Preface ix

Introduction: The Wonder Years—Max Maven xi

Prologue.-The Limitations of Theory 1

Chapi er One: Attention-getting Devices 7

Getting the Mis Out of Misdirection 9

Tough Customers 35

Ricochet 40

Chapter Two: Travel Tales of Mr. Pip 43

Magic Ranch 4$

The Mind Movie 53

Fabricated 55

The Architect 59

Elizabeth III 64

Failureffects 70

Here and Not 77

The Pavlov Effect 88

Post-ultimate Rip-off 90

Counting Cards, Unnatural Rhythms and Other Problems 97

The Poltergeist Pack 100

Walk, Don't Run 105

Carpenters Revenge 107

Rubiks Card 112

Concerning Eye Contact 115

The Shrinking Card-case 119

Falling Pips 123

Ambi-tilt 129

The Two-second Card Fold 136

The Card in the Ringbox 141

Squeeze 149

All That Gliners 15 6

The Pip-eating Spider 157

The Origin of Originality 161

The Wondereverse 164

D£ja ReVurse 167

Breath Control 173

Master or Servant? 176

Chapter Three: The Tamed Card 179

The Creative Process 181

The Tamed Card 183

The Kickoff 202

Card Forcing 204

Confidence 206

Slow and Steady Wins the Race 209

Fictitious Danger 212

An Examination of Examinations 214

High and Low 217

The Family Three 222

Reset 225

Chapter Four: Presentations in Silver 229

Coins Across and Back with Interlude 231

Mud in Your Eye 243

When Tricks Become Transparent 248

Sweet and Sour Simplicity 254

Cigarette Through Quarter: a Handling 257

Counterfeiters Spellbound 263

Chapter Five: Group Encounters 269

Dealers 271

Date with an Inflatable Bunny 274

Rabbit Rouser 276

Practical Thinking 278

The Tobacco Exchange 281

Emotional Involvement 289

The Improved Hydrostatic Glass 291

Acting is Not Making Faces 294

Auto-link 297

The Paradox of Money and Success 300

The Ring, the Watch and the Wallet 302

The Three Pillars 316

Epilogue: Ouroboros 323

Tommy Wonder

WELL, here they are, The Books of Wonder. It has taken me longer than I ever imagined. Roughly seven years ago I bought my first computer with the sole purpose of being able to write these books; and now I am writing this introduction on my second computer. But before you think that for the past seven years IVe done nothing but sit day and night at the monitor, I'll admit that there were a few distractions along the way that required my attention!

In these pages you will find much of the material I worked out over the past twenty-five years. Although all the tricks and routines are described in detail, I hope you see them as things not to be done slavishly, without thought. Such a practice wont add much to your growth. I enjoy reading books of tricks, but never with the intent of finding new material to perform. I see such books as sources of knowledge, and occasionally even inspiration. Sometimes I look for the inherent structures beneath the tricks; sometimes I just read trick descriptions for the pure joy of it. My approach is like a painter taking pleasure in a book of art. I enjoy learning what my colleagues are doing. Maybe I can learn from this, gain new insights, inspiration to strive for a higher magic. But it would seem passing strange to our painter for him to look in art books for paintings to copy. Can you imagine: "I'm a real painter. I paint what others have painted before me." Or "Sure, I do copies. But, hey, I found the originals in an art book. For what other reason would my colleagues publish their work if not to teach me how to paint their paintings?" Yes, you can look at it in that way, even make a defense of a sort for the practice—but what poverty!

Anyway, my main intention is certainly not to teach you how to do my tricks. I want instead to show you through these examples how I solved certain problems, how I went about realizing what I had conceived inside the confines of my skull, and how I think, for whatever worth can be gleaned from it all.

IVe gained a lot through trying to understand the different ways other people think. Their approaches gave me ideas, opened up new areas of possibility, stimulated my thinking.

If something here performs these services for you, even if you totally disagree with my ideas, then you will be the richer for it and I'll feel these books have been of use. If these pages push you forward, great! If not, what a pity. I find it curious when people remark, "That's a great book! It describes exactly how I feel about things." I would find such a book not particularly worthwhile. Of course it will provide reassurance for your ideas, but apart from that it does little else. Progress is not always comfortable. Being pulled from your safe world often brings you more in the end. When something forces you to rethink what you thought was truth, this could very well be the moment doors are opened to further progress.

