Dustings of Woofle #10

I was in my hometown the other day and ran into someone I hadn’t seen in about 25 years and she mentioned a trick I did in the lunch room in high school that I (apparently) called the Time Traveling Chicken Sandwich. I don’t remember the details about it, but I do remember I used the torn corn principle, except instead of a playing card I used a breaded chicken patty. I took a bite out of it and spit it out onto a napkin and gave it to someone to hold. In actuality I swapped the bite I had just taken for a bite from another chicken patty already in my mouth. I quickly devoured the rest of the chicken patty (including the extra piece I had just bitten off).

Then I did something, although I don’t remember what, and demonstrated that we travelled back in time and I revealed a restored chicken sandwich missing one bite—a perfect match for the one I spit on the napkin from the chicken I apparently ate earlier.

She remembered that shit 25 years later! That’s now officially the longest time gap between performance and spectator recollection in my magic history.

A testament, indeed, to the awe-inspiring power of such a beautiful routine and my magic genius.

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Speaking of… for those who have inquired about consulting, you can now find details on that in the menu at the top of the site.

Tom Frame sent me the PDF for his Hypercase. The Hypercase is inspired by the Hypercard, which is this classic “impossible object” which is made from a single playing card:

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Unfortunately, I’ve been familiar with the Hypercard for so long, that I can no longer see the “impossibility” of it. The topology of the object is too apparent to my eyes and I can’t get back my “spectator brain” about this thing as I can with most other things in magic.

Here is Tom’s Hypercase.


Similar to the Hypercard, I don’t have the ability to comprehend how a spectator’s mind would perceive this “impossible object.” What I mean is I don’t know how “impossible” it would seem. I think for it to be really strong you’d need to, apparently, construct it in the moment with the person you’re performing in a partially open/partially secretive manner, to give their imagination something to chew on.

Here’s how I’d do it one-on-one/jerx-style/extended presentation.

I would construct the case and have it in my pocket along with cellophane from a deck and an extra card. I'd buy a deck when I'm out with someone. When we get back to their place I'd ask if they had scissors. When they go to get the scissors I'd put the normal deck away somewhere. I’d pull out the Hypercase with the additional card held against it and the cellophane.

When they return I’d act as if I'm pulling the cellophane off the deck and toss the cellophane on the table. Maybe I'd even put a seal on the Hypercase so they could see me remove that too. Not too much attention is being paid at this point. I’d remove the cards, take the scissors and say, "I can't show you exactly what I'm doing just yet," and somewhat hide the procedure from them behind the case/my hands.

They’d hear me cutting the case, but really I'm just cutting the extra card. I’d set the scissors down. Fold the extra card behind the case and steal it away and ditch it at some point as I'm fussing around with things. Then I’d pick up the scissors again and trim a little bit off the actual tabs on the case. Just to reinforce that yes, I'm actually cutting up the case in this moment.

I’d set the scissors back down and mutter something like, “Well… here goes nothing." And I'd grunt/groan really loudly, "Gaaahhhh!!!!" as if I'm straining in some way—doing something requiring great effort on the back of the case (reaching into another dimension). Then I'd toss it on the table and be like, "There you go."

Tom doesn’t have a site, but you can get his PDF on this for $7. Find the details in this Genii forum post.

A couple people wrote me about these glasses, which Mike Close recently mentioned in his newsletter.

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They’re pretty interesting looking and fairly inexpensive.

You can get them with dice, poker chips, bullets, guitar picks, etc. I’d get the one with a poker chip. I wouldn’t use it directly in a trick, I’d just leave it out somewhere. When someone commented on it I’d say. “Oh, that was a trick gone wrong. Something I’m working on. Actually… let me give that another shot, hold on.” And I’d grab some coins and a glass and do some sort of coins through glass effect.

Now, when they’re mind starts going to sleight-of-hand and ways to sneak the coin into the glass, they have this strange object in their line of of sight that’s going to counteract that “easy answer.”

You could, of course, make the glass your finale for a coins through glass routine, and switch it in for a normal glass. “I’m going to pause the trick half way.” That sort of thing.

But I think I prefer a subtler use of it. Since everyone just assumes magicians are lying all the time, I think the less of a big deal you make about the glass, the more likely they are to believe that just maybe there is some way to pass items through glass and this glass represents a botched early attempt. Or at least their mind will be tempted with that notion.

