A physical barrier is just what the name implies. The spectato suspects that you took the path you did because he can see rhatTl some physical object blocking the way. ' crc is
In The Card Secrets of Brother John Haraman, Brother Ha has a bold method of producing a selected card from the pocket. Heap"13" endy deals the selection off the deck but actually retains it on top, off an indifferent card instead. He then places the deck in his pocket. Af"8 vanishing the "selection," he merely reaches in his pocket and removes the top card of the deck.
While I appreciate boldness, 1 like to back it up with subtlety. There fore, I handle Brother Hamman's idea this way. Before putting the deck in my pocket I place it in its case and close the case. Later, when I effortlessly remove the selecced card from my pocket, anyone who remembers that the deck is in the same pocket will also remember that its enclosed inside the case. Therefore, the card I just pulled out couldn't have come from the deck.
What the audience doesn't know is that, when I place the deck in its case, I insert the flap between the top card and the rest of the deck. Later 1 can instantly pull the card out with no hesitation or fumbling. The barrier of the card case prevents the correct solution from occurring to anyone.
Let's look at another example where the card case acts as a physical barrier to the true explanation. I've always felt that Vernon's Travelers is weakened by the fact that you keep the deck in your hands and the audience can see your hands repeatedly traveling from the deck to your pockets. If the aces are also traveling from the deck to your pockets, it doesn't take a geruus to sense what the delivery system must be.
José Carroll solved the problem with a brilliant version called Travelers through the Case. After the aces are buried in the deck, the deck is placed >n the card case and (thanks to an ingenious gaff) the performer's hands are dearly seen empty just before the aces start traveling to the pockets, the 1 °r'8' VCrSi0n',fsomeone were to explain to the spectator that ^^™WaSfmert Pa'm'ng the aces out of the deck and pretend-In CarroHV v * P°ckm' that explanation would make sense, could he?^C«rdns'werinthl b^e"SPeCUt0r ^ ^P0^
* bl 3 ^^ Can bc a>t>,hi"Zthat 5tandS '"l nZmmgfrom here to there. In The Unholy Three (Card-
k)> A blue-backed card serves the s me purposc. Uree cards from a ' flaked deck travel to a blue-backed deck. Although the red deck passes Vhe tabled blue deck, the audience never suspects that the transfer hat>-°ver that moment because the top card of the blue deck remains blue If fi dropped cards onto ¡t from the red deck, wouldn't it have suddenly |urned rod? The top card of the blue deck is a physical barrier to such a ir3n£cause most mental effects are about the transfer of information. ,sical barriers often play a major role. Al Koran's The Medallion uses the •nciple of double writing. The spectators select a three-digit number. As ^"performer openly writes the number on a pad. he also secretly writes it ' nhe back of a palmed medallion. The performer then pretends to remove °|"e medallion from his pocket and reveals the prediction. tK In Larry Beckers version, the performer has a Lippincott box in his ocket. When he reaches into the pocket, he loads the palmed medallion into the box. He then removes the box and hands it to a spectator to unlock ind open. Clearly, the performer couldn't have just written the number on the medallion since the medallion was locked inside a box. The walls of the Lippincott box provide a solid physical barrier between the effcct and the correct explanation to that effect. (Just as an aside, if you combine my idea, described earlier, of dropping the medallion down your sleeve with Becker's Lippincott box idea, you'll have a hell of a strong version of Koran's trick.)
Alan Shaxon's Confabulation uses the same concept with a different gaff. The prediction is loaded into a gaffed wallet before being produced. The wallet is the physical barrier that conceals the fact that the performer was secretly writing the prediction as he openly recorded the spectator's choices.
Notice that this is very different from a trick where the effect is that something is magically transported into a locked box or the performer's wallet. In the two previous examples, the whole point is to make sure that the spectators don't suspect that something was transported into the box or wallet. In The Dream Card (Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table), I use a gaffed wallet the same way as in Confabulation: not to achieve a card-to-wallet effcct, but to make the audience think that the card 1 pull from my pocket must have been there since before the effect began.
