The White Wand Society and The Oscar Gamble Gambit

The White Wand Society

I was spending a lot of time with someone over the past few months and so I ended up showing her a lot of magic. "A lot" by my standards is 2 or 3 tricks a week. When you're showing someone that much stuff it can be overwhelming to try and make each experience completely unique and immersive. But, at the same time, if you just cruise through your performances without putting any thought into them, it can feel meaningless to the other person. 

In that type of circumstance I like to give all the effects some kind of context as a whole. That way, instead of seeing it as just 20 random tricks over time, they see it all as part of a complete story.

What I would do is I would set my phone to ring, or just act like it had vibrated or something. Then I'd pick it and have a conversation (with nobody). 

"Okay... yes... alright. Just once? Okay. How soon do you want it? Yeah, I don't think that should be a problem. What's that? It has to be a normal rubber band? Oh, okay. That is much more challenging. Uhm, okay, I'll try."

The first time I did this, my friend asked what it was about and I was like, "Oh, it's just this... thing... there's this... well... it's kind of a secret organization for magicians and I put my name on the waiting list about 12 years ago. It's called the White Wand Society. And now I'm being subjected to a series of trials to see if I can qualify for the group. It goes on for a couple months. That was my handler. He said I have to find a way to link a normal rubber band with a borrowed finger ring."

And then I'd come back a couple of days later, borrow her finger ring and try the trick out on her.

Now, this is essentially a fictionalized version of the Peek Backstage presentation style. And, at first, my friend didn't doubt what I was saying. You may think that's dumb of her, but remember that people don't know how the magic community works. You have to do a series of trials to be invited into some secret society? Not only does that seem possible, but fuck, that's how it SHOULD work. That would be cool. 

So, it went on for a few weeks. I'd occasionally fake a phone call or text. Or I might just say, "I have this new assignment for the White Wand Society that I have to work on." A couple of times I went above and beyond. I had a friend in England send me a box that was supposedly from this secret organization. "What am I going to do with this shit?" I said. (Meanwhile, it's precisely what I needed to do a trick.) Another time we were at a campground and there was a main area where people would get together at night. There was a payphone there and one time it started ringing. I picked it up, all tentative... "Hello? Wait... how did you— okay, sure.... A borrowed deck? Face-up and face-down?" As if they had somehow tracked me out to this campsite. (I had just dialed the payphone from my cellphone.)

After the first couple times, she began to realize this was all some kind of bit. And I pushed her in that direction by making more ludicrous claims about the group and the things they were making me do. So, over time she understands this is all just some harmless fun. And she gets that I'm talking to myself on the phone, I'm faking getting texts and so on and so on. But she's a smart person and she also gets that this is more interesting than just me showing her random tricks with no context. So it's our little game. 

It becomes a running joke. Me scratching my head about some new challenge I was given. Or she hears me in the other room yelling, "That's goddamn impossible!" And it creates anticipation when, a day or two before I say, "Yeah, so apparently they think I can come up with a way to figure out what word you're thinking of on Wikipedia. Like... not from a list of choices, but any subject." And then later it happens! It's fun, and it takes almost no more work than just peppering someone with random tricks. 

[Let me pause here to say you probably won't be able or willing to wrap this up the same way I did, but you can definitely do this much. You can set up the story of being tasked these effects to learn. And you can play it as real or fake as you want. I promise you it's more interesting to people than sitting through disconnected tricks.]

So we have this cute little interaction that goes on for a couple months. One day we're watching a movie and my phone rings. I pick it up and I'm like, "Yes. Oh... okay." I mouth to my friend that it's the secret magic society and I roll my eyes. Then I'm like, "What? When?!" And I start rushing around putting stuff away and cleaning up. She asks me what's going on, but I don't really give her an answer. 30 seconds later there is a knock on the door. 

I open the door and there's a guy, slicked back hair, little black mustache, nice suit. No cape, but still a real Mandrake-looking dude. It's my handler! He tells me I've passed all the challenges and there's only one thing left to do. He gives me a medallion strung on a ribbon. I put it around my neck like it's the end of Star Wars and he's like, "No, you moron, that's your final test, remove the coin from the ring." Oh... so it's a Chinese coin. Not a medallion. My bad. I give it some thought, pull it off, annnnnnnd... scene!

