A few years ago in Magick, Jim Rainho published an effect wherein a sharp spike was hidden under one of several paper cups. The cups were then mixed and the performer, through the agency of his psychic abilities, smashed all of the cups with the palm of his hand -- except the one covering the spike.
I betray no confidences when I point out that the cup covering the spike had been previously nail-nicked by the performer. Bascom Jones wisely suggested that, since the person mixing the cups may accidentally (or maliciously) exchange the cup covering the spike for one of the other cups, you should incorporate a backup system. He suggested attaching a fine human hair to the base of the spike.
Seemed like a good idea, but my friend Lee Nobel once told me that when he performed the Spike trick at one of the Psychic Entertainer's Association conventions the lighting was such that he couldn't see the hair. He trusted that the spike would be under the marked cup -- and it was.
In one of my previous books I suggested performing the Spike trick with a large magnet embedded in the base and using a concealed compass to locate it. Many mentalists didn't like the idea of having to conceal a compass by sleight of hand, and although I performed this method many times I couldn't ignore the feeling that I was moving in the wrong direction, making the trick too complicated, dirtying it up. So back to the drawing board.
The ideal solution occurred to me one day while drinking a cup of coffee. Effect:
The performer addresses the audience, "Have you ever felt the whisper of premonition that something was about to go wrong -- and it did? Studies have shown that we have a built-in mechanism that warns us that danger is imminent. Security experts are cautioning us to listen to our intuition; if something or somebody seems wrong to you, go with that feeling. Don't question it. I'm not simply going to stand here and claim that your intuition can warn you of trouble; no, talk is cheap. I'm going to prove it to you."
The performer removes from a small case what appears to be a very sharp scalpel. "How many here have accidentally been cut with a sharp object? That many; most of us have at some time. It's an interesting experience. At first, the shock of the accident numbs us, we don't feel anything for several seconds. Then the pain sets in. And of course . . . the bleeding.
"Is there anyone here who is a medical person, a doctor or nurse? Someone who is used to handling these surgical instruments? Ah, good. I'm going to hand you this scalpel, very carefully, and ask you to verify it's sharpness by slicing this piece of card. Is it sharp? Very good. Please place the guard back on the blade and hand it to me. "
The performer calls for the organizer of the event. "Didyou bring with you what I asked for (of course she did; you made sure of it before the show, right?)? Please bring the package up here."
The organizer brings up a package of Styrofoam cups and lids. The lids are very important as you will see shortly. " Would you please open the package and remove a cup and a lid. Place the lid upside-down on the table please. Now place this holder (note: the holder is a small block of wood or metal drilled out to accommodate the handle of the scalpel) onto the lid. You'll notice that the holder has a groove in it; please place the scalpel, sharp side up, into the holder. Thank you. Now, carefully remove the blade guard from the scalpel, and take the cup and cover the scalpel with it, making sure the cup is firmly seated within the lid. Excellent. Now make four more just like that one!"
The performer points to a gentleman in the audience. "Wouldyou sir, please come up here and help for one moment? Please make sure I can't see through this blindfold, and tie it firmly in place." Addressing the person constructing the cups, "Are you through? Good. Please mix the cups up so that no one can tell where the scalpel lies concealed. Mix them well.
"Sir, would you please lead me to the table where the cups are? Do you have any idea which one conceals the scalpel? No? Well neither do I, but we'll find out —NOW!"
The performer suddenly slams his hand down on a cup. It collapses. In some cases, so will the person helping you! Continue:
"My premonition tells me that cup is safe. Do you have any feelings about any other one of the cups?" Regardless of his answer, you crush two more in quick succession.
"There are two cups left sir. The odds of the next cup being safe are now one in two, or 50-50. Would you like to guess which one is safe? I say that one." The performer points to a cup. "Be my guest, give it a try - smash it!" I've never had anyone take me up on this, but it's good for a laugh if you don't push the guy too hard. "No? Very well, I'll take a. . . stab . . . at it." Smash!
The performer slowly lifts his hand from the smashed cup. His hand is unharmed.
Removing the blindfold, the performer thanks the participant and sends him back to his seat. Lifting up the last cup, the performer tears it away from the scalpel. Holding it daintily between his fingers, he replaces the blade guard as he makes his closing remarks:
"Kids, don't try this at home. Unless your parents are away -- then go for it!
Just kidding! End anyway you like.
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