Look, no one is a bigger fan of long, extended tricks than I am. I’ve mentioned before I think it’s pretty pathetic that people do Out of This World with half a deck because they can’t keep people engaged for the minute it takes to deal through a a full deck.

That being said, I think this version of OOTW by Michael Ammar is really swinging too far the opposite direction.

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I feel it starts to drag after the sixth deck. You do get something of a “second wind” around deck 10. But when he brings out deck 12 and is like. “Okay, for real this time. This will be the last one. I just want to be 100% sure it’s not a fluke. David…David! Wake the fuck up, and deal the 12th deck!” It feels borderline abusive.

Also, I question this line in the explanation, “It’s completely impromptu, as long as you run into someone with 12 decks of cards on them, or 12 people who each have one deck.” I mean… yeah, I guess.

Stream of Consciousness: The Loyalty Card

Starting Point

I was watching Kyle Purnell’s At the Table lecture and he mentioned that when working a restaurant or bar, he’ll tell people to hang onto a signed card and bring it back the next time they come and he’ll do something special with it.


This gave me an idea for something I would do if I did professional restaurant or bar magic. Instead of just giving them a card, I would pull out a hole-punch and punch a hole in the card like it was a loyalty card.

Then, if they brought the card back, I would do something with the hole in the card. Move the hold around the card, transfer the hole to my business card, restore the hole, thread the card on a ribbon and magically remove it or whatever. The ideas is just that you’re planting the seed for a trick in the initial meeting in a way that has some sort of logic to it. You’re setting them up in a non-obvious way. Moving a hole (for example) on this card that they had in their purse for a month has a different feeling than moving a hole you just punched in a card for the sole purpose of moving it.

And I’m sure you could make this a good business strategy too. Give them a 4 of Diamonds and punch one of the pips. Tell them once the other three are punched on return visits you’ll teach them a trick or they’ll get a free appetizer (or whatever you think would motivate them to return). Maybe you say the manager has to initial the card each time, or whatever. Then you have people approaching the manager for a quick initial of the card suggesting not only did they come to see you but they intend to come back to see you, which could only make you look more valuable to the restaurant.

But take that idea with a grain of salt because I don’t know shit about doing magic in restaurants.


Thinking of loyalty cards reminded me of the one that’s used at one of the cafes I go to regularly. They punch a hole in the card with a star-shaped hole punch. “That’s certainly not some custom made hole-punch. I bet I can buy one of those,” I thought. And, sure enough, I could.

So I bought one. And I snagged a couple loyalty cards off the counter when no one was looking so I could prep them for some potential effects.

So far the only thing I’ve done for an actual person is to slide the “just punched” star from the first box to one of the boxes mid-way down the card.

I have another thing I’m working on where multiple star-holes move with a flick. And another trick where the star hole changes shape. I thought changing the stars to moons would make some sense, you know, celestially. But I’m currently changing them into hearts because—for god knows what reason—the crescent moon hole punch is almost $100 with shipping.


Kyle’s initial idea also sort of reminded me of a concept I wrote about here for the amateur performer where—instead of doing a five phase Ambitious Card routine, for example—you would do a one phase Ambitious Card routine over the course of five interactions with someone. That way, instead of doing a few okay phases and a big climax (which makes those “okay” phases sort of forgettable) all at once, you could do a different Ambitious Card climax each time you see them: the bent card, Ultimate Ambition, etc. So rather than three minutes of magic they may struggle to remember a month later, you have this trick that you can keep going for weeks, making it a more indelible experience.


Here’s something I’ve been doing along the same lines the past couple of years. If I’m performing at someone’s house and doing something with a signed card, I’ll stick it to their fridge with a magnet when I’m done.

Then the next time I’m there I’ll pull it off and do something else with it, then I’ll put it back on the refrigerator. And so on, each time I visit.

Each time I’m there, they draw some new mark on the card. So it’s an evolving memento.

It becomes their “permanent signed card.” And while, generally, I don’t feel a signed card makes for a very interesting or meaningful souvenir, when it has been used in half a dozen different tricks over the course of a year, it takes on a different sort of meaning. It’s not just a reminder of a card trick, it’s an object that has been a part of a number of different interactions between me and a friend over an extended period of time. In that way, it’s a keepsake not just of some magic tricks, but of our relationship.

