Eliminate Suspicion Before It Forms


"The most powerful magic tends to consist of utterly impossible petting under test conditions' including examination, open -handed™* ^ repetition." tut,.

Jay Sankey, Beyond Secrets

Any talk about disproving theories chat might occur to a s proving thar you're nor using a certain method invariably meets ^ ^ from some magicians. They feel that taking the trouble to prove t^!ISranct cuses the audience's attention on method and turns thc effect i nto This argument sometimes takes thc form of the claim that a "rea[PUZlie" dan" wouldn't waste time proving things. (To this I respond that he M if he wanted others to realize that he was a real magician.) AlthoueU f fercnt magicians will frame this argument differently, it boils down i belief that taking the trouble to eliminate possible explanations injf™ with the magical experience. "«rrcrcs

What these magicians fear is that, when the magical climax occurs in. steadof reacting emotionally, the spectator will react analytically. He'w I M there with WW, puzzling over questions of method rather th enjoying the effect This is a legitimate concern, bur the solution , the magician to shirk his burden of proof.

reaction withouT fir „„ ~.""^'"f w thieve the emotional

«^Viir rCC°6niz<: a fM^mental fact. One can only 'fee is no other -Tw" Ta^ thr™81' « process of elimination. only by eliminating all riori/i/° i ^ 3 witnesSw! taP<®ib!c spectator do that, he will Xpla"a!,°ns- 'fyou're unwilling ro help the »eking. ' "evcr CJpaience the emotional reaction you're

Every magician loves t0 u„r

15 ""possible'- But rl, spectator exclaim in astonishment,

«"»tiered ways the effect ™ T^ SIatcn,cnt implies that thc spectator has 'B bc achKVed and has been forced to reject

, m all. Only » psychotic would conclude that something i> l«„ -li hour fir« considering whether i, might be possible 8 mP°"'blc " Many people, upon seeing David Copperfields Pfying, have though, „^i impossible! Suppose you were to say to such a person, "Maybe k is suspended on wires. Do you think he might respond, "Gee, 1 JT, hough, of that"? Of course not. He would ,espo„d by pointing oul ^ he couldn't be on wires because the Plexiglas case rules that out. 1„ other words, the spectator considered that explanation (and all others he could think of) and rejected it before concluding, "That's impossible!"

Since magic is, by definition, a phenomenon with no natural explanation. it f°l|ows that one cant exPerience magic until he is convinced that [here can bl no natural explanation. Taking rhe trouble to eliminate possible explanations doesn't interfere with the magical experience. It's vital to the magical experience.

Yet che magician who doesn't want the spectator responding analytically to the effect's climax has a valid concern. We want the spectator to respond to the magic instantly and emotionally, not by tubbing his chin pensively and saying, "Hmm, let me chink about that for a while."

Fortunately, there is a solution. The U.S. military calls it "preparing the battlefield," 'This means that, before the battle, they spend a couple of days bombing the hell out of the enemy. When U.S. ground forces finally attack, the battle goes a lot more easily because the enemy has already been softened up. The same strategy works in magic, 'ihe human mind provides countless defenses against experiencing magic. Before the spectator can have a magical experience, you must first demolish those defenses. Tie best way to guarantee that the spectator isn't thinking about method when the magic happens is to ensure that he gets all that thinking out of his system before the magic happens.

The most succinct formula I've ever heard for creating a magical experience comes from Al Koran, quoted in T.A. Waters' Mysteries, Asked how to create miracles for an audience, Koran responded, "Very simple, really. You start with a strong effect—well, that almost goes without saying, doesn't it?—and you build up the conditions so that you can point out to the audience that if you can succeed under these conditions, it's a miracle. And then, of course, you succeed—so they have to admit you work miracles!"

