The Floating Ball was the creation of David P. Abbott. Well, actually, the original version was the creation of Harrison Davies and appeared in the September issue of The Sphinx in 1905. This information was uncovered by Teller and written up in his Prologue to The Floating Ball Illusion Chapter in the House of Mystery-Volume 2 by Teller and Todd Karr and David Abbott. This book, House of Mystery is basically an expanded edition of David P. Abbott's Book of Mysteries. It's a MUST READ for anyone interested in magic history. But within it's pages is contained the full explanation and step by step instructions for the Abbott Floating Ball routine. His routine was unique in that it was a one person version that he only performed in his home, so he had control of all conditions.
The Thurston version of the Abbott routine was part of his Spirit Cabinet routine. Interestingly, the Thurston routine has a slightly different method to the Abbott version. Thurston routine begins with the ball floating forth from the Spirit Cabinet. It moves and floats about the stage and at one point is hovering above the stage. It's at this point that Thurston walks away from the ball while it is hovering in mid-air. The ball eventually floats back to the cabinet.
Theo Bamberg, known as Okito, used the Abbott version as the starting point but worked to develop his own moves and sequences. In his book, OKITO ON MAGIC, there is a 5 page chapter where Okito discusses the history of his routine. Interestingly, he never divulges his routine but he does divulge that his routine was ten minutes long.
Moving to the later part of the 20th Century we have Doug Henning's Floating Ball routine. The Doug Henning version came from Charles Reynolds who got the routine from a source I won't reveal. Well, it's not that I can't, it's that I have no idea what Gaeton Bloom said on the Luis Dematos Floating Ball DVD! And frankly, I so enjoyed the talk that Luis and Gaeton had about the ball, that I don't wish to spoil it. (You can read more about the DeMatos Floating Ball and DVD below.) I can say that the Henning version always thrilled me but it seems the actually working of the routine was very different from what I thought it was. Let's just say the routine was 'All Doug'. Now, you take a moment to watch the following video of the The Henning Floating Ball.
After Doug Henning, the next person to really bring the Floating Ball to the forefront was David Copperfield and Don Wayne, his magic consultant. The Copperfield version of the Floating Ball appeared on one of his early specials and featured the floating of a large disco mirror ball. The method for the Copperfield routine was the idea of Don Wayne. Following the TV special, Don Wayne sold a smaller version of the ball to magicians, along with a booklet on this Don Wayne method. His method, a two person version, opened the door to some amazing moves and sequences with the ball that were previously more difficult to do. The Copperfield routine was probably the most theatrical routine of all the versions combined. Like the Henning routine, Copperfield cleverly mixed different methods into a longer sequence. The Copperfield ball was covered at the end, floated upwards and then vanished as in an asrah levitation. You can enjoy that video now.
Next we have the TELLER Floating Ball. I have sadly, never seen the routine in person. I believe he calls his version 'The Red Ball'. The Teller inspiration came from the Abbott routine. Whether or not he uses the Abbott method or has developed something of his own, I really don't know. I'm not even sure the ball floats! From what I've read, it's more along the illusion of it 'coming to life'. But I do know that the 'secret' is told to the audience just before the routine is done and it still retains a very magical quality. Though with Penn and Teller, can you really be sure they've told you the secret????
The last Floating Ball belongs to Luis DeMatos. The performance of the Floating Ball by Luis DeMatos is as close to real magic as you're likely to ever get. Having worked with the Floating Ball before, I was stunned at what he was able to achieve. I really was not sure what method he was using to accomplish his feat.
Luis DeMatos is not only selling a DVD but he is also selling his Mirror Ball, complete with DVD and all the necessary items needed to do his routine. I think that the Luis DeMatos version is not only the best routine of it's kind I've ever seen, it is also the biggest advancement in Floating Ball technology since the Don Wayne version. His routine might not be as theatrical as the Copperfield version, but it has a purity and elegance all it's own. For those interested, below is a somewhat edited version of his routine and you can start to get an idea that this is not your father's Floating Ball!