The Knowing Ones

None of us can forsee when he will be faced with the "knowing" ones. They are a different problem from the awkward moments we discussed in the previous article, and they are never twice the same.

The best example I can quote occurred at the Westminster Theatre two years ago when Jasper Maskeleyne was presenting the old trunk trick. He had invited a fairly large number of older children on to the stage and after allowing them to examine the trunk, he spread them out. Suddenly, a very bright and well-spoken boy advanced and in a loud voice said "Excuse me, sir, but I have a theory about this trick." Maskeleyne handled the situation beautifully. With a smile he replied, "Really? Now that's very interesting. I like boys who use their brains. Unfortunately we haven't time now to go into the matter because most of these people want to catch buses and trains or to get their tea. But if you'd like to come round to my dressing-room or to write me a letter, I'd be delighted either to talk to you or to reply by return of post." The boy was satisfied, the audience thought Jasper the perfect gentleman, and the show went on.

All of which helps me to make my first point, namely, never get rattled or show annoyance. To some extent the spectators who have come up to help are representative of the audience and the audience will resent any attack on them or rudeness to them— unless the helpers are themselves thoroughly rude and stupid.

In the old days, it was common for conjurors and the iike to take it out of helpers by making them spring off chairs, or break things and generally look idiotic. That, I am certain, was bad psychology. Surely it is better to show some return for the help offered by putting these folks at ease. In the case of children, some little reward is far better than making them pout. Also, it ensures that they don't take a rise out of YOU.

I have never much liked the deliberate " sucker" trick, that is, one which makes the helper look a complete fool. Yet there are little side-lines that are effective when you gef a too-knowing helper; but in a pleasant way. One of the best is the Chinese Wishing Papers.. It is a very good trick in itself and when, in the end, the dear old Chinese gentleman smiles on everybody, there is general surprise and nobody is hurt. I always have it handy. It will fit in to every type of programme, even a mentalist's, because of the "wishing" idea.

When a helper looks quizzically at some piece of apparatus the wise magician will never say "Oh, no—it hasn't got a false bottom". That is negative and arouses further suspicion. Far better and more positive to say "Oh, yes—DO look at it and perhaps, afterwards, you will kindly hand it round." I am afraid that too frequently we ask for trouble, unwittingly. Recently I bought from Max the "Miraculo". There is considerable surprise at the climax when it is seen that the cards have changed colour, especially as they are displayed SEPARATELY. Now, my advice is to leave it at that. The temptation is to go one better and after fanning them, to point out that the backs are quite ordinary. By all means fan them and show the backs. But turn the fan round naturally without saying anything about them. Otherwise some "knowing" one will ask you to separate them. You have, in fact, INVITED him to do so.

Of course there are occasionally people who are dangerously "difficult". In that case throw yourself on the sympathies of others. The nice ones are in the majority. When doing the Mammoth Memory trick (with figures) at a big dinner with many celebrities present, I asked a well-known Political Party leader to take a card. Very snootily he replied "NEED I?" "Oh, no" I replied "not if you don't wish to," and then I looked appeal-ingly round, particularly at Sir William Bev-eridge the great economist. Immediately, Sir William said "May I have a card?" and like a shot I handed him one. I sensed at once that everybody disliked the first man for being so ungracious. They all smiled when Sir William took his card. When eventually I announced the amount on the card and Sir William called "absolutely correct," there was louder applause than for any other helper.

My method when a spectator says point blank "I know how that's done" is to reply "Jolly good trick, isn't it? We'll keep our secret, won't we?"—to which he nearly always answers "You bet we will."

"JHlmost in Confidence"


A Lesson in Misdirection.


Some years before my retirement from the stage, I worked out the following trick, and presented it with success in my public performances.

The principle upon which it is based is one of the oldest known to magicians, but to the best of my knowledge no "moves" exactly like those about to be explained have ever appeared in any book or magazine. Be that as it may, I am describing them in this article as an illustration of the vast importance of detail, presentation and, especially misdirection.

No preparation is required, and all that is needed is a piece of soft rope or stout cord, of any colour, and about eight or nine feet long. But it must be soft, and not shorter than stated.

To begin with, I shall explain, in full detail, the mechanics of the trick, and I shall then tell the reader how I think it should be presented.

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