Attacking your own thoughts, killing dogmatic thinking; thats more needed than the safety of little rules, the comfort of having others think like you or for you.

These books have quite a few 'theoretical' bits and pieces. I hope you wont take them as gospel, turning them toward the cause of dogmatic thinking, but instead that you accept them as food for thought. Thinking and questioning dogma are practices that can bring us fresh growth.

The real purpose of these books is not to teach you tricks, nor to teach hard theoretical truths. I firmly believe magic can't be taught. It can be learned, but it can't be taught. How can I know what you need, what you should do, what you should think? The only way to learn is by thinking yourself. You have to think, you have to work, you yourself have to study and experiment. You are the only one who can do that for yourself. Don't believe those people who claim they can teach you. They can't make proper decisions or think for you, simply because they are not you. You must do it yourself; there is no other way. There are no short cuts to real results, no matter what some may try to make you believe.

Instead of mere teaching I hope my real intention is fulfilled; maybe not with many, but at least with a few readers: that these books help and stimulate them to think, to experiment, to discard, to embrace, to rethink, to hate, to love and to fight with magic. Push it around, up, down, forward and back, and—let magic do the same with you. Its an exhilarating process. Fascinating, interesting, exciting!

In this way you will surprise magic, and then—magic will surprise you!

Tommy Wonder 1996, Lisse, The Netherlands immtion:

by Max Maven

The Story of "Oh!"

UNDER duress I could come up with a list of my ten favorite stage magicians, and another of my ten favorite close-up workers. Only one name would make both lists, and it belongs to the subject of this piece.

Our story begins as all good stories do: Once upon a time there was a precocious four-year-old, who saw a magician on television. The performer brought out a metal pan, into which he placed some paper that he set on fire. He covered the flaming material, pronounced some mystic words, and when the lid was removed the pan was now filled with cookies.

"Oh!" thought the toddler, "This is the gig for me!"

Well, that's almost certainly not the exact phrase that went through his mind; for one thing, he was thinking in Dutch. But you get the idea—as did he.

The next day he went out into the yard behind his home, armed with a batch of paper and a pan commandeered from the kitchen, and set to work recreating what he'd seen.

Alas, the experiment was a failure; in several hours of labor, no cookies were produced. Instead, he got an angry lecture from his mother who, after sternly reminding him that he was not allowed to play with matches, went on to explain that the guy on TV had performed a trick—not real magic, but a theatrical illusion.

"Oh!" thought the toddler, "Well, it's still the gig for me!"

And indeed it was, for little Jos Bemelman grew up to be Tommy Wonder. He's now old enough to play with matches, and for that matter to do his own television performances; but we're getting ahead of our story.

It would be some time before the little tyke would gain access to any technical information, but the lure of the profession of fantasy endured even without external resources. In fact, two years later our protagonist devised his first original conjuring trick.

It will not be detailed here; frankly, it was not all that good. What is significant is that this rudimentary contrivance made use of misdirection, employing natural body movement to conceal a secret activity. To be sure, it was a relatively primitive form, but at the age of six this was an extraordinary accomplishment.

Just how a young child could instinctively grasp this sophisticated concept—one that has clearly escaped the understanding of many adult magicians—is a grand mystery. It tells us something about this person, who has gone on to earn a reputation as one of the true masters of misdirection.

Years went by, and Tommys interest in conjuring was distracted by other career possibilities: For a while he considered becoming an ice cream vendor, or perhaps a priest. It was at the age of ten that he finally got his hands on a magic book and was pulled back into the fold (although it can be argued that there are elements of both dessert and theology to be found in his work, as the following pages will show).

Clan des-teen

Now began a typical phase of performing for friends, then moving on to birthday party shows. In time, he discovered that there were magic shops from which he could order by mail, but because of his earlier experiences in self-reliance he quickly determined that the best investment was in books; props he could make himself. In this he was likely influenced by his fathers occupation as a craftsman making jewelry and repairing watches.

