The image comes to mind of a man juggling the most delicious fruit in front of a group of hungry children.


I worked as a magician for eight years before I realised what I was doing wrong. Two events made me stop and re-evaluate my performance. The first occurred at a magic convention in London when I met Eugene Burger, who was performing for some magicians at a bar table. I asked if I could join him. He reached over and shook my hand, gesturing for me to sit down. He introduced himself and asked my name, in that characteristic mellifluous blend of rich baritone timbre and erudite camp. I sat down, expectant and grinning like a big girl. "Now," he stated in a voice that sounded like a Russian Orthodox mass played backwards at low speed, "1 want you to pick a card..." Magic was afoot.

The second came as I reflected upon a conversation not dissimilar to many I had had before with a member of what we elegantly refer to as the 'laity,' as we peer down from the dizzy ecclesiastical heights of thaumaturgy. This chap, a guest at a function where 1 had been table-hopping, had told me of a trick that he had seen a magician perform some twenty years before in a bar. I forget the details of his wonderfully embellished version of what I guessed to be the original performance, but some time later the chord struck. I realised that the magic that I perform is the anecdote waiting to be told twenty years from now by my spectators.

The incident with Eugene Burger made me realise that my magic was missing the experience of wonder. There was no awareness of the emotive potential of magic waiting to happen. No welcoming of the spectator into something special. Mr. Burger deftly and unselfconsciously created a sense of something wondrous. The later reflection on the conversation after the function made me realise that I was not treating my magic with the respect that it deserved - that while I was just making sure that I got round all the tables before the speeches started, I was giving the guests something that they would probably never get again in their lives: most probably they would never see another magician perform live and close-up. 1 was giving them a few minutes that could stay in their minds for at least another twenty years before they decided to relate my tricks as their anecdote years in the future. I knew that magic is something inherently very impressive, but when I considered my attitude, I saw that it did not reflect that fact. Rather, I was concerned with being funny, and getting through a handful of tricks in a short space of time. Rather than focussing on the experiences of the few individuals for whom I was performing, [ was thinking in terms of the room as a whole, and which tables were left to 'do.'

I decided that my magic had to change. That I had to give serious thought to presentation. That, in fact, my presentation of the effects is where my impact as a magician lies - I realised that it can turn a good effect into something artistic and stunning, I believe that the concentration on presentation is the most practical aspect of magic performance, presuming that one is working already with a set of decent effects.

This process of addressing my performance will take an entire career, i do agree with Eugene Burger that one could spend a lifetime working on a presentation worthy of an effect, and this book is designed to be a set of thoughts and effects that have come to fruition during my early days on that road. 1 hope that some of my thoughts will seem appropriate to the reader, and I trust that the effects contained here will spark off ideas for him to create his own. 1 trust that the astute reader will not be inclined to perform my routines quite as I describe them.

My Aims and Priorities

I don't consider myself a Mentalist. I do not restrict myself to mindreading effects when I am performing in the real world. Enough magicians have asked me about the wisdom of combining magic and mindreading in performance. No lay participant in my effects has ever queried this. If I explain my thoughts here, I will be able to express a few points that I find important. They begin with the old worry about mentalists' disclaimers and the ethics of psychic performances. I have an interest in suggestion and what gets labelled 'hypnosis,' I work to combine magic and mindreading with 'hypnosis' to create something new and very powerful. Because this is a keen interest of mine, I tend to communicate it in my performances. I find that most intelligent spectators are more interested in the psychological techniques than the sleight-of-hand. Most would rather feel that they had only seen the card change because they expected to see it change than because 1 was adept at exchanging it under supposedly impossible conditions. So whilst I have no desire to present my effects as mere psychological chicanery, I will allow the possibility that a lot of subliminal suggestion is afoot. People do find that fascinating, as do I. Now, later I offer to take the spectators a little deeper into the art and we embark upon a few mindreading and 'psychic' effects. Here I let them feel that I am using a heightened sensitivity to body language and a whole set of hypnotic skills to make the effects work. I don't spell it out unless someone takes me to one side and talks to me about it, but I base my own silent script and the belief I take on board about how I'm getting the information into or from another mind on the notion that these suggestion-based techniques really work that reliably.

This classic presentational ploy that Banachek calls 'psychological direction' allows for the illusion of enormous skill, as long as you let the participants figure out for themselves that you are employing such methods. I believe I earn their respect by denouncing 'psychic power' as woolly guff and I challenge those lobotomised flower-fairies who believe in such nonsense, appealing to their intelligence and belief in themselves as sceptical creatures. The other advantage of this angle is that it allows the effects to sit comfortably with a magic routine that suggests that similar ploys are at work. The two sets become connected by a seductive undercurrent of apparently deft manipulation of the participant's minds. At first, these techniques are being employed to produce wonderful, mystifying and artistic magical effects. Then the tone darkens, and the performer, almost with an air of reluctance, sensing the correct rapport in the group, casts aside his props and amusements and begins to rely entirely on his knowledge of human nature to delve into the thought processes of the group. The spectators sense this intensifying of the situation, and adjust their interpretation of the event accordingly. What we are seeing here is no longer trickery.

Whilst I see the arguments for not combining the two areas of performance as valid and sensible, I do feel that they are limited. I would take my idea even further and say that it is sometimes even possible to combine magic and mindreading in the same effect and still have something that has a deep impact. In these pages I will discuss a favourite effect of mine, Smoke. I perform this as a closing item in my close-up set and it is, if you'll forgive me for being so awful, something of a stunner. The effect is that a thought-of card is divined, disappears from the deck, and arrives burnt and smoking in the performer's mouth in place of the cigarette he had been smoking throughout. It would fail as serious mentalism, although it might work as a piece of bizarre magic if handled correctly. Emotionally, the three-part structure allows for a real impact:

1 - the card is merely looked at in a ribbon-spread. The performer is facing away. The deck is reassembled. Yet he states his aim to divine it, without touching the deck. This will get everyone's attention. It does seem impossible. Climax One - the card is named. The spectators sit back.

