Magicians In Motor-Vehicles Making Magic

You may remember when Rick Lax ripped off the show Chopped to make his show, Wizard Wars.

Well, now he’s ripped off Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee to make a new facebook show called “Making Magic.”

Similar to “Comedians in Cars,” each episode features Rick driving around with a magician and stopping places to do magic. I’ve watched the first couple episodes. They’re pretty easy to sit through if you have 10-15 minutes to kill. Some of it is a little too “staged” for me to appreciate. But that’s probably unavoidable. In a perfect world, I’m sure Rick would prefer if everything could somehow be spontaneous and unplanned. Magic certainly can be that way, but then he’d have to shoot 150 hours for 10 minutes of footage.

The second episode features Jibrizy, who bills himself as, “The One and Only Hip-Hop Illusionist.” Oh… really? Hmmm…how quickly we forget…

Jibrizy, learn your history, bitch! I guess you just look at that video and see a “thug” or “ghetto trash.” Someone a little too easy for you to dismiss. But that “thug” paved the way for you to do what you do, so show some goddamn respect.

Anyway, in that episode Jibrizy says that he wants people to believe he really has magic powers. Rick offers a little push-back on this, but Jibrizy is unfazed. “I’m committed,” he says, to keeping the act up 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Uh-huh. Look, you do whatever you want, but if your goal is to have people believe you have real powers, then you’re limiting your target audience to: fucking morons. Yes, maybe you can get a reasonably intelligent person to perhaps believe you achieved something for real with some effects—perhaps using a psychological presentation. But when you’re sticking a pen through a bill…


it will take a very “special” audience member to pause, remove his dunce cap, scratch his head and say, “You know what? I think he can really do that! Now… where was I? Ah yes, I was smearing my feces into pleasing swirls on the kitchen floor.”

Meanwhile, you’re alienating normal adults who just want to have some fun, not be coerced into praising you for powers you don’t really possess.

But whatever, everyone can do as they please.

My biggest question is… what reality show will Rick Las rip off for his next magic show? Something with little people? Or “hot wives” of magicians? Some type of dating show like “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” but with a magician, so it would be, like, “Who Wants to Financially Support a Guy Chasing His Dream and Making $28,000 a Year?” I would recommend just doing a magician-centric version of this show because you would save money on marketing/branding because you wouldn’t have to change the name.

Dustings of Woofle #6


When I first looked at the thumbnail for this image, I thought it was a kid holding his big girthy penis out for all to see. Then I clicked on it and saw that it was actually a kid holding a high-heeled shoe. Which makes about as much sense as flashing his genitals for a fourth birthday card.

Actually, by the way he’s sitting and that look on his face, I still think it’s likely that the original image was him displaying his engorged member, and then the card company was like, “What the fuck is this, Carl? We asked for an image for a fourth birthday card.” So Carl touched it up and added the shoe. Look, you don’t sit like that when you’re polishing a shoe. He was polishing something else.

This is my roundabout way of saying: Grab your brush, grab your dong—The Jerx turns four years old today.

If you’ve got the cash to spend, I have a hot tip for you. Real Secrets was a magic subscription “trick of the month” service that ran for three years starting in 2012. I didn’t subscribe, but I had a couple friends who did and I saw a lot of the releases through them. I think my favorite was a set of cards that would allow you to do a “feng shui assessment” of your spectator’s home. You lay out the cards indicating different rooms in the spectator’s house. They would move their finger around the cards, making free choices in accordance with some pre-written instructions. At the end, their finger would be on one room, indicating there was a feng shui disturbance there. Let’s say it’s the bathroom. You then go with them to the bathroom and find, for example, a desk chair in their shower. “Ah yes. That’s bad feng shui,” you say.

The Real Secrets tricks tended to be smaller, more casual pieces. The type of thing you could keep in your wallet and have on you to bring out during a lull in a social situation. They weren’t the types of things you would build a show around. But that was the allure of them for me. They had a different feel to them. For the most part they weren’t card or coin tricks. They were tricks with some junk you had on you.

At any rate, I recently got an email from Michael Weber that said:

Tim [Trono] went through storage and found three complete sets of all three years of Real Secrets props and instructions (72+ items in all)

He assembled them in special binders with separate holders for each month of props and materials and archival page holders.

They will be $600 + $50 postage worldwide.

If they don’t get snatched up I’m going to get one myself, even though I’m familiar with a lot of the material already. This isn’t an ad. Just a “heads-up” for anyone who might be interested. [Update: You can’t get one of these anymore. They’re gone.]

Alakazam is selling a download to use Alexa as part of a card reveal.

