The magician stands outdoors with a rope, a large basket, and an assistant (generally a young boy), enticing a crowd to gather. Once there are enough spectators, the magician takes one end of the rope and throws it up into the sky where it sticks. At the magician's insistence, the assistant climbs the rope and disappears.
Seeing that his assistant has "escaped," the magician demands that he reappear and climb back down the rope. When this demand is not met, the angry magician yanks the rope down, yelling mystic curses into the sky. There is a loud roar, which the magician describes as the wayward assistant's magical punishment, and the assistant falls down from the sky -- one gory piece at a time.
The magician shovels up the carnage and packs it into the large basket. Then, with a magical word, the top of the basket pops off and out comes the assistant, whole and alive.
The Indian Rope Trick, first performed in 1890, is a classic of street magic, having been witnessed by such notables as Marco Polo. It is always performed at night, for reasons that will soon become obvious.
In preparation for the trick, the magician must find a tree so tall that its lowest branches cannot be easily seen at night. Before the crowd gathers, the magician lights a number of torches beneath the tree (to make it even harder to see up into the darkness), and in the tree's branches places a large, hungry tiger.
As the trick begins, the magician throws a rope up to where the tiger rests. The hungry cat, seeing movement, naturally snaps at it, catching the rope in its powerful jaws. The rope is thus held for the assistant to climb.
After the assistant is in the tree, the magician yanks the rope out of the tiger's mouth, hurting the animal's jaws and angering it. The animal inevitably roars and leaps on the defenseless assistant, tearing him apart.
Safe on the ground, the magician gathers the bloody crumbs of the tiger's meal and puts them in a large basket that was prepared ahead of time. The basket actually has two chambers -- one for the icky bits, and one for the twin of the former assistant. At an appropriate time, the twin pops up, pretending to be his late brother, and walks into the crowd to begin gathering donations.
Note: It is surmised that this trick was originally invented not so much as an entertainment but as a convenient method for disposing of extra twins. Although the morality of this act is extremely dubious, some futurists predict that the Indian Rope Trick will once again gain popularity as the science of human cloning progresses.