There are other ways of exploiting (and circumventing) a physical bar-ner 111 a prediction effect. Suppose you use a nail writer to record a predic-"0n 011 a «rd scaled inside an envelope. (The envelope has a window cut ln 11 to permit the writing.) The basic method that achieves the deception is the nail writer. The audience doesn't suspcct you of writin k don't have a pencil in your hand. Rut your insurance thatch ^^ won't even consider the correct solution is the physical barrier f ^^ lope. You can t write on the card if its sealed in an envelope ° ^ etu'*-
In Windex, T.A. Waters takes this concept to the ultimate chosen by a spectator is found previously written on a playing Card "Unil>t' in the middle of a cased deck. Not only does the card case have u in it. so does half the deck. Under such conditions, who «-...,i j CU|
UldsusPccti nad writer? r 13
Indeed. I've always felt that one of the greatest principles in magic is / container with a bole. Take almost any kind of container (wallet, ke -' " card box, envelope, drinking glass, paper bag), cue a hole or slit in it ¿„j you can baffle people just by sneaking objects or information (as jn luj| writing or billet reading effects) in or out.
This is because many of peoples strongest assumptions grow ^ . function. Everyone understands that containers arc designed to contain and they can't do that very well if they have a hole in them. Therefore' they'll assume that any given container doesn't have a hole in it. And rhev won't question that assumption unless you blatantly abuse the principle. Ihe number of truly miraculous effects that can be achieved using slit vval-Icts, slit Itev cases, slit envelopes, window envelopes, X-ray card cases, and bottomless glasses is legion. [The bottomless glass is particularly diabolical. Whai could be more useless than a drinking glass with no bottom? It follows, therefore, that any glass you introduce will hive a bottom.)
I once saw a magician use this concept as a gag. He repeatedly guessol what color billiard hall a spectator placed in a paper bag. He then tuned the big around to show thar it had a huge, clear-plastic coveted hole in the Side that allowed him to see within. Hie audience laughed at the fact that they could have been fooled by something so blatant. Bur they were fooled, and that s the point.
And new applications of the concept are still being devised. David Ha,key has a clever effect in Simply Harkey whose sole modus operandi ■s a shopping bag with a hole cut out. A recently marketed item achieves a nilanous effect just by means of a secret hole in a bucket. Nor is the con-
Si" " S"MklnB itt™ « «cut of the container. Gaetan Bloom's ^mtng. ungaffed version of the Card Las,a employs a slit in a ha, to pa-
. manipulation of the rope. None of ,|„.„ „ ,
Î k eft«-11-' ,s thcre to P«>PIC from suspKling °hc method
'Adding a pfcyf1 can mi|" >'<•"' magic more inexplicable
A„d. of«*'>'°U hlVC " " y °VtrCOmc tho" Ph>'"«l bar,i„ ii „.t a bole to If.
An information barrier simply means that the correct ¡oh,non le „in,de does"'' >""> Faible became you (apparently) didn r have access 10 ihr information needed to make that method work Let's look at some concrete example
Cast Study: The Trick That Can't Be Explained
Perhaps the most elaborate development of thc equivoque concept in card magic is Vernon's The Trick Tha, Can't Be Explained. Ihe performer mites a prediction and spreads the deck face up. The spectator then makes a series of choices that lead to a card. 'Ihat card proves to be the one the performer predicted.
Since the performer interprets the meaning of the spectator's choices the way ancient seers interpreted animal entrails, there is a danger thar a skeptical spectator might suspect thar, in interpreting his choices, the performer pursued a hidden agenda. After all, rhe deck was face-up. The performer knew which card he had predicted. He could easily see where the predicted card lay. If he had the choice, for example, of counting toward the predicted card or away from the predicted card, which direction would he likely choose?
Like most effects, the Vernon trick didn't develop In a vacuum. Other magicians were experimenting with the same ideas around the same time.
Consider Dr. Stanley Jaks' brilliant approach to this plot. He would begin hv having the spectator shuffle the deck and freely select a card. Neither ihe spectator nor the performer got to see the face of this card. Instead, thc spectator initialed the back of the unknown card. (Today, you could place
J Pressure-sensitive sticker on the back of the card and have the spectator
,ni'i«l that. The sticker could be peeled off later, leaving an undamaged -eck.i
The spectator then returned the card ro thc deck. The p f cretly peeked this card as he handed the deck to the spectator,"st^' * to shuffle the cards face up. (Instead of glimpsing, you could ¿q. '?8 ^ card.) Ihe deck was dien ribbonspread face up and the effect pr n as in the Vernon version. The climax came when the card that th^^ tor arrived at was turned over to reveal that it was the previously
In terms of the outward reality, the performer himself didn't k what card the spectator had initialed. Therefore, he couldn't steer tlT* in the direction of that card even if he had wanted to. His apparent / J, knowledge eliminates the true explanation from consideration.
