Season 3
Number 5
Writer Danny Cannon,
Anthony E. Zuiker
Director Danny Cannon
Original Airdate October 31, 2002
Previous Episode: A Little Murder
Next Episode: The Execution of Catherine Willows

Abra-Cadaver is the fifth episode in Season Three of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.


Grissom, Sara and Warrick investigate when a woman who was already missing disappears while taking part in a magician's act. Things get worse when the magician burns to death on the stage. But Grissom soon discovers that all is not what it seems. Meanwhile, Catherine and Nick find evidence of murder when a rock star dies from an overdose in his trailer.


Victim: Magic show volunteer (missing)

On the case: Gil Grissom, Sara Sidle, Warrick Brown, Jim Brass

At a magic show, The Amazing Zephyr performs his most famous trick: the Chamber of Doom. He gets a volunteer—a red-haired woman in a blue dress—from the crowd and has her step into the chamber. Smoke fills the chamber as Zephyr thrusts three swords into its sides. When the smoke vanishes, the woman is gone. With the help of his assistant, Matilda, Zephyr has the spotlight focus back on the woman's seat; however, the woman is unexpectedly not there. Zephyr awkwardly addresses the crowd, unsure of how to explain this mystery.

Grissom arrives on the scene and gets briefed by Brass. When he looks over the chamber, he a finds a small amount of blood. It's confirmed that the missing woman paid cash for her seat, and Brass confiscates a camera from the vacationing couple who was sitting in front of her. Grissom examines the swords thrust into the chamber and notes that they're quite dull, which he says adds to the illusion. Sara tests one of the swords for blood and it comes back positive. Grissom talks with an unhelpful Zephyr, who chooses to perform a magic trick with a half dollar instead of providing any useful information. When the trick is over, he lets Grissom keep the coin.

Sara and Warrick process the box, but find only partial prints. Punky Dillinger, Zephyr's stagehand, emerges from behind the curtain and introduces himself. He denies knowing how the tricks work, but eventually relents after Grissom stares him down. To the surprise and amusement of Sara and Warrick, Grissom asks Punky to make him disappear. He gets in the chamber and, when the smoke disappears, he's gone. However, he simply fell below the stage, as there's a chute below the steps. Punky tells the CSIs that once the audience participant is below the stage, he escorts them out the exit door and back to their seat to complete the illusion. However, he turned his back with the woman in the blue dress for one second and she disappeared.

According to Punky, there's only one exit out of the basement; however, Warrick spots blood drops on the floor leading to another exit door. Grissom and Warrick follow the blood outside to an alleyway. There, they find a pool of blood with a mixture of clear liquid along with tire treads, indicating that someone made a quick getaway. Meanwhile, Sara is able to lift a palmprint from the exit door.

Not only was Punky lying about another exit, his palmprint was lifted off of the trap door under the chamber. His print was also inside the chamber itself. In the interrogation room, Punky lights up a cigarette then performs a magic trick to make it disappear. He admits that he loves magic and that he would try out the tricks behind Zephyr's back, which explains why his prints were all over the trick.

Greg tells Sara that the blood found in the Chamber of Doom and under the stage belong to the same donor. However, the blood found in the alleyway was different; in fact, it wasn't human. The clear liquid found with the blood came back as Thorazine, which can be used as an animal tranquilizer. However, Zephyr doesn't use animals in his acts.

Archie goes through the photos on the vacationing couple's camera. One of the photos shows the woman in the blue dress heading towards the stage. Archie is able to identify another magician, known as Toby Arcane (aka "Freak Man") in the background of another photo. Grissom, Sara, and Warrick go to one of Toby's performances, where he's getting nailed to a wooden X—an illusion known as the "Crossifixion." The lights go out and Toby reemerges on a catwalk behind the crowd in a burst of fire, which results in a huge ovation from the crowd. After the performance, the CSIs interview Toby, who admits to being at Zephyr's show. He believes the woman in the blue dress was a plant, a method of magic Zephyr would stoop to. Toby speculates that the blood inside the chamber could've been from a pouch, but knowing Zephyr, he made a mistake.