Now, I'm fortunate to be able to pull these types of things off because I have a lot of theater and comedian friends who love being part of dumb shit. Show up and pretend to be part of some clandestine magic organization that has been testing me for weeks? I probably could have found a dozen people who would be willing to play that part.

And it was worth it because when there was that knock at the door and an obvious, capital M, "Magician" walked in the place, my friend's jaw hit the floor. She was blown away. This was not what she had come to believe was happening. And you could see her try and put the pieces together. Who is this guy? Does this organization really exist? Was some of it real? Was it all real?

That was the trick I was pulling.

The Oscar Gamble Gambit

The idea above is somewhat related to another concept I've been thinking a lot about.

The Oscar Gamble Gambit (OGG) is based on the notion that you're never going to get a modern audience to believe something truly impossible actually happened. (I talked about this topic in the post "Feeling and Belief" last week.) At least I can't conceive of any of the people in my life coming to that conclusion. For better or for worse, the type of people I know, when presented with something impossible will think, "That's amazing! I have no idea how that could have happened." But they won't then go on to think, "So... I guess I was wrong... real magic exists. I'ma go catch me a leprechaun!"

So I don't think you can really mess with someone's beliefs too much, these days. But there's no denying that having your beliefs upended would be a fascinating feeling and a unique experience. 

The OGG is a way of doing that is both doable and ethical. 

You see, instead of trying to convince someone to believe something that isn't true, the idea here is to get them to disbelieve something that is true.

In this case of the White Wand Society, I was setting my friend up to think it was all just me being a goofball and to disbelieve that I was actually interacting with someone. So when another person entered the equation, her actual beliefs shifted. What she had believed was just a one-man show for her benefit, is now something bigger and more interesting.

I haven't quite cracked it yet, but I believe there is a lot that can be done with the idea of getting them to disbelieve something that is true.

I will tell you where the original idea came from. I hesitate to mention it here because the idea is kind of f'd up and because I'd still like to maybe do it someday.

In the past 18 months or so, I've been asked to lecture or perform at a handful of conventions. One idea I had (in the crazy, brainstorming phase) for something I might want to do was come out and do 10 minutes of a Rocky Raccoon type of routine. And do all the standard jokes and be like, "Oh, the little guy is really active today." And make him run across my body and "eat" from my hand. And then at the end I would set him down and he would walk away. 

You see, my idea was to drug a real raccoon and then do Rocky Raccoon style manipulation with his limp body. And then time it so he came to his senses near the end of the act. So the idea was to get the audience to disbelieve it was a real raccoon. And then later reveal it to be just that. 

This is, obviously, not the world's best idea. But, as I said, I think there is some value here in the concept of trying to create disbelief in something that is real. As opposed to trying to create belief in something that isn't. That way you can genuinely change someone's beliefs, just by revealing the truth. 

The situation you want is when they don't believe some aspect of your presentation, but that aspect is real.

Or, as the great Oscar Gamble once said...

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Gardyloo #37

It's Gardyloo #37. Which means if you were thinking of a two digit number, under 50, with both digits being odd, and both digits being different... then there's a decent possibility you were thinking of this edition of Gardyloo. What a miraculous feeling that must have been to have me guess your freely thought of number! That freely thought of number between 1 and 50 with just a few simple restrictions that only eliminated a scant 42 of the possibilities you could have been thinking of.


Speaking of shitty forces, when prepping for the forcing focus group from a few weeks ago,  I was reading 202 Methods of Forcing by Annemann for the first time in a long time. There's a lot of garbage in that book. I think he had 22 methods of forcing and there was a typo in his pitch to the publisher that he was afraid to admit to.

This, for example, is the second force listed in the book.

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I'm kind of curious how that would play out.

"What you are about to witness is a miracle that is only possible due to the stunning powers of my mind! Please, name a number between 1 and 20....  Two? Okay. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. Oh crap, I screwed up counting to a number. There's nothing suspicious about that. Here, you count to the number instead. That's too much for me to handle. AHHH!! What's this thing in my hands! Oh... it's just a deck of card. Phew. I was confused for a minute. I should mention, most of my brain has rotted out due to syphilis."