Another first-rate approach is Lu Brent's A Prediction Supreme from his 1956 book Fifteen Star Card Effects. Here is a slightly condensed description:
The performer has previously pencil-dotted a known card. He begins by writing a prediction naming the pencil-dotted card. 'Ihe spectator now shuffles the deck and cuts it into two halves. The performer ribbonspreads both halves face down. The spectator selects a card from one half (the one not containing the pencil-dotted card). This becomes an indicator card that he inserts face up into the other spread. The performer then uses the identity and location of the indicator card to arrive, by spelling and/or counting, at the pencil-dotted card. (Since you're working with only a half-deck, the two cards can't be all that far apart.) All that remains is to have the prediction read.
What distinguishes this from the Vernon approach is that the cards remain face down at all times. In the Jaks version, you know the locations of all the cards since they're spread face up. But you don't know the identity of the target card. That's the information barrier. In the Brent version, you know the target card because you predicted it. But you don't know the locations of any cards since they're spread face down. That's the information barrier.
We can go further and incorporate both information barriers into one effect. Here is my elaboration on the Lu Brent effect. I call it The Trick That Tnkes Forever to Explain. Prior to performance, pencil dot, or otherwise mark two diagonally opposite corners of any known card. Force tliis card on a spectator. Hand him the deck so that lie can bury the selection while re ¡n his own hands. Have him shuffle. Finally, instruct the the ^ws a ^ ^ deck inlo lwo roughly equal piles. spec*10/ !°sP«ad rhe two halves face down, one above the other. As you gibbons^ jocation 0f the marked force card. Tell the sofctsr™ ,1,., do so.
y»1' WJjtfroni. His answer determines what happens next. If he chooses thC itf that doesn't contain the force card, tell him that you want him to lHi an indicator card. Have him remove any card. You then gather up j^restofthe spread and discard it. Have the spectator turn his indicator
^^lfnow remains only to somehow get to the selected card in the remain-half using the indicator card. If the selected card is near either end of 'if spread, you can spell the suit of the indicator card, spell the value of h indicator card, or count rhe value of the indicator card from that end of h-spread. (If you spread the cards from your right to your left, working from either end will look natural. Working from the bottom up will look natural to the audience because you'll be working from left to right from "heir perspective. Working from the top down will look natural if you first ha« the spectator scoop up rhe cards and hold them in dealing position as he counts or spells.)
Alternatively, if the selected card is more or less centralized, instruct the spectator to insert his indicator card face up somewhere in the spread. The card can't end up all that far from the selection. Indeed, he may insert it right next to the selection. If not, you can spell or count the value and/or suit of thc indicator card to arrive at the selection.
Finally, since you forced the selection, you can use its own identity to arrive at it. Your patter might run as follows: "You've made two decisions. You selected a card earlier. You also chose to insert your indicator card at exactly this point in the spread. We'll use both of those choices to arrive at a card. I'm going to spell the value of the card you chose earlier, counting one card for each letter. And I'll start at the point at which you inserted the indicator. [Illustrate the procedure with a fictional example.] By the way, what was the value of the card you chose?"
Of course, when you initially ask the spectator which half he wishes to choose a card from, he may, instead, pick the one containing the selec-Qon. In this case, discard the other half. Have the spectator touch the back 0 a card in his chosen half. He might, of course, touch the selected card, ln casc> it's "Miller Time." Otherwise, depending on how close the c c card is to the selection, you either instruct him to turn the card select a card and ask him which half he wishes to choose
In connection with information barriers we can provid for applying the conservation principle: Don't reveal that you a"°,hcr r^ of information if doing so will put the audience on the patl/tT? *pir" method. In other words, don't destroy what the audience percci ***> information barrier jusr to get another round of applause. ^10 ^ an
In José Carroll's Suit Appearance, a spectator selects any one f aces. You then proceed to produce the remaining twelve cards f u °Ut in a variety of flourishy and amazing ways. In reality, y0u must f aisu't ace that matches the suit you've previously stacked. Since the suit iTf* ^ you could add a kicker. At the start, hand the spectator a sealed e Xr the end, have him open the envelope and read the enclosed messa predict you will select the ace of hearts." '
This is a bad idea for several reasons. One is that the prediction isLj to register as an anti-climax. Another is that a mental effect (predicting doesn't really fit what is otherwise a demonstration of card control 'ft most important reason, however, is that the prediction would reveal thai you knew in advance which suit you would be called upon to produce That, in turn, would give the audience a clue as to how the effect is done Better to conserve your strength. Hide the fact that you knew which ace would be chosen, and get credit for being able to produce any suit at will.