If you’re interested in that sort of thing, I did a few posts early last year about using Google Home (and by extension things like Alexa and Siri) in magic tricks. Those posts are:

Google-Home Word Reveal
Another GH Idea
The Connor-Combs-Jerx Code

I’m sure the Alakazam product is fine. If it simplifies the set-up then it will be worth the asking price for anyone who wants to do this. But as someone who spent a few months playing around with different revelations with Google Home and Siri, I can tell you that playing cards generally got me the weakest reactions when using these devices. Most likely because it feels just like a card trick with the technology bit added to the end. Whereas—if you’re using the ideas in the first and second posts linked above—you can ease people into the trick before they know what’s happening. So they have this experience:

  1. We’re talking about the technology.

  2. He’s going to show me something weird about the technology.

  3. Wait… what?! That’s impossible. That must be a trick.

As opposed to this experience.

  1. He’s asking me to pick a card. This is a card trick.

  2. Oh, I guess the technology is going to name my card.

  3. Yup. That was a card trick.

If you’re interested in this plot I would also recommend checking out Marc Kerstein’s book on iphone tricks which allows you to do this effect and a bunch of better stuff.

Regarding the previous post on building Transgressive Anagrams, Pete McCabe has built a spreadsheet that parses the words you’re using for the letters they contain. So you don’t have to do that first step manually like I do.

Below are two versions of the spreadsheet. It currently has the top 16 money-making films at the box office, but you can replace those items on the left for whatever it is you want to create an anagram for. And you can add or remove rows as necessary, assuming you have some basic spreadsheet knowledge.

Excel/Google Sheets spreadsheet

Apple Numbers spreadsheet

UPDATE: Here’s a modified version of Pete’s Excel spreadsheet from Casey Edwards. (You don’t need Excel, it works fine in Google Sheets which is free.) It adds a row for filters, which makes manipulating the spreadsheet and trying out different combinations super easy. You can essentially follow my same process as laid out in Wednesday’s post, but just create a bunch of copies of the initial tab in your spreadsheet. Then, instead of doing a lot of copying and pasting, you just apply the necessary filters in each tab and re-name the tab so you can keep track of everything. This is probably the ideal combination of both automation and control when it comes to creating anagrams.

Excel sheet with filters.

Thanks, Pete and Casey.

Dai Vernon said, “Confusion is not magic.”

Emerson & West said, “Except… what if it is?”

I think at the end of this trick, when the card says “Hole” on the back, you’re supposed to get that surprise that you get when you see the $14 card in Color Monte. But I have a hard time believing it ever generated that kind of reaction. The trick is way too fucking convoluted. I honestly felt like I had early onset dementia watching this trick. I have no clue what is supposed to be happening. I guess some might say that it’s supposed to be confusing. Okay… well… mission accomplished, I guess.

Actually the best part about this trick is when the guy acts like he’s grabbing a horse’s balls at 28 seconds in.

For you younger readers, Emerson & West produced magic effects, starting in the 70s. They were most famous for their packet tricks, in particular, Color Monte. Is the concept of “packet tricks” even well known to younger magicians these days? If it is, they probably think of tricks done with a small “packet” of normal cards. Whereas, when I was growing up, I usually thought of packet tricks as being comprised of specially printed cards like this:


And they came in a little plastic wallet, and you’d have a trick where you’d do, like, 40 Elmsley counts with them, and at the end there was a mild surprise or shitty pun or something. Then your spectator would say, “Can I see your fun little magic cards?” And you’d have to knock over a bookcase between the two of you and sprint away because frequently they weren’t examinable.

Very few of these tricks stood the test of time.

Why am I watching packet trick videos on youtube? Well, I recently stumbled into a way of presenting Color Monte that went over shockingly well and I was wondering if I could find other packet tricks I could apply a similar presentation to. I didn’t really find any, but I’ve done the Color Monte version a few more times recently and it continues to get absurdly strong reactions. I’ll write that up sometime in the next few weeks.

As I mentioned, this site turns four years old today. Thanks, in advance, for all the gifts, cake, and birthday spankings coming my way.

Will this site see another four years? No, probably not. I might let it go until six and then kill it (like JonBenét Ramsey). But who knows. I never saw it going this long. The only reason it has is because of the people who support the site. So thanks to those of you who do; whether you just found the site recently or whether you’ve been here since the beginning. I couldn’t write the greatest site on the internet without you.

Building Transgressive Anagrams

Update: See Friday’s post (Dustings of Woofle #6) for some spreadsheet tools that make this process much simpler.)

After linking to an anagram creation tool last week, I received a few emails asking how to create Transgressive Anagrams.

That original post dealt with using the “transgressive” approach with pre-made branching anagrams. This post is about how to build them from the ground up.