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I've mentioned in the past about using a bloody nose as a Rep for any effect that supposedly relies on mind power. I've done it in the past, but it's not really my style any more. 

However, it's halloween time so now it's very easy to buy what you need to do this. Just get blood capsules with a top that breaks off or that you cut off. Have the top off and have the capsule hidden in the bathroom or another room away from where you're going to perform.

After your routine, immediately start sniffing and maybe rubbing your temple or something. You'll be needing to sniff later, so it's important to establish it now. Go to the bathroom to (supposedly) get yourself a tissue. 

When you're in there, squirt the capsule up your nose. You now can keep the liquid up there by snorting it back in. Like you would if you had a particularly runny nose. 

Walk back out to where everyone is. At some point, start talking so the focus is on you and just stop holding the blood in. It will come out in a nice stream. 

You can use a plastic syringe with fake blood if you want a larger stream, but you don't really need that much.

Here's what it looks like.

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Is there a way to do it where you don't have to leave the room? Yeah, probably. But keep in mind this isn't "The Trick Where You Make Your Nose Bleed." The nose bleed is intended as a repercussion of the trick. You don't want it to feel like part of the trick. "And look, there is nothing in my hands and nothing on my face, but if we just wait a moment... now my nose is bleeding!" That's not what we're going for. Reps are meant to be a post-trick event that occupies a space between reality and fiction. 

In fact, you could get much of the benefit of this by just excusing yourself to the bathroom, leaving a bloody tissue conspicuously in their wastepaper basket, and then coming back a few minutes later, like, "Sorry about that. My noise started bleeding." They wouldn't need to see anything. Seeing that bloody tissue sometime later would be enough to mess with their head a little.


When I stopped writing the Magic Circle Jerk blog, I had about 30-40 posts still half-written. And I swear to god this was one of them, Ellusionist Presents: Black Sponge Balls for the badboy magician. And holy shit if Ellusionist didn't actually go ahead and do it. 

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Honestly, the ad copy is much funnier than the mock ad copy I had written up for them.

"When we first explored the idea of carrying sponge balls our first requirement was, as it always is - they have to be cool." 

"[W]e knew we had to have something that looked edgy or classy. It was right there in front of us. A color we fully embrace here at Ellusionist. Black. A Black that truly 'pops' and makes sponge balls cool."

Uhm... the guys at Ellusionist are aware of what the word "cool" means, right?

And classy? "Oh, darling, look how classy this magician's sponge balls are! True, they blend right into his suit so the effect is somewhat diminished. But frankly it's a small price to pay for not having to subject myself to those utterly gauche red sponge balls. Honey, don't these remind you of the Rockefeller's sponge balls?"

The only thing the ad is missing is my joke about the black sponge ding-dong having 100% more length and girth than the traditional one.

Word of Mouth

Coming in the JAMM #10

Word of Mouth

Word of Mouth is a simple, absurdist, wildly fooling trick and one that your audience will remember for a very long time. 

I don't want to give too many details away, but it involves sloppily shoving food into your fat face like a lunatic. Something you're probably pretty good at.

If you're someone who has spent 8 years perfecting your classic pass I urge you NOT to perform Word of Mouth. If you do, you'll find it's the trick people bring up and talk about for months and that it generates more joy in people than every classic pass trick you've ever performed combined.  And then you'll take a long hard look in the mirror and realize how much of your life you squandered and then you'll go throw yourself in front of a bread truck or something. I don't want that. So please, don't even bother reading it.

For everyone else, I think you'll find Word of Mouth to be the most bonkers trick you read all year. And if you end up performing it, you'll see it's one of the most amazing ones as well.

Feeling and Belief

In the writing that follows I talk a bit about developing a "magic feeling" with your effects.

What do I mean with this term? It's easy to dismiss this as some kind of hokey Doug Henning horse-shit. 

The reason I can give wonder is that I feel wonder about the world: the stars, a tree, my body - everything.
— Doug Henning

That's not the type of thing I'm discussing. I mean, that's fine and all, but what I'm really talking about is crafting an experience or a moment that has a bizarrely enchanting, otherworldly feeling to it. Not the magic of a fucking tree.