My intention, at some point, is to “retire” the card and have a little ceremony where we burn it, then come back in the house only to find it back on the refrigerator or perhaps hanging on the wall in a picture frame.

Mailbag #8


Hi Andy! Just rereading the books and I had an idea regarding the Donny Ackerman time stop presentation. My idea is to use a doublecross gimmick to print the x in their hand as an added convincer you actually stopped time and opened their hand. — DRM

I think that’s a really good idea. You’re making me want to re-purchase Double Cross (I gave mine away). Usually that trick amounts to, “I’m going to make an X appear on your hand,” which is a fine impossibility, but not all that interesting.

For those unfamiliar, in the Donny Ackerman trick you claim to stop time and—while the world is frozen—you open your spectator’s hand that holds a secretly written name on a piece of paper.

What DRM is suggesting is you do something like this… You tell the story, you reveal the name, then you say, “It’s unfortunate. No one ever believes I really paused time. So while I had your palm open I drew a little X in there to prove I was there.”

I like it. You’d have to figure out the choreography for getting them to hold the paper without exposing the X. But that seems pretty doable.

I was just wondering if you could give some extra nuanced insight to your view in regards to the "Reverse Disclaimer" that you've talked about in the past and your old post, "The Sealed Room with the Little Door."

I don't think these two posts are contradictory with one another, but if you could provide a little more clarification to how these two concepts connect seamlessly with each other, and with your presentation-style in general that would be great. —YR

Sure. They are both connected by the idea of the “unbelievable premise.” In social magic, it can be awkward when it seems that perhaps you believe your own claims. “Is he suggesting he’s actually reading my mind?” “Does he want me to believe he’s really a bond-language expert?” The Reverse Disclaimer is about making your claim about what’s happening so unbelievable that it goes without saying that it’s intended as fiction, so no disclaimer is needed.

For example, looking at the Donny Ackerman trick mentioned above, the claim that you’re stopping time is so unbelievable that it acts as it’s own disclaimer that you’re not suggesting what you’re doing is real.

The idea behind The Sealed Room With the Little Door is this… You’ve established an unbelievable claim/premise. It’s not intended to be believed. But if your trick is strong enough, and there is no other “easy answer” for the spectator to consider, then you can get them to momentarily get caught up in the idea and almost consider the unbelievable premise as real because it’s the only thing they’ve been given that makes sense.

You can see it on people’s faces or hear it as they talk out what they just saw.

Let’s say I tell you to come outside and we look up in the sky and you see Santa Clause being pulled in his sleigh against the full moon. You see it clearly. Now, you know I’m a magician, so you’re looking for trickery. But there are no easy answers. It wasn’t a projection. It wasn’t a 2-dimensional Santa against a fake-moon hanging from a tree. Again, you know I’m a magician, and you know it must be some sort of a trick. But still, I think at some point this thought crosses your mind: “I wonder what he was doing here? It’s not even Christmas!” Like just for half a second before you’re like, “What the hell am I thinking?”

That’s your mind probing the “little door” even when the premise is 100% fantastical. If you have a premise that’s just slightly more believable—let’s say 98% fantastical (stopping time, ghosts, spells that induce good luck)—and a trick that’s really strong, you’ll find you can get even the most rational people’s minds drifting towards unbelievable ideas for a few seconds here or there before they snap out of it and question their sanity.

I’m curious what you think of these tweets by Brian Brushwood. —DD

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Hmmm….well, seeing them out of context I assumed he was joking because it’s such a poorly thought out and obviously manipulative attempt at making a point. But apparently he’s serious?

If someone has an issue with magic tutorials on youtube, and your response to them is, “Oh, I see. You’re in favor of the systematic butt-fucking of pre-teens!!” That suggests that maybe you don’t quite have the confidence in your position that you’re pretending to.

You can easily make the opposite argument in an equally stupid way. “Oh, you think kids should learn magic online rather than in the public library? Online? Where children are susceptible to grooming from perverts and pedophiles all over the world? Wow, that’s pretty fucked up.”

No one has been more anti-magic-perv than me. Hell, the foundation of the magic society I started is that we kick out creeps. But his argument is desperate and nonsensical. He’s acting as if the debate is: Should people be teaching magic online or should you be forced to learn it from your rapist? Like… those aren’t the only options, dude.

