FramiofReferenceand Kickers

Many years ago Hen Fetch created a classic coincidence effect called Smith's Myth. Two spectators mentally select cards. They then shuffle the deck and divide it in two. The performer deals cards face up simultaneously from the two piles as che spectators are instructed to call out stop when they see their cards. Miraculously, the two mentally selected cards turn up together.

The secret is that, through a clever procedure, both spectators are led to think of che same card. Naturally, they will later call out stop at the same time. Each thinks that che indifferent card paired with the selection is the other persons card.

Years ago a magician, now deceased, showed mc his kicker ro this trick. After the coincidence effect had registered, he had both spectators call out C e nam« of their cards on the count of three. The big surprise was, of course, thai they both named the same card. Ihe bigge, Su . anyone could have thought that this was a good idea. 11

Ibis is an extreme ease of destroying the cffcct just to gct climax. Many magicians, however, make the same error in subtU^ equallv damaging, ways. Like many magicians, this man was enamoL kicker endings. To achieve one. he was willing to destroy a bcautif^1 strutted talse frame of reference. Before thc kickcr, the audience had b^ asking. "How did he make those two cards turn up together?" question. Therefore, no possible answer.) After the kicker, they wcre JJ i„g. "How did he get them to both pick the same card?" (Right questi^ Answer: who cares?)

Recently. I witnessed for the first time a performance of Pavel's V ptr Walking Knot. Since I'm pretty much of a layman when it comes rope magic. I think my reaction in this case may be indicative of a lav-audience's.

The effect consists of stretching a rope across the stage over thc backs of two chairs. The performer cuts the rope near one end and ties the ends together. He then drags the knot to the center of the rope and unties it. The cut has actually moved from one parr of the rope to the other. He ties the ends together again and drags the knot to the other end of the rope. Once more he unties the knot to show that the cut has traveled yet again.

I thought this a truly wonderful effect—until the magician performed the final phase. He tied the ends together one more time. He then pulled off thc knot and showed thc rope restored. At that point I realized that he was merely using some kind of tricky rope that can be pulled apart and stuck together at will. I don't know how such a rope works and I don't care. (I'd be willing to bet that a layperson would care even less than I do.)

As long as I had been held captive by a false interpretation of thc effect—the knot moves—I was enchanted. The second that the kicker restoration of the rope reoriented me toward a true interpretation of events—the rope pulls apart and sticks together—I was bored. The kicker ending had literally "dis illusioned" me.

Recently an ingenious self-working effect was published that quickly gained popularity. While thc performer's back is turned, two spectators randomly cut to cards and return them to the deck. The performer then «vmu around and announces the locations of thc two selections. When tne canh are counted down, his divination proves correct. As a kicker, he «istwo written predictions, showing that he knew thc locations of the ideCt,°ns before the trick started. m i a^-n.Fd.^rfR,^

¡cians observed on Internet boards that they had found Several 1 | c|iinax seemed to weaken audience response. Ihe specu 1M1thc impressed before the predictions were revealed. Intense distort '""^i lS to why this might be. 1 would suggest that thc problem >onscnsU aJ ¡n our two previous examples. "Ihe performer's desire to |l"<iSt'IC dima* leads him to reveal too much of the truth, jjd another^ ^ ^^ Qn an ingenious placement principle that allows "ft"5 c (0 contro| the locations of the two cards. Wisely, thc initial the performer^ _ ^^ ^ cffcct as a divination. The kickcr. however, |*e5cn,atl0"n , morc accurate light. Only after the second climax is the lifr"" t0 ask the right question: How did thc performer control the ¿ujience^ ^ prcjetermined positions? Admittedly, the spectators arc not ' V° J ever be able to answer that question in detail. Yet, the mere act of begins to suggest the vague outlines of a solution. That's enough

^en thc sense of impossibility. 10 In feci, prediction kickers often have this unwanted result. Thc "I knew all along" type of blow-off to an effect is risky because it tends to invalidate everything that came before. One always has to decide on a case-by-case basis, but consider carefully before adopting such a kickcr.

I have nothing against kicker endings. I perform and have published several effects that incorporate them. However, they can easily lead you into a seductive trap. Your goal should not be to provide as many climaxcs as possible. It should be to provide as strong an experience of impossibility as possible. A kicker that replaces a false frame of reference with a true frame of reference won't serve that goal.

