The Professor's Nightmare (also know as Equally Unequal Ropes) is a classic rope routine where three ropes of different lengths each become the same length and then turn back to three different lengths.
It was "invented" by Bob Carver and won the IBM Originality Trophy in 1957. The judges did not believe that what he was doing was pure sleight of hand. The only way he persuaded the judges was to expose the trick to them.
It was based on Rope Session with Hen Fetsch (England, 1954) and Quad Ropelets routine by Hen Fetsch (USA, 1955).
It was tipped by Dr Spooner to Paul Young in 1957 who published it as 'Stretching and Restoring Three Ropes'
The effect was also marketed by Gene Gordon, who was the one that came up with the name "Professor's Nightmare" (1958). He bought the rights to protect the sales of "Quad Roplets", which he was also marketing. It was first advertised in September 1958 issue of The Linking Ring .
Harlan Tarbell, following a lecture tour to England, arranged with Harry Stanley marketed the effect as 'Dr. Tarbell's Equally Unequal Ropes-latest miracle from America' and by Davenports in 1959 as 'Unequal Ropes'.
More history can be found at http://www.conjuringcredits.com/doku.php?id=misc:professor_s_nightmare.
- Carlyle (Lyle Laughlin) had a similar rope item according to Bart Whaley who writes in his Who's Who in Magic that Carlyle invented Three To One Rope in 1936. But there is an advertisement in the Linking Ring, Vol. 14, No. 12, February 1935, for the same trick by Tom Osborne.
- A display/stretch was Roger Sylwester's in Hierophant No. 3, march 1970, page 122, The Professor Incubus.
- Professor's Daydream in Teasers and Ticklers - The Lecture Book by Dan Garrett (1979).
- Whit Haydn's The Mongolian Pop-Knot mss. (1982)
- The Conway Rope Deluxe as sold by Ken Brooke, reprint in The Pat Way To Con By Pat Conway (1987)
- Slydini's Rope Routine in The Magical World of Slydini written by Karl Fulves (1979)
Ideas, Patter and Routines for the Professor's Nightmare
- PROFESSOR’S NIGHTMARE or How Gene Gordon met Bob Carver, Linking Ring, May 2005
- The Chronology Of A Nightmare: Reflections On The Creation And Commercialization Of Professor's Nightmare by Dr. William W. Spooner, Linking Ring, February 2008.