Even if you don’t know much about magic, you’ve probably heard of David Copperfield.
America’s favorite magician is still entertaining audiences at 61, but he’s most famous for his live TV specials from the 1980s, where he pulled off some seriously impressive slight of hand before our very eyes. He has walked through the Great Wall of China, escaped from Alcatraz prison, and even made a Learjet vanish on live TV.
But his most famous trick of all was when he made the Statue of Liberty disappear in front of a live audience. Copperfield explained that he wanted to make the 310 foot statue disappear to remind us all “how precious liberty is and how easily it can be lost. I can show with magic how we take our freedom for granted,” by making Lady Liberty disappear.
To pull off the trick, Copperfield raised a giant screen in front of the statue. When he dropped it, the statue was gone, and a helicopter camera crew showed spotlights passing through the vanished statue. Copperfield also used some special equipment to convince us he wasn’t faking.
Special cameras contained in locked boxes photographed the vanishing act, and a radar screen next to Copperfield showed the statue disappearing during the trick. The magician even promised there were no “camera tricks” involved in the stunt.
Watch the trick and see if you can tell how Copperfield did it…
So how does Copperfield move the statue? He actually moves the audience instead. When the sheet is lifted, the stage Copperfield and the audience are standing on shifts to the right, blocking the statue from view. The loud music playing on stage covers up the noise and vibration of the moving stage.
To complete the illusion, the lights on Liberty Island are turned off, and a separate platform with matching lights is turned on. This is what the helicopter camera shows when the statue has “vanished.”
But what about the cameras and the radar screen? Of course they were just rigged propsset up to help create the illusion. You can actually see a stage light reflecting on the radar screen, showing the set moving in real time.