This leads us to another specific application of Henning Nelms' conservation principle: Don't add a kicker to an effect that would allow the audience to accurately reinterpret what happened previously.

Ihe (rooked Path

'I love an outer simplicity that conceals an inner complexity."

George Santayana

Hie moral of frame of reference is simple: always look for ways to lead t0 Pcrceiv<r th« outer reality of thc effect in ways totally died from the inner reality of the method. Avoid anything that pushes 'nner and outer realities toward each other. When the spectator asks

Jonathan the way wc often see one person morph into anTk^^C -visual » P hcn en it to reveal a half-dollar, this is mote visual mercials. (Compare the Pendtagons illusion to the daSc ^C tfo* ofl h? ^on but less visual than the second. Its just a matter of Girl to Gorilla, which does involve a visible transferrin v^.^ **** I Join was out of sight.

torn pieces fuse together. It always happens under a moment-the fingers.

Similarly, the Pendragons' version of the sub trunk is gene ed as one of the most visual illusions of all time because of the ^ tion from Charlotte to Jonathon. Yet, we don't see Charlotte crVntf"^''


- — transformation. You'll Se, difference.) Hie transformation from female Pendragon to male pentjr happens behind a sheet, not "visibly", not "without any cover." ^

Therefore, I'll offer a definition of what I think most magicians ally mean most of the time when they talk about visual magic. SincT" used Ascanios definition of a magic effect as the difference between the initial condition and the final condition, let's use the same concepts to define visual magic. A visual effect is one in which minimal time elapses between the audience's last glimpse of the initial condition and theirfirst glimpse of the find condition.

Robert-Houdin said that before you change an apple into an orange you should make sure the audience knows it's an apple. The elapsed time mentioned in my definition refers to the critical interval between the audience's last glimpse of the apple and their first glimpse of the orange.

What constitutes "minimal time" elapsed? There can be no hard and fast rule. Visual magic is not an either/or proposition. It's a matter of degree. This much we can say: the shorter the critical interval, the more visual the effect.

Consider three different ways of transforming a card: 1) I do a double turnover to show a king. I turn the double face down and deal off the top card. 1 rub it against the tabletop and then turn it over to reveal that it's now an ace. 2) I show that I'm holding a king. I turn it face down and snap it against the deck. In the process I execute a Hofzinser top change. Then I turn over the card to reveal an ace. 3) I show a king on the face of the deck and then perform a color change to transform it into an ace. Clearly, the second version is more visual than the first and the third version is more visual than second. The difference is the length of the critical interval between the last time they see the king and the first time they see the ace. "This illustrates how visuality in magic is a continuum with every effect being a point somewhere along that continuum. It's a matter of degree.

Here's an example for non-cardmen. If I seal an English penny in envelope, have the spectator initial the flap, wave a magic wand over the Chapter 8: Visual Magic the spectator to rip open the envelope and spill out and direct ^ has changed to a half-dollar, this is not visual r° reVC fingertips across an English penny and, as the fingers the ^ lf] rub my ^udicnce sees that it's changed to a half-dollar, this f/eoffthc C°ia,n nlace an English penny in a spectator's hand, have her visual maglC- " y'hen open it to reveal a half-dollar, this is more visual 1S, „on her fis1 anU . visual than the second. It's just a matter of than t^ was out Qf sight.

howlon penjrag0ns' version of Metamorphosis is so visual because so little e" between your last glimpse of Charlotte and your first glimpse time e PSeS__¿eSp¡Ce the fact that the actual transformation happens be-

0f Jonathon i introduce one last term that I think will help in our discussion: the '/ 'anient. In visual effects we might say that the visual moment is the ■ t that the final condition is revealed to the audience. The first glimpse 'f the orange is the visual moment. The card and coin transformations I described above differ in terms of conditions and procedures. But for purés of this discussion, the key difference is in how long the performer «its before revealing the visual moment.

Visual vs. Mental Components

'Deception through the senses only is not as strong as deception which not only attacks the senses hut also influences the reasoning."

Dariel Fitzkee, Magic by Misdirection

I've heard some magicians describe magic as pure visual entertainment. A fireworks display is pure visual entertainment. A kaleidoscope is pure visual entertainment. Juggling comes close. (Even here, there is an intellectual component involved in appreciating the performer's skill. This is a major source of juggling's entertainment value. The other major source is the aesthetic appeal. That part is pure visual entertainment.) Magic, however, is not pure visual entertainment.