2 - The magician says it was never there in the deck. He lets the participant argue that he saw it. The performer coolly blows a smoke-ring, smiling to himself. All eyes are now on the squared deck. The magician spreads it out again. True, the card isn't there. Suddenly there is confusion. The spectator is sure he saw it. Climax Two, which will have the audience searching for an answer. Their attempt to work out how the performer knew the card is thrown into disarray.

3 - The performer splutters and the cigarette seems to be causing him trouble. It can be seen to have changed. He removes it and unrolls it. A resolution to the card's disappearance is given, but the weirdness has escalated irretrievably. There are no answers.

The aim here is to begin with a decent mindreading effect and then take it a stage further. While out of place in a straight mentalism routine, the effect of the 'magic' ending is, I feet, to stop them from treating the mindreading like a puzzle to work out, and to yield to the greater performance.

As much as I perform mindreading effects, I rarely enjoy watching most mentalism - I do feel that its entertainment value is inherently quite low. It is more suited to late-night demonstrations -rather like telling ghost stories. In commercial performance, I prefer to ensure that the effects 1 perform are really going to knock the audience for at least six. So these effects here are borne out of a desire to push mindreading into somewhere new, and a wish {which 1 hope one day to achieve) to combine conjuring, hypnosis and psychic effects into a heightened new form of close-up entertainment.


If we are honest, what is our starting-point for forming an effect? I feel there is a tendency amongst many magicians to start with a new move, some clever sleight - from some point of methodological skill. Then the possibilities of that move are explored, until an effect is formed. Often that effect is marvellous, and one that will fool everyone. But to make it magical, the magician will have to change focus. And there, I feel, lies the rub.

The question for the performer in forming an effect should not be 'What can I do?' or 'How can I use this?' The ultimate questions that will lead to truly magical effects must be spectator-centric. 'What would really freak out a spectator?' 'What would convince them that I possessed this power?' 'What would move them in a particular way?' 'And what would they want to see?' Only after answering this, I think, one should ask - 'And what then can I provide to take it a step further?'

It is my opinion that this leads to a more creative process. The performer is placing himself in the position of the spectator. He is subjecting everything that he does or desires as a performer to the consideration of the effect that it would have on a spectator.

This consideration is paramount also in the performance -not just the effects themselves. I remember recently visiting the restaurant where I regularly perform here in Bristol. I was sat in the spacious, Byzantine lounge area where attractive staff and a belly dancer pampered the guests. This was after maybe ten years of performing, but was the first time I ever got a clear sensation of exactly how I would feel if.I were to be approached by a magician. It occurred to me that in those years of performing, I could never have really considered that. I realised how easily a chirpy, adequate magician would have made me cringe and been utterly out of place. I saw that I wanted to be pampered, not made to feel self-conscious. Had I really been ensuring that my little audiences had actually warmed to me and felt comfortable? I imagined a suave and theatrically-dressed chap coming over and introducing himself with a charming and discreet air - asking if he might join us for a few moments... I saw that it would be exactly right, exciting and elevating. But how easy it would have been to get that wrong!

I realised that through feeling insecure about approaching a table and compensating through brashness, I had probably alienated a lot of people in the past. How easy it is to be an embarrassing imbecile with this work!

These thoughts led to me restructuring much of my close-up performance. Here I can only speak of how it affected my own style, which is appropriate to the venues where I perform. But I think the questions and considerations - but I make no presumptions about my answers - are worthwhile for anyone to take on board. Those that have will realise how rewarding such a reappraisal is.

The magician's first task is to set a context for his performance. I see the group as a tabula rasa. I approach them, I feel, with charm and confidence, and quickly achieve rapport. Yet I also retain an authority that I want them to feel. I want to be seen to be withholding something. I want to hold a promise of something for them. I want to give them time to get ready for the magic. To become curious and attentive. To watch, essentially, on my terms. This is much more enjoyable than launching into a routine immediately, i

Context can learn everyone's name, and make sure that they know mine. I am, after all, coming into their group uninvited. ! have a basic responsibility to be at least civil. Again, I remember Eugene Burger at that convention. The magic can start long before you start an effect. I also remember that if I am walking into their space to perform, I am asking them to form judgements about me. Any magician that begins a table-hopping set with the selection of a card or the inspection of an object is deluding himself if he thinks the audience are interested in the cards or prop for those moments. They are forming their opinions about the performer and assessing how they feel about him. I feel it is much better to realise that and give them a chance to like me and respect me before I start performing my magic for them.

For me, another result of making these changes was that I started to really and reliably enjoy table-hopping and walkaround magic. This may sound strange, but I trust that all of us that perform regularly will be familiar with the terrible ennui that can set in before approaching the first group of the evening, or starting again after a break. We're not in the mood. I found that by changing the way I interacted with the spectators and slowing down my performance to allow them to feel charmed and respected, I never again felt that grotesque reluctance to perform that comes when one has to force oneself into an 'upbeat' state unwillingly. There was no need to do that. My performance became more honestly me. An exaggerated version of me, certainly, but I no longer had to become something that I wasn't.

The next levc! where one must be aware of setting a context, I feel, is finding a meaning for the effect itself. Much has been said on this by other authors and I do not have the years behind me nor the standing to speak with the same authority. Similarly 1 can add nothing very new to the discussion. But consider this: if what you are presenting to the spectators is seen to be a puzzle to be solved, then they will be concerned with that task. And as with any puzzle offered, if they cannot arrive at the right answer themselves, then they will feel entitled to be told the solution. If the performer does not offer one, then they are entitled to feel resentful. I think of those ghastly lateral-thinking problems that a particular type of person enjoys offering for solution. Rather than simple murder, one engages in an attempt to find an answer depending on how polite one feels one should be. Imagine if one genuinely tried to work out the problem, until finally giving up, to find that the poser of the problem had no intention of confiding the answer. Heaven forefend that any of us should be such arses in our performance, but the question of what meaning we are attaching to the effect is vital to performing strong magic that transcends the mundane.

If I may be so bold as to offer an example from my own repertoire, then I would direct the reader to my effect 'Transformation' towards the end of this book. This is, from a technical point of view, little more than some cards changing on the table, but it will have immense personal resonance for the spectator. Inasmuch as it is important to relate the effect to the life of your spectator for them to find some meaning inherent in it, there is little in the realm of magic and mentalism more relevant to a spectator than a personal reading, which forms the structure of the effect.

