The Balls Through The Hat Trick

The Balls Through the Hat Trick is a fairly simple trick to explain. The juggler wears a top hat or bowler hat that has a hole in the top. The juggler juggles three balls and tosses a ball into the hole. The ball then travels through a tube or down a ramp and comes out at the front of the hat, where the juggler catches it and continues the juggling. This trick is quite old. The earliest known reference to it appears in the Modern Magicians Hand Book, written by William Hilliar in 1902. You can see the book’s instructions for the trick below.

The next reference to the trick comes from the book The Art of Juggling, written by William DeLisle in 1910. This book was written in conjunction with Edward Van Wyck, who sold props for the trick. Below are the instructions for the trick from DeLisle’s book.

The same image appears in Van Wyck catalogs from the same period, as you can see below.

American Vaudeville juggler Lester Bode created a version of the hat that combined the normal version with a Kara Box, resulting in a very tall stove top hat that balls were thrown into before exiting the hat to roll around a ramp that encircled the hat before being dumped out at the bottom. Below is a photo of Lester with this hat.

Lester Bode

Perhaps the most famous juggler to perform the balls through the hat was Bill King, who had a very novel way of ending the brief routine. You can see this in the following video.

The trick was included in George DeMott’s book Want To Be A Juggler, published in 1962. You can see its instructions below.

I was not aware of anyone performing this trick since Bill King and George DeMott did so in the 1950s.  Therefore, I decided to make a trick hat and include the trick in my Juggling History Show. Below are a photo and video of me performing the trick.

Here’s another video of me doing the trick from a better angle.

The Balls Through the Hat trick is easy to do and the hat is easy to make. If you’re looking for something simple and fun, this may be a trick for you.

David Cain is a professional juggler, juggling historian, and the owner of the world's only juggling museum, the Museum of Juggling History. He is a Guinness world record holder and 15 time IJA gold medalist. In addition to his juggling pursuits, David is a successful composer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and singer as well as the author of twenty three books. He and his children live in Middletown, OH (USA).

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