Here is the process I use. There’s nothing particularly clever about it. It’s a brute-force method, but it’s a streamlined brute-force method because I’ve done it so much.

Remember that the difference between a traditional progressive/branching anagram and a transgressive anagram is that the first prioritizes hits, the latter prioritizes speed. I’ll explain at the end why you might want speed over hits. Even if you don’t care how to create such an anagram, you may be interested in some of the ideas regarding how this can be used.

Let’s create a transgressive anagram for the word list in that previous post: Jerx, Andy, blog, magic, genius, beautiful, writing, well-endowed

1. The first thing I do is create a spreadsheet with the letters of the alphabet along the top and the words for the anagram along the side.

2. The next thing I do is go column by column (letter by letter) and put an X in the box if the word on the left contains that letter. This may seem time-consuming, but this part actually goes pretty quickly.

3. Then I delete all the columns with no Xs in them.

So I end up with something like this:

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 3.30.09 PM.png

4. Now, with a TA, we want to split the pool in half each time (if possible). So the first letter in our anagram is going to be one that appears in 4 of the 8 words. Here we have four choices EGIN. I’m going to go with N. Ideally I don’t want to ever use a letter that seems “obviously” associated with one particular word. If I chose G, for instance, then me coming up with “Genius” might seem like more of an “obvious” connection between letter and word.

5. Next step, I create two new tabs in my spread. These tabs are called N+ and N-. N+ is for the words that have an N. N- for the words that don’t.

6. Here are the N+ and N- spreadsheets. I remove any empty columns, as they won’t help us later on.





7. Now we’ll split each of these spreadsheets into two equal spreadsheets of two words each. So for N+ we’ll split in half by the letter D. That will give us an N+D+ sheet. And an N+D- sheet. I’m not going to illustrate all these paths, but we’ll continue along the N+D+ path.

8. So now we have two words in the N+D+ tab. And we need to split those by a letter. In this case we’ll choose E. Having a very common final letter is good. It doesn’t seem like you could learn that much by learning if a word had an E in it. So then I annotate that final letter guess at the bottom of a two item spreadsheet.

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 4.51.05 PM.png

So, in this particular path, if they said yes to N, we’d ask about D. If they say yes to D, we’d ask about E.

9. Let’s say the other potential paths in this anagram are:

N=yes -> D=No -> S
N=No-> A=Yes -> E
N=No -> A=No -> O

That would lead us to an anagram that looks like this, where for each yes answer you move to the green box to the right, and each no answer you move to the red box to the right.

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 5.17.24 PM.png

That’s the process. (Although that’s not the actual anagram I would use for those words, but we’ll get to that in a moment.)

What if you get to a point and your word list doesn’t split evenly by a letter? Well, you can take a step backwards and change the previous letter you split on, which might work out better later on. Or you might not have to split exactly evenly. You only would expect a perfect split all the way down when you’re dealing with 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, etc., possibilities. So you can get away with being one off on some of the splits.

Andy, when I asked how you went about creating these types of anagrams, I assumed you had some clever process, not just copying and pasting spreadsheets and counting letters.

Yeah, sorry, I don’t know what to tell you. If you think an 8-tab spreadsheet for an 8-option anagram is complex, you should see the 32 spreadsheets I needed to create the transgressive anagram for Disney movies in the JAMM #4. It was a real “Beautiful Mind” type situation to focus on putting that together. Except my “beautiful mind” is more designed for coming up with dirty Christmas carol parodies than it is anything requiring detailed/analytic thinking. So it was a real pain for me. (Although now I’ve done it a bunch more for friends who find it easier to pay me to create an anagram than sit down and do it on their own. And I’ve grown to enjoy the process.)

giphy (1).gif


Now, let’s talk about why you would want to go with a transgressive anagram. There are two primary reasons.

The first is that it guarantees you the least possible guesses (on average). This is particularly noticeable with an anagram covering many options. And if your presentation is something other than, “I can read your mind perfectly” (in which hits would be the most important thing), then you might value a shorter anagram.

The other reason you’d want to use a TA is because you know from the start how many guesses it will take. It’s not “somewhere between 2 and 5.” It’s always three (in this case).

So that allows you to do things like this…Let’s say you have a TA for eight objects. You ask three people to decide between them on which object they want to mentally project to you. “I’m going to try and hone in on one of your minds. We’ll start off easy with just the spelling of the word. Everyone pictures items differently, but we all spell the same, for the most part.”

You have them cycle through the spelling of the word in their mind. Then, one by one, you name a letter for each person. “I’m getting an N from you, yes?” That person replies yes or no, then you’re onto the next person.

After these three guesses you know the word/object.