A Tat u!a Rasa

I would suggest that the participant with whom you are about to begin your magic presents a clear, open and responsive slate for you to fill with emotional information. Most will have had no experience of live magic before, and even more will have had no previous experience of your magic. The spectator/participant awaits cues from you to know how to behave. Presuming that you have picked your participant with a reasonable degree of wisdom, you can presume that she is eager to be helpful and not appear to be incompetent of performing the tasks at hand.

This is why I believe before anything else regarding performing effects, that what you perform should be presented as essentially serious. NOT necessarily solemn, but essentially serious. When I think of an effect in this way, I imagine it to seem to have integrity, relevance, and elegance. Although it may be communicated with humour, it is clear that it is not trivial. The adult spectator realises that magic is an adult art. Because your participant comes to you eager to learn how she should respond to your performance and instructions, you have the choice of whether she responds to them in a transient, lightly amused way, or whether she takes something rather personal and marvellous away with her.

Behind each effect I perform is the question of whether the presentation and communication of the effect are zvorthy of it. The effect has potential for unspeakably powerful impact. Where along that line am I performing it? Am 1 merely trivialising it?

If we take, then, as our starting point that our participant is open to suggestion and emotional and psychological direction, we can now consider what emotions and states of mind are useful to elicit, and how to do so. Paul Harris has written marvellously about how magic takes us back to our infantile state of astonishment. That the experience of wonder triggers that early period when nothing made sense and the world was one of unfurling surprise. It seems to me that this would be a marvellous experience for a spectator of my magic to have. When I began to consider this, I saw the importance of eliciting emotions with the magic, to give it a deep resonance and to provide an emotive journey of some sort for my audiences.

May I suggest that your aim as a magician is to create and manipulate wonder and astonishment while avoiding confusion and mere puzzle solving on the part of the spectator. There is an inherent beauty in possibly all effects, something that can be found and brought out. If the audience find a sense of that beauty, and even artistry, it will be easier for you to help them attach an emotional meaning to the effect. This emotional meaning is one at the opposite end of the spectrum to resentment, which we have discussed as the emotional result of failed puzzle solving.

There are a number of ways of securing an emotional response in a close-up setting, where lighting and music changes are impractical, if not ludicrous. The first is simply to suggest or demand these responses. If you are working with the presumption that there is something inherently beautiful in making an object vanish (which I believe there is), then it is reasonable to be quite blatant in requesting the appropriate reaction from the spectator: "I hope you'll watch this carefully and not miss a second. This really is a beautiful moment that you'll remember for the rest of your life. Your ring simply and elegantly... disappears. Isn't that lovely?"

The second technique is a little more involved. In the world of hypnosis and Neuro-Linguistic Programming, it is called anchoring. Perhaps you'll be enough of a love to let me consider it now separately.

This is a useful skill, and one that although it will sound a little elaborate in description, should become second nature in performance. Here, we are working with our natural tendency as human beings to attach associations to such things as objects, faces, environments, gestures and tones of voice. It is the same process that occurs when we hear a particular song and are taken back to the emotions associated with our first hearing of it, or when by merely thinking of people we know we make ourselves feel melancholy or excited. This can be of use to us as magicians interested in eliciting powerful responses of different kinds, and in giving the audience a more powerful memory of the event. Here is the basic process for 'anchoring' a response:

1 - Gain rapport with the spectator and then, as you talk, enter that desired state yourself. This you can do through amplified voice tonality and physiological changes on your part. If you keep the rapport in check, you should bring the spectator with you quite easily. You can ask her questions relating to her experience of it to amplify it further.

2 - When you can see that she is in the correct state, 'anchor' it with a touch or gesture and a suitable word or sound on your part.

3 - Repeat this a few times over a period to enhance the association.

4 - You can now trigger off that response again by using the same touch and word at a later point.

It certainly is not desirable to spend time eliciting the state (Step One) in every effect that you present. However, often, a useful response will present itself quite spontaneously through a strong reaction to an effect - a reaction that you can then 'steal' through an anchor for later. Here are some examples from my own experiences with this technique that I hope will communicate the relative straightforwardness of the procedure:

The Energy In The Spoon

This was a great example of a spontaneous response that I anchored and kept for later. I was performing some spoon bending in a cafe queue in the rather delightful Primrose Cafe in Boyces Avenue, Bristol. As the spoon bent slowly upwards, the woman to my right became quite animated and said that she could see the energy rising up the handle. Far from wanting to discourage her notion, I leant over and touched her on the shoulder, making the same "Whoa!" sound that she had just made in shock. Then a little later I bent another spoon and was about to let it break in two. Just before I did this, I touched the same woman in the same place and excitedly exclaimed, "Whoa!" in that same way. Immediately she shifted from watching attentively to getting excited again, pointing at what she could see again as energy. As the spoon broke, her excitement peaked quite vociferously.

Stopping Smoking

This has nothing directly to do with magic performance per se, but is a good example of the power of this technique. I was sitting with a chap I knew reasonably well in a pub, the two of us slowly yielding to the florid grape. He mentioned that he wanted to give up smoking. In my practice as a hypnotist, I have seen many people who have this request. I had neither time nor inclination to spend serious time with him then, so I started a conversation on the first cigarette he'd smoked. I asked him a series of questions about the toxic nature of that first experience, and as the questions about the sensations demanded increasing amounts of detail, so too he became deeper involved in that state. The only way he could answer the questions was by fully reliving the unpleasantness again. As he did this, I drummed casually on the table with my fingers. I brought him to a peak, drumming louder, then stopped dead and changed the subject drastically. Ten minutes later, he extracted a box of the foul weed from his pocket and lit one to smoke it. I immediately drummed on the table. He spat the thing out, nearly gagging. He had no idea why it tasted bad. Taking advantage of his confusion, I leant over and said knowingly - "And now whenever you try in vain to smoke one of those, you can feel this each time stronger..." That was two and a half years ago, and I know that he has not smoked since.

