On Aug. 7, 1905, magician David Devant premiered an effect that had occurred to him in a dream: A woman appears to vanish instantaneously from a bare stage.
Devant left behind a description of only 310 words explaining how he’d accomplished the illusion. He called it “the best I have ever done.” The lady descends into the floor, leaving behind the dress, supported by a tube covered with black velvet. The dress is pumped full of oil fog, and at the critical instant it’s whisked down through the tube, leaving (apparently) nothing but smoke hanging in the air.
The brief, blurry advertisement above, for Doug Henning’s 1983 Broadway musical Merlin, appears to be the only video online of this illusion. That’s a shame; it would be wonderful to see it more clearly. Devant’s partner John Nevil Maskelyne called it the “trickiest trick he had ever seen.”