To get to the actual substance of the discussion—whether the easy availability of magic secrets online is good or bad for the art—my feelings are these:

  1. I think the internet has advanced the science of magic immensely: the technologies and methodologies behind magic have exploded in scope and dimension. If you look at the growth in magic methods between 1950 and 1970, for example, it’s pretty modest. If you look at the growth in the last 20 years it’s insane.

  2. I think the internet has had little to no effect on the art of magic. I think you probably still have the same percent of magicians who suck and the same percent who are good.

  3. I think the internet has been detrimental to the spectator’s experience of magic.

To expand on that last point, I don’t think exposure or “online tutorials” hurt magicians. I think they take away from the experience of a magic trick for non-magicians. If you saw someone penetrate one rubber-band through another in 1989 and it really captured your imagination, you might think about it for years to come. And maybe you stumble across the secret on your own. Or maybe you spend years wondering if there is actually some unknown way to really make one rubber band melt through another.

In 2019, if you see someone penetrate one rubber band through another and it really captures your imagination, you google rubber band magic and you can immediately find a video explanation for what you saw. That’s the end of it.

Some people are saying, “Andy, you don’t get it. Secrets aren’t important.” No, I get that. I’m making the exact same point. I don’t think secrets are important. I think the important thing is the experience and creating a pleasurable sense of mystery in someone’s life. But when secrets are so readily accessible, you undermine the experience and the mystery. You’re taking all the potential romance out of the situation.

I’m not against online magic tutorials. I definitely see the benefit of them (beyond just making it harder to diddle the kiddies). But I also see the benefits of there being some barriers to entry for some magic secrets as well. There are people who teach magic online because they want to grow the art, and some who do it because they’re grade-A dullards and know that no one would pay attention to them if they weren’t offering secrets. It’s not a black and white issue, there are shades of grey here. (“And also shades of brown and red on the underpants of the abused children!” Yes, yes. Okay. You’ve made your point, Brian.)

I used to be more in the “who gives a shit” camp. “Who cares if they google it and figure it out after the trick is over, as long as they enjoyed it while it happened. Either way they know it’s a trick, so what difference does it make? And, in fact, learning how it’s done may give them a greater appreciation for the cleverness of the effect or the skill of the performer.” But I don’t really buy that anymore. I’ve had too many experiences in the past few years where people have come up to me and spoken in wonder, awe, or bewilderment about some trick I did weeks, months, or even years before that was still a mystery to them. I’ve never had anyone come up to me and speak with any reverence about a trick I did that they figured out.

But whatever. I don’t really get too worked up about what’s taught/what’s not taught, what’s exposed/what’s not exposed. I always just feel like—with enough thought—I can stay a step ahead of all that, or even use it to my advantage.

Dustings of Woofle #9

Next week is Summer Break here at the Jerx. There won’t be any posting as I’ll be too busy having beach fun, baby!


At the end of next week, the Summer 2019 issue of the X-Comm newsletter will be hitting supporters email boxes. If you think you should be receiving one and you don’t see it by Monday the 22nd, send me an email and we’ll sort it out.

I receive a number of requests to consult for people, including many people I respect in the magic industry. I generally turn them down because I’m not sure consulting for professional magicians is a great match for my skillset.

I tell people this and they say, “Oh, that doesn’t matter. I still want to hire you.”

I tell them that it won’t be cheap and they say, “That’s fine. I’ve worked with consultants before. I know they’re not cheap.”

I tell them my ideas tend to be a little idiosyncratic and probably won’t be useful to them. They say, “I understand, but let’s give it a shot.”

For the past few months I’ve been telling the people who asked me that I would soon be offering a short-term consulting service and would put details on the site. Well, I’m committing myself here to finally do that. When Summer Break ends there will be a post with the details of that service linking to a new page on the site where interested people can find out the details. (And I will probably try and continue to talk you out of the idea.)

I have a new policy in regards to using people’s names on this site. With professional magicians, I’ll generally use your full name. With non-pros, I’ll probably use your first name-last initial, or just initials (unless you tell me otherwise).

This isn’t to keep your identity secret from the readers. It’s to keep this site from showing up when someone googles your name. My friend Andrew, whose work I’ve featured here and in the books/magazine, was someone I used to refer to by his full name. But someone searched for his name and “magic” after seeing something he did and found this site. Of course, no one without an interest in magic would bother reading this site (most people with an interest in magic don’t bother reading the site), but I can understand not wanting your name and your performances coming back to a magic blog.