Warrick runs the tire treads and finds that they're a match to a Ford F-150. Greg tells him the human blood found matches Zoe Clein, a woman with red hair who has been missing for six months. Grissom, Sara, and Warrick go to Zoe's house, which is built close to a railroad. Warrick opens the kitchen refrigerator and finds six pints of A-positive blood, while Sara searches the bedroom and finds no evidence that Zoe ever left. As a train goes by, Grissom sees that everything in the dining room is shaking except for a painting on the wall. He's able to find a secret passageway leading to a hidden room downstairs. Sara and Warrick are able to find him, and they also come across a blueprint of the Chamber of Doom created by Zoe. Warrick finds a black and white photo of the Clein Magical Tour—Roy, Zoe, Zephyr, and a baby Zephyr is holding. Roy is assumed to be their father, but Grissom questions why Zephyr is there and who the baby is supposed to be.

Upon spotting something on the windowsill, Grissom props himself up with a clothes hook and picks up an Io moth. He explains to Warrick that the eye-like spots on its wings are an illusion, fooling predators into thinking it's an owl. The Io moth feeds on trees and foliage, so it's rather out of place in a basement. Just then, everyone hears someone walking around upstairs. They released the officer from the scene, so someone else is in the house. Sara eventually finds Matilda hiding in a closet, and she and Warrick draw their guns on the nervous magician's assistant.

Matilda explains that she came to talk to Zoe, saw her door open, and decided to snoop around. She admits to also wanting to be a magician and that she and other magician's assistants never get the credit they're due. Matilda says that she knows Zoe through Zephyr and confirms that Zoe was a plant the night she disappeared. Brass informs her that Zoe has been missing for six months, and Matilda can't explain how she saw her that night.

When asked, Matilda says she drove to Zoe's house in her Ford F-150. Sara and Warrick go to investigate the car, and they confirm that the tire treads match the tracks left in the alleyway. They're also startled to find a live, caged black panther in the back of the truck. There's a lot of blood, as well as syringes and empty bottles of Thorazine. Sara wonders if someone drugged Zoe and fed her to the growling panther. When confronted, Matilda says that the panther is her pet and that it cut itself, which explains the blood and Thorazine. She says she has to go, as Zephyr is performing a new trick that night. This piques Grissom's interest.

That night, at the magic show, Zephyr performs his Chamber of Doom illusion again. However, instead of using someone from the audience, he proclaims that he'll make himself disappear. He gets into the chamber, and as the smoke begins to shield him, the chamber catches on fire. Stagehands try to rescue Zephyr, but they're too late; the magician burns to death inside. Grissom, Sara, and Warrick are present to see this occur. They go below the stage to find a stake wedged in the trap door; it's the same kind of stake Toby Arcane uses in his act.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Grissom that Zephyr's cause of death was essentially swallowing fire, the same way a drowning victim swallows water. The doc also points out that there are surgically created soft tissue pockets in Zephyr's mouth. Grissom notes that he heard Houdini could regurgitate keys on cue, but has never heard of skin pockets.

In the interrogation room, Sara and Warrick go through all of Toby's props until they find a stake. Toby shows them that the stake is a fake; it has a collapsible tip with a blood capsule inside, giving the illusion that he's bleeding. He says that he's been better than Zephyr for years and had no reason to kill him. In fact, all of the props on the table are fake, as is Toby's tattoo. He even changes to his real speaking voice and tells them he's from Orange County.

In his office, Grissom turns over the half dollar that Zephyr gave him earlier and he notes that it is two-headed. He studies the Io moth he has in his office and comes to a realization. On his way to the morgue, he has Sara and Warrick dig up everything they can about Zephyr and his crew. He then goes to Doc Robbins, cuts off one of Zephyr's fingers, and wears it himself to get prints from it. Meanwhile, Sara and Warrick find out from a website that Punky was Zephyr's son and that he was the baby in the old photograph found earlier. Grissom discovers that the print from Zephyr is actually a match to Punky; Zephyr pulled a switch. The amazing Zephyr actually murdered his son. Grissom notes that Zephyr and Punky were interchangeable in physical appearance like the Io moth. This means that Zephyr is still out there.