Doc Shiels' observation that "all magic is mental" applies equally to visual magic. The spectators eyes don't determine that he has seen a miracle; ws mind docs. Even in a visual effect, its the audiences intellectual deci-wn-comparing the initial condition to the final condition—that makes riC a m'rade. That's why visual impact alone isn't enough. The visual

niques brilliantly incorporate temporal and spatial separation barriers, and false frame of reference. C°n<*ptN

The importance of prior groundwork is also well illustrated h amples from the world of stage illusions. Certainly, there can be f! ^ illusions more visual than David Copperfield's Flying. If ever visual effect that would seem to speak for itself with no need xo^ **' prepare the audience, this is it. The guy just rakes off and flies anS^ stage. That's the effect. Pure visual magic. No preamble needed. ^

If you've seen the effect, however, you know that Copperfield d a lot of preamble. He brings two spectators on stage and proceeds tT^ strucr a large clear plastic cage within which the illusion will take p]^ | He has the spectators inspect every component of this cage. In other w0:4 he takes the time and trouble to eliminate every possible explanation btfirt performing the effect. In fact, he spends more time on these preliminaries' than he does actually flying. (I know. I timed it.)

Suppose that, instead of taking the time to lay this groundwork, Cop. perfield merely delivered his patter about dreams of flying and then lifted i off. All the time that he was flying, the viewer would simply be thinking. "I wonder how they hide the wires so you can't see them."

Even with an effect as visual as this, the magical experience is not what happens in front of rhe spectators' eyes. It's what happens in their minds. That means that you must, as Copperfield does, take the time to create the proper mental set to ensure that what rhe spectator sees will register as a miracle rather than as just a pretty picture.

By contrast, here is an example of a visual stage illusion that lacked the proper groundwork and suffered as a result. In the off-Broadway show Ricky Jay on the Stem, one scene features a sideshow theme. In the background is a table with a covered serving dish. At one point, Ricky walks upstage and lifts the lid to reveal a severed human head. After a few moments, the head opens its eyes and looks around. Ricky then covers it again and continues with the show.

When I saw the show, this effect received nothing more than mild chuckles from the audience. Within the context of the scene, it was merely intended as a throwaway and adequately served that purpose. Nevertheless, it s worth considering why this classic effect that is still capable of stunning an audience failed to do so.

Ibis effect, called The Sphinx, has traditionally been presented starting with a bare tabletop. The performer enters carrying a box, which he places t front of the box to reveal a human head. The idtl*"? „ceb«wee" i,n carrying out At box arc .mportanl

< and A. ZZ Jbelief Aa, the disembodied

J£ Ac box- * live?. of course, there is no answer. In

^pent»^ ^ on tl,a, the head is truly unattached. !»■ P"01 Mediately lead people to assume that the "e on a this mindset, the only cation

^^■.^-"t'-HoWorhey hide the gu/sbody under the ^ , ic rhe correct one.


Strengthening Visual Magic

Momentary Delay

It follows from the above that, even in a visual effect, you need tem-oral and spatial distance and conceptual barriers if you're aiming for last-¡ngmysterv rather than just momentary shock. A particularly effective approach is to introduce a very brief time delay before revealing the visual moment. Even the smallest delay can allow you to achieve distance in time and/or space. This leads to a paradoxical but potent concept, the delayed visual effect.

Ihere is an interesting psychological point that makes delayed visual effects possible. In visual magic, the audience believes that the effect happens when the effect is revealed to them (the visual moment). This is something peculiar to visual magic. If you do a selected-card-to-pocket effect, the audience doesn't assume that the card arrives in your pocket at the instant you pull it out. But in a visual vanish, they do believe that the coin vanishes the moment your fingers open to reveal the vanish. This is just as true of a v'sua' produccion, transposition, transformation or penetration. There is a quasi-visual retention—really a psychological retention—that you can oploitin these situations.

Slydini s One-Coin Routine, one of the most visual of coin effects, pro-G perfect example. The performer holds a coin at his fingertips. His ¿J" brush *&inst the table edge, at which instant he laps the coin. The hiddenThnUCS travC,inStoward the center of the table, the coin apparently n eh'nd the fingertips. The fingers now spread, revealing that the

proach exploits psychological retention. Both hands i on the deck to square it. But, as far as the audicnce kn ^10 Nopals at this point. When the left hand starts to turn pT*' "^Sk* fi0' of the deck still shows a facedown card. The right h m j the left hand finishes turning palm down. I give the deck"0* ^ '' the hand palm up again. At this moment the audience firs'

the hand palm up agai: card on top.

