The Watch Steal

David takes a coin out of his pocket and hands it to Freddie Jones, asking him to close his fingers around it. "Now put it behind your back like this." Freddie does as instructed, holding his fist clenched behind him.

David asks him to open his other hand and then hold it closed in front of his chest. "The trick is to try and get the coin from the hand behind your back without you feeling a thing and putting it in the hand in front of you." It sounds like a party trick. It also sounds impossible.

"I know it sounds ridiculous but that's exactly what I'm going to try and do. Can you feel the coin?" asks David.

"Yes," says Freddie.

"You can, of course."

Someone in the group giggles, perhaps sceptically. "I don't think they trust me. Look, show this hand empty one more time." Freddie opens the hand in front of him. It's definitely empty. "And show the coin in the other hand." He does. The coin is still there. "Close your hand and put it behind your back."

Any doubts as to the situation have been cast aside. If this is a party trick it looks like it's going to be a damn good one. "Show this hand empty one more time." Freddie opens the hand in front of him. It's empty. "I won't touch it," says David. Close it up now. Here we go."

Before he does anything else he offers Freddie a bet. "I know it sounds impossible but it can be done. Would you bet me a fiver that I can get the coin out of your hand without you feeling a thing and put it in the other hand without touching it?"

Freddie is no fool. He can feel the coin in his hand and offers David odds of five to one. "No need for that. We'll have an even bet, five pounds. Here we go. One, two three! Open your hand and give me the coin please."

Freddie opens the hand in front of him. You'd expect him to be amazed if the coin was there but he's even more amazed because the hand is empty. The trick has failed. "What happened? Have you seen this before?"

"No," says Freddie puzzled. This is the start of the show and things are not looking good.

"Aw, Freddie come on. Seriously, that's ridiculous. It's gone from the other hand hasn't it." Freddie opens the other hand. The coin is still there. There's a nervous laugh from the guests.

David asks Freddie to sit down. He admits defeat, something has gone wrong. "What did we bet, five pounds?" David sportingly reaches into his pocket, takes out a five-pound note and hands it over. "Well, that was very nice," says Freddie, not really expecting to have made a profit on the deal. "It wasn't," answers David, "I've done it many times before and I've always won."

There's an uncomfortable moment, a sense that this certainly isn't the way it should have turned out, David failing and Freddie five-pounds richer. "You look a bit nonplussed," says David, adding, "I'm not too concerned— you keep my fiver—I'll keep your watch!" He raises his hand, there hanging from his fingertips is a wristwatch. Freddie pulls back his sleeve, perhaps it's a joke. No, his watch really has gone and David has it in his hands. There's laughter and applause as desperately Freddie hands back the fiver in return for his watch.

David asks him to stand up again and tells him to put his watch back on. "Let me show you what happened. When we stood over here and I said put the coin in there, what I actually did was look to see what kind of watch you wore. Then I said put it behind your back and I took your watch while you were looking at the other hand."

In the time it takes to say this David has once again stolen the watch and is holding it up for Freddie to see. It's very fast and very impressive. "Put it in your pocket," he says, "it's safer in your pocket than on here," pointing to Freddie's wrist. They sit down again at the table and David performs his Magicians Choice routine, successfully predicting which of two items would be chosen. At the end he says, "By the way Freddie, don't you want your watch back?" Sure enough David has his watch once more.

Revelations: The technique used to steal the watch in this party stunt is the same as that used in David's pickpocketing routine but the timing is different. It is to some extent improvised, varying according to the circumstances, the reactions of the volunteer and the audience. But beneath the improvisation is a well-structured technique for stealing the watch.

The method described here applies to watches with the conventional buckle and strap fastening, exactly like that worn by Freddie Jones on the show. Let's assume that the volunteer has the coin in his left hand. David stands opposite the volunteer and when he tells him to put his closed hand behind his back he grasps the volunteer's left wrist with both his right and left hand. The right on top and the left below the volunteer's wrist.

David's left fingers or thumb quickly push the end of the watchstrap back up through

the loop (single or double) until it bulges out. The first illustration shows the view from below the volunteer's wrist. In David's opinion this is potentially the most difficult part of the steal because it may be a new or extra tight strap.