Applying the conservation principle means that we don't destroy information barriers that help conceal the method. But we can go further and create information barriers to further conceal the method.
Let's continue with our example of José Carroll's Suit Appearance. The spectator must select one of the four aces. In fact, the ace is forced. Let's assume the force ace is hearts. You might lay out the aces in a face-up row and force the heart by means of equivoque.
No matter how well you handle the equivoque, an astute spectator might, in retrospect, ask himself whether, in narrating the multi-phase selection process, you might not have been following a hidden agenda. In other words, he may suspect that you steered things in the direction of the ace of hearts (which, of course, you did). After all, you could clearly see where the ace of hearts was. You made up the rules. And forcing a particular suit would make the trick easier for you.
Suppose instead that you place a subtle crimp in the ace of hearts, one that^ou can see but the audience won't notice. You have the spectator mix
■ „, ¡n a facedown row. Sincc the crimp allows you to i them • J ...
£es an« d. yoU force it using equivoque |ust as before.
thc * ^ aCc °^ear^'ute spectator suspect that you steered the selection evcn an a ^ op hearts? How could you have? You didn't know . toward the aCC sc|cction must have been a free one, and you Wet p^uce any suit at will, ^really ^ appHcd to many effects. When analyzing an cf-
nlU -fl,fe conCCP|fCthese questions: What do I have to know to make the feet, ask 7°U . the audience realize that 1 know this? If the answer is ¿t *°rk? Di Would the effect be a greater mystery if they thought I Is, ask yo»rsC' j g answer is again yes, consider how you might obtain the IiJn'tknoW? Jredy Finding a solution to that challenge can often produce
'"n ironclad m>f^mc more examp|Cs. Since mental effects center around Let's consi cr ^ naturaj that they provide a fertile field for the obtaining barriers. Consider the Ultra-Mental Deck type of concept ol m ^ ^ cffea in which, after a spectator thinks of a card, prediction- ^ previousjy predicted that card by reversing it in a j-ou show t tat y ^^ has any weakness, it's that the spectator has to tell deck. If this c a reveal vour prediction. This might suggest to cept of information w"«- -------
°n Tliis is the effect in which, after a spectator thinks of a card, show that you had previously predicted chat card by reversing it in ■» fthis classic effect has any weakness, it's that the spectator has to tc his card before you can reveal your prediction. This might suggest to the skeptical-minded that you did something after the card was named that allowed you ro show it reversed in the deck (which, of course, you did).
Removing and isolating the prediction card before you knew the spectator's card would eliminate that explanation. This thinking led me to create Do As I Did, which I published in Darwin Ortiz at the Card Table. Others have used different approaches to achieve the same goal. For example, more than one magician has come up with the idea of using a peek wallet co obtain secret knowledge of the spectator's thought-of card before reaching for the Ultra-Mental Deck. Whatever the specific method, putting your prediction card on the table while the audience thinks you still don't know chc spectator's choice places a massive brick wall squarely across the path to che correct solution.
Steve Bryant published an interview with Danny Orleans about the code inencalism act that he and his wife do. Bryant describes their method of adding an additional layer of deceptiveness" to disguise the fact that 'hevre using a code. "For example, Danny and Jan will sometimes com-inc their code work with a book test or psychometry. If there is no way or Danny to know what is being transmitted, how can it be a code?" That question perfectly sums up the conccpt of information barriers.
the performer could show any card in the second deck reversed 0c viewer, he'll think, "But Kreskin didn't even know what card the^t0a stabbed." It's even better than that, though. Because each method & ? ^ brick wall in front of the other method, neither method will evcn ^ the viewer.
