A Critical Examination of a $5 Magic Set

The other day I was in the store Five Below. Do you have these stores near you? If you don't, how do I explain them.... You know a dollar store, where everything costs a dollar? Well, Five Below is a store where everything costs 5 dollars (or less). Hmm... that wasn't that difficult to explain at all.

Unlike many dollar stores, which are often dreary and a little gross. Five Below is usually bright and well organized. The other difference is that Five Below is more aimed at young people.

Now, what it has in common with a dollar store is that you walk in there and say, "I can't believe this is so inexpensive!" And then you buy the thing and take it home and you're like, "No. I can believe it. This is a hunk of shit."

I go there for their candy selection because I have the palate of an 8-year-old. I also like to check out their game section which is always filled with the most moronic stuff. It's almost like some game magnate died and left the company to his mentally deficient, lunatic son. And now the other board members of the game company are producing all of his horrible ideas in hopes of activating some clause in the contract that allows them to take over the company if the stock price dips below a certain level.

So this dingbat is sitting at the head of the table, with a mouth full of crayon, and he's like, "Uhh... how 'bout a net you put on yer head and toss emojis into!"

And they're like, "You got it, boss."


Then he's like, "I know! Let's make beer pong for when you're taking a dumpy on the toilet."

And everyone is like, "That's gold. We'll start production today."


And so it was, while traversing the game aisle, I found this magic set.

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It's Rubik's, it's Fantasma Magic, these are two legit entities. Surely it can't be that bad right? 

Oh, it can. 

Are you really going to review a $5 magic set? That seems kind of petty.

Uh, yeah bitch, I am. Go read another site. Let me have my fun.

Here's how I imagine this going down.


TEDDY, the creative director for Fantasma sits at his desk, pushing a pen through a dollar bill. CARLA, the CEO of Fantasma walks in.

Great news. The Rubik's licensing deal came through. I need 50 ideas for the set on my desk.

You got it. When do you need them by?

Six minutes.

[Three minutes later.]

I lied, I need those ideas now. What do you got?

To say there was no thought put into this set is an insult to the brain-dead.

I should have had some idea what to expect from this image on the side of the box.


Yes, that's right. They took the normal plastic set of cups and balls and called it "Rubik's Cups and Balls." This was their innovation. 

I'll tell you what seduced me a little. It was the image on the other side of the box. The Mental Cube Box. "Read your friends' minds...know what color they chose!" 

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I assumed this was some version of the Color Vision trick, but it seemed like there was some sort of twist to it. Look, the cube goes in mixed and comes out solved (with the spectator's thought of color face up?). That actually sounds like it could be pretty cool. Well... as it turns out, although the pictures are labelled 1, 2, and 3, they're actually two different tricks. Pics 1 and 2 are from one trick and picture 3 is the first picture from another trick which, apparently, takes place on a planet that has a number system based on factors of three. 

I'm not an idiot. I wasn't expecting this to be a bunch of good tricks for $5. What I was expecting was one good trick, and then a bunch of trash. But no, this was 100% trash. 

The other thing that made me get it was where it says on the box, "Produce, Vanish, and Transform The Cube." Surely there would be at least one half-good idea for doing such a thing in the kit. But no, there isn't. In fact, I'm not even sure what "cube" they're referring to in that statement. Would it surprise you to learn that of the "50+ tricks" the box advertises, not a single one of them uses an actual Rubik's cube?

Here's what you get in the set:

1. The aforementioned cups and balls. 

2. A production box with one wildly idiotic design choice for a set based on the Rubik's Cube. 


That's right, it's not a cube. It's the ever famous Rubik's Rectangular Parallelepiped.

3. A Rubik's paddle trick where the cube goes from mixed up to solved. This is fine. For a kid's trick, I mean. 


For some strange reason, they flipped the orientation of the cube from one side to the other, as if to emphasize that it's not changing, but instead being turned over. While it's not the sort of thing I think someone would notice in performance, it's something that could register subconsciously as not right. And at the very least it's a dumb, unnecesarry decision.


