out of a hat, most people will instantly think of the famous rabbit trick – including myself. While it could be performed with other animals or objects, the rabbit is by far the most popular option.
The are various reasons why magicians prefer to use rabbits instead of anything else:
- Using living animals for any magic trick is very impressive
- Rabbits are popular, cheap and easy to get
- Their large feet and ears make them look bigger than they actually are
- Rabbits are quiet and usually stay still
First of all, the obvious: A living animal will always be way more impressive than any other object, no matter how big it may be. The fact that a real rabbit appears out of nowhere is an amazing illusion, no matter how simple the method may be.
Rabbits are very popular pets and pretty cheap, which makes them easily accessible. This allows the magicians to quickly get their hands on a rabbit and perform the trick, even back in the days when animals were a lot more expensive.
Another bonus is the large ears and feet of the rabbits. Even though they can be hidden in a small space, they appear to be a lot bigger on stage than they actually are. This makes the entire illusion look a lot more impressive than it already is.
However, probably the most important reason for using rabbits in the hat trick is their behavior.
Rabbits are very quiet, they tend to stay still and they don’t take up a lot of space. It’s almost impossible to replace them with another animal – imagine putting a cat in a black handkerchief!
Other items that can be pulled out of the hat to impress the audience
It’s always impressive to make something appear out of an empty hat, but it doesn’t always have to be a rabbit. While you could use some everyday objects, Penn and Teller performed an alternative version of this popular trick using another animal: cockroaches.
It might sound weird disgusting, but the illusion went viral and the performance will be remembered for many, many years.
No matter what item or animal appears out of an empty hat, as long as it’s a good performance and feels like something special, people will like and remember it.
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