This illustrates what I term the veils principle. Imagine that y0u a fine translucent silk veil. Although the veil is colored, if you hojj j 3Ve to the light you can see through it. Now imagine that you have several^ these veils. You can easily see through any one of them. If, however* °f superimpose two or three veils, one on top of the other, and hold them'QU to the light, they are now opaque. It's impossible to see what's on the oth ^ side. In the same way, you may build two or three conceptual barriers into one effect. An astute spectator might be able to see through any one of them. But when they're combined in one effect, they resist penetration
Telekinetic Timber is a small gaffed piece of wood that, if balanced on an object, will tip over after a few momenrs. If you simply demonstrate this item in its naked form, people may well suspect thar the block is somehow gimmicked. The only puzzle will be exactly how it works. One of the hest effects with a Svengali Deck is to force the card and cleanly lose it in the deck. Then hand the deck to the spectator and instruct her to deal cards until she feels like stopping. When she does, you show that she stopped at her own selected card. Unfortunately, the effect may lead some spectators to suspect that the deck is somehow gimmicked.
Both of these effects, by their very nature, bring heat down on the gaffed item. I've created an effect that I call Deadwood that solves this problem by combining the two gaffs as follows. Force the card on a spectator and lose it in the deck. Then introduce the block of wood, explaining that it comes from the coffin of a famous nineteenth century card cheat. You have found that he sometimes still manifests his card skills from beyond the grave through thc medium of the coffin fragmenr.
Balance the block of wood on something and instruct the spectator hZ wu S OT y T 3 Pile until shc reives some sign from the card ha? ; k !T • l0Ck °f W°°d faIls owr- P1** aside the card the spectator ™ '"«t moment. Show that, if she had stopped one card earlier e card 1 "i ' W°,Uld ^ a'rived ac a different ^. Then turn over thc £her sdection'idcmified from beyond heafZh^ottr v°P>al0ne?n CXPlain the mW> each one takes the other. You ve combined two veils to create an opaque mystery
1,6 1 Ch»P«« Conceptual Du.ancc where" ctator-
ther veil alone might have been too transparent to fool a perceptive
SpetSe classic Card to Wallet effect provides another example of the veil-i.wer of combining two methods. Magicians who've never performed inS ftect often waste a lot of time searching tor a wallet that can be cxam-thl5/ Maeicians who do perform thc effect know that no one ever asks to nethe wallet.
^ But why don't they? After all, the idea that the wallet might have a opening to facilitate inserting the card isn't so tough to fathom. 1 se(jr v£ ^t it's because the audience confronts two mysteries in Card to ¡r'llet How the card got into the wallet is only one of them. The other is hoi- the card traveled from the deck to your pocket. Each mystery obscurcs the solution to the other.
If you doubr this, try this experiment. Have a card selected and signed. Openly place the card in your pocket. Perform a magic gesture. Then remove your wallet and show that the card is inside. This is not as farfetched "I it may sound. There is, after all, a legitimate magic effect here. The fact that the card was in the same pocket as the wallet doesn't explain how it ¡„side the wallet. The effect becomes one of penetration rather than translocation as in the standard Card to Wallet.
Can you doubt, however, that everyone seeing this effect will ask to examine the wallet? As soon as the only question is how the card got into the wallet, suspicion falls on the wallet itself.
Similarly, a straightforward Card to Pocket consisting of simply palming the card and pretending to pull it out of your pocket will get a good response from most audiences. But it may occur to at least some people that the card may have just been hidden in your hand (although they may marvel at how well you did it).
But when you combine the method of palming the card from the deck to the pocket with the method of a gaffed wallet, the two veils can't be penetrated. The fact that thc card travels invisibly from the deck to the pocket keeps people from suspecting the wallet. The fact that the card penetrates into the wallet keeps them from suspecting palming.