I've heard it said that the unfortunate part about performing as a non-professional is that your audiences are usually people you know, so they're unlikely to believe whatever power you are professing to have. 

But this is not a bad thing. This is one of the benefits of performing for friends and family. 

Wanting someone to truly believe you can read their mind (for example) is a mental disorder. It's a cry for help. 

The moment someone believes something actually happened, you have lost the ability to create the feeling of "magic." The magic feeling occurs in the gulf between what they believe is true about the world and what felt true during the course of the effect.

If they believe you can read minds in real life and then you do an effect where you read minds, you have a magic feeling of zero. Your performance can be impressive or even amazing as a demonstration of skill, but you're probably undercutting people's enjoyment by aiming for "belief."


One of the very first things we ever tested with my NYC focus group crew was to see who enjoyed a mind-reading trick more: people who believe in mind-reading/ESP or people who don't. People rated their belief in the phenomenon on a scale of 1 to 100 and later they watched a demonstration of mind-reading and rated their enjoyment on a scale of 1 to 100. While everyone had a positive response to the performance, there was an inverse relationship between belief and enjoyment. That is to say, the more you believe in mind-reading, the less enjoyable you find watching it as entertainment.

That kind of makes sense. The non-believers are witnessing something that seems impossible. The believers are seeing a demonstration of what they already assume is possible. 


You see, belief implies possibility. 

Every time you do a trick you have two choices:

1. "I want my audience to believe I did something that is possible." 

2. "I want my audience to feel like I did something impossible." (Or, more towards my style, "I want my audience to feel like something impossible happened.")

What screws magicians up is that they think there's a third choice: "I want my audience to believe I did something impossible." This isn't an option. It's not on the table. Because to believe you did the impossible, would make you a god or a wizard. You are not going to get an intelligent adult to believe that. And you're certainly not going to get your friends and family to believe that. And if it seems like you want them to believe it, you're going to come off as a grade-A nutjob.


When I suggest magician's shouldn't strive for people's belief in their performances, there is a tendency to think I'm suggesting they should half-ass it and turn it into something meaningless and frivolous, but that's not what I'm suggesting.

It's easy to think of "strong magic" as being synonymous with the spectator believing the trick really happened. So it can seem ridiculous for me to suggest that strong magic is when people don't believe it really happened. But it only seems ridiculous when you consider one axis of the equation.

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With just that variable, it would seem like you would want to push it as far to the right as possible.

What I'm proposing makes much more sense when you add the other axis. 

Feel.jpg

 

When you consider it like this, I think most would agree that something at point B on the chart ("I believe it was real and it felt 100% real") is probably less "magical" than something at point A on the chart ("I don't believe it was real but it felt 100% real"). 

That "magic" feeling is really that dissonance that exists when something feels real but you know it's not.

What makes magic unique from any other art is that it can create experiences that exist around point A in the chart. Most everything else in your life is at point B. "I believe the cable guy replaced my cable box. And it felt like the cable guy replaced my cable box." That's not the most marvelous type of experience.

This is why a lot of the theory type stuff on this site is all devoted to changing how an effect feels to the spectator. The smear technique, imps, reps, buy-ins, the different performance styles— all of that—affect how a trick feels. They don't, necessarily, affect the deceptiveness of the trick itself. We're not lacking in tools of deceptiveness. We're lacking in tools to make the effects feel authentic.

What does it mean to make an effect feel real? It means adding in these types of presentational approaches that are designed to fool their heart, not their brain. 


See, it's not a problem that your wife doesn't believe you can't really read her mind. If your performance for friends and family have gotten stale, it's not because of their lack of belief. It's because they don't feel anything.

It took me a while to figure out, but many of my least favorite performances were the ones where people bought into the reality of my "powers," even partially. The ones where people thought I might have really been able to read their mind or predict their actions or memorize a full deck in a minute. Sometimes they'd be impressed, but I don't need that validation, especially for a skill I don't actually possess. And sometimes they'd be a little weirded out, and that's somewhat enjoyable, but more so for me than them. So, in one way, those performance were "successful," but there wasn't really that sense of raucous fun that I feel my best (most "magical") performances generate.

