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The magic frog-hair


When I was a kid, sometimes we would use a wooden match to light a fire or a candle or whatever. And then my mother would extract the magic frog-hair from the burned match.

It's easier to show than to describe, but I'll give it a try:

She would hold the burned match upright in one hand (let's say her right hand), between the index finger and thumb, and would examine closely the place where the match head joined the stick. The "neck" of the match, I suppose.

Eventually, she would spot the end of the magic frog-hair sticking out just a little bit from the match. She would use her fingernails, as one might do when extracting a splinter without tweezers, to carefully grab ahold of the end of the frog-hair.

Then she would unwind the frog-hair; it was wrapped around the neck of the match, so she moved her left hand (still holding the end of the frog-hair between her fingernails) in a spiral around the match. We looked closely as she unwound, but the frog-hair was so fine that we could never actually see it.

When she'd unwound maybe 6 to 10 inches of frog-hair, she stopped. She was still holding the match upright in her right hand, and now the frog-hair was stretched taut and invisible between the match and her left hand.

And then she would give the frog-hair a sharp tug with her left hand, and the match head would go flying off the match.

It should be noted that Marcy (my mother) was not given to sleight-of-hand. Peter (my father) used to occasionally do various tricks (he was especially fond of the bend-silverware-in-half illusion), and I learned half a dozen bits of stage magic from various sources, notably a book called Sneaky Feats that taught me the French Drop, and I vaguely think Jay had a couple of magic props at one time or another (maybe the one that turns a dollar bill into a blank piece of paper?); but Marcy never did that kind of thing.

A few years ago, the magic frog-hair came to mind and I think I asked Peter if he knew how she'd done it. He didn't. We came up with some vaguely plausible ideas, but I couldn't get any of them to actually work.

I've been using wooden matches to light candles and oil lamps lately, and every time I do, I think of the magic frog-hair. I tried Googling all sorts of relevant phrases, but can't find anything online about it.

Jay, do you remember the magic frog-hair? Did you ever learn how it was done?

Have any of the rest of y'all heard of it, or anything like it?

I suppose I could ask Marcy's cousins; I'm guessing it must have been a family thing.

In the absence of any further information, I'm going to have to assume that Marcy really was unwinding magic frog-hairs from all those matches.


Well, if you're sure you want to know, you might give this a look.

I think Shmuel has it. At least, I seem to remember long ago being taught this magic trick, though it didn't involve a frog hair that I recall.

You might be able to do a variant of it where you pretend to "flick the matchhead off" with your free hand, but from, say a foot away, while using the middle finger of the match hand to flick the unburned end of the match as described.

Thanks to all who replied (both here and in email). That was what Peter and I figured must be the trick, but we could never get it to work; maybe we didn't burn the match enough. I'll have to try it again.

(I'm also disappointed in my Googling skills. I had assumed there must be info about this trick out there without the frog-hair part, but nothing I searched for brought anything up. So thanks for the links!)

I'm still curious about the frog-hair part of it; one correspondent knew about the frog hair but didn't unwind it from the match itself. Anyone else who encountered this as involving a frog-hair, let me know.

(And as Googlefodder, I'll also include the variant spelling "froghair.")

Of course I remember Marcy's magic frog hair trick! I was very impressed by it. Only now did I put two and two together...I think Peter may have known the secret the whole time or perhaps knew but did not know he knew. (That's starting to sound Rumsfeldian.) Peter's trick, which I think may have been the basis for Marcy's magic frog hair trick (or maybe it was vice-versa), is a variant on the video and the how-to-link posted by earlier commenters here.

Here's what I mean: Peter showed me once a nice "toothpick trick" where you can make a toothpick jump around while it is balanced on another toothpick, with no apparent means of motion except for telekenesis. It looks very cool if executed properly. The trick is creating tension on one of the toothpicks by holding it hard against your fingernail. A tiny, imperceptible movement of the toothpick on your fingernail will cause the second toothpick to jump, and if done properly, even to flip. I think Marcy was using the same fingernail tension on the matchstick. Here's links to a video and a how-to on the toothpick trick:

i know someone who does it and he knew another person who did it it can be used for various things, moving three quarters without touching them, pulling your pocket out and makin it move around yes i have senn it a couple of times but i doubt anyone will tell you how to do it most of the frog hair tricks are family secrets who will tell noone.

Thanks, Daniel. In case anyone's wondering, the various links in the comments thread here show how the tricks are done, so there's no need to get anyone to tell you how to do it.

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