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How to Do the Indian Needle Trick

Updated February 21, 2017

The East Indian Needle Trick was reserved for carnivals and sideshows until the infamous Harry Houdini brought it in to the limelight in the early 1900s. Since then, the trick has been performed by magic world elites such as David Blaine and Penn & Teller, along with variations that replace the needles with razor blades. Audiences respond to the trick's inherent danger, which involves apparently swallowing a number of sewing needles, as well as their chance to validate the absence of any manipulation on the part of the performer. But, it's deceptively simple to do if you know where to start.

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  1. Pre-thread needles. Before the show, take 10 to 20 needles and a length of thread. Thread each needle, tying a knot on either side of it to ensure that it stays on the thread. Once the needles are threaded, carefully line up the eyes and roll up the needles. Keeping a little of the thread extending out, you will use this later to produce the roll from your mouth. Now you are prepared to pre-load the needles between your cheek and gums before the show.

  2. Stage a fake inspection. The most important part of the illusion is the audience inspection, which ensures that your mouth is completely clear before the trick begins. Invite members of the audience to inspect your mouth and pull your lips apart with your fingers on either side. While reaching into your mouth, simply cover the preset needles with your fingers and press them against the sides of your cheeks. If the inspection become intense, you may need to switch the needles under the tongue.

  3. Place decoy needle and thread in your mouth. Show the audience a package of sewing needles and a length of thread. Place the needles and thread on your tongue and after a little showmanship, reach in and grab the end of the thread and begin pulling the pre-threaded needles from your mouth. After the trick, have your assistant hand you a glass of water, and while pretending to drink, spit the loose needles and thread in the water and hand the glass back to your assistant.

  4. Tip

    The trick can be done by drinking the water before you pull the needles out, using the same method of spitting out the loose needles and thread. Filing down the needles to a dull point will reduce the risk of injuring your mouth. When presetting the needles, try threading your tongue through a loop of the thread to reduce the risk of swallowing.


    This trick is not recommended for anyone under 18 years old.

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Things You'll Need

  • Pre-threaded needles
  • Loose needles
  • Spool of thread
  • Glass of water
  • Assistant

About the Author

Terry Hollis began writing professionally in 1999. His work has appeared in "Dance Insider Magazine," on BLARE.com and for short story readings at Emory University in Atlanta, where he now lives. He received his Bachelor of Arts in international studies from Morehouse College.

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