So that’s the policy going forward.

In Magic For Young Lovers there is a trick called CardLibs where you walk your spectator through a “fun new game” that you’ve created that turns out to be incredibly dull in a magical way.

Friend of the site, Max T. (Look guys, I’m using the new policy!) is a game developer and one of the creators of Cards Against Humanity. He went and printed the CardLibs prompts on official (official? whatever) Cards Against Humanity cards and sent me some.


So now I can introduce it as a CAH variant that I’ve been chosen to beta-test. “It’s aimed at a younger audience, and it’s a game you can play by yourself or with a partner. It’s not a competitive game, really. It’s just a way to have some good clean silly fun!” Then you play the game and it turns out to be no fun at all.

Not only does this add a different level of credibility to the start of the effect (if that’s what you want). But because the prompts are on cards, and not sheets of paper, you could change up the handling so the spectator can “mix” the prompts in some way, or match them up with the playing cards or something like that.

I have a few sets of these to give away. [UPDATE: All gone.]


Did the original Jumping Stool fail to get you the acclaim you expected? Well check out the Jumping Stool 2.0.

Can you imagine just how powerful a trick this must be?

Imagine bringing this out on stage.

“Here I have a completely ordinary stool.”

Then you step on it making it go flat and it jumps into your hand!

Standing ovation. People carrying you out on their shoulders. Panties being shotgunned into your face by aroused females.

Sorry, Christ! There’s a new miracle worker in town! And his name is… I don’t know his name…but it’s this guy with the little stool!

Audience reaction: “He took that perfectly normal, everyday stool—the one that’s too weak for anyone to sit on and too low for you to rest anything on—and he made it jump up in the air!”

Oh, Andy, quit with the snark. This isn’t supposed to be some AMAZING magic trick. It’s supposed to be a comedy prop.

Alright, let me revise my sarcasm then.

Can you imagine how fucking funny this must be?

“Hahahaha…. oh my god… you’ll never believe the funniest thing I saw! This guy came out on stage with a mini stool. Your standard, non-functional, obviously a prop, mini stool. Then he stepped on it and… you won’t believe this… it’s too funny… wait let me calm down so I can say it.”

14 minutes later.

“Okay… he stepped down on the stool and it jumped in the air!!! It was so funny! You know, like in the way a spring is funny? Well, this was a stool that was funny like springs are.”

“Everyone was laughing so hard and pissing their pants and gasping for air, all because of the great humor he brought to the event with his hilarious jumping stool. What’s that? Can I take you to see his show? Unfortunately no. He left town. Hollywood came calling. He signed a six-picture deal for him and the hilarious stool.”

This may be a standard tactic others have used, but I don’t think I’ve read it before. I wouldn’t want to do it with most people I perform for, because it’s somewhat confrontational, but maybe it would work with someone who’s being a bit of a dick.

The Dick: Hey, can you read my mind?

You: Yeah.

Dick: Prove it.

You: Okay. Think of something. LIke an object you can picture in your mind, I mean.

Dick: Okay. Got it.

You: Okay. This is something you’d find outdoors, isn’t it.

Dick: No.

You: Uhm… think of it again. [Concentrating] I was right the first time. You’d find it outdoors. On a farm, yes?

Dick: Nope. Still wrong.

You: Look, I know what I’m seeing. If you’re not going to be honest about it, there’s no point.

Dick: Hahah. Whatever. You can’t do it.

You: You’re right. I can’t do it if you’re going to lie or change your mind. Obviously.

Dick: Sure.

You: Here. Think of something else, but write it down this time, so we can prove whether I’m doing it or not.

That’s all it is. Just a way to justify the need for them to write something down when reading someone’s mind. I don’t actually think it’s an act that needs that much justification, although some people feel it does. In this instance, you only need to write it down because he’s apparently actively trying to sabotage you. And the fact you do get it right the second time suggests that maybe he was messing with you the first time.

Excited to see—assuming I’m interpreting this product artwork correctly—that Wayne Fox is releasing his version of that classic trick where you take a crap on one side of a scale and weigh it down with a feather, then squeal, “My magical feces are lighter than air!”

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My favorite version is the one David Copperfield did on his final special where he followed up the first phase by floating his big dookie with a zombie gimmick to R. Kelly’s, “I Believe I Can Fly.” And people still say magic can’t be emotionally resonant? Well I guess they didn’t see The Magic of David Copperfield XVII: Vortex of Shit. Powerful stuff.

