Music & Entertainment

What Is The Disappearing Glass Trick? Learn How to Perform Penn & Teller’s Disappearing Glass Trick

Written by MasterClass

May 30, 2019 • 6 min read

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How’s this for a party trick? You show two coins and take one into each hand. Your right hand goes beneath the table, and the left hand stays above the table. You slap your left hand onto the table, and the coin penetrates the table and falls into your right hand, where it lands with a clink against the other coin. You repeat this. You now propose to make both coins penetrate the tabletop simultaneously. To make this feat even more impressive, you will do it without touching the coins. They are isolated underneath an inverted drinking glass, which you cover with a piece of newspaper. You bang your hand against the top of the glass, and the glass somehow goes through the table, instead of the coins. How is this even possible?

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What Is The Disappearing Glass Trick?

This disappearing glass trick is a sleight of hand magic trick that lends itself to casual settings using everyday objects. A well-rehearsed magician will not need a fancy stage with high production values to perform the disappearing glass trick. If anything, the simple and unassuming context of the trick makes it all the more impressive.

Step-by-Step Guide: How to Perform Penn & Teller’s Disappearing Glass Trick

Famed magicians Penn & Teller do their own version of the disappearing glass trick. Here’s what you need to make it work:

  • A table to sit behind.
  • Two coins of the same denomination (quarters will work, but half dollars are recommended).
  • A drinking glass.
  • One of the following: a sheet of notebook paper, a newspaper page, a napkin, or a paper placemat. (A cloth napkin can sometimes work, if it is stiff enough.)

Once your materials are in place and you’re seated at the table, you’re ready to begin.

  1. Bring out the two coins and set them onto the table, side by side, off to your right a little bit—this will help you justify the false transfer that is coming up. Leave the glass and the newspaper aside for now.
  2. With your right hand, pick up the leftmost coin and display it in French-drop position. After showing it to your audience, make it seem that you’ve transferred the coin into your left hand—but by doing the French drop, it actually remains in you right hand. Your closed left hand turns palm up and moves slightly to the left, apparently holding the first coin.
  3. Your right hand is now free to pick up the second coin, which is right next to it, and display it at the fingertips. The audience will believe you are holding one coin in each hand. Actually both coins are in your right hand. One is at your fingertips and the other is hidden in your palm.
  4. Take your right hand, with its coin(s), beneath the table. Raise your palm-down left fist about nine inches above the table. Quickly slam your left hand down onto the table, the hand opening as it descends. At the exact second the hand slaps against the table, your right hand bangs the coin in its fingertips against the underside of the table. The sound of the coin against the table sounds to the audience like the sound of a coin in the left hand against the top of the table. Immediately, your right hand drops that coin into the hand, where it falls against the other coin and makes a clink. If the two coins don’t initially make a sound, shake your hand to jingle them together.
  5. Raise your left hand to show there is no coin under it, then bring your open right hand up from below the table to show it has both coins. Drop them onto the table.
  6. You’re now going to make the second coin penetrate the tabletop. Place your open left hand, palm up, at the edge of the table, with your knuckles along the table edge. With your right hand take one of the coins and place it right into the center of your left palm.
  7. Rotate your left hand palm down and simultaneously close your fingers into a fist. Before your fingers close around the coin, however, let it fall directly into your lap. (This is called a revolve vanish.) Without pausing, raise your left hand and move it forward, several inches above the table, and away from the table edge.
  8. With your right hand, pick up the second coin and display it on your open palm, so that it is clear that you only have one coin in your hand. Take that coin down beneath the tabletop, and secretly pick up the other coin that is in your lap.
  9. You will now apparently make a second coin penetrate the table. Raise your palm-down left fist, then slam it onto the table, simultaneously using your right hand to bang a coin against the underside of the table. Immediately, your right hand should drop its coin into the hand, where it falls against the other coin and makes a clink.
  10. Raise your left hand to show there is no coin under it, then bring your open right hand up from beneath the table to show it has both coins. Drop them onto the table.
  11. You will change things up considerably for the third phase. Place one coin directly in front of you about nine inches away the edge of the table, and stack the other coin on top of it. Grab the glass and invert it over the coins. “I’ll make both coins go through the table, you’ll hear them hit the floor. But to prevent me from doing any sleight of hand, I will cover them with this glass, so I can’t touch them.” Now take the paper, place it over the glass, and with both hands shape it around the glass, so that it forms a kind of shell. Say, “But I don’t want you to see how I do it, so I’m going to cover the glass with this paper.” If you were to lift the paper from the glass, it would retain the shape of the glass.
  12. With your right hand, hold onto the paper-wrapped glass and slap the top of the glass with the palm of your left hand, then set your left hand down right at the edge of the table. With your right hand, lift the glass to see if the coins have gone through. With your eyes, focus all your attention on the coins.
  13. While directing focus to the coins, lean your whole body backward. Your left hand, which was right at the edge of the table, will fall into your lap, where it turns palm up, ready to catch the glass. Rest your right hand, with the glass, just off the edge of the table, with the bottom of the glass even with the tabletop.
  14. Loosen your grip on the paper-covered glass. You want to hold onto the paper while letting the actual glass drop into your left hand. Set the glass into your lap or between your thighs.
  15. Act disappointed that the coins didn’t go through the table. Replace the “glass” (which is just the paper shell) over the coins and hold it there with your right hand, so that the shell retains its shape. Say, “I’ll try again.” Smash your left palm down onto the paper, completely flattening it. The fact that the glass has apparently vanished will be very shocking.
  16. Lift up the paper. Show that the coins are still under it. Say, “I didn’t make the coins go through the table. I guess I can’t do this trick.” Ignore the fact that the glass vanished, and crumple up the paper and toss it aside.

This trick requires a bit of acting skill as well as manual dexterity. The more you can direct your audience’s focus (and inject a little humor), the more effective the trick will be.

Learn more magic tips and tricks in Penn & Teller’s MasterClass.