Carter’s Elephant illusion is a favorite of those who decorate restaurants with movie posters.
– Robinson, Ben. “Disappearing and Appearing Elephants” in Osborne, Paul. Illusions: The Evolution and the Revolution of the Magic Box. Illusion Systems Publishing: Dallas. 1995. Pp. 111-134. Cover | Full Title.
This 8-sheet was printed by Otis Lithograph around 1926.
The Elephant eight-sheet you have made into a money-getter. I am sure as soon as my multitudinous friends around the world put their peepers on this sheet and the others, they will run posthaste to my box office with their golden elusive shekels, entreating me in suppliant cajolery to relieve them of their coin in exchange of feasting their senses on my many new mysteries which your painstaking efforts on my behalf have so graphically and seductively emblazoned forth in myriad greens and reds and purples royal.
– Charles Carter to Carl Moellmann of the Otis Lithograph Co.
Of the trick itself, Milbourne Christopher describes the illusion thusly:
Remembering Houdini’s success with “The Vanishing Elephant.” Carter decided to build a similar illusion. Models were constructed for several ingenious cabinets, none of which met with his approval. He tried a different approach. As he visualized the feat, an elephant would stand on a platform; curtains would be lowered around it; then platform and elephant would be hauled into the air. The curtains would be raised just enough for the audience to see the pachyderm’s feet; then they would be dropped to the level of the platform. A pistol shot from the illusionist would cause the elephant to disappear. Carter built the apparatus, bought an elephant, and began to rehearse. There was an unexpected complication; the elephant would not cooperate. She bolted from the platform as it was being raised. The show opened at His Majesty’s Theatre in Brisbane in 1927 with four girls (“The Disappearing Flappers”) vanishing on the platform instead of the elephant.
According to Caveney’s Carter the Great book, Carter placed an initial order of 1,248 copies at a cost of 52¢ per poster. Today, you can by unmounted copies for $500 or $625, or with regularity at auction. The comparatively low price, presumably, because no one has the ceiling height to display it…