„,„, /» lhl, the «tadto with""" h visual " lh" '"ha, the visual ma&ic

Remember, in visual magic, the audience feels that the -ff when the effect is revealed to them (the visual moment). When ^^ face-up card on top, my right hand is at my side, far from th ■ d^'1* audience saw a facedown card on top of the deck as my |cft hand to turn down. A psychological retention of that image stayed with h^ I gave the deck a shake. When the face-up card comes into viewaft^ shake, it seems to have materialized in that instant.

My right hand was at my side during the shake and the subsc revelation of the face-up card on top. Through the use of a delay of onl"* second or two a two-handed move appears to be an impossible one-handd production of the card. And, thanks to the concept of psychological retcn tion, the appearance of the face-up card is just as visual as with a dass-c pass.

If you always insist that the audience must see the magic happen, vou may fool the eye but you'll often leave a trail of clues for the mind to follow. Consider, for example, some of the topit vanishes that have become fashionable recently. In an effort to have the vanish happen in full view, the principle is used nakedly. The performer simply snaps or flings the object into the topit. "Ihe speed of the action prevents the eye from following the path of the object. But, a moment later when the shock wears off, the mind can easily deduce what that path must have been. What was the object near when it vanished? The open jacket. Hmm, could that be where it went?

Suppose, instead, you apparently transfer the object to the other hand at the moment of tossing it into the topit. The closed hand then moves well away from the body and then opens to reveal the vanish. (This is similar to the handling often used with pulls.) Little would be lost in visual impact and much would be gained in subtle design. The method happens near the body. The effect happens away from the body.

In any visual effect, always consider whether a momentary delay w revealing the visual moment might allow you to create spatial separation. A delayed visual effect is still a visual effect, only more mysterious.

on relaxing H.v }Mk) . • ,possible if method and effect converge. ¿ffit.lh'S,s |-ans Qf viSual magic will respond that this just means Ma"/ 3 f-ec[ technique. The problem with this argument is that iaty°u nei Je often done pretty much the way one would think they visual cftcct.s a^ jonc that's the case, perfect technique will fool tai^,lf^theml,l<L ll,CeJ,[ready s"ggcsted that beSt VISUa' e"ccts clePcnc' tor thcir irT>-' 1 secret work accomplished long before or after the visual moment.

P3^on ? sUbtlest visual effects are those in which, rather than effect and hod coinciding, the audience is deceived into thinking they coincide.

ft'-'re led to believe that the magic happens at the visual moment, when

,1* truth is far different.

Guv Hollingworth's Waving The Aces is a fine version of Twisting the fits largely because the visual reversal is a scam. In fact, the card is reversed

!on° before the audience realizes it. The real reversal happens while you're yjjng the cards down by your leg. You secretly flip the card over, using your leg for leverage. You then use the Jennings optical move to creatc a forward time displacement.

Another example of a beautifully constructed visual effect is Bill Goldman's Monkey In The Middle. Once again, you achieve the bulk of the effect long before the audience suspects it. You sandwich the selection between the two cards well in advance. Yet the clever use of a standard gaff creates the illusion that the selection materializes between the two cards long after all the dirty work has been finished. As these examples show, it's possible to achieve visual impact without sound desi8n- ln visual magic, as in all magic, look to keep method and effect separated, and don't make the mistake of thinking that as hands arc a substitute for cunning thinking.

152 I Chapter 8: Viiual Magic

Chapter 8: Visual Magic I 153

You now rake our j red-backed ten of spades (the one actualk this deck) and insert it into the middle of rhe "blue" deck You announce that you'll change the color of every origjn into r^T^iev« the method happens at the moment they see

^¡n. "^Thc visual transformation thus functions as a briiliant the J tfr1 ^PPf*" rd and backw-atd time displacement. A rather long and

^ in the trunk long after the visual moment. Once c»rd i

You perform a classic pass that sends the blue cover card to th ^ reveals a red Kick on rop. You then spread the deck to showtfT mi<Jdlc^ now has a red back except the ten of spades, which has a

-- of the initial condition. 116 Wk, a exact opposite

Ihe classic pass makes the effect highly visual, as the audie the deck change color. This visual moment appears ro r^-!***01151*»

i-hen the deck changed color.