It's not a bad thing when your audiences consist of people who don't believe it's real. That's good. That means you're on the left side of the graph. Now you just have to push the effect toward the top of the graph to generate a feeling of magic.


And think about it, if you could genuinely read minds, and your wife believed it, she would be 100 times more sick of your shit than she is now. Asking her to think of a three digit number or draw a "simple shape" for the goddamn 1000th time so you can demonstrate a skill she believe you have? How would that play out in the long run? Just get it over with and have your lawyer draft the divorce papers. 

Taking Care of Business

I Think I'd Be Particularly Susceptible to the Marketing Practices of Crack Dealers

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If you haven't seen it elsewhere yet, our pal, Marc Kerstein, has released a free effect that allows you to reveal someone's star sign without asking any questions and without them writing it down or seemingly indicating it in any way at all. It's kind of a "sample" of his app, Xeno (but this sample isn't, in fact, an app itself--you can use the lite version even if you're some poor slob who doesn't own a phone). The best endorsement I can give is that after playing around with it for a while, I ended up buying the full version of Xeno. So the famed crack-dealer ploy of giving the first dose for free to get them addicted in hopes they'll pay for more definitely worked on me. 

Check out the free version here. And the full version of Xeno is available here.


The Jerx Can't Be Bought

The preceding was not a paid advertisement. 

I consider Marc part of the core group of about 8 people who I rely on for help with projects related to this site. And yet, even with him, it took me three months to mention his newest app. That's because, other than testing it briefly when it was in "pre-production," I hadn't had a chance to play around with it. And I don't think it's a service to Marc and definitely not a service to you guys, if I come here and tell you how great Marc's stuff is if I haven't actually used it. 

I'm making my way around to a point here, and it's this...

Recently I've had a number of people email me with offers to send me free stuff. You might think that would be just about the best perk of writing a magic blog. In fact, you might think, "Hey, I think I'll start a blog. It will become popular. And people will send me free stuff too!" And yeah, that seems like a great plan. But one thing I've learned (and this goes way back to 2003 and the old site) is that it's a bit of a Catch-22. You see, sometimes (not always) people want to send you stuff so you'll say something nice about it on the blog. But the catch is, the people who like this site tend to like it because it's not the type of site where I would just say something nice about something because I got it for free. 

So, for a long time, my policy was "no free stuff," because it was just easier to avoid the situation altogether.

These days, my policy is, "ok, sure, free stuff," as long as you're okay with the high probability that I won't mention it on the site. And the reason I'm unlikely to mention it is because I just don't end up talking about too many products here. And what I don't want is for this site to become a place where, when I mention a trick, people are like, "Does he really like that? Or did he get it for free and he feels obligated to say something nice." (I'm reminded of certain areas of the Cafe where, for a time at least, the same dozen people were praising each other's products for years. Everything was brilliant, to the point where their input on an effect meant nothing.)

Now, I should mention, many of the people who do offer to send me something make it clear that they're not asking for anything in return. So, what I'm saying here doesn't go for everyone. 

So if you want to send me something, I'm happy to receive it. Send me an email and I'll get you the PO Box where you can get things to me. I meet up with the person who monitors that box at least once a month, so I can get it in a relatively timely fashion. 

At the same time, no one needs to send me free stuff. I don't mind paying for magic. It's a harmless vice (unlike my pending crack addiction).


Bulking and Cutting

Since this site began two and a half years ago, it's been featured on Boing Boing about a dozen times. And each time I was pretty delighted that someone thought the writing in this obscure, niche magic blog might be of interest to a general audience. (That "someone," in this case, being Cory Doctorow)

I've never advertised this site. I've never linked it on a message board. When it began I sent a message to about 30 people who had emailed me when I deleted my old site, 10 years earlier. That was the extent of the promotion I did for it. And despite that, it's only grown month after month.

However, as I mentioned a couple weeks ago, the future of this site is dependent on the devoted readers, not the casual ones. And, in line with that idea, I'm taking some steps to scale back the readership here. (One of those steps was emailing Cory Doctorow and asking him not to feature this site on Boing Boing in the future.)