4. The Color Vision variation which you can use wise one of the two included cardboard cubes.


Except you can't. The color vision box is supposed to have a perfectly cube shaped bottom portion so it can be rotated without it being noticed. This isn't a small detail... it's how the goddamn trick works. But they screwed it up and gave us a box that was shorter than it is wide, so when you rotate it and put the lid back on, it hangs off. So you can see something is weird from just a slight angle.


You would think when partnered with Rubik's you would have some understanding of how to make a cube shape. And if not, surely one of the dumb apes at Fantasma could have placed a call to the Rubik's company to get their help with the concept of squareness.

5. Out-to-Lunch Cards

This was to be my saving grace. Even if everything else in the kit sucked, I knew I could use these OTL cards as an adjunct to some other Rubik's trick I can do. For example, I could have them sign a card with a mixed up cube, solve a cube in real life (the regular way or magically) and then have the image they signed now solved as well. Or I could do it without a cube. Have them sign the mixed up cube card, take it back, start folding up the card a few times, back and forth as if I'm somehow "solving" it. Then I unfold the card and the cube is solved. That could be a fun, quick little trick. 

So, if nothing else, at least I have that.

No... no, I don't.

The geniuses at Fantasma decided not to have the image transform from an unsolved cube to a solved one (you know, the ONLY thing you do with a Rubik's Cube). Instead it goes from an unsolved cube to this shit...


A bunch of little cubes in the air. Great. That makes sense.

Now, you might say, "Okay, Andy, those 5 tricks suck, but what about the other 45 tricks in the set?"

Well, they might have fudged that "50+" trick description just a little. For example, each step of the Rubik's Cups and Balls is considered a different trick. Just the set-up for the trick is considered the 8th trick in the book.


Via that technique they stretch these five tricks into 25. The other 25 are made up of dumb classics that have nothing to do with the Rubik's cube.


Speaking of breaking fingers, Fantasma Magic, if you don't make things right with me and refund my money I'm going to send some thugs your way to break your fingers. That's right. And no, I'm not some meek little pussy that will be satisfied just to get my $5 back. I also want five percent interest back too. So I expect to see $5.25 from you in my paypal soon or you will have made a powerful enemy in the magic world.

Last Call for the Jerx Deck

By the end of this week at the very latest (but likely sooner) the Jerx Deck #1 will no longer be a bonus for people who purchase the full year of The JAMM.

Don't come crying to me if you miss out. You had 11 months!

There's been some confusion over email about who will get the deck. Listen up:

1. If you purchased the full volume of the JAMM, you're getting the deck.

2. If you subscribed to the JAMM before the first issue (Feb. 6th), you're getting the deck.

3. If you subscribed to the JAMM at a later point (after the first issue), I'm holding onto a deck for you. The way you get it is—at some point—converting your subscription to a full JAMM Volume One order. (See this post for how to do that.) There's no hurry to do this. I will hold a deck in your name at least until February of next year.

Before the deck is sent (which will be sometime around the new year) I will reach out to everyone who has a deck coming to them in order to get the address it should be sent to. That's the final step before the deck goes out, so don't worry that I'm going to send it to some defunct address that used to be connected to your paypal. Don't be proactive about this. Wait for me to write you (it helps me keep things in order).

You'll Never Believe this Single Mom's One Weird Trick for Stronger Magic Presentations; The Shocking Truth Other Magicians DON'T Want You To Know

[When I read the draft of this post, the title: One Simple Trick for More Intriguing Presentations, reminded me of a clickbait title, so I decided to just go all the way with it.]

This is a weird one for me, because I was positive I had already written this post before. It was one I had on my list when I first started this site. But when I looked for it in the archives to reference for something else I was writing, it wasn't there. So... I guess I didn't write it? I don't know. There's a chance I decided not to write it up in order to keep it to myself because I do think it's a pretty valuable short-cut towards creating more interesting presentations. And I'm not one of these magic content creators who is like, "I'm not holding anything back!" I hold a lot of stuff back from you guys. 