Okay, see you back here on the 22nd. I’m off for some summer fun.


What's the BFD about DFB?

Digital Force Bag is an app that I’ve been writing about for some time here and in the X-Comm newsletter. It’s a simple concept that allows you to force any item in a list in the Notes app on your phone. It was created by Nick Einhorn and Craig Squires and developed by Marc Kerstein, and it does what it does perfectly.

Perhaps too perfectly, actually. With typical magician’s grace, people are using it to force everything. Even fucking playing cards! As they say, “To a man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. And I guess to magicians, everything looks like a card trick. But perhaps it’s inevitable that something that works this well will get overused and eventually overexposed. I don’t know.

Just because the app works so well, that doesn’t make it the ideal force for everything. Forcing tools are the most powerful, and the least likely to be questioned, when they’re used in contexts where they would be expected, not arbitrary. What might you have a list of on your phone? Use that with DFB. What might you fill up a pad with? Use that with Svengali pads. What might you have written down on slips and collected? Use that with a clear forcing bag/Amazebox.

Well, I’m not here to lecture you. You do whatever the hell you want. If this app gets F’d out, I’ll adapt.

We used DFB a few times in our focus-group testing back in February. It wasn’t the main thing we were testing, so we only performed it when we had extra time with some people. We didn’t perform it dozens of times, so I can’t say these results are definitive in any way, but they may be interesting to some of you.

We performed a fairly dull and basic DFB effect for 10 people (individually, not as a group).

Group 1 - Five of the people saw this trick: They name a number between 1 and 100. That number is used to identify a celebrity on a list of celebrities. A picture on the table is turned over, and it’s that celebrity.

Group 2 - Five of the people saw this trick: They name a number between 1 and 100. That number is used to identify a celebrity on a list of celebrities. They name another number between 1 and 100. That number is used to identify an item of food from a list of food. A picture on the table is turned over, and it’s that celebrity eating that food.

Which trick was stronger?

From my perspective, Group 2 had a slightly bigger response initially.


When we asked them to suggest their best explanation for the effect, no one in Group 1 questioned the phone or the use of an app or anything like that. But four out of the five in Group 2 did.

Not scientific. Not a big enough sample size. Could just have been a coincidence. I get that.

But I doubt it.

Going back to the 7 part series from the last couple weeks, I think forcing multiple objects gets you a bigger pop of Surprise—Tom Hanks eating a pineapple is inherently more funny/surprising than just Tom Hanks, because it’s more specific—but it also puts more focus on the method, so the long-term, secondary reaction (contrecoup astonishment) is diminished.

This is a trade-off some might be willing to make. For amateurs, the initial response doesn’t carry much weight. You’re more concerned about fooling them long-term. For a professional you may value that initial outward reaction more even if it gives a potential explanation for the trick. Just something to think about.

I have a friend who gets pulled over a lot because he drives like a maniac. He has a “bucket list” on his phone and the force item is “Charm my way out of a speeding ticket.”

He says it works about half the time.

An email from reader, DT:

You could use the list of 100 presentations from Part IV along with the Digital Force Bag app. You could say it was a list of subjects you found interesting and have been looking into and then have them select one at random (wink-wink) and then you could offer to “show them some research” or “give them a demonstration” of their freely (nudge-nudge) chosen subject. —DT

I really like this idea. Not using the DFB app as part of a trick itself, but to add an air of spontaneity to your interaction.

Making things feel more unplanned is almost always a positive thing for the amateur performer. “Oh, you picked ‘Ghosts’… Uhm…Okay, I can show you something. but we’re going to have to take a 15 minute drive. Is that okay?” A mini field-trip is always a good way to get people intrigued, but when it seems unplanned that adds another layer to it.

Spontaneity can also increase the impossibility of what they saw. For example, say you had “elemental manipulation” on the list, and then you do a trick where you change water to ice in your hands or something. The “obvious” answer is that you must have had that ice on you to start with. But if you seemingly didn’t know you were going to be addressing that subject, how could you know to have it on you?

And it’s something you could continue on with the person for as long as you want. Every time you meet up she gets to pick something at random from the list of weird phenomenon you’ve been studying. Just the existence of the list itself is going to be a good talking point and a Hook for future interactions.