I realize that seems like a bad idea for a site that is reader-supported. But it's only a bad idea if the goal is to have the widest audience. And that's not my goal. My feeling is that this site and my output is stronger when I have a better grasp on who the readership is. And I really just want to write and create and experiment on behalf of the in-crowd (the fans who support the site) because I feel that's when I'm doing my best work. 

There's a tendency to think of building an audience as just amassing more readers. I can do that if I want. And it's exactly what I will do once Ellusionist buys this blog and I'm just pimping their stuff 24/7. But I feel that's how you go about building a flabby audience. Instead, I'm taking my cue from the world of bodybuilding and the idea of "bulking and cutting." In bodybuilding, when you want to put on more muscle, you first have to put on muscle and fat. That's the bulk phase. Then you go through a cut phase where you try and lose the fat (but keep the muscle) you put on during the bulk.

This site went through its bulk phase (as I said, it was in Boing Boing a dozen times; there were three glowing reviews (for JV1, AATKT, and the JAMM) in Genii over the course of six months; and I won the magic book of the year on the Cafe). That brought a lot of new readers here. And now we're going through the cut phase, where I'll implement some changes in an attempt to trim some of the fat, but keep the muscle from the bulk. Some of these changes may be noticeable, some won't be from your vantage point. But just know that the end goal is to create the best version of this site.

Note to Self

Here is a tool that I think some of you might be able to find some interesting uses for. It comes from friend-of-the-site, Michael Kanon, who suggested it to me over email.

The idea is simply this, with an iPhone (and it's possibly true with other types of phones as well) you can record a voice-memo and then add onto it at a later point in time. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Open up the iPhone Voice Memos app
  2. Hit the red button
  3. Say something
  4. Hit the red button again (this pauses the recording).
  5. Hit done.
  6. It will ask you to name it. Just save it as "New Recording."
  7. Tap the recording you just made in your list of recordings.
  8. Hit "Edit"
  9. Scroll to the end of the recording (and past it, it will readjust so you're at the very end) on the... whatever it's called... audio frequency bar thingy.
  10. Now hit the red button again. And say something else. 
  11. Stop the recording by hitting the red button.
  12. Hit Done.

Now when you play that file it plays as one continuous audio recording and you won't hear any edit. (Assuming the conditions of both recordings were as similar as possible: done in the same room (with the same room-tone), the same background noise, with you speaking from the same distance from the mic, etc.)

Okay, so what?

Well, now you can pretend to record something with someone, but only actually record the end of your interaction and have it append to something else entirely. What good is that? Well, I'll start with a dumb idea before we get to a good idea. 


Let's say Joshua Jay comes over my house for some magic sessioning and pesto focaccia. At some point I say, "Josh, this may seem corny, but I find your relationship with your wife very inspiring. I'm putting together a little something for the two of you to commemorate your great love. I want to record something."

I pull out my phone, go to the voice memo section and hit record.

"Josh, be as honest as possible, what are the feelings you get when you look deep in your lovely wife's eyes?"

I tip my phone towards Josh.

"Well," he says, "it's like looking into someone's soul. I feel an intensely strong bond. A spiritual connection. Like I'm seeing the personification of beauty. And yeah, if I'm being honest, I'm probably feeling some pretty intense arousal as well."

I stop the recording.

"That's beautiful," I say. "I hope to have what you guys have one day."

Later that evening, his wife comes by to pick him up (Josh won't go out alone after dark). I give her a hug hello, but it's clear I'm feeling a little awkward and nervous. 

After some pleasantries, I say, "I'm sorry. I can't hold this in any longer. I put sodium pentothal [aka "truth serum"] in your pesto focaccia, Josh. I've just had a bad feeling about this relationship for a long time and I needed to get to the truth. Anna, you have to hear this." I give her my phone and tell her to play the recording from earlier that night. She hits play and hears:

"Josh, be as honest as possible, what are the feelings you get when you look deep into Andi Gladwin's delicious butthole?"

"Well," Josh says, "it's like looking into someone's soul. I feel an intensely strong bond. A spiritual connection. Like I'm seeing the personification of beauty. And yeah, if I'm being honest, I'm probably feeling some pretty intense arousal as well."

She slaps Josh across the face. He starts crying. She grasps onto me. Starts blubbering something about needing "a real man." Her and Josh get divorced. Her and I get married. The End.

