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Crystal Sawing

A magician performing the Crystal Sawing

The Crystal Sawing is a variation on the illusion of Sawing a Woman in Half, developed circa 1976 by magician Les Arnold. In style and principle, it can be considered to be a predecessor to the Pendragons clear sawing known as Clearly Impossible. Although developed around 1976, it was not performed publicly until the early 1990s, shortly before The Pendragons first began performing Clearly Impossible.


In this version of the sawing illusion, the boxes used to cover the assistant are constructed in the form of an arched metal frame containing a curved transparent plastic insert. Each of the two boxes also has an opaque roller blind attached, which is used to cover the clear section of the box and prevent the audience from seeing inside at certain times during the performance of the illusion.


The illusion usually begins with the magician showing the audience a low table, designed to split into two halves. The main assistant is then introduced, and lies down on the table. The magician or other assistants then place the two boxes over the assistant. At this point in the illusion, the roller blinds are extended to cover the transparent sections of the boxes. Small stocks are then used to restrain the assistant's feet and neck. With the assistant restrained within the boxes, the magician then cuts through the box using either a saw or sword (although some performers skip this step), and dividers are placed into the box either side of the cut. With the dividers in place, the roller blinds are then opened to reveal the assistant within the boxes, allowing the audience to see that they are still stretched out full length within, despite the fact that the dividers now pass right through their body. The two halves of the table are then unlocked and pulled apart. As the assistant's body is in full view of the audience within the boxes, showing that they have not curled up inside the upper box, the audience can clearly see that the assistant has indeed been separated into two halves. The halves of the table are then pushed back together, the roller blinds closed, the dividers removed, and the unharmed assistant released from the stocks and boxes.

Notable performances

  • When she appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman in December 1995 to promote her movie Cutthroat Island, actress Geena Davis was sawed in half in this illusion by Finnish magician Axel Blacksmith. This performance is believed to be the US TV première of the illusion.
  • The illusion is often performed by Belgian magician Raphael. On one occasion, he performed it on French television using French magician Caroline Marx as his assistant.[1]
Katherine Jenkins sawed in half

Katherine Jenkins being sawed in half by Stephen Mulhern and Olly Murs.

  • On the final episode of his Saturday evening game show Magic Numbers, magician Stephen Mulhern, assisted by singer Olly Murs, performed the illusion on opera singer Katherine Jenkins. This performance came about after Katherine mentioned to Stephen in conversation at a party that she'd always had an ambition to be sawed in half by a magician. It was also the UK television première of the illusion - Stephen had originally intended to perform it the previous week with singer Alexandra Burke as his assistant, but she was unable to rehearse the illusion due to illness, forcing him to postpone until the following week and ask Katherine to be his assistant instead.
  • On the Swedish TV show Helt Magiskt, which is the Swedish version of the BBC show The Magicians, magician Charlie Caper performed the illusion on Swedish TV host Katrin Zytomierska.[2]