If you get three YES responses: “Oh, you guys are doing great. This never works this well. I think you’re actually amplifying each other’s thoughts. Keep spelling the word.” Then you continue naming letters with ZERO misses. That’s very strong.

If you get two YES responses: You tell the one NO to sit down and say you’ll work with the other two. “Can you each think of the shape of this object. Forget the spelling.” You struggle with one of the remaining people. “Yours thoughts are coming through a little hazy, I think I’m going to try it with her instead.” You turn to the remaining person. “With you I seem to be getting something clearer, keep sending me the thought…,” and you just finish up with that person.

If you get one YES response: You tell the other two to sit down and now you can do some very direct mind-reading, although you apparently only know one random letter they’re thinking of. This is also very strong.

If you get all NO responses: This might be the best situation of them all. “You guys are terrible at this. Let’s try something completely different.” And now you can do whatever you want to reveal the information without seemingly knowing anything.


Now, I said above that this sample anagram is not the one I would use for that list of words. The one I would actually use is kind of a special case and I didn’t want to confuse you with it. It’s a type of transgressive anagram that you can find in some groups of words (or, more likely, you can create a specific group of words with this trait). I call it a “Perfect” Transgressive Anagram, because you can create an anagram with the same letters guessed at each stage. That would look something like this.

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 6.27.22 PM.png

That allows you to do something like this….You have an alphabet deck with the N, I, and E removed. Your spectator shuffles the deck and stops whenever they please. You pick up the deck (adding the N,I, and E cards to the bottom from cop position) and deal the packet into three piles. The top cards of each being the N, I, E. (You could also use a Spectator Cuts the Aces handling, or a Shuffling Lesson type handling to get to this position and would barely have to touch the deck at all.)

You tell them to look at the top card of each packet. If the letter is in their word, the should keep the card. If not, just leave it where it is. By noting which cards they take, you know which word they’re thinking of. And if the cards are marked, you don’t even have to watch during this part. Just note what cards remain on top when you turn back.

Then, of course, you can reveal the word in whatever manner you want. Yes, you would have to justify that process in some way, but that could easily be done by putting the cards in the context of a game, a test of some sort, or a divination tool. The combination of methods (trangressive anagram, marked cards, card forcing procedure) is essentially impenetrable. From their perspective they shuffle and cut to three random cards and note which of those letters (which you don’t know) appear in a freely chosen word they never speak or write anywhere—it just exists in their mind. And without looking at the cards or asking any questions you know what they’re thinking.

The easiest way to create a “perfect” transgressive anagram is to do it backwards. Start with the three (or four or five) letters you want to use and then come up with things in a category that have/don’t have those letters. If you have a broad category like “celebrities” or “movies” or something, it’s relatively easy to do. The easiest category would be “full names.” You could construct a 1024-option, 10-level, perfect transgressive anagram. It would be time consuming, but not hard.

Then you could make a fake old yearbook using the names you created and have them think of any one of 1000+ students. Use the letter cards as a divination tool in a ritual to reach out to one of the long-dead students. Without ever seeing the cards (you could be out of the room during that part) or asking any questions, you take the spectator’s hand and you’re guided to one particular person in the book; the one they’re thinking of. That would be dope.


If this is all very convoluted, don’t fret. In the upcoming book I’ll be giving further details on my favorite style of anagram which is not only super easy to create, but it’s also essentially invisible when used in a magic trick.

Mailbag #5


How do you get people into engaging with your for your longer tricks? I don’t really see how you can initiate that type of performance. -GY

I’ve laid out my technique before. The way I do it is to start slowly with people and gradually bring them into a world of magic tricks performed in different contexts. I only continue on the trajectory laid out in that linked post if people seem to be enjoying these sorts of interactions. I’ve never actually said to people, “I perform magic tricks in different contexts to generate an immersive world of fantasy!” It sounds like it’s going to be very lame.

So I don’t tell them that, but I do bring willing participants along to that point after a while. There is a learning curve for them. This is a different style of magic and a different type of interaction. They have to understand that it’s a little more participatory. Traditionally, magic is is presented in a “just sit still and appreciate what I’m doing,” sort of manner. So you have to teach them that it’s encouraged for them to not only watch you do something impossible but to also play along for a few minutes. And that’s what the process in that post allows.

Yes, it takes some time, but time is one of the things that differentiates social magic from traditional, professional magic. Incorporating magic into your ongoing relationships is sort of the idea behind the social style. Social magic isn’t just:: Do matrix but do it at Starbucks. It’s about using magic to relate to people in a social context. And that’s something that develops over time.