I've definitely talked about similar ideas before, but I guess I never stated the concept clearly in a single post (or I'm just really bad at searching my own archives).

The idea arose from some of the focus-group testing I helped conduct in the past, but it wasn't something we set out to test. This was years ago and I honestly don't remember the exact genesis of the idea, but I know that's where it started and that it's something I've used ever since. 

I'll call this the "Based On Technique." (Part of the reason I like to give things names is so I can refer back to them. And another part is so I know what to search for in the archives so I don't lose posts I thought I wrote.)

Here's an example. The spectator hides a coin in either hand and you know where it is. A typical presentation for this is that you can read the spectator's body language to know which hand holds the coin. 

Trick: I can tell what hand holds a coin.
Implied Method: I can read your body language. 

Now, as I originally said in the Sealed Room with the Little Door post, there are two ways for a spectator to react to a trick with a believable implied method (aka a believable explanation).

"1. The spectator believes it, which is good for your ego, but not great entertainment, I don't think. 2. The spectator doesn't believe it and is put into the awkward position of wondering if you really want them to believe this somewhat believable explanation. For these people, the believable explanation often seems less like a 'presentation' and more like you're lying in order to impress them with some skill/power your don't really possess. Which a lot of you are, of course."

The Based On Technique can be used any time you have an effect with a believable premise. Let's go back to the coin in the hand. Typically you might say something like, "By reading your body language I can tell which hand holds the coin." (Or maybe you read their facial expressions, or you can detect when they're lying, or whatever semi-reasonable presentation you're using.)

The Based On Technique works like this. It's a two step process. First, is the Set-Up, where you relate what they're about to see to some believable concept. But instead of saying that's how the trick is done, you say what they're about to see is based-on that technique, or inspired by that technique, or has its roots in that technique. So you might say some something like, "Ok, this is... well... it's kind of based on techniques that were first used in reading body language." And you say it almost reluctantly. As if you don't want to mislead them by mentioning body language, but that's the closest thing that they might be familiar with that you can relate it to.

The second part of the technique is the Turn, where you then make a claim that steers them away from the concept you just mentioned. Going back to the example: "Ok, this is... well... it's kind of based on techniques that were first used in reading body language. But with traditional body language reading, you would need to see the person. This isn't like that. That's why I'm going to be completely blindfolded for this."

You see what we're doing, yes? We're giving them something to relate to, but then we're twisting it in a way to make the supposed method more fascinating. What kind of evolution of body language interpreration could involve not actually seeing the person? Are you sensing some kind of... change in their aura or something? 

This isn't just a hypothetical example. I've had Hugo Shelley's 6th Sense for a while. It allows you to know which hand holds a coin. The effect is so straightforward and clean that I just got the feeling that people thought, "Well, I guess he can tell which hand holds a coin based on my body language." They just seemed to believe it, which is not what I was going for.

But the reactions were much stronger when I changed my presentation to the one above. You still have the same outcome (you can tell them what hand holds the coin), but the proposed method is now interesting in its own right.

When using the Based On Technique, never tell them it's based on what it actually is based on. For example, don't tell them it's based on old mnemonic techniques, if, in fact, memory techniques could explain the effect. 

Here are some other examples of the technique:

The Set-Up: "Have you ever heard of human lie-detecting? They teach it to detectives to use in the field. You can determine when someone is lying by paying attention to their breathing rate and pupil dilation when they talk. This is something like that."
The Turn: "But it's different because with standard lie-detection techniques, I'd need you to say something. And in this case I'm not going to need you to verbalize anything at all."

(After someone shows you the 21 Card Trick, or some other mathematical effect.)
The Set-Up: "Oh yeah, that's a classic. I have a trick that's kind of based on that one. It has its foundations in mathematics too."
The Turn: "It's a branch of mathematics known as chaos theory. Can you throw the deck in the air and let the cards scatter around the room."