I have a new favorite use for DFB that will be in the next issue of X-Communication. It’s so good. In actuality, the trick itself isn’t spectacular. But every detail has been worked out, and done in the context I suggest, it’s truly a thing of beauty. It’s a great “special occasion” trick as you’ll see, and it leaves people with a perfect memento. I have pretty specific rules of what I think is “souvenir worthy” but this one is as good as anything you’ll find in magic. The last time I performed it I was told, “If my house was burning down and I could save three things. This would be one of them.” And she wasn’t kidding.

That’s coming in 10 days or so in the newsletter for supporters.

Part VII: Mailbag

I really think this series is not only some of your strongest work but also some of the best modern magic theory I’ve read.

You just need to change the name because A Unified Theory of Blowing People’s Fucking Brains Out Their Buttholes is not something people are going to take seriously. —DS

Ah, dear boy, but that’s why I named it that.

You might think, “If he wants to be taken seriously, he should write in a serious manner.” But the thing is I don’t care if you take me seriously. I just wrote six blog posts that are the equivalent in length of a 50+ page essay. If I was unsure of the value of the information, I would have published it in a slim, hard-cover volume with, “A Brief Treatise on Maximizing the Potency of Magic-based Demonstrations,” embossed in gold leaf on the cover, in an attempt to convince people it was something important.

But I’m already aware of the value of the information. I don’t need validation. So if people are going to dismiss it because it’s on a blog, or because of my style of writing, or because it’s accompanied with a gif of Donald Duck poking down his boner, that’s perfectly fine.

In Part II you said the classic force is a “broken technique” because you can’t establish the condition of a free choice. Couldn’t that be said of all forces? —DT

No. Not all. Some, yes. But the Classic Force is the hardest one to ret-con as a completely free selection because it doesn’t involve any moment where they make a definitive choice.

I have a friend who was a huge proponent of the Classic Force, even after the testing on forces which he helped conduct. His position was along these lines: “When you reveal the card they selected written in the sand on the beach, it’s obviously a force, no matter what you do. If that’s the case, then why not do the quickest, most direct selection procedure, the Classic Force?"

The problem with that statement is that his premise was wrong. There are techniques you can use that seemingly eliminate the possibility of a force. (I have chapters in my first two books about such techniques, and there will be another chapter with my most streamlined way of doing that in the next book.)

There are magicians who say, “You shouldn’t reveal a forced card in skywriting or as a tattoo (or any similar type of big reveal) because then they’re going to know it was a force.” But the reason they’re thinking like that is because the force they consider the gold standard (the classic force) is terrible for establishing the condition that it wasn’t a force: it’s kinetic, the choice is quick, the choice can’t reach toward a particular area of the deck, they can’t change their mind, and the card is literally placed into their hand.

If you use techniques that happen slowly, offer people the chance to change their mind, show them other options they could or would have ended up with if they made different choices, etc., then you can remove the possibility of a force and a big reveal will be genuinely astonishing.

By the way, I ended up changing my friend’s mind by going to Tannen’s and buying a Magician’s Insurance Policy—a trick most people would probably consider average at best—and performing it for people with him later that night. The trick is dumb as hell, but—if you remove the possibility of a force—it’s still devastating (as is any reveal when a force isn’t the answer).

I’m thinking of offering this service to people. I will come to your town, and we’ll go out and I’ll perform the Magician’s Insurance Policy for people while you watch. You’ll see it’s possible to force a card and eliminate the idea in the spectator’s mind that it was a force, and you’ll see how strong the reactions are, regardless of how corny the trick (or performer) may be.

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You said we shouldn’t do tricks that suggest sleight-of-hand if we want to get people to a state of genuine astonishment where they have no clue how a trick could be done. I understand that point but I’m also someone who loves sleight-of-hand. Am I wasting my time? — KS

If you want people to think of you as a sleight-of-hand expert, then you’re definitely not wasting your time.

If you like sleight-of-hand, but don’t want that to be the explanation for everything you do, then you’re still not necessarily wasting your time. Just adopt this mindset: I’m going to do sleight-of-hand that is so smooth and invisible that the notion I’m doing sleight-of-hand will be as impossible for them to believe as whatever the trick was that I showed them.

Practice and perfect sleights that are either invisible or look like normal actions. Avoid flashy or flourishy sleights. Think of your sleights as a secret super-power, not something you’re flaunting When you feel you need some validation for all the time you’ve put into your sleight-of-hand, go to a magic convention and show off there.