P'npoirit ooctlt

This impression is. of course, false. "Ihe bulk of the methodofagv l0oi place much earlier and consisted of the various subtleties to disguise*? rid deck as a blue deck. But the natural tendency of the audience i$ to believe that you changed the color of the deck at the moment they ^ it change- As long as they believe that the transformation occurred who, vou executed the pass they have no prayer of penetrating the mystery tf the color-changing deck. They're looking for the explanation at the w^ time. The visual element becomes a perfect time displacement device.

A similar situation occurs in The Last Laugh from Scams & Fantasies with Cards. The effect is thar two red aces instantly trap any card the spectator names. The performer places one red ace face up on top of the deck and the other face up on the bottom. The spectator names a card. Instant!-, the aces vanish from view (again thanks to a pass). The performer spreads the deck and the audience sees the face-up aces in the center with one card trapped between them. It proves to be the named card.

To a layperson, the conclusion is irresistible that the red aces located and trapped the named card in the fraction of a second they vanished from view. In reality, the card had been secretly located and maneuvered into position to be trapped much earlier. Because the audience believes that ds effect happened at the moment they saw the aces vanish, they overlook the casual handling that had occurred eadier. That handling was, of course, the real key to the mystery.

finally, consider a visual effect we've already discussed. Metamorphosis. The Pendragons split-second transformation is breathtaking- But what makes the effect a miracle that lingers in the audience's imaginations is the completely false belief that the person inside the trunk changes places with me person atop the trunk in that highly visual split-second.

Jonathan is escaping from thc trunk and getting into pos-h* the transformation long before the visual moment. Charlotte is still


mctbod is, in their minds, squeezed into the blink of an eye. All of ¿ntriciK 111 use a visual moment to create time compression.

'Tilso uses a visual moment to force the audience to ask thc wrong How could he undetectably switch a blue deck for a red deck in f^and in a split-second? (No switch of decks ever occurred.) How ^'d the aces travel through the deck to trap a card in a split-second? (Thc never change their positions relative to the other cards in the deck.) Sr can a person inside a trunk change places with a person outside a St"in lhe blink ot an eyC? (Both P^P1* m outskk the trunk both be-

¿«and after the transformation.)

\ little thinking will furnish you with more examples where incorporating a visual element into a longer effect can create a time displacement. \loie importantly, a litde imagination will allow you to create these situations in your own magic. Always look for opportunities to convey a false impression of when an effect happens by creating a visual moment either bcrore or after the bulk of the method happens.

Asa Validating Phase

Another ideal way to use visual magic is as a single phase in a multiphase effect. The visual phase then becomes the validating phase. It proves the other phases by establishing that the magic really does happen at the moment—and in the manner—that you claim.

We know that, in visual magic, the audience believes the magic happens at the visual moment. (In most cases, unfortunately, they're correct.) We are here going to make that belief work for us. For example, in most handlings of The Ambitious Card, the card is actually sneaked to thc top much eadier than we lead the audience to believe. In fact, often the card new leaves the top of the deck. We merely create the illusion that we're curving it. This is precisely what makes thc effect such a mystery. When d* ludiente is expecting something to happen, nothing happens because we've already done the dirty work. "

But it this combination of time displacement and false frame of refer-k the great strength of The Ambitious Card, it's also its great secret. It's thing the audience must never be allowed to suspect. A powerful

CkupcerS.V, war to conceal that secret is to include oik- phase where the audi allysees the card travel from the center of the deck to the top CB°C

fvr already mentioned the idea of using a pass so thac vou the card face up into the deck and ler the audience sec it instant^" ilize on top. Alternatively, Geoff Latta and Ray Kosby have both J***" handlings in which the ambitious card is left outjogged ¡n ^ mj fj?*11 the deck. While in chat condition, it rises in stages to the top. Am-If ^ handlings seems to conclusively prove that you're really doins wh, claim to be doing. They can't doubt the evidence of their eves. *

Adding one of these handlings ra your routine pays a double divid The visual phase will itself evoke a strong reaction. More important!*-^ visual phase lends credibility to all the non-visual phases* thereby strength cning the entire routine.

