In the unlikely event that this wonder describes a real event (at least in the testing description) we are left with two possibilities: a divine intervention or an illusion. As we shall see, floating illusions may have a considerable history. Magicians tend to contrast levitations (when an object is free-floating and moves) with suspensions (when an object is floating staticly and may sometimes attached to another object but not in a manner that appears to support it)1. These illusions are usually performed with either an invisible thread or using a "gimmick" - a piece of equipment designed to aid the trick, which is often disquised as something else.

Small-scale levitations (of paper money etc.) are usually achieved using invisible thread. The first recorded example of using an invisible thread is from the late 1400s, and describes using a hair* to move objects, and hair or black thread were popular for closely observed work until the development of Nylon in the 1930s2. Despite the continued popularity of small levitations, most modern levitations usually revolve around floating a human (Early Photo). The simplest levitation, which involves no props, is rising a few centimeters from standing: the so-called Balducci Levitation (first reported by Ed Balducci, 1974), which has been gimmicked (for example with altered shoes) for further effect. However, most rely on wires. The most famous large-scale wired levitation is the floating assistant (John Nevil Maskelyne, late 1800s).

Most suspensions are completed using a supporting mechanism of some kind. The best known of the simple small-scale suspensions is the Zombie Ball (Joe Karson, 1943), in which a ball appears to float on the edge of a cloth3. Larger suspensions include Jack Hughes' Chair Suspension which relies on counterbalancing the suspended person and has been further developed to allow the chair to be removed. However, one of the best suspensions comes from the "Golden Age" of Magic (1880s-1930s): watchmaker Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin's (Biography) "Ethereal Suspension" (1847), in which his son seemed to hover just supported on a single stick (Description; Mechanism). Harry Houdini claimed the trick was at least a century older (possibly referring to a fakir trick)4 and Robert-Houdin was just the only person audacious enough to claim it for himself. Of possibly even greater age is the suspension known as the "Indian Rope Trick", which may have been recorded in China by Ibn Batuta* (Biography) in 1355. You can read more on the dubious history of this trick here.

On to information on the Hoop-Pass...