(Let's say I have a self-working effect. I might say something like this.)
The Set-Up: "This is sort of a variation on some of the most basic sleight-of-hand techniques that I learned in books I got from the library when I was a kid."
The Turn:  "But those techniques would require physically manipulating the object itself. This is a variation on sleight-of-hand that doesn't involve touching the objects."

As you can see, you don't have to be a genius to come up with this kind of construction. You just say the trick is "based on" some genuine thing. And then you add something that is also supposedly true about the trick that seemingly contradicts what the spectator knows about the subject you just invoked as being the methodological basis for what they're about to see.

Here are the two main benefits I see with this technique:

1. First, for those of you who are uncomfortable with a truly outlandish presentation, it's sort of a training-wheels technique to push you gently in that direction. It takes a believable premise and turns it into something a little more "out there."

2. This goes along with something I've written about frequently here. And that is the notion that a modern audience knows you don't have magic powers. So they know there's a secret involved. And instead of denying there's a secret, we can take steps to inject mystery and uncertainty into the audience's understanding of what secrets are and how they work. 

This technique is an easy way to generate very intriguing implied methods. Let me put an example into Magician-ese. If I said, "I have a trick I want to show you. It's kind of based on the Gilbreath principle, but it starts with a borrowed, shuffled deck that I never touch." Now you have to try and wrap your mind around something that's somehow related to the Gilbreath principle but uses a shuffled deck. It essentially doubles the mystery. You have the mystery of the effect and the mystery of the method.

"But they're not really going to believe the method," you might say. "They're not really going to believe it has something to do with body language, but you don't need to see their body."

Yes, there's some truth to that. But I think you'd be surprised how attractive this type of explanation can be. If I say, "I'm going to read your body language to tell you which hand holds the coin," it's very easy to dismiss that as being nonsense. Especially if you know me and know I'm not a master of body language. But if I say that I'm using a technique that's related to body language but differs in some radical ways, it's actually harder to dismiss that, I think. It's harder to dismiss it because you don't know what it is you're dismissing. I haven't made it concrete enough for you to reject completely. 

In the post I mentioned above, The Sealed Room with the Little Door, I wrote about the difference between tricks with believable implied methods and tricks with unbelievable implied methods. And I wrote how my favorite types of tricks to perform were strong tricks with unbelievable implied methods: time travel, witchcraft, evil twins. That's still true. I think when you can really pull that off you have the most "magical" type of effect because people know it's not real, but it feels real. The Based On Technique introduces another option that I like a lot as well. You have the believable implied method, the unbelievable implied method, and now the inexplicable implied method; where the concept behind the method is as mysterious as the trick it produces.

Gardyloo #41

Regarding the post on follow-thru that started this week, I was asked if I have any personal productivity or self-discipline tips. I do, kind of, and I'll maybe share them in the future. But ultimately, everything is just a mind game with yourself. So it's all in how you think about things. And I think the most beneficial mind "state" I've been able to achieve is that once I commit to something, it's no longer up for debate in my mind.

Here's what I mean...Let's say I want to write a novel. I say, "I'm going to write 2 pages a day, and in six months I'll have a novel." 

Now, the younger version of me would question if I was actually going to do that on each given day. "Do I really want to write today? I'm not sure I'm in a writing mood. Plus there is this other thing I'd rather do instead. If I don't write today, then I can come back tomorrow and write twice as many pages and they'll be better because I'll be in a better mindset because I'll be rested." 

And I'd go through that same kind of back-and-forth every day. And because I'm pretty talented at crafting convincing arguments with others, I'm also pretty good at it with myself. So it wouldn't be hard to talk myself out of my long-term goal (of writing every day) with some supposed benefit of my short-term desire (stockpiling supplies from the Taco Bell dollar menu and watching Andy Griffith on Netflix for 12 hours).

One day I realized that the key to getting things done was just to not allow myself to question whether I was or wasn't going to do that thing. I don't need to exercise my willpower because once the decision is made it doesn't need to be readjudicated on a moment by moment basis.

