Do you want to know Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation secret that holds up the so-called anti-gravity board hovering in mid air?
This Walter Blaney levitation ladder trick secret has been keeping many people in suspense and wonder all these years since 1965. (no pun intended)
Disclaimer: I do not own this apparatus and the Miracle Levitation Hoop.
In other words, I do not know the actual trick secret of Walter Blaney’s Ladder Levitation.
This so-called Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation revealed is actually my assumption how this illusion works.
For the average person, is it impossible to find out how the Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation trick is done?
Well, read through this article and see whether my guesswork can hold up to this Walter Blaney magic.
Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation Explained
The explanation below is merely based on my own observations and guess work, after watching the video clips from YouTube.
I would support it with visual proofs of the secrets as captured from the videos.
For the uninitiated, Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation aka The Ladder Levitation is a portable stage levitation apparatus.
It was designed and created by the late magic legend Walter “Zaney” Blaney.
He passed away on 12th of November 2020 at the ripe old age of 92.
On May 14th, 2010, the late Walter Blaney performed his famous illusion for the last time at the 41st Annual Magic Collectors Conference held in Chicago, Illinois.
Both the concept model and the actual prop are now part of Walter Blaney Exhibit at David Copperfield’s International Museum and Library of the Conjuring Arts.
You can watch the video of Walter Zaney Blaney visiting his own exhibit at David Copperfield’s museum.
This is the Blaney Ladder Levitation:
Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation Secret
The first time I saw Blaney Ladder Levitation illusion was when Lance Burton performed it on the beach in his television specials, titled “Lance Burton: On The Road“.
He has American actress Ali Landry to help out the levitation act.
It was way back in the 90s and I recorded the show on a video tape with my VCR player.
After viewing the tape a couple of times, I saw the light, or rather the shadow of the Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation secret.
The shadow cast on the ground by the setting sun.
I immediately found the key secret to this levitation trick.
The hidden supporting arm/rod that linked the board to the step ladder.
We all know all levitation or suspension tricks need some kind of hidden support.
Be it a metal rod or invisible strings or wires.
For this prop, the supporting arm or frame comes in TWO separate parts:
The first part is fixed under the board.
The second part is concealed inside one of the legs of the ladder, and it goes all the way under the platform.
Before I saw the shadow, I knew the Blaney Ladder Levitation secret is somewhat similar to a Ulysses Frederick Grant Magic Carpet, Sultan’s Flying Carpet Illusion and Table Flying Carpet Plus found in Jim Sommers‘ book “Build Your Own Illusions“.
It is definitely very similar to his own Walter Blaneys 3001 Illusion.
By the way, watch this Flying Carpet illusion video which shows you the the basic levitation secret (the hidden support arm/frame).
Note: In my explanation, when I say left, it means your left.
Now, it’s time to lift up the lid on the whole secret working of Blaney Ladder Levitation.
To begin with, ignore the ladder on the right.
Yes, the step ladder that is placed under the participant’s legs.
It has nothing to do with the trick.
The deep secrets of this stage magic are hidden under the board, inside one of the straight legs of the left ladder and the platform.
And not forgetting with the help of camouflage.
Shadow Of Supporting Rod Or Arm
Let’s check out the video clip of Lance Burton performing this Walter Blaney magic trick on the beach.
When Lance Burton first drags the left ladder out from the board, you could see the shadow of Burton’s hand holding on to the rod joint of the board and the ladder from 1:53-1:56.
He is making sure the two separate parts of the supporting rod or frame are safely secured
This is the key pivot joint that is holding up the board to the hidden rod inside the leg of the ladder.
Then as Lance Burton shifts the ladder the second time more towards the center the prop, you can clearly see the hidden supporting rod or arm shadow at 1:57.
Similarly, you can also see the shadow of the supporting rod/arm from 1:57 when Burton performed in Howie Mandel Show.
You can see the shadow of the arm support from 9:38 when Walter himself performed in The Dinah Shore Show in the 70s.
Now we know the supporting arm/rod is from the middle part of the board and it is linked to one the straight-legs of the left ladder.
The Performance Routine
After watching all the video clips performed by different magicians, including the late Walter Blaney himself, I noticed their routines and presentations are almost the same.
The arrangement of the props before the act, the manner they lay down the board on the ladders, and how they move both the ladders.
It’s all these actions and moves that reveal the Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation secret.
I will highlight and explain them as I go along.
The magicians do not casually lay the board onto both the ladders at the same time.
They carefully placed the left side of the board onto the left ladder first, then only onto the right ladder.
The part of putting down the board onto the left ladder is the key secret of this illusion.
When they set the board on the left ladder, they face their backs towards the audience.
The truth is they are blocking the audience from seeing them executing this secret move.
They are slotting in the metal rod (plug) from under the board into another rod (socket) on top of the ladder.
There is a hole on top of the left ladder, which we don’t get to see from a distance.
By the way, even the invited guest or participant who helps out the act, might not even notice the hole.
It is because the hole is craftily camouflaged with circle graphic design painted around it.
This hole is from another metal rod which runs down inside the inner straight leg of the ladder.
