The Mystery Box

Mystery Box.png


You bring out a colorful box and show that it is empty inside. You rest the box on the table, show your hand is empty and then reach inside the box to bring out a handkerchief or set of ribbons. This is a production style effect where you apparently bring out items from a place that appears empty.


  • Cardboard (you can use thin cardboard from a box or employ poster board)

  • Tape (preferably black but clear is fine)

  • Scissors

  • Handkerchiefs or Ribbons

  • Wrapping Paper (you can also use stickers and/or paint)

  • Glue

  • Black paper or flat black paint

Using the scissors, measure out and cut out six squares of cardboard. You can make the box any size that you wish. For this lesson, we cut the cardboard into squares that are four-inches by four-inches. We think this is a good size. You can always make another box in a different size later to better suit your needs. Glue the cardboard squares onto the black paper and let it dry. If you like, you can paint one side of each cardboard square with flat black paint.

Cut out the squares and trim the excess black paper from the sides of the cardboard squares.

One cardboard square has to have two sides painted black or decorated with black paper.

In the end, you’ll have five cardboard squares that have one side black, and one cardboard square that has both sides black.

Using the tape, connect together four of the cardboard squares. Be sure to keep the black side of each cardboard square on the inside of the “box.” For this step, be sure to only use the cardboard squares with a single side that is black. We are saving the double-sided cardboard square for the next step.

mystery box

Making the Secret bottom of the box

Tape an edge of the double-sided - the cardboard square with black on both sides - off center onto the black side of the fifth cardboard square. Notice how the square is positioned “off center." This is what creates the secret compartment where you can hide production materials (the ribbon and/or handkerchief).

Note also the location of the tape which creates a hinge. It’s on the short side of the cardboard square and not in the larger section. You only need to tape one side of the cardboard square to form the “hinge.”

This forms the “bottom” of the box.

Tape the “bottom of the box to the other four-attached cardboard squares. The square that is black on both sides will end up inside of the box. Before you tape it in, make sure that the square in the box is free to move back and forth. If it can’t move - it’s too large - simply trim its edges to allow it do so. Be careful that you don’t trim it too much. If the “flap” doesn’t fill the box, the trick won’t visually work.

Once you’ve taped the bottom onto the box, you should have a cardboard box that is black inside and has a black-hinged piece - flap - of cardboard that can be moved back and forth. As you can see, the motion opens and hides a secret compartment in the box. The compartment is the secret to the trick.

Mystery Box 2

Use the gift wrap, stickers or paint to decorate the outside of the box.

You’re ready to perform the trick. Go to the next step to learn how.

Mystery Box Complete

How to Perform the Trick

Before you’re ready to perform and in secret, swing the hinged cardboard open. Insert your production items that may include a handkerchief or ribbons.

Mystery Box

Close the “flap” - swing it the other way - and you’ll see that the handkerchief and ribbons are nicely hidden behind the flap. Hold your hand as shown in the picture, and you’ll effectively hide the flap and can openly show the inside of the box to your spectators.

Mystery Box Performance

The trick works on something of an optical illusion. When viewed quickly, spectators think that they are viewing the bottom of the box but are only viewing part of the bottom. And the flap, which slightly distorts the perspective, makes the box look empty and pretty much normal. Another aspect, the brightly colored ribbons and handkerchiefs, which greatly contrast with the black interior of the box, are hidden and can’t be seen.

To perform the trick, bring out the box, position your hand over the flap and then show the inside of the “empty” box to spectators. You’re showing your spectators the view in the picture. Remember that the flap is on the bottom and you're hiding it with your hand.

Set the box down on the table. Make a magical gesture or say some magic words, and then show your hand empty, reach into the box underneath the flap, and then pull out the handkerchief or ribbons.

You have magically produced an item from an empty box.