Wayne Alan held a yard sale at his suburban house in Riva, Md., yesterday, hoping to get rid of stuff that was cluttering up the place -- a levitation machine, two tables designed for sawing ladies in half, a box used to make rabbits disappear, and, of course, some body parts.
"If anybody wants a body part," Alan announced to the shoppers, "we have these mannequin pieces here."
He smiled. "They do cost an arm and a leg."
Alan, 54, is a professional magician. He has been working theaters, conventions and trade shows for more than 30 years. And he has accumulated a lot of tricks -- or, as he prefers to call them, "illusions."
Some people lose their illusions. Alan decided to sell his, or at least the ones he no longer needs. So he organized this yard sale and -- to ensure that no trade secrets would leak out -- admitted only official card-carrying magicians.
About two dozen magicians appeared, from as far away as Norfolk and New Jersey, shelling out $10 to ponder Alan's illusions.
"This is a sword levitation," said Jack Julius, 44, a magician from Annapolis. He was squatting on the grass, checking out a device containing three long, curved swords. "You take the girl and you lay her down on top of the swords. You remove two swords and the third is still sticking in her neck."
"That sounds like it could be dangerous," said Julius's wife, Tanya, 34. She looked a tad worried, which wasn't surprising, considering that she would be the "girl" lying on the swords if Julius bought the illusion, which was priced at $600.
"You just have to stay straight and be hypnotized," Julius said. "It's like acupuncture. It's like you're lying on a bed of nails, except it's three swords."
He looked very calm about the whole idea. She did not.
A few feet away, Louis Hofheimer peeredinto a red steamer trunk.
"This is a nice box," said Hofheimer, 43, a magician/security consultant from Alexandria. "How much does he want for this?"
"Eleven hundred dollars," said Dan Miller, 61, another Alexandria magician.
"That's a lot for a box," said Hofheimer.
But this was no ordinary box. It was the "Tip-Over Trunk," a magical box that makes people appear -- or disappear.
"You show it to the audience and they see it's empty," Hofheimer said. "Then you close it and you padlock it and when you open it back up, there's a lady inside. It's a great illusion."
Hofheimer, who bills himself as "Captain Token, the Magician," wanted the trunk. But he didn't want to pay $1,100.
"That's a lot of money for a used box," he told Alan.
"If you wanted a new one, you'd pay $5,000," Alan said. "I'll give it to you for $1,000."
"Can I buy it for $900?" Hofheimer asked.
"It's yours," Alan said. "You've got yourself an illusion."
Alan shook Hofheimer's hand. Then he stepped over to the Zig-Zag box -- a red wooden box about the size of a telephone booth -- and announced that he was about to perform a feat of magic.
"Morgan, would you step inside please?" he said.
Morgan Cully, a 16-year-old girl from across the street, stepped into the Zig-Zag box. She stuck her smiling face out of one hole, her fingers and toes out of other holes.
Alan picked up a wide silver blade and slid it into a slot in the box, about chest high. It got stuck. "It probably needs a new guide in there," Alan said.
He pushed a little harder. The blade slid in.
"There's blood dripping out of the bottom," Hofheimer yelled. (He was only kidding.)
Alan slipped another blade into the box around Cully's abdomen.
"Is her heart still beating?" Hofheimer yelled.
Alan ignored the heckling. He grabbed the middle of the Zig-Zag box -- the part containing Cully's belly -- and shoved it a few feet to the side, leaving a frightening gap between Cully's face and Cully's feet.
"Tah-DAH!" Alan said. He puts the box back together Cully stepped out, bloodless, smiling and still in one piece. Amazing!
Jack Julius was impressed. He had already bought the sword illusion. Now he was thinking about buying this one, too.
"I'm debating the Zig-Zag," he told Alan.
"Jack, you need the Zig-Zag," Alan said. "The Zig-Zag is gonna really put you in the big time. It's a strong illusion. The illusion I used to win the World Championship of Magic is based on that."
Alan frequently claims to be America's only world magic champion -- and he's not too shy to mention that, especially when he's trying to sell a used Zig-Zag box for $1,300.
"I just think the Zig-Zag is a great illusion," he told Julius.
"When you do it," Julius asked, "do you have one girl come out or two?"
Alan smiled. "If we tell you," he said, "then we'd have to kill you."
Julius laughed. He also bought the Zig-Zag.
Apparently Alan's magic still works. He can make people's money disappear.
"Break a leg," Alan said as Julius left. "And thanks for coming."