I'm sure this sounds beyond obvious. Or almost meaningless. As if I'm saying, "The way you stick to something is to stick to it." But that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying, the way to stick to something is to not entertain the option that you have any other choice.

And you might say, "Well, I just don't have that self-discipline. Even if I commit myself to something, I still end up bailing on it." 

But I can prove you do have that self-discipline. How many times have you not cleaned your ass after taking a shit? Do you ever find yourself thinking, "I'm not going to wipe my ass this time. But I'll do it twice as good next time." No. You take a dump, you clean yourself up. This was something you had to learn at some point. But now, as an adult, you'd never think of not doing it. You've made it not optional. You can do that with anything you want.

Self-discipline, for me, has been about training myself that not doing what I've set out to do isn't an option.

The point is that once you've made the commitment you don't have to consider it ever again. You just do it. You can certainly reassess and adjust your plans at scheduled points in time. That can be part of the process. But the key word is scheduled. Not just based on your whims or impulses.

You're going to post a magic video once a day for a year? Then you don't wake up and debate with yourself if you're really going to do it, or try to come up with some excuse why you can't. You just post the video. Even if it's a bad trick. Even if it's 5 seconds long. The moment you consider, "Well, maybe I don't have to do this today," then you're sunk. 

It may seem robotic to think this way. But I actually find it helpful to think of myself—in certain respects—as a robot that I myself program. When it comes to relationships and social interaction and a general lust for life, I can be free and flighty and human. But when it comes to accomplishing the objectives I've set out for myself, I like to treat my mind like a Ronco Showtime Rotisserie.


Last week I wrote about endo-trick interests (being caught up with the inner workings of the trick, not the part the audience experiences). For all my Endomags out there, here is a fascinating version of the Magic Age Cards principle that uses an error correcting code called the Hamming Code.

Here is the description of the effect. Those of you familiar with the traditional Magic Age Cards will spot the difference immediately.

The magician walked into the spotlight and faced the audience. He asked for a volunteer. The young lady who raised her hand first was asked to pick [Jerx note: "pick" in this case means "think of"] a number from 1 through 15 and a color from the set {red, orange, yellow, green, blue, pink, purple}. She was then shown seven colored cards and asked to report whether or not her chosen number appeared on each card. On the card of her chosen color, however, she was instructed to lie. After giving her responses, the magician reported both her chosen number and her chosen color.

In an endo-trick sense, this is about as good as it gets. It's really pretty interesting. From an audience-centric (exo-trick) sense, it's not better than most tricks I've seen at the dollar store. That's not a value judgment on this trick. I'm and Endomag and Exomag myself. I like both aspects of the hobby (or "art"). The only issue is when you confuse the endo-trick qualities of a trick with its exo-trick qualities. This often leads people to perform tricks with an interesting method in a boring way because they're caught up with their assessment of the trick and not how it comes off to the audience.

Thanks to Joe Mckay for clueing me into this trick.

Jesus H. Christ, guys! We have our first person kicked out of the GLOMM for murder. Yes, the GLOMM has a rule against sexual predators (which is apparently everyone now) but we will also kick out murderers under the second rule: Don't be an asshole.

This guy, Frank Popovich, shot another dude in the head. Then, as this article says:

“In a scene that was captured on surveillance video, the defendant then walked over to the victim’s head area and slapped the victim in the head,”  Deputy District Attorney Larissa Ruescher, who prosecuted the case, said in a statement. “The defendant then walked to the feet of the victim, took the cigarette from his left hand, and continued to smoke it for a full 30 seconds while standing over the victim’s body.”


While Frank is no longer in the GLOMM, I have heard nothing about him being kicked out of the International Brotherhood of Magician of which he was also a member. Keep in mind, you can kill someone and remain in the IBM/SAM. But if you show someone how to float a styrofoam cup by putting your thumb in a hole in the back, you will be kicked out and beaten soundly. That's their concept of right and wrong.


