Bang Wand Blues
The first time I ever visited the Watford Association Of Magicians (WAM....its like the Magical Circle) there was a "Dealer Dem" in progress. This guy from "Daytona Magic" in Florida, USA was demonstrating the things he sold in his magic shop over there, over here. It was great.
One of the things he was selling was a "Bang Wand". A very simple machine and very dramatic. Think of holding a magic wand and casting it like a fishing rod. As you cast, a point 22 calibre blank cartridge is detonated.....with hilarious consequences....by a sliding firing pin inside. Its VERY loud. And guess what? You can then do it all again with the other end! It was £40. And he threw in a box of cartridges too....for free! Real cartridges, point 22 calibre, like you use in a starting pistol! VERY loud!
I've always had a fascination for magic wands. I don't know why. I've built quite a collection over the years. Bought some; made others myself. I have a whole act that revolves around magic wands. The "magic" at the end is almost incidental!
I had to have a Bang Wand. But something stopped me getting one that night. Perhaps it was that £40 price tag. Daytona Magic went back to Florida and I went home Bang Wandless. Later of course I regretted it. I tried every-else-where to get one but no go. That was that then. Or was it?
At a later meeting of WAM (much later....around two years!) I was demonstrating (during the half time break) how to levitate yourself without the use of wires, mirrors....or helicopters (as you do) and the conversation turned to Bang Wands. One Paul Cooper (a WAM member of some considerable bearing) admitted he had purchased one that night in the past....and never used it. We negotiated for a transferral of ownership. And a transfer fee. This completed, a date was set and the transfer effected. That is to say....I bought it off him!
I got the wand, the original instructions (such as they were) and that box of free cartridges. It soon became evident there was a fundamental problem with the principle of the Bang Wand. When the (metal) cartridge detonated, the metal opened out like the petals of a flower inside the tip of the Bang Wand. And so it was the Devil's Own Job to remove the spent ammunition. Awls, drill-bits, small screwdrivers, gimlets and mole grips were required....and the patience/good humour of a Saint. Also, the tips of the Bang Wand were aluminium. And the threads inside were relatively fragile.
Wo was me!
Reading the instructions, I discovered that the point 22 calibre blanks should be plastic and not metal. No problem, I thought. I was wrong.
Over the next few weeks I called all the gun shops I could find but no one stocked plastic point 22 calibre blanks. One or two suppliers even went so far as to say that plastic ammunition could not physically work because....oh, its a long story!
All was lost....or so I thought.
Then another miracle happened. My friend, Keith, an explosives expert, (its the baked beans!) very generously presented me with a special tool he'd made for removing spent cartridges from a Bang Wand. And I found someone on that Internet thingy who sold plastic blanks. Guess what? It was Daytona Magic in Florida, USA! I suppose I should have thought of that one. I didn't!
Far from being over, my problems were just beginning. The plastic ammunition. was in Florida, USA and I was in Hemel Hempstead, UK.
Wo was me (again)!
But E-Mail came to the rescue and I had a virtual conversation with Irv Cook in Daytona. We established the following: The plastic ammo. was in stock. He'd sent it through the post before. I could pay by credit card.
But he couldn't be sure if the British Postal Service would carry gunpowder. Last thing I wanted, after all, was a late night call from Special Branch or the FBI....or both. I called the Royal Mail Helpline. They were very helpful saying the primary carrier of the package would be the American Postal Service and so it didn't matter. "Should we all be worried about this?" I ask myself.
Just a few days later the package arrived. I put one of the plastic cartridges into the wand....waved it with a flourish and BANG! Fantastic!
And there's more....Keith's little gadget got the spent ammo. out so fast I thought it was still in there!
Only one thing spoiled my euphoria. A little later I was reading the label on the box of cartridges. It said, in very small writing, at the bottom: "Made In France".
Click here for more Circus Stories