The Möbius Strip in Magic: A Treatise on the Afghan Bands

The Möbius Strip in Magic. A Treatise on the Afghan BandsI am currently researching a book about applying the Möbius Strip to magic. The trick is commonly known as the Afghan Bands. This name stems from a time when Afghanistan was associated with magic and mysticism, instead of with war and terrorism.

A mathematician confided
That a Mobius band is one-sided,
And you’ll get quite a laugh
If you cut one in half,
For it stays in one piece when divided1

Afghan Bands and Möbius Strip Videos

The videos below show the Afghan Bands as a magic trick and some theoretical aspects of the Möbius Ring principle.

Commercial Versions

Rickhard's Afghan Bands - Linking Ring 1943There are several commercial version of the Afghan Bands. Most innovations in this trick relate to replacing the paper with muslin so that the bands can be ripped instead of cut. This version was popularised by Harry Blackstone.

The image on the right shows the advertisement for Rickard’s version of the bands. These were prepared muslin bands sold by the dozen in 1943 for $1.75 ($24 in current dollars).

The commercial versions also include various innovations on how to prepare the strips of paper to strengthen the deception.

In the 1980s the Afghan Zipper or Möby Zip appeared on the market. In this version, the strip is separated by a long zipper.

Literature

The literature on the Möbius strip and its application in magic is vast. The main problem with this trick is the need for an amusing script to turn a mathematical curiosity into magic theatre.

The image below shows the number of times the trick is mentioned in the Linking Ring. It was most popular in the middle of the last century, possibly because Harry Blackstone Senior used it in his stage act.

Möbius Strip Scientific Literature

Afghan Bands Magic Literature


  1. Gene Anderson and Frances Ireland Marshall (1968) Newspaper Magic.
    Magic, Inc. 

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