Grissom goes back to Zoe's house and down into the hidden basement, where he finds that the clothes hook he used to prop himself up earlier is lying broken on the floor. He notes that the room looks smaller than it did previously, and he pushes the wall out of the way to reveal another hidden passageway. At the end of the passageway, sitting at his desk, is Zephyr. He explains that he was the woman in the blue dress the night "Zoe" disappeared and that he fooled everyone, even Toby. To complete the illusion, he even wore a packet of Zoe's blood on his arm; when the sword was inserted, it sprayed her blood over the chamber. Zephyr says that Zoe was nice enough to give him a some of her blood before she mysteriously disappeared, but Grissom surmises that Zephyr made her "disappear." Grissom tells Zephyr that he knows he killed his son and set up Toby for the murder. Zephyr replies that Punky was better off as a prop than as a magician, and that magicians "save their best trick for last."

Zephyr is arrested. As he's going to the patrol car, Grissom has him open his mouth to make sure there are no skin pockets inside. He finds none and is satisfied enough to have Zephyr taken into custody. As the car is driving away, Zephyr is able to regurgitate a key, and he holds it on his tongue for the viewer to see.

Victim: Gus Kenyon (deceased)

On the case: Catherine Willows, Nick Stokes

Catherine and Nick arrive to the scene of a dead body on a tour bus. The victim is Gus Kenyon, lead singer of the band Pekinpah. He has a bandana tied around his right arm acting as a tourniquet and a needle filled with heroin sticking out of it. Heroin still in the syringe and a lack of vomit would make it seem like this wasn't an overdose. Catherine examines Gus' right index finger to find what looks like a bruise. The skull-shaped silver ring he's wearing has some flecks of red embedded in some openings. Nick notes that the tourniquet is tied off away from the body, meaning someone else likely tied it. Catherine finds an empty bottle of whiskey next to the body, which may explain why it was so easy for someone to manipulate the scene. The stage manager arrives and tells them that Gus was a health freak and had been clean for six years; it's a shock that he would die from an overdose.

In autopsy, Doc Robbins tells Catherine that Gus had no heroin in his system when he died. The cause of death was an embolism to the heart; air was injected into the heart, which eventually led to heart failure. His blood alcohol content was .31, which leads Doc Robbins to guess that Gus was unconscious when his heart stopped. This would explain why the heroin didn't get into his system. The doc also tells Catherine that the black mark on the index finger wasn't a bruise; it was standard black printing ink.

Surveillance videos from the night of the performance show that the bandana tied around Gus' arm was used by one of the bandmates. They admit to leaving Gus alone on the bus per his request, and confirm that they've all been clean for six years; they all got clean together as a band. Gus' medical records show that he battled depression, something also verified by his bandmates. According to them, he had wanted out of the band for some time.

Greg provides Catherine and Nick with publications and music from the band. He also tells him that he heard it through the grapevine that the band was splitting up. Catherine notes that Gus wrote all of the songs on the CD she's holding and surmises that if Gus left the band and took the songs, the bandmates would stop making money.

Catherine goes back to the tour bus and finds a broken piece of a cell phone and the phone itself. She also finds a phone book; when she opens it up, she finds a black smudge next to a name—Samantha Dean. Wondering what Gus's next move would be with a broken cell phone, she leaves the bus and goes to a nearby payphone, where she confirms that the phone book is missing. Nick shows Catherine a CD player he found that belongs to the guitarist, Keith Castle; there's a bag of heroin where the batteries should be.

Greg tells Catherine and Nick that he found out the band was planning a "Best Of" album. He's able to dig up an interview that Gus did on MTV2, where he said that compilation albums are for has-beens and his bandmates could only release one over his dead body. Greg also discovers that Keith was planning the album. Under interrogation, Keith admits that he only snorts the heroin, but doesn't shoot it. He adds that he and the rest of the band didn't get along with Gus, who made a habit of making his bandmates feel worthless.

Catherine visits the house of Samantha Dean and notices scratch marks on her red door. She tells Samantha that Gus looked up her name and address from the phone directory; however, Samantha denies knowing Gus and also denies answering the phone when he called. Catherine notices that Samantha's son, Brandon, is wearing some expensive green-tinted sunglasses. It's at this point that Samantha ends the questioning. Outside in the car, Catherine listens to a CD of Pekinpah's music and starts looking at the CD jacket.