Sometimes in a magic performance, the spectator that is helping you may be experiencing a subdued version of the effect that everyone else is witnessing, This device is something I enjoy using to create the effect of a real miracle for the audience. It may be that pre-show work has taken place, of which the vast majority of the audience have no idea, or some more subtle division of effect between what the participant thinks is occurring, and what the audience believe to be the case. Here it will be useful to make the one spectator react in an amplified way, to match the audience's reaction - and their expectation of her response. I have often seen a mentalist point at someone in the audience and say something along the lines of, 'You, Madam are thinking of a country..., it is Denmark, am I right? And your mother's maiden name would be Jones, would that be correct?' The audience member, rather than reacting with the appropriate response of sheer mindless terror, merely nods and is asked to sit down. The rest of us are carefid to react to this apparently strong effect, for we note that the spectator was not especially impressed. Here, the value of a good anchored response would be invaluable. In a close-up setting, where this sort of methodology is at work, care could be taken to ensure that the girl in question responds well as follows: During previous effects, her enthusiastic responses to the magic are repeatedly anchored - say, with a touch and some sort of exclamation. Then, when it is later desired that she respond in an amplified way to an effect, he triggers off the touch/sound anchor again. She will find herself responding much more powerfully.

Here are some further examples of anchoring used to provide a greater emotional response to an effect:

Enhancing Your Attractiveness to the Spectator

This may sound a little suspect, and perhaps it is. However, there is a very flirtatious quality about performing magic to the opposite sex that can be exploited to ensure that they play the right psychological game during (and, if you like, after) the effects. Invariably I find myself alongside the female managing director of the company that has booked me for the evening, and I find that by using the following ploy I can induce her to feel a little more than attraction to the magic - which goes a long way in the schmoosy world of corporate networking. First I want to create the 'desire state' and anchor it, so early in the set I might begin with:

'Have you ever seen something that you just know that you have to have? Something that you see and immediately know that it has to be yours, and you won't stop thinking about it until you have it? You know what I mean? [I give her time to find something and respond accordingly.] You know that feeling inside you get when it just penetrates you and says [I put my hand on her shoulder} Look at me. And you really want it. Well, that's how I felt when I first saw magic that I couldn't explain. I knew that's what I had to do. Let me show you what I saw...'

Then later, when I come to do a bit of mindreading, I place my hand on her shoulder in the same way and say 'Look at me' as before. I may continue, 'Now I'm sure that you like me have had some experiences you can't explain away...' triggering off the shoulder anchor again with the words 'you like me.'

It's a harmless piece of seductive by-play that enhances the feeling of intimacy you may wish to create. And brings in a bit of extra work.

Out of This World

Here I use Paul Harris' idea of our natural state of astonishment to provide a strong emotional ending to Mr. Curry's classic effect. I can only say that my performance of this has doubled in impact since I included this at the end, sitting back and talking for a moment to build anticipation before the rows of cards are turned over:

'Well, I've been performing magic for ten years now and one thing keeps occurring to me. That magic can take us back to our infantile state, our natural state of mind, which is one of wonder. (As I say this I move my hand over the cards with a gesture that will mirror the turning-over to come in a few moments. This is the anchor]. As babies we wonder at everything - the world is full of astonishment. Of course after a while we start to learn how things work and we lose that capacity to hold something in childlike awe [I gesture again over the cards]. Do you know what I mean? And it's the same when you first start enjoying magic. The same feeling of minder [gesture]. But for me, of course, once you know how it's done, and you know the secrets, you lose that beautiful sense of astonishment. You watch a magician with his hands all over the cards and you can see him doing the moves. So... you can imagine what it's like for me, after ten years of doing this, to just sit back and see something utterly impossible [I start to turn over the cards] that makes you ivotider about that beautiful child-like state again. Remember this, and thank you very much indeed/

It may read rather disgustingly, but now every time I perform this effect there is a beautiful silence as the emotions are triggered, then expressions of disbelief, and then comments along the line of, 'It sends shivers through you, doesn't it?' This I find very rewarding. It really has become something more than a card trick.

I repeat, it would not be appropriate to overwork this sort of presentation, but to have a small number of such points during a set will, I believe, enhance the impact of the performance considerably. Of course it must happen in a way that is entirely honest and congruent on your part - you should be really feeling the states of mind that you are describing and eliciting.


"Familiarity begets boldness" The Antiquary by Shackerley Marmion

If one works as a full-time table-hopper, a week may pass where one performs the same trick a hundred times. Slowly one may come to leave behind the lesser joy of this terrible whoring, in favour of more exclusive performance, but for those of us at least who cannot live out our expensive lives without occasional returns to the bustling banquet hall, I would like to offer for discussion the problem of over-familiarity with those methods for achieving our miracles.

I am thinking of a tendency that I recognised in myself to consistently use tried-and-tested means for my magic that harked back to when I first began to perform the effect in question. There are a few effects that I have performed for years, and feel that I would be able to continue to do so effectively, even if my brain were removed by a nurse. Even though I was growing as a magician, and becoming increasingly skilled with people and performance environments, I was continuing to use methods that were suited to me as a fledgling performer. I am convinced that it is too easy to perform old tricks in old ways without any reappraisal of their emotional impact, the meaning they convey, and what they say about you as a performer. It is an eye-opening procedure to return to those effects and design new presentations - but I have already spoken of this, and the importance of context in magic. Here 1 would like to mention an area that ( find allows me to experience some delight and entertainment in my own performances, namely the use of bold technique and the employment of risk.

The safe and solid methods that we once needed to perform an effect with confidence may now not leave us room to apply our years of experience and skill that we have amassed as good magicians. We may delight ourselves in excellent ruses in our latest effects, but think nothing of over-handling in a trick we have performed for years. I would like to defend the use of boldness, blagging and bunkum in close-up magic, and suggest that it can provide more of an edge to the experience of performance.

