The Indian Rope Trick is a scary story about a magician and his wife who go to India on holiday. It is based on a number of things: an old horror comic, “This Trick’ll Kill You” from Tales From The Crypt #33, an old horror movie called “Vault of Horror” and an old short story by John Collier called “Rope Enough”.
Herbert Martin was a magician, but he wasn’t a very successful one. He toured the country, performing his magic tricks in a series of small, dingy theaters and seedy bars. He appeared under his stage name, The Great Martini and his wife, Inez, acted as his assistant. The couple made enough to live comfortably, but they were always on the lookout for a new trick that would make them famous.
One summer, Herbert and his wife went to Calcutta, India for a holiday. While his wife stayed in the hotel to rest, Herbert went out for a walk. He made his way through the crowds in the marketplace. The sun was beating down and sweat was dripping from his brow. He felt like he was about to pass out.
He was about to turn around and go home when a young Indian girl caught his eye. She was sitting cross-legged in a dark alley, just off the main street.
She was beautiful, with long black hair, dark skin and mysterious brown eyes. As he came closer, the girl looked up at him and smiled.
“And what do you sell?” asked Herbert.
“I sell nothing, Sir,” the girl replied. “I am a performer.”
“And what do you perform?” he asked.
“Magic, Sir,” she said. “Have you ever heard of the Indian Rope Trick? I could do it for you. Only 100 Rupees.”
Herbert nodded and pulled out his wallet. He took out a note, crumpled it up and tossed it at her bare feet.
The girl lifted the lid off the basket in front of her. Inside there was a coil of rope. She put a small flute to her lips, closed her eyes and began to play a tune.
As Herbert watched in astonishment, the rope began to stir of its own accord. It twisted and turned, rising up like a coiled snake, ready to strike. As the girl continued to play, the rope rose higher and higher.
By the time she finished the tune, the rope was standing rigid and upright, twenty feet in the air. Herbert could hardly believe his eyes.
The girl go to her feet, grasped the rope with both hands and began climbing it. She pulled herself up, hand over hand, as easily as if she was climbing a ladder, until she reached the top. Herbert was amazed.
“How much do you want for your trick?” he asked. “I must have it! Name your price!”
The Indian girl slid down to the ground again and the rope collapsed into the basket.
“There is no trick, Sir,” she said, regarding him with amusement. “The magic is in the rope.”
“Very well then,” he said. “Sell me the rope.”
“I cannot,” she replied. “It belonged to my mother and her mother before her and her mother before her…”
“I’ll give you 40,000 Rupees for it,” he said as he rummaged around in his pockets. “50,000 Rupees… 60,000 Rupees…”
The girl shook her head. “The rope is not for sale.”
Herbert stormed off and went straight back to the hotel. His wife was waiting for him in their room. Seething with anger, Herbert told her all about his encounter with the Indian girl and her amazing rope trick.
“Can you imagine what we could do with that rope?” his wife said. “Think of how much money we would make back in the U.S. We could be rich!”
“Rich and famous,” Herbert agreed. “No more touring. No more performing for pennies in those terrible bars. They’d be begging us to be on TV.”
“We have to have it,” said his wife. “This is our ticket to easy street!”
“She wont sell it,” Herbert sighed. “No matter how much I offered her, she just wouldn’t part with it.”
“You know how these Indians are,” said his wife. “They’re a stupid bunch. Every last one of them. If she won’t sell it to us, then we’ll just have to kill her for it.”
The next day, Herbert went back to the marketplace and found the young Indian girl sitting in the same dark alley.
“My wife wants to see your rope trick,” he said. “Could you come to our hotel room and give us a private performance? I’ll pay you 2,000 Rupees.”
The Indian girl was poor and needed the money. She agreed and picking up her basket, she followed Herbert to his hotel. He was careful to use the back entrance so nobody would see her entering.
When they got back to the room, Herbert introduced the girl to his wife.
“Very pleased to meet you, Madam,” the Indian girl said.
She placed her basket on the floor and sat down beside it. Taking the flute out of her pocket, she closed her eyes and started to play.
As the rope began to stir, Herbert crept up behind her and grabbed her by the neck. The girl tried to struggle, but his wife held her arms. Herbert squeezed tighter and tighter until he had strangled the life out of her.
The poor girl’s body went limp and she slumped to the ground and the murderous couple breathed a sigh of relief.
Herbert picked up the rope and examined it closely. He couldn’t see any trick. It looked just like an ordinary length of rope. He picked up the basket and peered inside. It was empty.
His wife knelt down beside the Indian girl’s corpse. She pried the flute out of her hand and gave it to her husband. He sat down in front of the basket, put the flute to his lips and started playing a tune. As they watched, the rope stirred and began to rise.
Higher and higher it climbed until it almost touched the ceiling. When Herbert stopped playing, the rope stood there as stiff as a lamppost.
“She wasn’t lying,” Herb cried. “The rope is magic after all.”
“We’re standing on a gold mine,” said his wife. “We’re going to be rich beyond our wildest dreams.”
Grinning from ear to ear, she grabbed the rope with both hands and began climbing up it. Whe she reached the top, her eyes suddenly bulged in horror, her face contorted in pain and she let out a blood-curdling scream.
Then, in the blink of an eye, she disappeared.
Herbert stood there staring at the ceiling, unable to comprehend what had happened. His wife had simply vanished into thin air.
“Inez!” he cried. “Inez! Where are you?”
Suddenly, bloody objects began raining down on him. Down came a severed leg, thump onto the ground, then an arm, a thigh, a head and other joints, and finally, a bare backside, which struck the floor with a splat.
Herbert stared at the quivering pieces of his wife’s dismembered body. Before he had a chance to react, he felt the rope curling around his neck. It began wrapping itself tighter and tighter until he couldn’t breathe.
When the manager of the hotel went to check on the couple a few days later, he was horrified to discover Herbert’s corpse hanging by the neck from a rope, swaying back and forth, surrounded by the the hacked up body of his wife.
The strangest thing about it was that the rope wasn’t attached to anything and just seemed to be floating in the air.