Nor do you have to limit yourself to only two veils. In my effect 'Ihe Showdown from Cardshark, a signed card ends up folded up inside a key case that has been under a spectator's hand since the effect began. This constitutes a single translocation effect, but it superimposes three veils. There ls thc mystery of how the card got folded. There is the mystery of how the Carct 80t 'nside the key case. Finally, there is the mystery of how the card
in the handkerchief. Or they would just figure it was trick ph0 Since, within the context of a TV commercial there was no otherwise, he might as well take the easy way out. Furthermore, tI° ^ probably had no interest in creating a magical experience for the vie 6 ^ simply wanted the effect to serve some dramatic purpose in t[le ^ of the commercial.) Afterwards, on a lark, Kaps decided to try the out on an audience of magicians. To his surprise, he fooled them pletely. It just never occurred to them that a magician of Fred Kaps' Sj°m~ would stoop to such an obvious method. status
By contrast, I'm sure he never would have fooled a lay audience this method. Common sense would have immediately suggested thi^ the most likely explanation. With a lay audience, even if you're using s S ^ really clever method to put a cigarette through a handkerchief, you'd b« ter take the trouble ro prove you don't just have a slit in the handkerchief. (Handing out the handkerchief for examination or using a borrowed one would set up airtight conceptual barriers to such an explanation.) This illustrates a fundamental difference between magician audiences and lay audiences: the obvious explanation is usually the last one to occur to magicians but the first one to occur to laypeople.
Of course, you don't want to waste time disproving theories that would never occur to the audience in the first place. (I believe that this is the sort of thing that A1 Baker had in mind when he advised, "Don't run when you're not being chased.") Here again experience performing for other magicians can be misleading. You'll often see a magician who is performing for a lay audience take great pains to disprove some explanation that would only occur to another magician. A good example is the guy who, before doing a bill transposition, insists on forcing the spectator to check all eight of the bill's indices.
1he hard part is identifying which false explanations are likely to pop into a lay audiences minds. Once you do, the appropriate conceptual barriers to disprove them will usually be obvious. If they may suspect that you're sliding cards up your sleeves, roll up your sleeves before you start. If they may suspect the deck is marked, have the card selected in such a way that you never see its back (for example, by means of a spectator peek).
How do you identify possible false explanations? 7be first step is to use aroundVnnrh°mm0n (ifit hasn'r completely atrophied from hanging XVCt erffma8lClanS)- Ask y°urself what would be the obvious way to acnieve the effect in question.
d step is to pay attention ro audience feedback. Admittedly, The secon ^ people out there and there also arc people who have there are som<.^no(:ional need to walk away from a performance believing stich a siron8jiat: happened that they'll convince themselves of the most they kn°vV , • So don't lose too much sleep over one individual who ^¿¡colons vou as an absurd explanation to one of your effects. If, offers what s ^^ one person suggests the same solution, no matter how however. mor^ mjght sound to you, take the time to eliminate it. silly the e^ect isn'c playing as strongly as you expected, ask people
If a cerCV ance how they think it was done. You might be surprised after the p jf ^g same theory comes up again and again, take steps to bythe awrong- The effect can't help but become stronger.
rrue that, as Al Baker wrote, "Some magicians always want to prove ethmg that the audience doesn't question." However, you do have to ^"cate yourself as to what sorts of things the audience is questioning. If e effect vou're performing has an obvious possible explanation, take the trouble to prove that explanation wrong.
Keep in mind that you can prove something without the audience realizing that your goal is to prove something. We should distinguish here between motivation, intention, and result. I'm using the word motivation here in the way an actor would, to mean your reason for doing something in terms of the outer reality of the effect. By intention I mean your real reason for doing it. By result I mean the effect your action has on the audience's thinking.
Suppose I hold up my hand and say, "Notice that my hand is empty." Both my motivation and my intention are to show my hand empty. Suppose instead that I gesture with my open hand toward some object as I say, "Would you please hand me that?" My motivation is to indicate the object, buc my intention may be to show my hand empty. In the first case, the result may be to suggest the possibility of palming to a spectator who mightotherwise never have thought of it. In the second case, the result may be to eliminate any suspicion of palming before it can even occur to the audience.
When I talk about proving or disproving I'm talking about your in-indiviLr m°Ttian iS " Prcsentaci°™l matter for you to determine U wTh T (IfJ h°WeVer' ^ °rdcr f°r effeCt t0 ^ster as a nothing w rr aUd.ienCe rcalize that y°Ur hand is enW. there is 8 °ng W'th Sa>"nS> Notice that my hand is empty") The impor-
ram thing is the intended result, to eliminate false exp|ana[io weaken all effect in the inind of the audience. °ns ^at
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