Also, to be clear, while I'm kicking him out of the GLOMM because he's a murderer, had I seen this facebook picture of him earlier, he would have been booted out for this embarrassing steampunk Native American sartorial horseshit he's wearing. Good riddance.

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Here is the schedule for the rest of this season of The Jerx.

Normal Monday, Wednesday, Friday posting will continue except for the week between Christmas and New Years when I'll be taking my winter break.

Dec. 6th - Issue #11 of The JAMM will be released.

End of Dec./Begin of Jan. - The Jerx deck will be shipped out to those who are set to receive it.

Jan. 6th - Issue #12 of The JAMM will be released.

Jan. 8th - Will be the final post for this season.

That week an email will go out to Jerx 2017 supporters to see if they'd like another year of the site. If there's interest in keeping it going, this site will commence Season 3 around the end of January. If not, you can come visit me as I fellate gentlemen in the restroom of the Port Authority bus terminal in Manhattan. See, I told you, my income isn't dependent on this site. I'm fine either way!


Hooks are another set of tools that are available to the amateur performer but not the professional. 

A "hook" is anything that causes the other person to (seemingly) initiate the interaction that will lead to the performance of a trick. They can be used with anyone, but they're especially valuable with people you haven't performed for in the past.

Let's put you in the spectator's position and take it out of the world of magic.

Imagine you went to visit a new friend and, at some point, out of the blue he asks, "Can I perform a Shakespearian monologue for you?" This could probably come off as a little weird and potentially a little off-putting. "Has he been planning on performing a Shakespearian monologue for me all day? Am I supposed to clap at the end? Is he expecting a certain response?"

If you don't know the person that well, and you don't have a history of watching this person rehearse theatrical monologues, it would likely feel a little odd. 

Any time you do something that suggests, "I have been planning this interaction between us and you didn't know about it," that's a weird position to put someone else in. 

Now, let's go back. This time you visit your new friend's place and while he's microwaving some pizza rolls you pick up a book of Shakespeare off the coffee table.

"Are you reading Shakespeare?" you ask.

"Oh, no," he says. "Well, not really. I have to memorize a monologue for an audition I'm working on."

"What's the monologue?"

"It's from Julius Caesar. Actually, would it be okay if I run it by you? I need to practice performing it in front of real people."

That's going to come off as a much more natural interaction than him just coming out and asking to perform the monologue.  From your perspective, you're the one who started the two of you down this road by mentioning the book in the first place. You don't feel ambushed or set-up because you started it.

In this case, the book on the coffee table is the "hook." 

I think that "set-up" feeling can be especially strong with magic because, so often, people see magic as a test of their intelligence. A hook can be a way to circumvent them having their guard up because it makes the interaction seem less planned.

Once people know me, and know what they're in for when I show them a trick, then a hook's value is more about the fluidity of getting into the trick itself. But with a first-time spectator, the benefit of the hook is to put them at ease by seemingly allowing the interaction to commence based on something they've said or done.

Examples of Hooks in Magic

I'll list three here today, but the number of hooks are endless. (I have a couple hundred that I've come up with for myself at this point.) There are verbal hooks, story hooks, style hooks, object hooks, and a bunch of other categories I've come up with since I started thinking about this subject.

Let's start with the most obvious...

A Deck of Cards

A deck of playing cards can be an easy, obvious hook to initiate a magic performance. 

In fact, it is perhaps too obvious. If you take a seat at a bar and pull out a deck of cards and set it in front of you, that's not really a hook. That's just a blatant attempt to get someone to interact with you in regards to this object you've brought out. 

But in other situations it can be a more subtle cue to someone to question why you have it. I write a lot in coffee shops and often have a deck of cards with me because of what I'm writing. They might just be at my side while I write, or in a pile with other objects. And I can't tell you how many times someone has asked why I have cards with me. In fact, there have been multiple occasions where someone says, "Oh, do you know any card tricks!" (I'm always like, "Uhm...hmmm...my grandpa did teach me one once. How did that go? Let me think...." Then I go on to blow their mind with a genuine miracle.)