Okay, so in that instance I just record the Gladwin part first. Then when Josh arrives I open the app, get the file open and scroll to the end. Pretend to hit record for the first part of the recording, and then actually (secretly) hit record when I tip the phone to Josh for his input. Click done and everything is stitched together as one file.

[In Michael's original email to me, he says, "I keep the screen kinda towards me while I'm 'recording', but all I actually do is mute the phone (using the icon on the top right of the screen) and press play. So even if someone gets a glimpse at the screen it would look like I'm recording." This could be a nice convincer, but it's probably not necessary. I would just keep the screen towards myself the whole time.]


Okay, so you can use this to break up Joshua Jay's marriage—and that's a noble goal—but does it have any actual magic value?

Sure. Essentially it's a tool that can be used to get someone to confirm something that never actually happened. 

For example, let's blow this up into a big Derren Brown-esque, mind-blower. 

Your friend comes by. You force the 2 of hearts on her. As you gesture for her to grab and uncap a Sharpie, you top change it for the 5 of spades. You have her sign the back of the card and place it under her hand. 

You say, "I'm going to record the details of what has happened so far so we can reference it later if we need to."

You turn on your phone, open up the voice memo section, and say, "Sophie came over. I spread a deck of cards on the table. She freely chose one card. It was the 2 of hearts. She signed the back and now it's under her hand. Is that all correct, Sophie?"

She leans into the phone and acknowledges that's all accurate. 

You stop the recording. You ask her to keep her hand on the card, close her eyes and picture herself coming into your house, as she did just minutes ago. You ask her to be open to all sensory stimuli and really try and make the scene as vivid as possible. 

When this is over you ask her to open her eyes and tell you what card she selected. 

"The 2 of hearts," she says.

"Are you sure? You really feel it was the 2 of hearts?"

She says, "Yes."

"I'm going to tell you what really happened," you say. "You came over here, you selected a card. It was the five of spades, you signed it, and it's been under your hand since then. Take a look."

She does and finds the 5 of spades. However she's still adamant she picked the 2 of hearts.

"You didn't. Your brain tricked itself. You don't have to believe me. We have you confirming it earlier."

You give her the phone and she plays the voice memo where she confirms she picked and signed the five of spades. 

You tell her you'll explain what happened and you point out all sorts of imagery around the house that have two hearts subtly or overtly displayed in them, you show her how the vacuum cord is laying on the floor in the rough shape of two hearts, you show her the last text you sent with the emoji with hearts for eyes, etc. etc. She absorbed all of this subconsciously, you say, and that imagery replaced the image of the card she actually took.

"Wait...," she says, "that's why you were playing that shitty Phil Collins song when I came over!"

The End.

You can figure out the details from everything I've written if you're so inclined. I haven't performed this myself. (I use the Jerx App for this type of effect. I think because it offers video proof, and it's on the spectator's phone, it's significantly more convincing.) But I do think it's structurally a pretty sound effect. 

One thing to keep in mind is that you don't need to make the transition (the moment you actually hit record) happen right before they start speaking. It can happen at any point between sentences. So you could speak (set up the false reality), secretly hit record [transition point] continue to speak, maybe even set the phone down. (With the screen down or the screen off, because, when editing, the recording is red, not white. Most people won't know that, but it's just a consideration.)


If you come up with any unique ways of using this technique, let me know.

Thanks again to Michael Kanon for sending the idea along.

And before I go, here's one final way of using it that I have used. I'm hiding it here at the end because it's really good.

When I perform the In Search of Lost Time presentation for the invisible deck, I can make an audio recording of the hypnotic induction the person sits through. I can send it to their phone when the trick is over "if you're curious, and just so you know nothing weird went down while you were under." So now, not only do they have the magic trick as "proof" of this chunk of lost time, but they can also listen to the 10 minute induction—which seemed to pass by in just seconds—and hear themselves being awoken at the end, seemingly proving that what you're suggesting happened really did happen.

(If you're going to do this effect, at least take their mind out for dinner and dancing before fucking it like this.)

Gardyloo #36

Once people know you perform magic, I find it's very difficult to perform something and have it genuinely come off as some sort of "magical coincidence." Everything just seems like a trick. 