When Tommy was fourteen he saw a newspaper article that announced the formation of a youth group sponsored by one of the area magic clubs, and this provided an opportunity for interaction with others. However, then as now, his approach was rather iconoclastic. The magic club scene offered access to magic contests, which he used as an impetus for developing original material in the stage manipulation category. The feedback that he received from this involvement helped to build his confidence in his creative abilities.

As he won several of these contests, the Dutch magic community began to take notice of this innovative fellow. And of course, the predictable outcome was that he began to get cocky. "I thought that I could do magic perfectly," Tommy recollects. "I felt, well, I should be having as much success as the best—but I didn't. So, I thought, 'Whats wrong?"'

To seek a solution, after high school he left the small town of Lisse and moved to Den Haag, where he attended the Academie voor Podiumvormingfov three years. There he studied movement, dance and other theater skills. It was hard work; initially he found it difficult to apply what he was exploring to the magic he loved, but he persevered.

Upon completing his training he joined the Haagsche Comedie theater company, where for two years he appeared in small parts in their productions, occasionally managing to incorporate conjuring into a role.

To earn a modest income during this period, Tommy joined up with another young magician who was to go on to international prominence, Dick Koornwinder. Together they would sell Squirmles (the latter-day version of the classic mouse-pitch) on the street.

Cups and Kaps

Around this time Tommy entered the Plankenkans talent contest produced by a Dutch television network (the title loosely translates to "Stage Fever"). The act featured a highly unorthodox billiard ball sequence with startling instant color changes, climaxing with the production of a giant ball well away from any tables.

One of the judges was the magician whose shadow, even these many years after his death, still looms large over European magic, particularly in his native Holland: Fred Kaps. The young competitor felt quite intimidated, and was too shy to approach the famous three-time FISM champion.

It was only years later that Tommy learned from Kaps close friend Bob Driebeek of what transpired the week after the contest had aired. Fred called Bob and insisted that he come over to his home in Utrecht to watch the videotape. He told Bob, "You've got to see what this kid is doing!" (By the way, the kid won the contest.)

Wonder and Kaps did not get to know each other well in the ensuing years, but held each other in high regard. As with many magicians, Tommy found inspiration in Kaps's work, not in imitative terms but rather with regard to attitude and approach. He comments that Fred "had a certain quality, to give [magic] importance; a certain class. Sometimes, when I am working on a problem, I think, 'What would Kaps have done?'—and then usually its quite obvious."

By 1975 Tommy had moved back to Lisse and turned his attention to close-up magic. In part this was for purely pragmatic reasons: The greater share of professional engagements available for magicians in the Netherlands has long been table-hopping for corporate parties.

Among his topics of study at the time was the ancient mystery of the Cups and Balls, for which he composed an imaginative new scenario. For the benefit of those who have not yet seen it, the surprising twists in this routine will not be explained, except to mention that the routine relies on an audacious application of misdirection. A full explanation of it appears in Volume II of this work.

Tommy remembers that at first, "I was afraid, because I had the idea, but I thought, 'This is never going to work'—so, how could I be sure?" The solution was to develop multiple layers of misdirection, combining physical actions and psychological stratagems to yield a construction that was virtually guaranteed to deceive.

The cups routine debuted at a magic club meeting and garnered a powerful response. With his theories confirmed, he was ready to present the routine to a wider audience. He honed the Cups and Balls over many performances, and used it as the keystone of the act he entered in the close-up competition at the 1976 FISM in Vienna, Austria.

He did not win that contest, but obtained valuable exposure. One who was impressed was Emil Loew, the Dutch expatriate based in New York who arranged American lecture tours for many European magicians. Loew asked him if he'd like to bring his lecture to the United States in 1977. Tommy quickly agreed.

He returned to Holland and, as in fact he'd never done a lecture before, spent the next few months creating one. The lecture was enthusiastically received. During that first trip he also attended the Fechter convention in Buffalo, New York. I can recall the impact of that Cups and Balls routine, as over a hundred well-posted close-up workers found themselves utterly nailed, not once but several times, by this fellow we'd never heard of.