Let us look at some effects that we are all familiar with. The famous 'Cigarette-thru-Quarter,' or (more correctly) 'Cigarette through Pound Coin/ meets with an interesting reaction from magicians alone. Many, myself included at one time, would not perform it, from some lurking feeling that the effect was a little 'too clean.' There is no doubt that this effect is a modern classic, but at the same time any performer that does not think that his audience is going to take some convincing that the coin was not exchanged is probably deluding himself, perhaps more than his audience. 1 thought that I had solved this problem admirably when the reaction from the spectators seemed all that it should be. Then, one night, after the cigarette had made its defiant journey through the coin {symbolising the mammonish reticulation of Wealth and Debauchery), a lady responded, "Ooh, you must have swapped the coin for one with a hole in it." Two other people jeered at her with sarcastic cries of, "No! Really?" and so on - suggesting that her remark was so obvious that it didn't need stating. Despite one's frustration at this only partially correct solution, it is not appropriate to vehemently insist that they saw the cigarette emerge from the coin leaving no hole. It is clearly more sensible for them to presume that you managed to exchange the coins under impossible conditions than it is to believe that the cigarette went through. This lady's reaction, or more correctly that of the miserable, flatulent bugger to her right who had said nothing all evening but chose this moment to open his foetid, purulent mouth to mock her conclusion, worried me. For the presumption that the coin was exchanged to be so obvious that it would inspire mockery to even mention it seemed to me to be a problem. And 1 wondered how often similar conversations had occurred once 1 had wished these groups a good evening and wended my way.

The solution that I offer here is, I'm sure, far from complete, but it illustrates a point about incorporating a certain boldness of subterfuge into the proceedings. Firstly, there is an old rule that one takes for granted as a magician that one must never make explicit possible solutions or methods for fear of alerting the spectators to precisely those methods. For example, it is wrong to say, "Notice that my hands are empty": instead one must make a gesture that shows the hands to be clearly so. This is generally good advice, but I do feel that certain provisions can be made. On the one hand, the guilty magician who has exchanged a card and is suffering pangs of conscience, and who refers to the card as "the same card" unnecessarily is clearly making a mistake, as is the coin worker who comes out with such monstrosities as "I place the coin in my right hand," and then points at his fist for good measure. Such over-enthusiastic references to the glaringly obvious are horrendous. However, in those situations, we do not wish to arouse any dubiety in the mind of the spectator as to a fact that should be obvious, and our stating of that fact will only cause them to pay undue attention to it. The presumption is that nothing untoward has happened. But in the case of the cigarette effect under discussion, I believe that the stronger presumption will be that the coin has been exchanged. Similar effects may also create a similar bias in the minds of the audience. The rule that forbids us to say such things as "Notice that my hands are empty," no longer applies. If we know that the audience will believe unanimously that our hands were not empty before some object is produced, then I feel that a mere gesture to demonstrate emptiness does not suffice. Many may forget that they saw a pair of empty hands, and work with the more convincing logic that they must have already contained the object. One must look at the presumptions made by the spectators and work with those presumptions. If they have no reason to presume that a subterfuge has occurred, it would be disastrous to mention the possibility, even by denying that possibility. But if we are honest and see that in a particular effect the presumption will be strongly in favour of some secret move, then our demonstrating of the fairness of the procedure by explicitly eliminating possibilities of chicanery can be justified.

Therefore, I decided that the only way to perform the 'Cigarette through Coin' effect satisfactorily was to face this issue of the partial transparency of method head-on. As far as I could see, the presumption in the minds of an audience of average intelligence was that I had exchanged the borrowed coin for one with a hole. (Not wishing to describe the workings of an effect currently on sale, I will presume the reader understands the method for achieving the effect, and not explain it beyond referring to the exchange that does need to take place). This is frustrating on two counts: firstly, the method is a little cleverer than that, and if they would look carefully they would see that there really is no hole remaining as the cigarette exits the coin; secondly (and this may sound a little fey), I work hard to believe in my magic as I perform it, and such explanations spoil it for me too. The following change in handling has allowed me to deal specifically with the exchange issue, and needs nothing more than sheer confidence to make it work. I would recommend this change to anyone performing this effect.

It is simply this - ask for the loan of a coin and take it from Person A to your right and pass it to Person B to your left to 'hang onto for a moment.' Bobo switch the coin at this point, and leave the gimmicked coin in her hand. Don't tell her to make a fist around it, just leave it on her hand. Then ask her if she has a cigarette. If she has one, let her find her pack and extract one for you - this will occupy her and keep her mind away from the coin. If she has none, bring out your own. Here I open up a lovely silver cigarette case, and palmed beneath it is the real coin, still retained, as I ask her to remove one. I then ask her to inspect the cigarette (be it mine), or to light it (be it hers). She will do all this with the gimmicked coin in hand, and pay it no attention. Take the cigarette, and light it if need be, and then 'start' the trick. I turn to the group and say, "Now, when I do this on your electric television sets, we are often accused of stopping the cameras and swapping the props. You are getting to see this live and very close-up." I particularly aim the next sentence at the lady with the coin. "Please watch very carefully - I don't want mindless accusations that I distracted you and exchanged things when you weren't looking." I reach over to take the coin from the spectator at fingertips, "Look - I am using the very tips of my fingers - no sleeves, no pockets, no swapsies. Poppet, you may wish to keep an eye on the coin, you are nearest after all."

I then continue with the effect. For the sake of completeness, I finish by removing the cigarette with my right hand, the real coin still finger palmed. The gimmicked coin is displayed as whole and undamaged in the left, and I take it with my right fingers and bring the cigarette back to my mouth. As the hand swings down, 1 drop the wrong coin into the left and extend it for retrieval by the spectator, mentioning that he will be able to feel a warmth in the centre of the coin. As I say this, the cigarette is still in my mouth. The attention on the coin and the act of talking in this way provide enough distraction for the guilty left hand to be forgotten. It comes up to take the cigarette, and the coin rolls from the hand into a Topit as it makes this journey.

The act of leaving the gimmicked coin with the spectator before you apparently begin allows you to, in effect, perform the trick without having to exchange the coin. You are able to safely spell out that nothing is being exchanged and therefore deal with the major obstacle in the presentation of the effect as magic. Some may still object that the mention of exchanges remains counterproductive, but I would answer that to not deal with this issue is to ignore a major challenge in this marvellous effect.