How scary should you go in social magic? When does the emotion of fear in the participant hinder or enhance the entertainment?  Is that a personal persona choice?  Is that an audience understanding choice?  Are there overarching limitations for humankind?  If I could perform a routine in a certain setting that causes uncontrolled screaming at the end, should I?  With no disclaimer?  Is that going too far? — DA

“How scary should you go in social magic?” In the past few years I’ve taken people to three abandoned mental asylums and one abandoned resort as well as numerous other “haunted” places in the middle of the night to explore and experience a magic trick. These trips are unforgettable for them and having a focal moment where something exceptionally weird happens is an indelible mental hook. So I enjoy a good scary social magic presentation.

“When does the emotion of fear in the participant hinder or enhance the entertainment?” I’m not sure I can say when it enhances an effect. But it definitely can, and significantly. Here’s an experiment. Get the cheapest Haunted Deck you can find. Perform it for someone at your coffee table. Now perform it for someone else, as I have, in the dead of night, by flashlight, in one of the locations below (not my pictures, but actual places I’ve visited) and you will learn that fear can definitely enhance an effect.


It’s one thing to find a word you thought of has been predicted on a piece of paper. It’s another thing to find something you thought of spray-painted in brown paint (that is brown paint, right?) on a crumbling wall.

I would say it hinders an effect when they can’t focus on the “impossible” element because they’re too focused on the scary element.

“Is that a personal persona choice?” Somewhat.

“Is that an audience understanding choice?” Yes.

This sort of goes back to Friday’s post. Do they know this is theater? Then anything is potentially fair game. Especially when they’ve indicated they’re open to scarier stuff. When someone says to me, “Yes, I’ll go explore an abandoned asylum with you,” I know that’s the type of person who’s on board with being freaked out.

If they don’t know it’s fiction, then you’re not doing magic. You may be fooling them, and you may be fooling them with magic techniques, but if they don’t know they’re seeing magic then you’re doing a prank or you’re a scam artist or something.

“Are there overarching limitations for humankind? If I could perform a routine in a certain setting that causes uncontrolled screaming at the end, should I?  With no disclaimer?  Is that going too far?”

Uncontrolled screams of fear? I think in my opinion that would be going too far. (Unless you had someone who asked you to try and scare them as much as possible.) Maybe a brief jump scare, but not an extended period where they were overwhelmed with genuine fear.

My performance philosophy involves allowing people to opt-in to the emotions as much or as little as they want. The only thing I really want to “force” on them is the impossibility and the mystery. I may choose to put that impossibility in a setting that is conducive to an emotion: a scary setting, a romantic setting, a joyful setting, a nostalgic setting. And then I may fill the trick and the setting with other emotional elements, as described in Magic For Young Lovers. But the setting and the elements are there for them to interpret and connect with in the way they choose. This is what creates a nuanced and interesting experience. Anything that 100% produces an extreme emotional reaction is almost by definition going to be somewhat basic and manipulative.

Re: The Watch by Joao Miranda

[I]t's a remote control watch. It's what every spectator suspects when you do Psychokinetic Time.

I really admire Joao Miranda's ability to get shit built, especially technologically complicated stuff, but at this point in particular it's like... I don't think this is a prop that exists for a good reason? If I ever use my own watch for PK time people figure it's remote controlled, and that's a shitty $30 timex that doesn't always get their predicted time right. 

That's why you use their watch, which also has the benefit of not costing you $450. —SM

It’s interesting…You would think now would be the point where we’d be phasing out tricks that involve predicting the time on your own watch. But instead there’s been an uptick in releases of that effect.

I understand that it’s much easier to release a magic product once similar products have gone through research and development for a much wider market, but isn’t the whole idea of using technology in magic that you want be ahead of the curve?

If I painted “Magic Box” on my refrigerator and performed a trick where a can of soda placed in the magic box would become cold “by the power of my mind” over the course of 90 minutes, everyone would say, “That’s a shitty trick,” because nearly everyone knows what a refrigerator is.

But at what point did that become a shitty trick? It was long before 100% of the population understood the technology. 50% is already way too high. 25% is too much. 10%? 5%? I don’t know where the line is. And I don’t know why no one even talks about it. It seems like it’s the most important question when dealing with technological magic. Instead all we talk about is whether the remote is too loud. (Yes, it’s too loud.)

This is a nerdy piece of magic but there’s something memorable about it and I just thought I’d share it with you. {…}

While my real-life stuff leans toward more believable magic, when it comes to having fun with a group of younger kids, at say a family party, I’ll bring some sponge balls with me. The thing that gets them excited about the (end of the) trick is that the balls keep multiplying and multiplying. So lately, when the effect hits a great kid particularly hard, I’ll slip the mom a sponge ball and tell them to pop it under their pillow when they’re asleep. 