What is true in card magic is true in coin magic. Halfway th „1 John Carney's version of the Misers Dream, Money For Nothing, he tum-his hand palm «ward the audience. They can see that the hand is empty A coin then visibly materializes at his fingertips. This one time the audicnce gets to set thar he is doing what he claims to be doing, plucking coins our of the air. Having established Thar, John can now go back to usin® more subde methods.

Positioning such a phase midway in a routine radiates credibility both backward and forward. It retroactively validate., the previous phases and prospectively validates the subsequent ones. It squash« any doubts that might have started forming in the audience's minds about whether were really doing what vou claimed to be doing. It also predisposes them ro accept unsheptkalh the phases to come. Indeed, you can often get away with the most bald-faced swindles immediately after such a visuafpimiiij phase.

I've always fell that Dai Vernon's original approach to Tumtmg rit Am and those subsequent versions that follow his lead are the strongest. Using false counts fot rime displacement permits vou to appear ro cause each Card to tutn over despite the slowest, Surest, most open handling. "the nupc lust seems to happen. The rarious visual handlings of the plot thai tew recenrly capmred magicians' imaginations never, in my view, achieve 0» same mysterv. -This is admittedly a minority view.) 1 think, howTvrr.

incorporanng mt visual turnover borrowed from one of these new« muraes into a more traditional routine could be very effectiv*. It w»"

feting 'I® rigi" J"d st™Sthen the more mysterious phases by ■egmmmngdK process in the audiences minds.'

,isual phase doesn't have to go in the middle. 'Ibis course, jrunltic considerations. Since the routine must build Hhclfv . ;„„ of the visual phase should be determined bv

, Repositioning».

! » stio™" ",s " . phase vvoHcs best at the end. Fot example. prob-son'™"'05 '."'J Ambitious Card phase is Tie Pep-Uf Card from E.i-.„y the iJ<lHI* IS.U''ac ^ hc performer puts a strong bend in the card before V,, Cat«) lech"1'1 • (tie can) ,o the top. the audience can

'' '"ki^ s^the bend makes it pop up. This is one of the strongest '„it itrivebeca ^ _ _uiri„„ (jrd. However, this handling would be

, this handling would be

P~ . . .""'formed in isolation because, like most visual magic, fcl8STTForVn audicnce tx> hilly appreciate a miracle, they musl j-j very b«l ^ ^ ofinrerest and expectation. A quick be P CMd providc enough time to raise the vtual e«Ki »k ^ f ^ii[ir)g k at j,;. end alleys vou to hist build the „¿ience to thai - ^ „expectation, That's why you'll find many ^tors up ro * V workj wd, in the middle and many where ^f „11« the end. but almost none where it works well a, the begin-


itines wucn-

ab well «the end, but almost none

*» rher =ood example of a visual dim® to a non-visual murine is T ri^eaTv Jon ofOr/W »W. In the final phase, Juan sitn-fr Tth cSs fee up between his hands, showing reds and Hacks He squares the cards and instantly re-spreads to show the now-t^cotis As stunning as this ending ,t would h. nowhere near ^¿formed either by itself or a, ihe beginning of the rot,,,£

™uld also be a greater risk that the audience wodd -.«hod.! The eartier phases of Juan's routine arc miaed fa* down and a &ir amount of time elapse, before he, e 10 ha« separated. But the impossible conditions under which thev occur put the audience in the proper frame of mind to be blown awav b;

""iis nSns that, not onlv does the visual phase validate the^non jv^l phases, the «verse is also true. Through the use ot strong coni .ons^ t non-visual phases prepare the audience to belie« that VOU «Jty^ ^ whit vou claim to be doing. They're then ready to accept at ace snmning but bold visual finale. (See the visual climax ot 1» «•« Gird for another good example of this dynamic at work.

Visual and non-visual phases can be creatively combined in man^wa , ® make the whole- routi ne greater than the sum of its parts, jus,

ChapKl8iVoa.lKl.5ii <

phase can work well at the end of a series of non-visual phases, a no phase can sometimes perfectly climax a visual routine. ' °n"visUal

In The New Back Off from Scams & Fantasies with Cards I feces, one at time, on four double-backed cards. My greatest chaHe/""' putting this routine together was how to end it. After three cxtrcm^ sual phases, there didn't seem to be anything I could do to top what hn come before. The perfect solution proved to be a completely non-JZ, climax. I place the fourth double-backer between a spectator's palms, ^ card acquires a face while in her hands. Thus, rhe last phase is comple«/ non-visual. But, due to the stringent conditions (magic in thc spectator's hands), it's also the most impossible phase. The deep mystery of this com' plerely non-visual, undercover phase was the only thing strong enough t0 top whar was, until then, a highly visual routine.

