Important Note Regarding The Illustrations

In the event of any discrepancy between the text and the sketches, the former should be taken as authoritative.—V.F.

Upon being asked "What goes to the making of a good magician?" someone (I forget whom for the moment) wisely but tersely replied, "One, Practice. Two, More Practice. Three, Still More Practice". This advice has been reiterated over and over again, in lectures, books and magazines, and is unquestionably sound advice as far as it goes.

I say "As far as it goes", because that is as far as it goes. The advice, sound as it is, just tells you to practice, practice, and practice, which, to my mind, is equivalent to telling a budding vocalist to go then and sing, sing, sing, without any hints or tips, rules or precepts, as to just how to sing.

It is rather surprising, to me at least, that out of the millions of pages that have been written upon the subject of Magic, very few, if any at all, have been devoted to THE ART OF PRACTICING. In coining the latter phrase, it may well be that I am sticking my neck out. It may well be that I shall be told that there is no art in practicing art (this is going to become terribly involved, if I don't take care) but in spite of such risk I still contend that there is an art to it.

No one will deny that practicing CAN be monotonous, at times it can be heartbreaking. It can even be unfruitful! But I contend that, providing it is tackled in an easy, logical and harmonious way, then instead of being monotonous it becomes interesting, instead of being heart rending it becomes enjoyable, and consequently, the effort extended is more likely to bear fruit than otherwise.

Much, of course, depends upon the individual's attitude towards practicing. Some, I know, utterly detest it, and frequently those people will even avow that, with them, practice is not necessary! Quite possibly they come to believe that, with them, practice is unnecessary, but this logic (?) usually results ;n their fooling themselves with such argument, instead of fooling their audience with the effect.

Others merely accept practice as an unavoidable evil, do as little as they can, as late cS they can, put the effect out as early as they can, and will even reason that an audience is there to practice upon! I agree that, however well practiced, however well rehearsed, an effect may be, ¡i- has to have a first appearance before an audience and that its presentation is bound to improve with each successive appearance, but I contend that it is definitely unfair to an audience (and to your effect) to present a trick almost in the raw. The routine, easy as it may be, should be sufficiently familiar to you to enable you to concentrate almost ail your efforts on its presentation. Your audience is entitled to that.

Regarding an individual's mental attitude towards practice, there is little I can do, except perhaps to assure him, or her, that there is a tremendous amount of gratification to be had from a first-time-presenration, which was as word and action perfect as practice would make it, as against commiserating with oneself after an effect has failed, and dismissing the catastrophe with the words, "It serves me right! I should have practiced!"

It may be, however, that I can pass along a hint or two, something which will make practicing easier, more palatable and consequently more enjoyable. Naturally, the technique of practicing, the approach to it, will differ slightly with each effect, so no hard and fast rules can be laid down.

Most conjurers accept the fact that a mirror is essential, and it goes without saying that the larger the mirror, the better. A full length one is ideal. But how many of you are content to use what mirror you have available, in its normal position on the wall, or attached to the sideboard. You see yourself reflected in such mirror, you watch your different moves and to you they seem O.K.

Have you paused to consider however, that the position in which you see yourself IS NOT QUITE THE SAME ONE IN WHICH YOUR AUDIENCE SEES YOU ! ! ! It isn't, you know. If the mirror is hung upon a wall, and inclined at a downward angle, you are getting a slightly higher view of yourself. That isn't the view your usual audience gets. If on the other hand the mirror is flat to the wall or is built into a sideboard, you get a straight on view of yourself. This is the most common position of wall mirrors, but the view you get is nor the same one that your audience gets.

You have probably overlooked the fact that, usually, you are standing to perform, and your audience is seated to watch your performance. With such a combination of positions, you standing, rhe audience seated, the latter has a slightly UPWARD VIEW OF YOU YOUR HANDS AND YOUR APPARATUS. Therefore that is the view you should strive to get, of yourself, while practicing.

By now it will have occured to you that, in order to obtain such a view the mirror needs to be low down, and canted over away from you. As I have said, a large mirror is much the best, and the ideal position is obtained by bringing the mirror a few inches away from the wall at floor level, and allowing the top of the mirror to fall back against the wall. With the mirror thus sloping you will be surprised to find that your reflection is slightly leaning over away from.yourself. Imagine you are on rhe stage and your audience not only seated, but also anything from one to four feet below you. Now you see something of what they will see and it might surprise you to find that you can see under the lower edge of your coat. Palm a billiards ball and you will be shocked to find how easy it is ro expose it to an audience holding the hand in the manner you have been content to do. You will begin to realise that it is necessary to slightly turn the little-finger-side of the hand a little towards yourself, the thumb-side further to rhe audience, in order to give the audience a square on view of the back of your hand.

If you have any loads concealed (?) under your coat edge the mirror in this position will show you if they are really concealed. Many conjurers are content to assume thai if they themselves cannot see the load, neither can an audience. I once got an uninvited view of the lower portion of a conjurer's coat and there, plain for all to see were four or five safety pins. Not only were they too low for 'safety' but the user had taken them just as they came from the card, in all their metallic glory, shining like chromium door knockers! I think I was able to do that young performer a little good, for I delicately told him what I had seen and I asked him, not only to set them a little higher next time, but to at least give them a coat of back paint before doing so I hope he did.

