They All Float Down Here

Recently, we've seen a resurgence of interest in self-levitation routines. Several ads have appeared, and an impromptu levitation was featured on a national television program. (See Jon Racherbaumer's "Inside Out" column in this issue.) The choices are confusing, the ads are full of hype, and in most cases the price to learn the secret is steep. So, with the uplifting words of Stephen King's Pennywise the Clown ringing in our ears, let's take a look at the current crop of tricks that get you off the ground.

But first, a bit of history. For the most part, all of the current self-levitations have their basis in two articles published by Karl Fulves. The first, titled "Impromptu Levitation," can be found in the July 1994 issue of The Pallbearer's Review (Vol. 9, No. 9, page 755.) Ed Balducci is credited in the article, but he explains that he was shown the method by Erwin Levine, who was one of the Harmonicats. Mr. Levine had no idea who the originator was. (Can you give us any help here, Johnny Thompson?) I don't remember if I learned this method from this article or whether it got to me through the "underground" (whatever the hell that is), but a whole bunch of us were doing this back in the late 70's. It is a remarkable effect, but it does require that the audience (which must be just a few spectators) be positioned properly.

The second article was published some time in 1978 in The Chronicles #2, pages 10771080. The variations described include two important ideas: performing the levitation behind a sheet; and a method for getting both shoes off the floor. Curiously, in both cases the originators are unknown.

As with all things magical, the novelty of the self-levitation wore off. A few years ago Steve Fearson revitalized the effect with "Fearson's Fabulous Floatation." This effect required more preparation, but once prepared the performer could (while wearing the necessary "stuff') float both legs way off the ground. Steve elaborated on the method from The Chronicles, and used his coat as the screen behind which the floatation occurred. There are angle limitations, as anyone to the side or behind the performer will become very wise.

In the January 1997 issue of MAGIC an ad appeared for Andrew Mayne's "The Pocket Levitator" This is a stripped down version of the Fearson trick, and again uses the Chronicles' method for getting both shoes off the floor. For your $20 you get the necessary gimmick and four double-sided sheets of atrocious instructions. The illustrations are, for the most part, completely unhelpful, and the instructions are less than complete. We are told that we should do the dirty work (which will require at least one hand and both feet) "under the guise of the coat." Don't even bother to look up "guise," it's not going to help you here. If I had paid $20 for this I would be unhappy. My guess is that you would be too.

Canadian magician Ted Harding purchased "The Pocket Levitator" and decided that Mayne's gimmick was awkward to use, so he figured out another way to get both shoes off the floor. Again, the method he uses was mentioned in The Chronicles. Harding is selling this method as "The Pilot," and it is much more practical than "The Pocket Levitator." However, this practicality comes with a serious price tag; "The Pilot" retails for $79. You get two pages of instructions which include two small illustrations of how to gimmick your shoes, and there are no illustrations of how to do the actual floatation. You are seriously paying for the secret here, because the gimmicks cost about $25. You should also know that there is a no return policy on this product. If you are unhappy once you discover what you have purchased, that's tough.

Steve Fearson has a new product out called "Fearson's Box." However, it does not fall under the category of "Impromptu Levitations" (unless it is your habit to walk around with a big plastic milk carton) so I will review it in a future issue.

So, what should you do? Here's what I'd do: If I wanted to include a floatation as part of my stand-up act, or as something I wanted to be ready to fry people with at a hospitality suite, I would purchase the "Fearson Fabulous Floatation." It requires the most up-front preparation and expense, but once you have manufactured the necessary gaffs you can do a really good-looking levitation. (The trick sells for $69. Visit Steve's web site at www.members.aol.com/nosraef/magic.html#top for more information.) If you want a levitation which requires less preparation I would buy a copy of the reprint of the Pallbearer's Review and learn the Balducci levitation. I would also track down the information in the Chronicles. (This will be easy to do in the near future, because L&L Publishing is going to reprint the entire file of this magazine.) And unless you're desperate to float right now, I would steer clear of both "The Pocket Levitator" and "The Pilot." The first is unusable, the second is way too expensive. Happy flying.

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