A magician performs the Zig Zag Girl.

The Zig-Zag Girl illusion is a magic trick akin to the more famous sawing a woman in half illusion. In the Zig-Zag illusion, a magician divides his or her assistant into thirds, only to have the assistant emerge from the illusion at the end of the performance completely unharmed.


Since its invention in the mid 1960's by magician Robert Harbin it has been hailed as one of the greatest illusions ever invented due to both the apparent impossibility of the trick, and the fact that unlike many illusions it can be performed surrounded by spectators and withstand the close scrutiny of audience members.

Because of the manner in which the illusion is achieved, it is generally performed with a female assistant, and there are limitations on her height and weight. Some of these issues are overcome in Modern Art, an illusion created by Jim Steinmeyer.


The assistant (usually a woman) is placed in an upright cabinet, her face, hands, and left foot visible through openings in the cabinet's front. Large, metallic blades are inserted horizontally in the cabinet's mid-section, dividing it, and the assistant inside, into thirds. The magician then slides the cabinet's mid-section apart from the cabinet's top and bottom thirds, moving the assistant's mid-section away from the rest of her and giving her a "zig-zag" shape. While divided, a small door on the cabinet's mid-section can be opened to examine, and even touch, the assistant's body inside, a duty frequently performed by an audience member brought up on stage to help perform the illusion. This helps to prove to the audience that the assistant has indeed been divided into three pieces. At the completion of the illusion, the assistant's mid-section is slid back into place, the two blades removed, and she steps out of the cabinet unscathed.



Zig Zag illusion

A magician performing the "head out" Zig Zag Girl.

In recent years, a number of magicians have begun performing variations on the basic illusion. In some, rather than the assistant's face being visible through a hole in the front of the cabinet, their entire head projects out of the cabinet through a hole in its upper surface.

In another variation, rather than being divided into three pieces, the assistant is instead divided into five - This variation is commonly referred to as the "Five-Way Zig-Zag".

A third variation features a box designed in such a way that, instead of just being slid to the side, the centre section can be completely removed and placed on a separate supporting table. Once it has been placed there, an audience member is then invited to shake the assistant's hand and feel their body inside the box.

Notable performances

Over the years, a number of celebrities have participated in the Zig Zag Girl illusion.


Princess Tenko - Zig Zag Girl

  • Magician Princess Tenko often performs the illusion as the assistant inside the box.
  • Supermodel Twiggy was zig-zagged by Robert Harbin in an early performance of the illusion.
  • Singer Una of the Saturdays was zig-zagged by band mate Mollie on Tricky TV in 2010
  • TV presenter Holly Willoughby was zig-zagged by Stephen Mulhern on Ministry of Mayhem.
  • Actress Alicia Witt was zig-zagged by an unknown magician at a charity event.
  • Cindy Williams was zig-zagged by David Copperfield on his first TV special in 1978.
  • In the 2006 movie Scoop, the lead character of Sondra Pransky, played by Scarlett Johansson, attends a magic show where she is picked out from the audience and invited on stage by magician Sid Waterman (played by Woody Allen). Having helped out with a card trick, she is then zig-zagged.
  • In April 2021, Brazilian TV presenter Patricia Abravanel was zig-zagged by magician Mario Kamia.


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