He returned to the U.S. the following year to do more lectures and appear at the PCAM convention in Los Angeles and the SAM convention in New York. Reviewing the former event in Genii, Bill Larsen jocularly described him as "disgustingly young and handsome," and his work as "astounding" and "splendid!"

The plaudits he received in the United States, in turn, helped build his reputation back at home. His renown was furthered in 1979 when he entered the FISM close-up contest in Brussels, Belgium. This time he was a prize-winner.

By now, he had discarded his stage act. Despite its acclamation by others, Tommy himself was quite dissatisfied. It was time to begin work on a new act.

Forward into the Past

In the mid-1980s, Tommy withdrew from the magic scene. He pulled back from lectures and convention appearances. Instead, he devoted himself to performing for the public.

He received a call from Het Curiosahuys, a restaurant with a medieval theme. Could he devise an act that would fit that premise? If so, they could offer him a long-term contract. Tommy came over to see the facilities. The conditions were problematic: The magician would have to work surrounded, competing for attention in a noisy, active environment.

After due deliberation he decided he could work out an act to meet their requirements; it would probably take about three months. The restaurant, however, had other plans; they wanted him to begin the following week! They agreed to split the difference. Six weeks later, the new stage act debuted. The act went over quite well with both the management and patrons of the restaurant. Tommy, on the other hand, was frustrated. However, the engagement furnished a chance to refine this new material during the course of several shows in a single night each week. That it also supplied a steady salary was also beneficial.

He kept the job for five years. During the first eighteen months the act evolved; he spent sixteen hours a day working on it. Gradually, what began as a deliberate period piece progressed into an act that is timeless.

The next three and a half years were devoted to polishing every tiny detail.

The fruits of this discipline are now known throughout the conjuring world. The act had its first major showing at the Den Haag FISM in 1988, where Tommy was once again a prize-winner, this time in the stage category.

As with his close-up, in the stage act he has delved into classic material and come up with radically new results. The basic ingredients are commonplace: The Orange, Lemon, Egg and Canary; the Zombie; and his beloved Cups and Balls. What he has transformed them into is astonishing.


No one who has seen Tommys act will look at Joe Karsons "Ball-on-a-Stick Trick" in quite the same way ever again. As Eugene Burger notes, "I think he does Zombie better than anyone on this planet. The cage is just floating, and you believe it! You believe it so much that you don't even care what kind of weird gimmick he must have!"

The act intertwines a charmingly poetic storyline, superb technique and, of course, misdirection. Tommy observes, "People underestimate misdirection. Sometimes, they use it wrong, so they try it and it doesn't work, and that proves' it doesn't work..." The ongoing career success of Tommy Wonder proves that it does.

Myth Direction

There is much to learn from Tommy Wonder. Prior to these twin volumes, his published work was limited: two sets of lecture notes (Original Magicfrom Holland in 1977 and Wonder Material in 1982), sporadic contributions to magazines (notably Fred Robinson's Pabular) and a book, Tommy Wonder Entertains, written by Gene Matsuura in 1983.

When asked what motivates his work, Tommy explains, "The psychology of magic I find very fascinating—how you can deceive someone, how you can put pictures in a person's mind. It's a world in itself, where the impossible is true."

The gateway to that world is something that Tommy refers to as Point Zero: "Where negative and positive meet; where reality and fantasy meet; maybe life and death, I don't know. Suddenly, you're at the other side, and you can go back, but at Point Zero you cannot stay. You can only go through it, because it has no time, no dimension. And that is what happens when you see a magic trick! It's like wha... and then quickly you go back to reality, because otherwise you might die. It's a very unusual experience, a very necessary feeling. A lot of art forms can bring you very close, but never pull you through it; maybe move you around it, but only with magic do you have this shock, as if you're turning inside-out."

Tommy Wonder continues to turn people inside-out in top venues from Monte Carlo to Tokyo. In addition, he has made numerous appearances on international television. Who knows? Somewhere there may be a precocious toddler who sees one of those performances, and thinks, "Oh! This is the gig for me!"

One could hardly ask for a better inspiration.

Max Maven 1996, Hollywood

0 0

Post a comment