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Professor's Nightmare

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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.

Bob Carver doing Professor's Nightmare, M-U-M, January 1959

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'.

The most popular handling, as most know it today, was developed by Al Cohen with Ed Mishell. They sold it out of Al's Washington D.C. magic shop as "Rope-A-Rama."

More history can be found at



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.