Jack-N-Box, the black-art model.

Within your haunt here is a room filled with giant toys. Sitting near the next room is a large Jack-In-The-Box toy. The box stands 4 feet square give-or-take. It appears to be innocent, and not threatening. Decorations accent the see-through walls convincing you there is nothing inside, just empty blackness. As you near this box, the lid springs open and a large clown with alien-long arms reaches for you.

Almost every magician serious about learning stage magic knows of black art. In earlier posts I talk about it (posts on hauntworld.com). In this drawing a Jack-in-the-Box toy springs to life, popping out from a lid of a large square box. This box should be decorated in clown/circus themes and accented with night symbols (stars, moon, planets, and or rockets).


The walls of this box are see-through with solid frame work and decorations. The lid can either be solid or decorated with see-through parts. –I would suggest a see-through lid (much like the walls, if your customers will not be getting too close. From a distance, like across the room, the lid can be decorated mimicking the walls.

The floor can be left open and back of the box can be left open. Ultimately, depends on where you’re going to place this box. In the center of a room, It might be best to make the back, making this illusion surround-able. The same could be said about the bottom. If you stand this box on top of other boxes, then you will need a floor.

How this works is completely actor driven, or manual. The actor sits comfortably inside a large tube container.


Traditionally, the tube is a simple aluminum can covered inside and out with black velvet (or velveteen). The container, in this case, will not require a bottom (again, unless you have a need to stack this box above the floor). Please add the eye-holes as they will not be seen by anyone other than the actor.

The black fabric cannot be seen behind the brightly painted art work of your box. I heavily suggest using UV paints. For lighting, any light will be fine, but since most haunts use black lights in their circus areas, go ahead and use that.

I have added the see-through walls to let people see inside this box. As they walk closer and passed, their eyes will see the other side or the room making it seem that it’s empty (or at least, emptier than it appears). – In the light this effect is minimal, in the darker areas of haunted houses, perfect.

Let me point out that the innards of this box need to be painted black. This includes all the edges and detailed decorations.
Most haunts are dark and this means that this illusion will be perfect for you. But, if you’re outside or at a children’s haunt where the lights are on, well, here is how the magicians do it: Add a painted mesh screen behind the decorations (see pic). The mesh or window screen should be darker than the decorations but will work to mask out the black container inside.

This box can be used as a pneumatic prop, just remove actor and replace with a cylinder or two.

The costume: In this description I included the extra-long alien arms. These are included to maximize the box. I would suggest stuffing your actor with all kinds of things to help get that ultimate scare. He or she could shoot a water cannon, throw beads, stand on stilts (although I would like to see that). There will be a lot of space for them so use it. The actor’s real arms are hidden by the clown costume and holding sticks that make up the second half of the longer arms.
Using similar method.
Complete appearance of an actor from head to toe.


The picture says it all actually. To get a full actor to appear (and vanish), instead of using a stationary tube, use a collapsible tube made of rigid (but still foldable) fabric sections. The only firm part needs to be the hoop or ring sewn into the fabric. The hoop would connect to rods attached to the lid. As the lid is opened the hoop drops revealing the actor filling the box. Reversibly, the lid may be closed to make the actor vanish. Each version should be fairly quick.

No magic illusion has used a method of collapsing black tube. This would be an original for haunts since the lighting would be dark, it is more appropriate. The tube should fall flat to the ground and as it does, the actor should spread out inside making it seem there is more inside the box than there really is.


Connect a rod to the lid with a hinged pin. Attach the bottom of this rod to another rod that is pinned to the box via pivoting dowel. This second rod lowered the hoop.
This effect is great for the home haunter and even better for the professional.