These have been parents I know and I typically I get texts back the next morning about the reaction and a) apparently, it’s bananas and b) it’s gratifying. For both me and the parents - everyone’s in on the secret and the kid thinks you’re magic—Gerry Katzman

I don’t perform a ton for kids, but I like it. If they’re bugging me to see a trick I’d say something like, “Look, I’ll show you a trick. But I have to be clear… I don’t know how to make it stop. Are you sure you want to see it?”

Then I would keep it going for years. Just keep finding ways to sneak sponge balls into their life as an ongoing trick (which would eventually turn into a joke, and then a form of torture). This is the sort of thing people love to help out with, so it would be easy to get other people in their life to join in. You could make it so their locker is filled with sponge balls in high school. Then there’s one sitting on their desk on the first day of a new job One is on their pillow on their honeymoon. During the sonogram of their first child, the doctor says, “This is nothing to be alarmed at, but there is a red, spongey mass,” and he shows them the sonogram and there’s a sponge ball on it. It’s not the sort of thing you would do for your neighbor’s cousin’s kid, but if there’s a special niece/nephew or grandkid or whatever in your life, it could be a fun, ongoing shared game. Then when you die, you plan it so the person in front of him/her in the procession line leading to your coffin drops a sponge ball on your corpse for them to find.

No, it’s not a “trick” at that point. It’s something better. It’s a potential life-long way to say, “I love you! I’m thinking of you!” to a special kid in your life.

Carbonaro and the Belief Paradox

I recently received an email with the subject line, Carbonaro. It read:

So why not more love for this guy? His TV schtick seems to embrace at least one of your core ideas: It's Not About Me.”— ML

Now, while I don’t regularly watch the Carbonaro Effect, every time I do watch it, I think, “Why don’t I regularly watch this?” I always enjoy it when I see it. I enjoy it on the primary level that everyone who watches it can appreciate. And I also enjoy it as a magician, seeing the way they’ve repurposed older effects to put them in new contexts.

As ML states in his email, there is a big overlap in the presentations on the Carbonaro Effect and the presentations I write about here in that they both shift the power away from the performer. But beyond that, I don’t think the Carbonaro Effect is a great model for social magic. The “magic as practical joke” style is really only something you can get away with once per spectator. It would fall flat if you tried to do it continually to people. Carbonaro’s style is somewhat predicated on playing different roles. He’s a shoe salesman. Or he works in a toy store. Or he’s your dad’s verbally abusive boyfriend (The Carbonaro Effect: A Very Special Episode, Season 3, Episode 19).

Whereas, in social magic you’re just you. The whole point is that you’re performing for people who know you.

And where Carbonaro generally doesn’t want the people he’s performing for to be thinking in terms of magic, in social magic you do, because that’s going to be your “in” to perform for them. Once they get to know you and they know you’re into magic—or at least generally into some mysterious or unusual things—then you don’t have to come up with a new entry point every time you want to show them something.

But the big difference is that Michael Carbonaro wants those people to think what they’re seeing is real, at least for the few minutes until it’s revealed it’s a prank. That’s the premise of the whole show.

And while it works great on that show, in a social magic situation, this actually leads to less powerful performances over time than them knowing it’s fake all along.

How can this be? How could knowing something was fake the whole time be ultimately more powerful than thinking it was real at least some of the time?

This is the Belief Paradox.

Let’s think about it. Let’s say I’m going to show you something impossible. I have three potential ways to play it.

  1. I show you something impossible and I want you to genuinely believe in the reality of that experience for the rest of your life.

  2. I show you something impossible and I get you to believe it’s real. Then at the end I reveal that it’s just a trick. This would be the Carbonaro style. You experience the situation as if it’s real, but then learn that it’s “just a trick,” or “just a joke.”

  3. I show you something impossible and—while there may be elements of the presentation that you’re not certain about as far as if they’re real or not—you know the experience as a whole is fiction.

Let’s take #1 off the table for the amateur magician. If you seriously want to live your real life with your friends, family, and co-workers, as if you have legitimate magic/mental powers you’re a fucking lunatic. Your self-worth is so ridiculously non-existent that you can’t even be yourself around the people you love. You need mental help.

So now let’s consider #2 and #3. In #2 I convince you that what you’re seeing is real. At the end I come clean, but for those few moments I had you genuinely convinced of something.

In #3, while it has the structure of a real-life interaction, you know from our history that this is a type of trick that we engage in for some period of time and play along together, but at no point am I expecting you to accept this as “reality.”