I also believe that the boldness and risk involved in this handling makes the task of performance far more interesting. The magician must remain alert, and his interaction with his audience becomes a little more involved.

Another favourite from the shelves of the magic dealers is the Flying Ring. I perform this regularly, with the ring arriving, by means of climax, inside my sock or pierced onto my arm, depending on the sensibilities of the venue. (Both revelations, upon reflection, may be equally repellent). Here the inclusion of a couple of bold moves makes the effect, I feel, more powerful. Firstly, after displaying the ring in the left hand and commenting on its beauty (1 do not make snide remarks about it being cheap - this is an example of the pointless unpleasant behaviour 1 mention earlier), I let it shoot into the case as 1 extend a now imaginary ring at the left fingertips and ask the spectator to blow gently upon it. I bring my hand close to her mouth, knowing that she won't have a chance to refocus and see whether the ring is there or not. This is an old ruse, but it is effective. The rest of the spectators think that she has seen it. 1 then make a fist with the one hand and slowly perform a vanish. However, the real boldness comes later, when I vanish the key-case from between the spectator's hands. After the ring has travelled twice to the key-case, I remove it fairly and proclaim that I shall repeat the effect, but with the owner of the ring (who is sat to my right) holding the keys. I take the ring onto my right thumb and hold the key-case in the same hand. The following actions happen quickly, and are designed to leave the spectator focussed on the ring, while she thinks she holds the key-case. Firstly I tell her to hold out her hands. 1 apparently pass the case to my left hand to give to her, but in reality it falls into the Topit. The right hand forms a 'thumbs-up' position, displaying the ring fairly near her face and I wiggle the thumb slightly, as if I am preparing for a secret move. As the left hand travels across, apparently holding the case, I instruct her to cover it with her other hand.

The situation that develops here is called by some hypnotists a 'cataleptic trance.' Her hands are placed outside of her awareness as she focuses on the ring. Or perhaps we are reminded of the situation where one is passed a drink while at the same time having an absorbing telephone conversation, and might stand for some while with the drink still at arm's length, unaware of the amusement caused to the rest of the room. If this is handled correctly, her attention will be so focussed on the ring that she will perform the actions involved in taking the case (and I help her by moving her other hand to 'cover' it) without any conscious involvement. Instead her attention is absorbed by the ring, while her hands hold an imaginary key-case.

I now false pass the ring from my right thumb to my left hand, retaining the ring in the way one might vanish a thimble. Because I am close to the lady in question, I can use the cover of her body to load the ring into a slit in my trousers that will cause the ring to be dropped via a chute into the sock. Simultaneously I extend the left hand and suddenly snap it open and say, "Gone!" My right hand, and I hope you find this as amusing as I, travels behind her so that my fingertips are near her ribs on the far side. The left hand points at her hands apparently clasped around the key-case and says "Gone!" as I secretly deliver a tickle to the aforementioned ribs. The spectator responds with a jerk, and opens her hands, her attention only now directed to her hands. The case has gone. "Feel that?" I ask. Regardless of what she thinks has happened, the effect on the rest of the spectators is priceless. It does look as if the case disappeared in a burst of magic electricity between her own hands.

The reason for the snappy vanish of the ring in the left hand is to ensure that the spectator has no chance to think, "Ah, it's going to disappear from there, and reappear in the case which - oh yes - I am holding." Rather she is kept in the frame of mind where her attention is being quite forcefully controlled. It never returns to her hands, which supposedly hold a key case.

Another bold ruse to enliven one's performance and enhance the magic applies to psychokinetic effects with borrowed watches. I have a real fondness for this type of effect - the impact is always very strong, and the performance generally impromptu. Even if I have left the house without a magnet strapped to my knee, I find these effects most powerful to perform when requested to display my skills.

I finish the routine by stopping the second hands on a few watches. Two spectators - one to my left, and one to my right - hold a watch each in their hands, and 1 instruct the spectator to my left to perform various visual exercises and to suspend his disbelief for a while to allow the phenomenon to occur. After I secure his involvement, I tell him to hold his breath and then at any moment of his choosing, to merely think the word 'Stop.' He does, and the second hand halts. The spectator to my right is told to hold his breath in the same way, and when he looks at the watch in his hand, he sees that it has stopped too. One other spectator from the group may express scepticism or plain awe - I tell him to hold his breath and think 'Stop.' I gesture for him to look at the watch that he is wearing and when he does, it too has stopped. All three watches are started up again under the spectators' control.

Few routines have as much potential for such rewarding nonsense as these. The effect of his own watch being strangely affected is staggering for a spectator, yet the means used to bring about such behaviour are straightforward.

The above episode with the three watches is achieved as follows: the watch to your left is stopped using a large PK magnet, as one expects. I sit loosely cross-legged, away from the table, and the spectator holds the watch flat on his hand, while I ensure that it remains in the vicinity of my knee, to the side of which the magnet is strapped. I found that using the table was not as effective - too many spectators guessed that a magnet could be strapped there. Somehow, though, the absence of the table seems to stop the suspicion of a magnet from arising. As for it stopping at the exact moment that the spectator thinks 'Stop' - well, one can generally get away with this. Part of the reason for telling him to hold his breath is that he will not delay the mental instruction for too long. Between that and the fact that it takes a moment to realise that the watch has stopped, one can convincingly create the illusion that it stopped on command. Even if this subtlety is missed, the effect of the watch stopping will be dramatic enough to pass over this minor regret.

The watch given to the spectator on my right has had the crown pulled out at an appropriate moment before placing it in her hand. Again, I do not ask her to make a fist around it, nor do I place it facedown. It is openly face-up and stopped in her hand, but everyone, her included, is focussed very heavily on the watch held by the spectator on my left. It is a minor point, but far fewer people will ever think that the watch was pre-stopped if it has been fairly displayed on the spectator's hand for some time. Also, after stopping the watch to my left magnetically, I can give the spectator to my right instructions to hold her breath and think 'Stop' - which take a few moments for her to process and perform. Thus, her noticing that the watch has stopped and her subsequent reaction are delayed, which further reinforces the illusion that the watch was moving before it was instructed to stop. I do not tell her to choose her moment in thinking 'Stop!' - I just tell her to do it. If this extra subtlety has worked well with the first spectator however, I will exploit it immensely. Later 1 can truthfully say that the watches stopped when they were mentally instructed to do so, and hopefully the first instance, where the moment was apparently chosen secretly by the spectator will blur across the other instances.

