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  • Writer's pictureJigar Solanki

Sawing a Woman in Half: A Step-by-Step Guide

Updated: Jan 10

Magic has long captivated audiences with its blend of mystery, spectacle, and the seemingly impossible. Among its most iconic illusions is the act of "sawing a woman in half," a Trick that has both intrigued and baffled spectators for over a century. This article explores the rich history, cultural significance, and technical skill of this timeless magic trick, as well as how it has changed and continues to be a mainstay in the illusionist community.

The act of sawing someone in two is more than simply a magic trick; it also represents the allure of mystery and the captivating power of deception.  The history of "sawing a woman in half" is just as fascinating as the act itself, from its contentious origins to its contemporary applications. 

In this article, we'll uncover the layers of this illusion, examining its technical intricacies, cultural significance, and why it continues to be a beloved performance in the magical arts.

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Key Takeaways:

  • Historical Significance: Understanding the origins and evolution of the trick.

  • Cultural Impact: Examining the trick's role in reflecting and shaping societal views.

  • Technical Mastery: Appreciating the art and skill involved in performing the illusion.

  • Modern Interpretations: How contemporary magicians have reimagined the trick.

  • Psychology of Magic: Exploring why such illusions continue to captivate us.

The origin of the trick 

In 1921, a groundbreaking moment in the world of magic occurred when PT Selbit first performed the act of sawing a woman in half. This performance not only marked a significant innovation in magic but also reflected the societal changes of the time. The trick quickly captured the public imagination, setting the stage for a century of fascination and evolution.

Evolution in the Early Years

The trick's early adaptations saw various magicians putting their unique spin on it. These variations not only showcased the creativity within the magic community but also demonstrated the trick's versatility and enduring appeal.

Step-by-step Guide: How to Perform this Trick

Executing the "sawing a woman in half" illusion is a challenging task that calls for training, experience, and frequently a large expenditure on props and tools. It's important to note that performing magic illusions, especially ones that involve the appearance of physical danger, should only be done by trained professionals. 

Here's a general overview of how the trick is often performed, keeping in mind that there are many variations:

Basic Concept

The basic idea of the trick is to create the illusion that a person (traditionally a woman) is being sawed in half, usually while inside a box, and then magically restored to one piece.


  • Props and Equipment: You'll need a specially designed box or table, often with hidden compartments or false panels. The design of the box is crucial as it conceals the secret of the trick.

  • Assistant: The role of the assistant is vital. They need to be flexible and capable of fitting into tight spaces within the box. Their acting skills also contribute to the illusion's effectiveness.


  • Placement: The assistant lies down inside the box. Depending on the design of the trick, they may need to contort their body or move into a hidden compartment.

  • Sawing: The magician uses a saw or blade to mimic the action of sawing through the box. In some versions, fake feet or a dummy part of the body may be used to enhance the illusion.

  • Misdirection: This is where the magician's skill in diverting the audience's attention is crucial. The magician may use gestures, storytelling, or other tricks to ensure the audience is not focused on the critical moments when the assistant is moving or the box's secret compartments are being used.

  • Restoration: After the sawing, the magician shows that the assistant is unharmed and intact. This often involves opening the box to reveal the assistant smiling and waving, much to the relief and amazement of the audience.

Safety and Ethics

  • Safety First: This trick should never involve real danger. The saws or blades used are typically fake or designed in a way that they cannot cause harm.

  • Ethical Considerations: It's important to perform this trick in a manner that is respectful and does not perpetuate harmful stereotypes or distress the audience unduly.

Learning the Trick

  • Professional Training: If you're serious about learning this trick, seek out professional magic training. This is not a trick that can be learned from a book or a video alone.

  • Practice: Like all magic tricks, practice is essential. You'll need to refine not just the physical aspects of the trick but also your performance and presentation skills.

Legal and Moral Responsibilities

  • Permissions and Rights: Ensure you have the right to perform the trick, as some versions are copyrighted.

  • Audience Consent: Be mindful of your audience, especially children. Make sure your performance does not cause undue distress.

The Art of Illusion

  • Technical Aspects of the Trick

While the exact methods remain a closely guarded secret among magicians, the general concept involves intricate stagecraft, misdirection, and sometimes, mechanical aids. The trick's success lies in the magician's ability to create a seamless and believable illusion.

  • Innovations Over the Years

From PT Selbit's original performance to David Copperfield's elaborate renditions, the trick has seen numerous innovations. Each new version brought with it a fresh perspective, keeping the trick both relevant and exciting.

  • The Role of Assistants

Often overlooked, the assistant's role is crucial in executing this illusion. Their skill and coordination with the magician are key to the trick's effectiveness and audience impact.

Cultural Impact and Symbolism

  • Gender Dynamics

The act of sawing a woman in half has been interpreted in various ways, with some viewing it as a reflection of gender dynamics. This section explores how the trick has been perceived in terms of gender roles and symbolism throughout its history.

  • The Trick in Popular Culture

The illusion has made its way into movies, television shows, and other forms of media, further cementing its place in popular culture and the collective imagination.

Modern Interpretations and Ethical Considerations

  • Contemporary Versions

Today's magicians continue to reinvent the trick, adapting it to modern sensibilities and technological advancements. This section highlights how contemporary performers have reimagined this classic illusion.

  • Ethical Considerations

The ethical aspects of performing illusions that depict violence or danger are also worth discussing. This section delves into the responsibilities of magicians to balance shock value with ethical considerations.


The sawing of a lady in half trick is not only a trick; it's a tribute to the inventiveness of individuals who perform magic and the everlasting appeal of magic. It's evident from our exploration of its background, cultural significance, and technological details that this trick will never stop fascinating people and developing throughout time.

Note: Read our more blogs on Card Tricks and Illusions and many more.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Q1: How did the trick of sawing a woman in half originate?

Ans: The trick was first performed publicly by PT Selbit in 1921, marking a significant moment in magic history.

Q2: Has the trick always involved sawing a woman?

Ans: While traditionally it involved a woman, variations have included men and even inanimate objects.

Q3: How do magicians perform the trick without causing harm?

Ans: The trick relies on stagecraft, misdirection, and sometimes mechanical aids, ensuring safety while maintaining the illusion.

Q4: Why does this trick continue to be popular?

Ans: Its enduring popularity is due to its simplicity, the thrill it provides, and its ability to be constantly reinvented.

Q5: Are there ethical concerns with performing such a trick?

Ans: Yes, modern magicians must balance creating a shocking illusion with ensuring it is performed ethically and responsibly.

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