In the long-run, #3—where there is never any feeling of true 100% belief—is more powerful. Why? You would think something you believe, even for just a short while, would be stronger than something you don’t believe at all. But it’s not the case. That’s the paradox. Here’s why it works…

When someone successfully tricks you or plays a prank on you or scams you, they are generally toying with your emotions in some way. They want you to feel fear or joy or sadness based on something that isn’t true. When you find out it wasn’t real you say to yourself, “I felt those things because I thought the situation was real, but it wasn’t. So those feelings weren’t actually real.” You don’t have to live with those feelings because they were built on false pretenses. So the lasting feeling is just the feeling of being tricked.

If you believe something is real, and at the end I tell you it was fake, that pulls the rug out from under the entire experience. Both the things you believed and the things you felt. It’s all tainted as being fake.

However, if you’re taking part in something that no one is suggesting is anything other than fantasy and yet you still feel some fear, joy, or sorrow, those feelings are completely legitimate. They’re not based on your confusion about the reality of the situation. So they can’t be undermined.

If you watched something you thought was a documentary, and got very worked up by it, and then someone told you it was fake, you’d consider the way it made you feel as illegitimate. But when you watch a fictional film, you value the emotions it generates, even though the film itself is not “real.”

It works this way with the “magical” feeling as well. If you feel it in a situation that you think is real and later you learn isn’t, you tend to toss it away along with your belief in the situation. But if I can develop that magical or mysterious feeling in a situation you knew from the start was “fake,” then it become an enduring feeling. You can’t destroy it by saying, “Well, that wasn’t real.” Because the feeling developed from a situation you knew wasn’t real in the first place.

(I cover more of this difference between feeling and belief in this post, appropriately titled, Feeling and Belief.)

Seedling: Origami Card Wallet

I’m surprised I haven’t seen this before. It was just passed along to me recently by friend-of-the-site, JM Beckers, who found it on the French magic forum, Virtual Magie (run by Étienne Brooks).


It’s a way to fold a packet trick holder/wallet from a piece of paper. (Unless you describe your favorite genre of music as “Screeching Awfulness,” I would turn the sound off.)

There are actually six different pockets in this. Two on the inside, two on the side, and two on the outside.


I like it. And I think there’s probably something to be done with this beyond just a cheap way to carry your packet tricks around.

My initial idea is to carry around cards for Origami Poker by John Bannon. (I’ve always done it with 16 cards, not 12. Works the same.) But instead of forcing the royal flush, you force four or five random cards and then reveal you predicted them by unfolding the card holder and revealing the prediction

Now, in my opinion, that’s still sort of a “nothing” trick, but there is kind of a nice connection between the origami holder and the folding action of the cards in the trick. There’s a through-line there to pursue perhaps.

What I’ve done is fold a wallet from one of the prop Penthouse Forum magazine pages that came with The Jerx, Vol 1.


I tell the spectator I had two big interests as a child, (“Well, really three,” I say, “but the third isn’t important now.”) My first interest was origami, and my second was magic. (“The third interest was 8-bit soft-core computer porn. It was the pre-internet days. If you squinted you’d get the general outline of a booby. But honestly, that’s not what this is about.”)

Then I talk about ways I combined my interests and show an example of an origami card holder I would make as a kid.

“I came up with another way of combining origami and magic. It’s something I called the Origami Shuffle because it was a way of mixing cards that was like folding paper. I’ll show you.”

I then go into the Origami Poker procedure (this is taught by John Bannon in multiple places, and by myself (with John’s permission) in The JAMM #2). At the end they slide out the five face-down cards into a row in front of them. “Wouldn’t it be amazing if after all that shuffling and mixing you had found a royal flush?”

They turn over the cards and after the first one or two, it’s clear it’s not a royal flush.

“Huh…well…origami was really my primary interest. Magic was a distant second. Actually… probably third when you throw in the computer porn. So…,”

I then act like I’m just noticing the values of the cards that were turned over.

“Wait a second. This is incredible. I think I’ve found a way to combine all three of my youthful passions.” I start unfolding the card holder. “In 1986, there was a strip poker game for the Commodore 64 featuring Samantha Fox, an English musician and model.” I show them the ad, but don’t draw attention to the cards at the bottom yet.


“I made this holder from an old magazine advertisement for that game.” I hand the page to them. “After all that mixing you did, look what you found.” They either notice the cards in the ad or I point them out to them.


It’s a pretty fun trick that’s relatively strong as well. I have the holder with the cards inside a pocket of my messenger bag ready to go.

“But I don’t have that page, so how can I do the trick?” You can’t. This is more intended as a brainstorming post, not a “go out and do this” post. (Although if you absolutely have to do this trick for some reason, I do have a few remaining copies of that magazine page and I’ll sell you one for…hmmm… $12.34. “That’s a lot for one single sheet of magazine paper.” You’re right. It might be a lot if I was trying to sell these. But I’m trying not to sell these (I’d rather just hang onto them, as now I have two tricks I use them for), I’m just trying to make them available for someone who feels they “have” to have one.