In the next chapter we'll explore in detail how to combine methods in a multi-phase routine to create a cumulatively perfect method. For now, it's enough to note that using visual magic as a validating phase is a special application of this concept and one of the best exploitations of die power of visual magic.

As Part of a Visual/Covered Design

One thing that can be said for visual magic is diat it certainly gets people's attention. It can, therefore, be a great technique for grabbing die audience in preparation for an effect's climax. A particularly potent approach is to use a visual grabber that leads into a non-visual, but deeply mysterious climax.

Many transposition effects lend themselves to this approach. A good example is Ed Mario's Copsil. The performer places a silver coin into the spectators hand, which she then closes. He now picks up a copper coin. Using a Spellbound-type change, he transforms it into rhe silver coin. The very visual nature of the change dazzles the audience and grabs their attention. While the change itself impresses rhe spectators, it also raises thc question, "Where is rhe copper coin now?" This sets up the audience for the amazing climax in which the copper coin is found in the spectator's closed hand. This final revelation is non-visual magic, but it constitutes rhe truly memorable impossibility for which the visual change was merely a prelude.

Using a visual transformation for the first half of a transposition, which then leads to revealing the more impossible half of the transposition, might

160 1 Chlp,cr 8: Visual Magic

¡julfvisualformula. One can apply it to almost any close-up b<i terni<=d 1 ® magjcian Benjamin Levy does a version of the Bill Trans-ptfp. Uf ch },e places an American bill in a spectator's hand while he fositio» i" w br hc recj bill of foreign currency. Hie bill in his hand visu-h0|ds °nt0 a fo the green American bill. The red bill is then found in the ally ^FLnd. Similarly, in a two-card transposition, you could placc spectators aior's liand and show a king on top of the deck. Perform anace 3 to visually transform your king into the ace. The spectator she is holding the king. n°w ^ 0f these cases, the visual transformation is impressive and sur-^ ¡tse[f Yet, it also serves the more important function of creating pr'S"-§ tion for the real impossibility, the change in the spectators hand. After all, you might be able to change a coin/bill/card in your hand by -ans of your dazzling sleight-of-hand skill. But changing an object while someone else is holding it is a miracle.

Nor is the half-visual formula limited to simple two-object transpositions One of the reasons that McDonald's Aces is so powerful is that it incorporates this approach. The vanishes of the aces are fairly visual. The appearance of those aces under the spectator's hand is a profound mystery. Each time you vanish an ace in your hand, you baffle rhe audience by its disappearance. But you also build suspense for the eventual revelation of that ace under the spectator's hand. By themselves, the vanishes of the aces might be dismissed as clever sleight of hand. The arrival of those aces under the spectator's hand is completely non-visual magic, but it's also impossible.

Finally, be open to opportunities to apply the half-visual formula to non-transposition effects. Earlier I described The Last Laugh. Two aces visibly vanish and are found in the middle of the deck trapping a named card. The visual vanish grabs their attention. But the non-visual production of the named card is what the audience remembers. This idea of using a visual grabber to build anticipation for a deep-mystery payoffs one of the best ways to exploit visual magic.

As Incidental Magic

!n Strong Magic 1 coined the phrase incidental magic to refer to the "«le throwaway effects one sometimes performs in the course of a more substantial effect or between major effects. An example is Del Rays Van-" m& lighter- If Del noticed someone about to light a cigarette during °ne °fhis Performances, he would offer them his lighter. He would time

Chapter 8: Visual Magic I 161

We've all heard these discussions among magicians. A m • for example, a visual retention pass to apparently place a coin^'?3" -Invariably, another magician will ask, "Why don't you jUst pUt in your hand the way you would in real life?" Answer: Because i C°'n the coin doesn't vanish. Therefore, in real life, you don't need to" 'ifc anyone of anything. If you're planning to end the effect by show0"*"* the coin is still in your hand, any coin transfer will do. If, however ^ is going to vanish, you need to be convincing. ' Cc°»i