In the JAMM #1, in the article, She's Gotta Have It (which you should read if this subject is of interest to you) I make the point that if you go somewhere and pull out a deck of cards and set it on the table, you look like someone who's waiting for someone to ask him why he has a deck of cards—it's a little needy. But if you pull out a deck of cards, and your wallet, and your keys, and set them on the table; then you look like someone who has just emptied his pockets for the sake of comfort. Then the question isn't, "What does this guy want to show me with that deck of cards?" but, "Why is he carrying cards with him?" That may seem like a subtle difference, but I think it's one people can feel. Pulling out a deck of cards by itself and setting it on the table is an initial offering. But if it's just an object among others in the vicinity then it's the person who asks, "Why do you have a deck of cards with you?" who is making the initial offering.


I have a number of different ideas for "picture hooks." This one comes from Chris, the police detective I wrote about in this post

Because of some interoffice shenanigans at work, Chris had put a single framed photo on his desk. It was a picture of Dai Vernon. This is from Chris' email to me...

Because it is such a unique picture to have framed, and the only thing on the desk, people would ask who it was, why did I have it, etc. After a while I started answering, “Oh, he’s an old mentor of mine” which would lead to the next question, which was, of course, “What type of mentor?” To which I would absentmindedly answer, sleight of hand. Which of course lead to the question, "Would you show me something?” which of course I would.

I think that's a great idea. If I still worked in an office, I'd use it. As it is, I've taken a photo of an old man and stuck it to my refrigerator. It's next to some other family photos but the old man is obviously out of place. The other day a guy was over my place to fix my furnace and asked if the picture was of my grandfather. I said no, it's an old mentor of mine. Which eventually transitioned into me showing him a trick. Now, normally I would never show the guy who was going to fix my furnace a trick. But this hook is so strong and the path from "who is this?" to "can I see a trick?" is essentially automatic so as soon as he mentioned the picture I started planning what I would show him.

As I said, pictures make great hooks. And this one is especially good because the concept of a "mentor" that taught you magic is an inherently interesting thing.


Books make great hooks. And not just because that's fun to say, but because books are something you can carry with you and allow you to put essentially any subject into play. 

Let me take a step back. I tend to view creating an experience from an effect like setting up dominos to fall. 

So let's say I have some slates that I can make writing appear on. That trick, from showing the slates blank, to making the writing appear, is a certain segment of dominos falling over. If you walked out and said, "Look, there's nothing on the slates. Now I put them together. Now there is a word on the slates." You would have successfully knocked over the dominos of the trick itself in its most basic form.

What the best magicians in the word do is they set up a series of dominos before the dominos of the trick itself. These are dominos that put the trick in some context. These are the dominos of dimming the lights and lighting a candle and having a ceremony where you reach out to some dead entity. And these dominos all fall and lead into the dominos of you showing the slates blank and the word appearing. 

Now, when you add a hook to your presentation, what you're doing is just adding a couple more dominos to the beginning of your row of dominos. And you're essentially going to set a trap to get the audience to push the first domino themselves

The Hook --> The Story (presentation) --> The Effect

Without a hook, the slate trick begins with you pushing the first domino. You say, "Do you think it's possible to communicate with the dead?" That's certainly a fascinating topic, but it's still you getting things in motion. And that's always going to feel much more planned and set-up than if you can goad them into toppling over that first domino. 

As I said, books are great for that because they allow you to introduce any topic you want into the equation. I especially like old books and weird books. 

One of my favorites is this one that was given to me by an ex-girlfriend.


If that's on your coffee table, or near you while you're doing some writing at a cafe, it's the type of thing that will draw a comment or a joke or a question. And if you're just like, "I don't know. I found it at this book sale and I thought it would be interesting to read." And then you go back and forth a little with the person, and then, almost as an afterthought, you say, "Actually... do you want to see something strange?" And then you go into this weird ritual you supposedly learned from the book. That feels much different and much more natural than you approaching someone cold or bringing up the subject up out of nowhere.