Notice the temporal sequence. You get the audience to accept the impossibility of what you're going to do before you do it. Later, when the mag'c happens, you can expect an instant emotional reaction. People may, for example, exclaim. "No way!" That's because they had already that there was no way of doing it before yon did it. When vou Hn h*^ they have no need for Intellectual analysis. Indeed, the emotion ^ may hegin even a moment before the magic happens. This is wh^**1 will sometimes exclaim. "If those aces are under her hand, r|| [¿n1*0^ blank]!" In ,ht litis is the approach Copperfield takes in Hying. He elimiiWt thoughts of wires before he Hies. When he finally takes off, the sr*^ ^ doesn't haw to ponder whether Copperfield is suspended from wireTu* possibility has already been disproved, leaving the spectator free l0 Cx ^ ence the magic.

The Koran formula is perfect lor suspense effects, those in -^vKich the audience knows what is going to happen before it happens (as in the C pcrfield trick). It works just ¿is effectively, however, in surprise effects Wh', Scotty York does the Hundred-Dollar Bill Switch, he has a spectator run her thumbs all over his palms as he holds the borrowed bill stretched between his hands. At this point, the audience doesn't even know what the effect is going to be. But it does know, beyond any doubt, that there is nothing hi Scotty s hands except for the borrowed bill. Later, when the effect occurs, the spectators don't have to stop to ponder whether the hundred-dollar bill might haw been concealed in his hand from the outset. Knowing already that it wasn't, they can respond instantly to the magic.

In each case, by the time the effect climaxes, all of the spectator's ra-nonactions and theories-all of his defenses—have been bombed into oblivion. He is completely vulnerable to the magical experience that is about to invade him. He is open to the emotional experience because the mteUectualburners to that experience were removed in advance. When the mag* happens, you'll get the raised eyebrows and open face of astonishment rather than the furrowed eyebrows and closed face of puzzlement. Wur rioLT . C?n,CCpt d°Wn to its trials. You pick up a coin with vou ri h I A ud° 3 t3ke ,ransfo int° >'our left hand. You then drop in?ou ';d,t0 J* I'1' for •> nioment and lap the coin. You now warned u/l i * °W ,hai ,hc coi" h;ls vanished. As David Roth casually diow vou eT immedUtdv at vour other hand. You explanation. TW$ Zd U audicnce is now left with the audicnce was "NVcvcr- at fhe moment the magic occurred,

^nd? That's had. 8 mcthod Could the coin be in his other

Let's try it this way instead. You perform the fake transfer and th 1 ping move as before. This time, however, you gesture with your right hand ¡0 dearly show u empty before revealing the vanish. The audience does not yet know that the coin is gomg to vanish. But they do already know that your other hand is empty. When you now reveal the vanish, the audience isn't thinking. "1 wonder .1 us tn the other hand [focusing on method]" They're thinking, " I'hats impossible [focusing on effect]."

If you follow this approach, some magicians will accuse you of emphasizing method. In fact, you're emphasizing the absence of any possible method. Its precisely when you don't lay the proper groundwork in advance that the spectator is likely to respond to the climax analytically, running various theories through his head. By the time he has evaluated and (hopefully) rejected them all, the magic moment has passed. He may finally conclude that he doesn't know how you did it, but it will just be a sterile, intellectual judgment.

There is also an important pragmatic advantage to dealing with suspicions preemptively. It's just much easier to prevent a suspicion front forming than to disprove one that has already formed. Indirect proofs will often suffice in the former case. Only direct proofs will suffice in the latter.

If you perform a routine with a stacked deck, an occasional false shuffle will throw people off the track. If you leave out those shuffles, a spectator might voice the suspicion that the cards are stacked. At that point, if won't do any good to say, "Well then, I'll shuffle the cards." The spectator will almost certainly insist on shuffling himself. Suppose you're performing a gaffed packet trick and want to end clean. If you can switch the cards before it occurs to anyone that they might be gaffed, you should have no problems. But once a spectator asks to examine the cards, you'll never get away with a switch. Touches like the Kaps subtlety can prevent a spectator from suspecting that you have a coin palmed. If that suspicion has already formed, however, those subtleties won't help. Nothing short of opening your hand completely to show it empty will do. Once things have reached the crisis stage only direct proofs will work.

One of the maxims that has guided me through life is: the best way to deal with problems is to prevent them before they happen. When applied t0 this subject, that translates as: eliminate suspicions before they occur.

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