The strength of the first stopping of the hand is such that the secondary and tertiary effects, if performed in rapid succession, will go unchallenged. The third watch that is stopped on the spectator's wrist has been previously tampered with. Perhaps ten minutes earlier I have, during the course of another routine, pulled out the crown on someone's watch. I make sure that I sit far away from this person during the watch routine, but keep a lot of eye contact with them during the effect. Thus it is not difficult to get them to make some comment after the first two watches have been stopped, and I can react to this comment with the final climax in a way that seems very spontaneous. The tampering with the crown can be done using classic pickpocket ruses, such as moving the spectator from one seat to another, or holding his wrist while his attention is focussed on something in his other hand. I approach it as I would a watch-steal, but it is a lot quicker to perform.

If you are silently asking, "But Derren, what if the spectator realises that his watch has stopped before you want him to?" then perhaps this chapter is not well suited to your style. Otherwise, I hope that I have illustrated something that I feel very strongly: that bold ruses make the magic more interesting for the performer and keep him alert, and allow for some very direct magical effects.

tfore Risfcs: Seize tV Chance

I hope Jerry won't mind me recounting the following brief episode:

I sat with Mr. Sadowitz in his London flat and he offered an effect for contemplation. A box of matches is to be handed to a spectator, who is instructed to remove any number he likes while the performer's back is turned. The performer is then to turn around, retrieve the box, and give it a shake. After doing so, he correctly names the amount removed. A method must exist! He was eager to find one.

I grabbed a box of matches from the table and handed them to Jerry, inviting him to remove some while I faced away. He did, and I turned around and took the box. Without shaking it, I told him he had taken four. This is going to seem awfully over-clever, but he had indeed taken four. I coolly assured him that 1 had been doing that effect for years.

I hadn't, and soon told him the truth that 1 had just guessed. It wasn't clever, and I don't mention this to appear as such. But it was, at that moment, a good trick. It now forms part of my working repertoire, with a couple of minor alterations. I have shown it to some very well known magicians, and enjoyed their response. I always guess, and 1 always say four. If any of those magicians are reading this now, I can only offer my smuggest apologies. If you are interested in Jerry's solution to the match problem, I would refer you to 'Mystic Matches' in The Crimp No. 49.

When I talk to most magicians about effects like these, they suggest multiple outs to remedy the problem of failure. I find this road will only damage the effect. There are few outs that can be offered without in some way introducing unwanted chaff into the presentation, and I think that audiences are a little wiser to the notion of this device than we would like to give them credit for. This is not to say that 'outs' are not extremely valuable, but here I would like to concentrate on a different approach. My thoughts here will not be suitable for most performers, but I think that they will have some value to a few.

The problem of failure is only a relevant one if one frames the non-happening of the intended effect as such. Let us presume for the moment that there is no problem when the hoped-for coincidence is not realised. But that if there is a 'hit,' the effect will be absolutely staggering. Surely this is worth some contemplation? Yet I have very rarely seen magicians employing these strategies.

Here is my point. Throughout many effects, a point is reached where the climax can be massively amplified by allowing for the possibility of sheer chance to intervene. Using certain psychological gambits known to the performer, random chance can be biased somewhat more in his favour than others might imagine. If Dame Fortune is feeling moody and unusual, and the effort fails, then it can be brushed off, and the previously intended climax is pursued. But if She smiles upon him, the magician has created an unfathomable mystery, and secured his reputation.

The only hindrance to this practice is the magician's own insecurity. Let me provide a few examples from my own repertoire.


The magician removes a silver Zippo lighter from his pocket and lights a cigarette. He extends the lighter to a spectator and asks her to stare into the silver surface and name her favourite playing card, adding that the Ace of Spades would be a little obvious. She thinks for a moment, and names the Queen of Hearts. "Interesting," says the performer, and blows a stream of smoke at the lighter. As the spectators' eyes follow the stream of smoke, they see that the lighter now has the image of the named card engraved, in full colour, upon both sides.


A deck of cards is handed to a gentleman for safekeeping. Another spectator calls a friend on the telephone and asks her to name a card. She tells no one what card has been named, and hangs up. The magician asks if there is anyone else at the table that knows the friend that has been telephoned. Somebody does, and she is asked to visualise that friend, and to imagine her with a playing card in the centre of her forehead. She does this, although she tells no one which card she sees. The magician instructs them to both name the cards that they have in mind, on the count of three. One spectator is to name the card chosen over the phone, and the other is to name the card that she sees in her image of the person who named that card. The magician counts, and they both name the same card. While the spectators recover from this shock, the magician mentions that while a synchronicity can exist between those that know each other, the harder task for him was to know beforehand which card would be selected by them both. As an afterthought, he takes the deck from the gentleman and spreads it out. That named card is seen to have been reversed in the deck from the beginning.

Instant Card

A spectator shuffles a deck thoroughly and hands it to the magician, simultaneously naming any card in the deck. The performer takes it at fingertips, and then places it on the table. He instantly produces the card from the deck.

Those three effects I perform regularly, but I should have to find an excuse if someone should request one from me. Let me explain how I incorporate them into my routines to hopefully communicate what I consider to be the wisdom of allowing Chance to play her hand.

Firstly, and in reverse order, Instant Card, i will look at this one first, for here there is no reason for the performer to feel at all insecure. Here there can never be failure, for the effect will have never been attempted should the card not be found. There is nothing remotely new or original in this idea: I would merely wish to encourage performers to travel these roads more often. The miracle is attempted whenever a card-effect is to be performed that can begin with the naming of a random card by the spectator. For example, the Ambitious Card routine could commence thus. In this case, if the Instant Card effect 'fails,' you would move straight into the Ambitious Card and no one would be any the wiser. However, should luck be on your side, you stop right there.