This unseen rod inside the ladder leg goes all the way to the bottom of the platform.
Yes, this metal rod together with the supporting frame under the board are the ones which are doing this Blaney Ladder Levitation trick!
I will explain the secrets of the ladder and the platform, as I proceed.
Let’s get back to the board…
First and foremost, the audience does not get to see the bottom and the back side-view of the board.
Watch all the available videos of this levitation performances, and take note how the board is set down on the ground.
Before the start of the show, the board is always placed behind the platform.
To be precise, the board is rested slightly on top of the platform.
Below is a scene of the board captured from Walter’s daughter Becky Blaney’s performance.
There is a reason for it.
As I have already mentioned above, there is a rod or metal arm affixed under the board.
This is what I think how the bottom of the board looks like:
At the end of the rod is a short device, I called it a plug.
To hide this protruded plug, one side of the board is always laid on top of the raised platform.
So that the board appears flat without raising any suspicion to the hidden gimmick (supporting arm together with the plug) beneath it.
Here is another one captured from magician David Sandy‘s video.
By the way, it is this part of the video by magician Gaël Brinet, confirms my guess is correct.
There is this short device (plug) connecting to the metal arm support under the board.
You can clearly see the tilted board lying behind the platform because of the plug underneath.
Now let’s look for the device I called plug, which is hidden behind the left side of the board.
Note: To see it clearer, slow down the playback speed to 0.25.
This is another view of the plug under the board from Michael Grandinetti‘s video from 1:11 to 1:15.
This picture of the short plug captured from this video at 1:10-1:11, when this female magician is having difficulty pushing it into the hole (socket) on top of the ladder.
Note: You can see it clearer when you slow down the playback speed to 0.25.
This is the part which inserts and locks into the socket of other hidden rod inside the ladder leg.
Another obvious routine is after setting down the board onto the ladder, almost all the illusionists would always sit on it (the board).
Then they would say something like, it is a solid board or it is very safe and secure to go on top of it.
I believe the very reason of sitting on the board, is to exert additional force to tighten the plug and the socket of these two separate metal rods.
This is to ensure the joint is securely locked in place.
I think the joint and locking mechanism could be similar to the “La Suspension Ethéréene” (The Ethereal Suspension), aka Aérial Suspension or Broom Suspension created by Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin.
You can find out the details of the locking system from the book “Magic For Beginners” by Harry Baron.
Click on this: Link
Here is another reference of the Aerial Suspension from the book “Magic: In Which Are Given Clear And Concise Explanations Of All The Well-Known Illusions, As Well As Many New Ones” by Ellis Stanyon
Click on any of these: Link 1, Link 2, Link 3
There is a cut-out at the side of the board (the side that faced away from the audience).
It is to allow the metal rod/arm to swing out, when the magicians move the ladder away from the platform.
It is clearly exposed in this Michael Grandinetti‘s act.
This is the scene captured from his video at 1:13-1:15.
There is pivot joint of the rod at the middle of the board, to allow it to move freely.
As you can see now, this prop is not using the usual one continuous metal rod or bar like the other levitation apparatus, as shown below.
The supporting arm or frame of Walter’s design has two joining parts, which can reduce its tensile strength.
Probably that is the reason Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation ad, stated this prop can holds a person up to 120 lbs (54 kg) in weight.
Funnily enough, when magician Matt Hollywood used a pregnant lady in this video, you can see the two slant legs of the left ladder lifted up from the ground from 2:09 onward!
The Step Ladder
How do I know the inner straight leg of the left ladder has a rod concealed inside that comes from the platform?
It is a BLACK color rod and there is a reason for it, which I will explain soon.
When they first set up the ladders for the show, observe carefully how they handle both the ladders.
When it comes to the right ladder, they casually lift it up away from the platform.
But when they set up or adjust the left ladder, you DO NOT see them lift it up away from the platform.
They either slide it or lift it up slightly, and then pretend to adjust it to be in line with the right ladder.
It is because the inner straight leg of this ladder is actually fastened with a hidden rod that goes underneath the platform.
I don’t think most of the time the audience could catch sight of this hidden rod.
Here you can see the black color rod hidden inside the inner straight leg of the step ladder from Ken Hartley’s performance, at 0:56.
Believe it or not, it is from Walter Blaney’s performance from this video, I saw the hidden rod inside the inner straight leg of the ladder at 2:28.
The image below is captured from that video, when Walter momentarily lifts up the left ladder.
Here is another one from “The Story of the Blaney Ladder Levitation” video clip at precisely 3:19.
Once more, you need to slowdown the playback speed to 0.25, so you can take a glimpse at the black rod inside the ladder leg.
In fact, when the left ladder legs are lifted up slightly and quickly away from the platform, the black rod could hardly be seen.
Firstly, people would assume this is just another step ladder, and furthermore it appears movable.
Again it ingeniously uses the camouflage trick.
The inside rod is and the ladder leg tips next to it each other are both in black color.
So is the narrow curved gap or cut-out on top of the platform, where the rod goes through is also painted in black color.
I will talk about this camouflaged gap on top of the platform shortly.
Once again, if you view all their acts, you would recognize all the magicians do the same precised movement, when they shift the left step ladder.