Let’s think of some other ways the idea of a prediction within the card holder can be used. I think the most fruitful path to pursue is to get away from thinking of playing cards. That makes the most sense too because playing cards are usually in a deck, not separated out. So having a special holder for playing cards isn’t the most natural thing.

It may make sense to work backwards and think of what the document is that’s been folded to make the little wallet and then decide what type of cards might be inside. For example, if the wallet was made of a map (on the inside) then you could have blank cards with directions or coordinates on them or something, and your force 4 or 5 cards would indicate one location, then when you unfold the wallet they see a map with that location circled.

Or you could have cards that have a squiggly line drawn from one edge of the card to another edge. Four of these are forced in the Origami Poker style. These four “random” squiggle cards are pieced together in a way where they form one continuous line. When the wallet is unfolded, that exact abstract shape has been predicted. Or the “abstract” shape isn’t as abstract as first imagined. Maybe it looks abstract, then when you unfold the wallet you reveal a travel poster for Iceland and you point out that the shape the spectator made is the outline of Iceland.

Or this, you have 16 cards which can be put together to form a piece of artwork. From my understanding, magicians are aware of only one piece of art, the Mona Lisa, so let’s use that as an example. You have a packet of cards that form the Mona Lisa. The cards are shuffled by you and the spectator and “folded” into one pile. All the face down pieces are removed and the puzzle is put together with just the 11 random face-up pieces. So there are 5 missing blocks. Then when the card holder is unfolded it reveals the Mona Lisa with the identical five chunks missing.


You could also fold the wallet a little smaller and use it to hold a bunch of the small size Polaroid pictures. Your prediction could be a group photo of four or five people on normal printer paper which you make into the wallet. Then during a party you take individual shots of the people there and print them out on a Zip Printer. Then you do the trick with the photos. They “randomly” select a group of people and that exact group is in the group photo that wallet is made of. Then you refold everything, put the pictures back, and leave it all as a gift for the person you performed for.

Again, this is all just brainstorming. Even the Samantha Fox thing is something I’ve only performed twice. But the cleverness of the wallet and the “tidiness” of the wallet becoming the prediction are the sorts of things spectator’s seem to enjoy. So I think there are a lot of potential uses here. If you come up with something interesting, let me know.

Dustings of Woofle #5

After some deep soul searching, consultation with my pastor, as well as with my pastor’s pastor, I have decided to go back to publishing on a regular Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, with the occasional non-magic post thrown in on Tuesday/Thursday. Doing shorter posts on no schedule sounded like it would be the ideal way to fit the writing of this site in around the other stuff, including performing, working on the next book, and other magic and non-magic projects. But the posts never got shorter, so it never became the sort of thing where I could say, “Oh, I’ll just write up something quick when I have a spare 45 minutes.”

So I think going back to a regular schedule will actually be easier for me. But I’m free to change my mind at any point and mix it up because I can do whatever I want. I’m the straw that stirs the drink, baby!


I have not read (or even heard of, until recently) the book, Experiencing the Impossible: The Science of Magic. So I can’t say for sure if it’s any good. But I will say the author does have a keen sense of beautiful writing. From page 224…

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 4.31.26 PM.png

Okay, Andy, but “beautiful” doesn’t narrow down which post he’s talking about. Your beautiful writing is your calling card.

True, true. The specific post he was referencing was this one.

Magical Transformations Pt. 2

The evolution of the back of the Squishers deck.

  1. The initial drawing to show the general layout.

  2. Stasia’s sketch based on that drawing and the original Squeezers back.

  3. My adjustment to the initial image. I wanted the bottom cat to be more facing up, towards the sky, than out, towards the viewer. But I don'’t have the artistic skills to express that, so I took a toy army man and used him instead.

  4. The final product.

Here’s a free tool to create traditional style branching anagrams.

For example, let’s say you wanted to do a trick where someone could think of a word related to me, the author of this site. You would just input the most obvious words, separated by a comma:

Jerx, Andy, blog, magic, genius, beautiful, writing, well-endowed

And it would spit out this…

Screen Shot 2019-05-12 at 4.45.07 PM.png

And then you’re able to test the anagram or save it.

I have found some benefit in just building out the anagram yourself, manually, and I would probably recommend that if you have something specific you want to do . But this is definitely much simpler and will give you the opportunity to iterate much faster and try out different word groupings.

There’s also probably an effect based in the fact that you can create an anagram at an instant. For example you could have someone text you a list of words, and almost immediately you could call them and read their mind over the phone. It’s not a great idea, but it might be the beginning of a decent one.