The handling I use to give me the greatest chance of finding the card is as follows. Firstly I make sure that the spectator names the card while she holds the deck. I ask for a card to be named in an off-hand way, so that the deck will not be watched too intensely once I retrieve it. I take it fairly, glimpsing the bottom card if 1 have not done so already. In the action of squaring, I shift the top card slightly, and glimpse that too. If the card was on the bottom, I have the most delightful of miracles to reveal, and can do so in whatever way seems best. Should it be on the top, a similar miracle has occurred. Presuming that neither has occurred, I remark upon the choice of card as I pass the deck. I now have a different top and bottom card to check as I fiddle. Should it be either one of those two, I will declare my intention to cut straight to the card, and then perform a one-handed Charlier cut, allowing the card to slide off the top or bottom into my fingertips as the two halves reassemble. If you perform this move, allowing either card to dislodge and be drawn out by the left fingertips, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at how much this looks like the card has been cut to, once it is drawn from the centre. If you precede this false revelation with a dribbling of the cards into the left hand, it will really seem as if you have cut randomly and fairly. Which I suppose you have. Finally, if the card has not appeared by this point, 1 comment on how fairly the deck was shuffled by the spectator, as I give the deck a one-handed shuffle. This shuffle allows one to easily glimpse the card at the face of the upper pile as the top section is moved away. If one riffles a few cards in the centre with the left forefinger before making the necessary cutting action, one has the luxury of glimpsing a few more. If the card is spotted in this process, it can be brought to the face of the pack during the shuffle, and the same cut revelation embarked upon that I have previously described.

Here, one has had the chance to glimpse six or seven cards. It is important that nothing is made of the shuffle, if it was needed, unless the card is then produced. Otherwise, having mentioned the fairness of the spectator's shuffle, I continue by concluding that she is presumably happy that the cards are all they purport to be. Making some remark about how little trust there is in the world nowadays, I spread the cards and openly remove the named selection. I then proceed with the Ambitious routine, or wherever I was heading.

The Telephone effect is a dressing-up of the Invisible Deck, and the idea of using a card named over the telephone came from watching John Lenahan perform this classic effect. I would, however, suggest that the effect can be improved even further by allowing for the interplay of fortune. Again, one can stack the odds in one's favour, but here there is a real possibility of the attempt clearly failing. I shall offer my solution for that event.

Have one lady sit on the deck while Spectator One calls a female friend. The relevance of the lady being seated on the deck is to allow a few jokelets later, when one can ask her to 'keep shuffling them,' or even to 'fish out the box/ if the situation permits. The lady telephoned is asked to name a card, with the qualification that the Ace of Spades is too obvious. The card is named, but the spectator keeps its identity quiet. Spectator Two is another lady, and she is asked to visualise the telephoned party (if she knows her) and to allow a playing card to come to her mind. I am already hoping that by using two ladies for the selections, there may be some similarity in the choices. By removing the Ace of Spades from the game as being 'too obvious,' there should be reluctance on their parts to choose either an Ace or a Spade. Similarly, if neither is given a chance to change their minds, the odds of a similarity of some sort are increased a little, in that they are less likely to choose a particularly obscure card. Either way, I say nothing concerning the possibility of their naming the same card. Instead, I reiterate that if is the card named over the telephone that shall be used. But, I add, I sense an interesting rapport in the group, and would like to try something interesting. 1 explain that I would like them both to name their card on the count of three. Once I have ensured that they will call out the cards clearly and simultaneously, I count with some drama. The cards are named. It is far from necessary that they name the same one. Let us look at the options:

Both name the same card. Splendid! This happens more frequently than one may imagine, given the psychological context of the selections. This, then, becomes the climax. I remark that a group of friends will often generate this sort of unconscious communication, which it can take others years to leam. As an afterthought, I retrieve the gimmicked deck from the lady and spread them to show the reversed selection.

Two similar cards are named. Marvellous! I look knowingly around the group and say, "Interesting, isn't it? A group of friends can create a bizarre unconscious communication, something that it can take years to develop consciously and with guaranteed accuracy. That's more my job, which is more difficult, for I don't know you very well. But you seemed such a delightful group that I thought I would take my chances." I retrieve the deck, and continue. I remove the reversed card, and ask for the name of the card selected telephonically. Many will forget that the card has just been named.

The cards sound unrelated but will be paired in the deck. With that same confident look, I repeat the names of the cards, and exclaim my own mystification at how 'this always happens.' "Two cards, chosen at random - and a deck over there that has not been touched, at least not by me. Now there is a closeness that exists in a group like this, which allows for a closeness of rapport and ideas. I'm hoping that the position of those two cards in the deck will reflect that closeness. The Seven of Hearts and the Six of Spades, 1 believe you said. There is a closeness already in those numbers. Let's look through the deck... there's the Six. [The reversed card is seen] Well, I wonder where the Seven could be - the card named over the telephone. [There are expressions of disbelief from the spectators as they realise that the reversed card must be the Seven]. Do you realise the implications, sir, of this being the correct card. Not only as physically close as possible to the other choice, but reversed from the very start. Enn..."

At this point I remove the card, ditch the deck, and look at the face of the single pasteboard. I allow a look of confusion to pass over my features and for a moment believe that I have made a ghastly mistake. The tension has built well, and I show the card to be correct.

What, I imagine the reader now asks, if the two cards are entirely and irretrievably unrelated? No problem, my poor frightened babes. But first let us proceed to the Zippd effect, where the likelihood of 'failure' is larger.

My friend lan Rowland, author of the definitive work The Full Facts Book Of Cold Reading, bought for me in Los Angeles a marvellous Zippo lighter with the Queen of Hearts engraved on one side. Knowing that 1 always have this card shortened in my deck, and that it is a favourite of mine for psychological forcing, it seemed a useful gift. 1 wondered for some time how I could use it, and currently use the following handling. The effect I am to perform is the Cigarette Through Pound Coin. Once the spectator has the gimmicked coin and a cigarette in her possession, 1 extend the lighter to her, with the engraved side against my palm. "Stare into my lighter," I

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