" What is going to happen later in the effect determines how much viction I need to create earlier in the effect. Once, when performjn ^ umph using Daryl's cutting display, a magician asked me, "Do you need that convinced Is there any reason for the audience to doubt that* just shuffled face-up cards into facedown cards?" My answer was, "tyy" not yet. But, in a few moments, when I spread the deck and the cards are all straightened out, there will be." The fact that the cards are no longer in a face-up/face down condition is, itself, reason to doubt that they ever were Magicians are, in feet, often confronted by exacdy this kind of com-monsense reaction. One magician will complain to another, "I did Daley's

^ Rfptfl"0 t the day after your adventure with the missing keys, you

Last Trick for her. Do you know what she said? 'You never put the black aces in my hand to begin with.' Can you believe that?" This is usually delivered in a way intended to elicit sympathy about how stupid laypeople are. Of course, since she was right, it would seem to indicate how smart laypeople are.

It's simple missing-keys logic. I thought I put the keys on the dresser. But, since they're not on the dresser, I must have been mistaken. I thought he shuffled the cards face up and face down. But, since they're all face down, I must have been mistaken. I thought he put the coin in his hand. But, since the coin isn't in his hand, I must have been mistaken. I thought he put the black aces in my hand. But since they're in his hand, I must have been mistaken.

This is the challenge of conviction in magic. By its very nature, the tj-feet itself challenges the audience's belief in the initial condition. Yet, in order for the effect to register as magic, the spectators must cling to their original belief even in light of the subsequent evidence. They must be so convinced that you put a silver coin into their hand that even having it change to a copper coin doesn't shake that belief. They must remain convinced of the reality of the initial condition even after you reveal the final condition.


that of leaving the keys on the dresser. A little later you pass the

3 P°k ancj notice the keys lying there. At this point you start to get c0t}Ct" J You might decide to conduct a test-conditions experiment. You <omake sure that there is no one else in the house. You put the keys h dresser. Just before leaving the room, you glance back to make sure °n • till there. You lock the door behind you. If those keys still materi-lhe>'on rhe coffee table, you'll have to accept that unknown forces arc at

^Repetition produces conviction. ^ That s why, when a spectator isn't quite convinced by an effect, he'll say, "Do that again." Many magicians think this is a compliment. In fact, it's an expression of skepticism. At the very least, the spectator is saying that he is reserving judgment until he sees it again. The audience instinctively believes that it would be much harder to repeatedly fool them with the same effect. Of course, they're right. That's why, if you can succeed in doing so, you can create a particularly strong magical experience.

Some magicians disparage repetition effects as being mere puzzles rather than magic. The empirical evidence, however, doesn't support that view. Rene Lavand's I Can't Do it Any Slower and The Three Breadcrumbs are the most magical effects in the history of close-up. In the former, he repeats the same basic effect six times, in the latter case about twenty times. In fact, Juan Tamariz once pointed out to me that almost all the effects that we think of as classics involve repetition. This includes the Linking Rings, Cups and Balls, Cut and Restored Rope, and Ambitious Card.

Another criticism is that such effects lack surprise. It's true that they lack narrative surprise. The audience knows what is supposed to happen. However, all strong magic contains an element of surprise. The surprise is that the effect works. If the routine builds properly, the audience should be surprised each time that the effect continues to work despite the increasingly strict conditions. They know what is supposed to happen, but it's still surprising that it actually does.

Whether it's Lavand's six-phase Oil & Warer, or his twenty-plus-phase Three Breadcrumbs, or Daryl's Ambitious Coroutine, also in the twentv-pnase range, or Francis Carlyle's two-phase Homing Card, at the end of each, you're forced to conclude that the performer didn't just catch you off He didn't get some really obvious swindle past you. He really can among t

This was one of rhe reasons I developed Modern Jazz a tiz at the Card Table), my re-routining of Peter Kane's / "" ^arvv'n Q effect used the same method for each ace transposition, thT^' ciple. But it also used the same technique each time, theF|C"a,1CadPri|iC I kept the method but varied the technique. One time 1 Cy ey coUnt revious approaches disguise the pattern of a consistent meth-Thc t%v0 eliminates any pattern by avoiding a consistent method. pJ. This aPpr^ocls have different strengths and weaknesses. If you can ac-piffete"1 met rli 0f each method and disguise thc weakness, combining cent ^^hods in a multi-phase routine can be one of the strongest


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