It was merely a trick, however: he was a magician who wowed audiences with the ‘sawing a woman in half’ routine on stage and the females in question were very willing volunteers.
Tibbles had been apprenticed to a silversmith who leased space to magician Charles Morritt.
Here he learnt card tricks and illusions from Morritt’s collection, often studying them while the older man was away. After deciding to write and perform under a pseudonym, he reversed the order of the letters in his surname and removed one ‘b’ to become PT Selbit.
Selbit premiered his new illusion at the Finsbury Park Empire theatre in London on January 17, 1921, amid much publicity and scandal, which he courted.
His audience volunteers during the act included Gladys Eveline Curtis (née Bunce) who was given a little saw charm in 1921 at the Empire as a keepsake.
The saw was kept in the family until it came up for auction at Fellows (25/15% buyer’s premium) in Birmingham on August 10.
Engraved SAWING THROUGH A WOMAN WITH P.T. SELBIT’S COMPLIMENTS, the charm, just 4cm long, weighing 1.5g and made of 9ct gold, was estimated at £30-50 but after a fierce battle between 14 bidders it sold for £1450.