After they have lifted up the end of the board where the participant’s head is, they rotate the inner straight leg of the ladder, then drags it out a short distance away from the platform.
When it comes to removing the right ladder, they still do the similar move, but this time more casually.
As I have stated at the beginning of this article, this right step ladder has nothing to do with the trick.
But they still have to pretend to move this ungimmicked right ladder the same or similar manner, so as not to arouse any suspicion.
When I exposed the hidden black rod inside the inner straight leg of the ladder, you can see the rod is from the bottom of the platform
It is cleverly camouflaged with one of the two overlapping spiral design or pattern painted on the top of the platform.
As you can see now, the black rod inside the ladder leg comes out through the curved track or gap disguised as part of the spiral design on the left side of the platform.
By now you know the spiral pattern on top of the platform is NOT there for decorative purpose.
This sneaky spiral part of the drawing is actually a gap or a cut-out where it allows the hidden rod inside the ladder leg to move out from the platform. (It is indicated in orange color in the visual below)
Once again, it is purposely painted in black color to camouflage the black color rod.
This is where the rod inside the leg of the ladder can move out from the platform without being easily seen.
I think this is how the behind scene of Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation illusion looks like:
The Tassel Fringe Trimmed Cloth
The main function of this piece of cloth is not to appear like a flying carpet or to provide comfort to the guest or the participant lying on the board.
Clearly it is meant to block the supporting arm from being seen by the front row audience just below the stage.
Zaney Blaney Hoop
This is another of Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation secret which I like to highlight.
The use of the hoop is to prove to the audience that there is no supporting bar around the board.
For this suspension apparatus, you have already known there is a supporting bar or rod attached from the board to the step ladder on the left.
So how do they manage to loop through the supporting bar with an apparently one continuous round metal hoop?
This Zaney Blaney hoop aka Miracle Levitation Hoop CANNOT be examined or inspected by the member of the audience.
It is because there must be a gap or opening at the hoop.
When Walter Blaney did the demonstration with his miniature model, he could not pass the hoop straight across the board, like he did on stage.
It is because it is not a gimmicked hoop.
He does the usual “goose-neck hoop pass” as exposed by the Masked Magician in this video at 4:30-4:41.
You can also see the illustration of the goose-neck hoop pass.
At 3:42-3:43 he even knocks the hoop onto the hidden arm.
It is because he accidentally touches the supporting bar.
You can also see it from the shadow of the loop passing through the metal arm support on the studio floor.
As I do not own any gimmicked hoop, this is just my assumption.
There is small thumb slider at the metal hoop which does the trick.
The secret opening mechanism is controlled by the performer’s thumb.
With just a gentle push or pull to the slider lever.
A small section of the hoop that can be retracted to allow a gap wide enough to it bypass the supporting arm.
After the hoop has safely gone through the arm support, you close back the gap by releasing a tiny spring-loaded slider.
The spring-loaded slider is similar to those necklace or bracelet clasp.
I don’t think the retractable opening and the thumb-slider at the loop is noticeable.
It is made of gleaming steel and in addition the surface area of the hoop is curved.
Watch this lady magician uses her right thumb pushing the hidden lever at the hoop to close the gap at 3:15, after finishing the hoop pass.
Similarly, watch this Japanese magician Dr. Zuma‘s right thumb.
You can see him lifts up his right thumb after crossing the arm support at 4:19.
If you watch closely the way the performers handled the gimmicked hoop in this Walter Blaney magic trick, you can see them keep holding onto the same spot.
Furthermore, observe how the assistants hand the hoop over to the performers.
It has to be properly positioned because of the gimmick-part at the hoop.
Just before Lance Burton does the hoop passing routine, he takes a quick gaze at the hoop as seen here at 2:13-2:14.
It is to make sure the hoop is correctly positioned.
When he does the second straight across movement, he still holds onto the same part of the hoop.
The same section of the hoop is used to bypass the supporting arm, just like he does during the first time.
Then again when Burton performs on Howie Mandel Show, he does the same routine.
He gives a quick check at the hoop before he performs the impossible trick.
Again still holding onto the same part of the hoop as he passes it through the arm support.
This video also shows Burton gives a brief glance at the hoop.
Here you can see the Monaco “Grand Prix de Magie” winner Laurent Beretta takes a sneak peek at the hoop.
Smart Move Ladder Levitation
There is a clever routine of this Blaney Ladder Levitation illusion which most performers do it.
Just before they pass the loop through the board, they shift the two ladders slightly away from the board.
It is NOT because the two ladders are getting into their way when they want to pass the hoop across the board.
Well, the act of shifting the two ladders is to enhance the levitation effect; to convince the audience that the board is not supported at all by the two ladders.
This is my two-cent of Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation secret.
I hope this Walter Blaney Ladder Levitation secret revealed and explained article will heighten your interest in the world of stage conjuring.
Incidentally, here is the public domain book titled “The Secrets Of Stage Conjuring” by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, translated by Professor Hoffmann.
Click this Link.
Stage Levitation Apparatus Patents
Check this list of levitation illusion apparatus designs found in Google Patents site: