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The Holly Box

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The Holly Box is the generally-accepted nickname for an illusion designed by Franz Harary for Criss Angel. A lengthways sawing in half, it gains its name from the fact that it was first performed by Angel at the end of an interview for the British morning TV show This Morning using TV presenter Holly Willoughby as his assistant/victim.

The original version

In the original version of the illusion, performed on a beach in California, Angel asked Willoughby (who was wearing a bikini) to lay down on a long table, to which she was then chained with her hands down at her waist. A large five-feet diameter buzz saw was then placed between her legs, with the axle of the saw located below the table. Willoughby was then completely covered by a translucent box, through which her shadowy silhouette was just visible. From inside the box, Willoughby could be heard protesting and asking to be let out, but Angel told her that, as she'd been chatting to him about his magic, it would be rude of him not to let her experience some of it for herself. He then started the saw, and began to push the table towards the saw, moving it through the box and sawing Willoughby in half lengthways. As the saw began to pass through Willoughby, she was heard to scream, and then went silent. When the saw had clearly passed all the way through Willoughby and begun to emerge from the head end of the box covering her, Angel switched off the motor and stopped the saw. He then opened the side panels of the box, and revealed Willoughby inside with the saw all the way through her torso from just above her head to just below her crotch. He then spun the table around to show the saw was indeed all the way through the box, and did indeed pass through the middle of the box and table. He then put the covers back and, helped by assistants, split the box, turning the two halves so they were "head to head". The saw was moved away by other assistants, and Angel again opened the side panels to show both sides of Willoughby "head to head". Angel and an assistant then moved the two halves back together and removed the cover. Angel then revived Willoughby, unchained her, and helped her off the table for a bow.

The "family" version

As the version performed by Angel was judged a little too "extreme" by many magicians, Harary later refined the illusion to make it more suitable for a family audience. This developed version of the illusion was premièred on UK TV by Harary, making a rare appearance as a performer, again using Holly Willoughby as the assistant/victim.

In this new version of the illusion, Willoughby was divided in a standing position, rather than laying down. The illusion began with Harary placing Willoughby (this time wearing a silver miniskirt and top) in the box, which was supported about one foot above the stage by short legs, and from which Willoughby's feet projected at the bottom. Both the front and rear panels of the box were made from translucent white screens. He then asked her to extend her arms above her head, and her wrists were locked into stocks which left her hands projecting above the top of the box. Once Willoughby had been secured within the box, Harary placed her in a trance, and closed the rear panels. With those closed, a light was switched on behind the box, brightly illuminating it. When Harary then closed the translucent front panels, the bright light projected a clearly-defined shadow of Willoughby onto the front panel. A three-foot diameter buzz saw was then wheeled into position behind the box, and the blade inserted through it between Willoughby's legs. The saw was then turned on, and moved up through the box, cutting Willoughby in half. Once the saw had reached her head, it was turned off and removed. Two large divider blades were then inserted through the box from front to back, and the two halves of the box moved apart. Once the halves of the box had been separated, the front and rear panels were opened to reveal Willoughby's halves inside, showing that she had indeed just been sawed in half lengthways. The sides of the box were also opened, and the box halves turned to show all the way around them. They were then moved back together again, and the sides and front and rear panels closed. The divider blades were then removed, and the front panels opened to show Willoughby back in one piece. Harary then took her out of the trance, released her wrists and ankles from their restraints, and helped her out of the box to take her bow.

Same old version, but a new Holly

Recently, Criss Angel has begun performing his original version of the illusion in his stage shows, but this time using a new Holly - his current girlfriend, Holly Madison.

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