Catherine takes a closer look at the CD jacket under a magnifying glass and identifies a picture of Gus and Samantha, proving that she clearly lied about knowing the rock star. In the picture, Samantha is wearing a VIP badge and sitting with Gus backstage, while Gus is wearing green-tinted sunglasses similar to the ones Brandon had on. Catherine retrieves the ring Gus was wearing from evidence, and she and Nick visually confirm that the red marks in the ring came from Samantha's door.

When questioned in her home by Catherine and Nick, Samantha reiterates that she never met Gus. However, Nick tell hers that the paint on Gus' ring matches the paint on her door. Catherine also shows her the picture from the CD jacket and notes that the sunglasses Gus is wearing in the picture are the same ones that Brandon currently has in his hands. A look into Gus' background reveals that he and Samantha met on a video shoot six years ago. With this evidence, Catherine surmises that a depressed Gus came to the house the night before to talk to Samantha, recognized Brandon as his son, and give him the sunglasses. When she kicked him out, he started beating on her door. Samantha wanted to protect her son from his father's lifestyle. She also happens to be a registered nurse, meaning she had access to medical supplies.

Samantha confesses that when she made Gus leave, he threatened to call a lawyer and take Brandon away from her. She followed Gus to the tour bus and found him passed out from the whiskey. Keith's heroin was nearby, and she wrongfully assumed that Gus had been shooting up. She injected Gus with air, then filled the syringe with heroin to make Gus' death look like an overdose. Catherine reveals that Gus's most recent songs were written about Samantha and that he loved her and missed her. Samantha explains that she's not proud of her youth and didn't want her son being part of that world. She asks Catherine what she would be willing to do to save the life of her child, and Catherine replies that she would want her daughter growing up with a bad father than knowing none at all.


Main Cast[]

Guest Cast[]

  • Archie Kao as Archie Johnson
  • Tom Noonan as Zephyr Dillinger
  • Lawrence Monoson as Toby Arcane
  • Salvator Xuereb as Keith Castle
  • Jennifer Sky as Matilda, Zephyr's Assistant
  • Tushka Bergen as Samantha Dean
  • Jon Sklaroff as Punky Dillinger
  • Esteban Powell as Band Member
  • Jack McGee as Road Manager
  • Catherine Grace as Orlando Wife
  • Sven Holmberg as Bassist
  • Blumes Tracy as Gus Kenyon

Featured Music[]

  • Natural One by Folk Implosion
  • Just Like You Imagined by Nine Inch Nails
  • The Mark Has Been Made by Nine Inch Nails


Grissom: I knew that Houdini could swallow and regurgitate keys on cue, but I've never heard of skin pockets.
Doc Robbins: Learn something new every day, don't you?


  • Grissom incorrectly says that abracadabra is made up of three Hebrew words meaning father, son, and the holy spirit. In reality, abracadabra is derived either from Hebrew or Aramaic language "Avra Kadavrai" meaning "I will create as my words."


  • Tom Noonan and William Petersen worked together in 1986, in the production of Manhunter. In the movie, Petersen was Will Graham and Noonan was Francis Dollarhyde, a psycho-killer that Petersen wanted to capture.
  • Jack McGee played the road manager in the episode. He also appeared as Richard O'Malley in season 8's Grissom's Divine Comedy and had minor roles in episodes of both CSI: Miami and CSI:NY.
  • Toby Arcane's "crossifixion" scene was filmed in the former press room of the Herald Examiner in Los Angeles.[1]


  1. Flaherty, M. & Marrinan, C. (2004). CSI: Crime scene investigation companion. New York, NY: Pocket Books.

See Also[]

CSI:Las Vegas Season 3
Revenge is Best Served ColdThe Accused is EntitledLet the Seller BewareA Little MurderAbra-CadaverThe Execution of Catherine WillowsFight NightSnuffBlood LustHigh and LowRecipe for MurderGot Murder?Random Acts of ViolenceOne Hit WonderLady Heather's BoxLucky StrikeCrash & BurnPrecious MetalA Night at the MoviesLast LaughForeverPlay with FireInside the Box