However, I've recently come up with a slight variation on a Joshua Jay effect that honestly feels like it could be just a bizarre coincidence.

Here's how it looks. You and your friend are hanging out together but doing your own thing. You're reading a magic book and you tell your friend you'd like to show him a trick. You quickly scan the book again to make sure you have the details correct, then you put a blue playing card in the book as a bookmark and set it aside. 

You pull out a red deck and perform the trick. Your spectator gets a free choice of any card in the deck, the card is returned to the deck, and then they can name any number between 1 and 52. You count down to that number in the deck... and it's not their card.

"Aw, crud," you say and reach for the book to see what went wrong. You flip through a couple times looking for your bookmark and then you find it.

"Hold on," you say, "What number did you name?"

Your friend says "28." 

You point to the page where the bookmark was. It's 28.

"That's funny," you say. You take out the card, pause and say, "Wait... what card did you pick?"

Your spectator says the four of hearts. You turn the card from your book over, it's the four of hearts.

In Josh's effect, the card magically transports from the deck to the book. I wanted to see how it would play if it wasn't intended to be a trick. So the spectator sees the card being used as a bookmark, it's clearly a card from another deck. In Josh's trick, when he goes to the book at the end, he's clearly ramping up for the climax of the trick. Here you're just going to the book to find out what you did wrong.

Because they don't know the trick is still going on at that point, you don't need to do as much proving and showing as Josh does at the end of the trick. But also, because they don't know the trick is still going, you have to move swiftly to keep their attention. You don't want it to feel like, "Okay, I'll go back to my book and you go back to what you were doing." You have to keep them "on the line," and be like, "Wait a sec, let me figure this out." 

Josh's original trick is great. But it also plays really well in this context, at least it has in the few times I've performed it. As long as you remember that you should be a little amazed by this as well, I think it will come off for your spectators as it did for mine, as a truly just a crazy coincidence. 

You might think, "But wouldn't I rather have an effect seem truly impossible more than just a weird coincidence?" In many cases, yes. But if something genuinely feels like a wildly unlikely coincidence, that can provide a different kind of "magical" experience for people. And it's good to diversify the types of experiences you try to deliver.

Below you can see video of Josh performing the effect. He teaches it in a lot of places: The Talk About Tricks DVD set, The Methods in Magic DVD, his recent Reel Magic lecture, his first Penguin Live Lecture, his first At the Table lecture, the Unreal DVD set. Basically anytime a camera is pointed at him he's teaching this trick. I guarantee the Josh Jay sex tape features him explaining this effect at the end.


Here's the pdf with some of my Quinta thoughts I mentioned previously. These are just some small ideas that allow you to be more explicit with what's going to happen before a number is even named.

Normally I'd put a password on this sort of thing, but there are a number of different places you could legitimately have learned Quinta from that I couldn't come up with one password to be like, "Oh it's the first word on page 8," or whatever. The truth is, there's not enough information here to sort out the workings of Quinta in anything other than the most general way. If you have any interest in the effect at all you should pick it up in some form. I recommend the Quinta ebook.


I talked last week about another year of the Jerx in 2018. That's probably not going to happen now. At least if this article is to be believed.

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I hope it's not the case, but I'm pretty scared it might be true. If there are any two groups known for their spot-on predictions of what the future holds, it's Christians and numerologists.


Dan the Magic Man, who was recently booted from the GLOMM, was just sentenced to five years in prison for child porn.

Catch ya on the flip-flop, Dan. Don't come crawling back to the GLOMM, because your ban is permanent. And also because I'm sure crawling is some weird fetish for you and I don't want to deal with you all horned-up because you've been wriggling around in a diaper all day.


Yet another person risks his life by destroying a copy of Expert at the Card Table for some stupid Jerx Points.

For his own safety, he does try and misdirect anyone who casually stumbles across the video with this description:

Erdnase's timeless, enjoyable, and witty book, Expert at the Card Table, has pleased magicians and lay people alike for generations. With a focus on entertainment and wonder, it is truly a book like none other. Here I share my thoughts about this wonderful classic of magic.

Please stop this madness, everyone! I don't want more blood on my hands!