If you handle tubes in your act, the mirror so placed will show you the correct

(Continued angle at which to hold such tubes. It may be that you have been holding them perfectly verticle, but if your audience is seated lower than the bortom edge of the tube, then they will have a view of the tube's interior at the bottom end. The telltale mirror will warn you of this end, and of course, advise you to put hank tube or whatever you use, a little higher up.

Assume for a moment that you have a tube perfectly empty and which you wish to show to an audience, so that it CAN be seen through. By practicing this before rhe said mirror you will realise that, if you hold the tube perfectly horizontal, the audience will not be able to look through it at all. It musr be held at a slightly downward angle to give a clear view through it.

Now, by the same reasoning, it is possible to show a tube to be empry(?) when all the time it is loaded, by the simple expedient of holding the tube end on to the audience, and above their line of sight, and sweeping it across from one side to the other. Try this, using, say, a ball, concealed inside a tube. Stand before the canted mirror, and holding the tube perfectly horizontal bring it round in a gentle sweep. When the reflection of the end of the tube comes in line with your view, see if you can spot the ball. You cannot because you just cannot see down the tube. Why then, take the trouble to load a tube, after showing it empty, when all the time it can be already loaded while you are showing (?) it empty ! ! But, as I said in the previous paragraph, if you do really want your audience to look down an empty tube, then tilt it slightly downward in line with their sight.

The same observations apply to the handling of small boxes and cabinets. Standing in the wings, as compere to many magical shows, I have been forcibly struck with the fact that almost every performer, handling a small box, holds it perfectly horizontal, thus giving the audience a view of the underside. Not that this often matters but it does matter quite a lot when the back door is let down and a foad can be seen just below the bottom edge of the let-down door. Canting the box slightly forward would obviate this, and the mirror will disclose the necessity for such procedure.

The whole of the above comments have applied to cases where your audience is lower than your performing position, and I think it safe to say that 80 per cent, of our shows are given under such conditions. Even when the performance is given on 'floor level', remember that in most cases your audience is seated, and therefore slightly lower than you are. There Page 142).

The "Devil's Account Book"


On the performer's table stands a glass of water. Besides it is a small magnet, a sheet of newspaper, a small ball, and small die.

He states that by the aid of the Roulette Bali and the Die (used in two forms of gambling) he will be able to bring about the appearance of The Devil's Account Book."

He picks up the glass of water which he partially drinks, and then pours the remainder into a jug and remarks "I will use this glass. It will do after I have wiped it dry." Taking up a clorh he thoroughly dries the glass which is again placed on the table, the cloth being placed on one side.

The performer then states, "To obtain 'his result, I place the Roulette Ball and the Die in the glass, and both must be screened. Therefore—" (to a member of the audience) "Will you please place this sheet of newspaper on top of the glass, and then place this rubber ring over the paper, thus sealing up the glass". As soon as this is done, the performer, holding the glass by the top rim, places it on the table.

He rhen points out that he has only handled the glass by the rim, also that he has drunk from it and now by the aid of a small magnet he will materialize the Devil's Account Book. Taking out a pocket knife he pushes the blade through the paper and cuts out a small circle, thrusring the cut out portion down into the glass. He takes up the magnet, which is seen suspended on a short piece of thread and lowers it through the hole and into the glass.

On pulling the magnet up again a miniature pack of cards is produced, joined together in one long ribbon, in other words, The Devil's Account Book. The paper covering and the rubber ring are immediately whipped off, showing the glass still containing the ball and die, just as placed there at the commencement, and making a complete mystery as to how the cards got into the glass. Having regard to the method of handling and the fact that the glass has previously been seen full of water the mystery should be complete.

The requisites are, a tumbler, with a removable base, an eclipse magnet attached to a length of thread or fine string, a small ball (the smallest of the Diminishing Billiards Ball Trick is ideal), a small die and a pack

of miniature playing cards, thin variety, as sold by some of the chain stores, a piece of newspaper and a rubber ring.

The tumbler is a plastic one, with almost all the base cut away, except for a small rim or shoulder on which a disc of celluloid can rest. This disc is "hinged" on one side of the base of the tumbler with a small piece of Sellotape, thus forming a trap. The rim is smeared with vasaline, the disc pressed home and the glass may then be filled with water.

The miniature cards are prepared by stringing them together concertina fashion, again with Sellotape, and the top card of the pack is really double one with a smal piece ot razor blade between the two cards. This strung pack is placed handy in the left coat pocket.

To perform, pick up the glass and after drinking some of the contents, and discarding the remainder into a jug or other receptacle, w;pe out the glass with a cloth and set it down on the table. Calling attention to the various forms of gambling drop in the ball, and then the die. Take up the sheet ot newspaper and the rubber ring and, advancing to a spectator, ask him to seal the mouth of the glass, by pressing the newspaper over it and fastening it down with the rubber band.

(Continued Overleaf).


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