He never completes the steal at this point. The watch will be undone and stolen in stages, the number of stages entirely dependent upon circumstances and the amount of byplay with the volunteer. For now, let's assume that the volunteer puts his hand behind his back as requested and David steps well away and announces that he will make the coin disappear and reappear in the volunteer's other hand. The volunteer still has his watch and doesn't realise that anything of importance has happened.

As per the presentation already described the volunteer is encouraged to check if the coin is still there. He brings his hand to the front, opens it and sees the coin. David approaches him for the second time and closes the volunteer's hand around the coin. He briefly grips the volunteer's wrist as before and once again pushes his hand behind his back. As he does, David uses his left fingers to pull the bulging strap free of the loop. The second illustration shows an exposed view of the watchstrap at this point. During this byplay the audience are wondering whether David has stolen the coin away. No one is thinking about the watch.

The volunteer is asked to bring his hand forward once again to check that he still holds the coin. He won't notice his part-opened watchstrap, which may, in any case, be covered by his jacket sleeve. The only thing holding the watch in place is the buckle pin, which is still through the hole in the strap.

Just before he pushes the volunteer's hand behind his back, David again goes to work on the watch. His left finger and thumb pull the strap away from the pin so that it doubles back on itself. The left forefinger then pushes the pin clear of the strap so that it is wide open. At this stage the buckle is effectively unfastened. David's left forefinger, pressing against the

underside of the strap is all that is keeping the watch from falling from the volunteer's wrist. With the tension of the strap maintained, the volunteer has no inkling that the buckle has been opened.

If David were to pull the watch from the volunteer's wrist now, it would be felt as the straps of the watch brushed against his wrist. Instead, he firmly pushes the volunteer's arm down with his left hand, his stationary right hand retaining the watch. The greater movement covers the steal and the volunteer feels nothing amiss. He places his hand behind his back as previously instructed.

David momentarily leans towards the volunteer during the action and smoothly drops the watch into his right coat pocket. This rapid disposal of the watch is a skill worth acquiring. It leaves the hands empty and convinces the volunteer that no trickery has taken place. Throughout his magical career David has been using his pockets as impromptu servantes. I don't mean placing the hand in the pocket to get rid of an article. I mean brushing the hand past the pocket and disposing of the object in that brief moment when the hand is directly above the opening. Providing the timing is correct, gravity will do the rest. That concludes the steal. The rest is presentation.

On the television show, David continued the routine by returning the watch to Freddie, asking him to put it back on his wrist. Then he "explained" how he had taken the watch. The nature of the routine made it obvious that it was somehow stolen rather than magically spirited away and the explanation gave the spectators a chance to appreciate the performer's skill. The steal was so fast that there was really nothing for them to see. All they could do was appreciate the astoundingly small time it took to part Freddie from his timepiece.

Having seen the trick twice, and thinking they understood something of its mechanics, the spectators were caught off guard. They were busy laughing and applauding when David told Freddie that his watch would be better in his pocket. To the casual viewer it seemed as if Freddie had put the watch in his pocket himself but in fact it never left David's grip. The watch was merely placed into Freddie's hand and David moved both hand and watch to the pocket. This was similar to the way he had previously directed Freddie to place his fist behind his back, gently but physically controlling the action. At the last moment it was David who placed the watch into Freddie's pocket though this was not obvious to the spectators. He let go of Freddie's hand, which everyone saw was now empty. David kept the watch palmed and by the time he turned around, and Freddie was on his way back to his chair, the watch was once again in David's pocket.

The routine has several distinctive Berglas traits. The "unexpected" failure; David hardly ever tells an audience what he is about to do. The repeat, which makes a simple stunt into something more spectacular. And his audacious handling of the third steal, which in this particular routine gave him a memorable finish. It's not what you do; it's what they think you do that matters.

The Art Of Cold Reading

The Art Of Cold Reading

Today I'm going to teach you a fundamental Mentalism technique known as 'cold reading'. Cold reading is a technique employed by mentalists and charlatans and by charlatan I refer to psychics, mediums, fortune tellers or anyone that claims false abilities that is used to give the illusion that the person has some form of super natural power.

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