Re: Getting Rid of "It's just math." easy answer

My wife is a math teacher, and every year she has me come in and do some mathematical magic for her classes. Performing for 11 to 15-year-olds, which is great because they are NEVER polite. They are smart enough to understand the magic and they don't have the social graces of older audiences that might pretend like they were fooled when they weren't. Generally, the kids leave the performance saying, "Oh, he's just really good at math". In this context that's okay. These are kids, in a school and I'm specifically performing for them to try to make math look more interesting...if it looks more interesting at the expense of the secret that's fine with me.

I've noticed different reactions for some pieces though. I use a number force. It's a fairly typical algebra thing with a phone calculator. With this particular routine, the response is usually different and the theories are typically not math related. It doesn't get rid of the theory 100% of the time but it works a lot.

So what do I do that is different? I force an ugly decimal. Something like this 14528.25347896332658741525889632148855. My theory is that process + organization = math in their heads. If something feels extra messy it helps to get rid of the idea of math.

I think Woody Aragon, Juan Tamariz, Dani Daortiz, and Lennart Green get this. A huge amount of their magic is "mathematical" card magic and I think they get rid of the theory, in part thanks to the messiness of their performance style. —JB

Yeah, that’s a great point. Most people think of math as very structured and would assume a math-based effect would be very controlled and methodical. Having a messy process or a mess outcome is an ideal way to undermine the “it’s just math” answer for the vast majority of the population.

You missed a big one on your list of presentations in your post, “Weaponizing Surprise.” You didn’t mention Influence. —JW

Oh, I didn’t miss it. My full list is much longer and grows every day.

One of the least fortunate things to happen to magic/mentalism is that someone as charismatic as Derren Brown made “influence” such a big part of his presentations/pseudo-methodology, especially early on.

It felt like a fresh approach when he came on the scent. But now it’s a completely fucked-out presentation.

Magicians like it because it makes them look powerful, but seemingly not delusional. “Oh, no, no, no. I’m not one of those charlatans who claims to have magic powers. I just influenced you to cut to the aces.”

Heres the thing…saying you “influenced” someone without suggesting how you influenced them is identical to claiming magic powers.

I say we all start calling out this lazy presentation going forward.

“I influenced you to cut to the aces!”

“Oh yeah? How?”

“What do you mean ‘how’? I influenced you.”

“Sure. But how did you exert your influence? What was the manner in which you influenced me to cut to these locations in the deck?”

“Just…. I mean… it’s my powers of Influence!!!”

Influence isn’t something that just happens. It’s the result of something you do. And if you’re suggesting you influenced people to name a particular random 3-digit number, for example, in a manner so subtle that you left no evidence of your influence and no one else picked up on it, then you might as well just say, “I’m a wizard!”


Part VI: Miscellany

One thing about this series that I attempted to make clear, but perhaps didn’t, judging by a couple emails I’ve received, is this: This is not how I approach every trick I do. There may be aspects of this approach that apply to much of my material, but I don’t run everything through this process. This process is for when I want to do something particularly special, that’s on another level from just a “great trick.”

In the past I’ve called this Tantric Magic, because, like tantric sex, you really want to take your time with it and plan every detail and create a more intense connection with your partner through the activity.

But you don’t want to spend four hours banging your old lady every night.

You don’t want Christmas every day.

You don’t want cake for dessert at every meal.

You don’t want to overdo this style of magic. What makes it special is that it’s something rare.

I think it’s important to cycle people through different intensities of magic. If you performed a genuine miracle every evening, people would be bored by day four. But if you space them out over time, you can keep people on the hook the rest of their lives.

For us, everything is under the umbrella of “magic,” but I want them to get a sense that there’s a little more distinction between these types of things. I want them to think, “Oh, he does these really cool visual tricks, and he knows some strange games, and he has some great card tricks, and he’s got a collection of really weird objects, and then…this one time… he showed me the goddamned craziest fucking thing I’ve ever seen.”

But I don’t want them to think of that on a spectrum of “ok to impossible.” I want them to think of them as different types of experiences. Like if you knew a chef and you said, “She makes us dinner sometimes, and she’ll knock out a pizza late-night on Saturdays, and she makes a great cupcake, and this one time… she made us this incredible 14-course meal that blew me away.” You’re not saying, “The 14-course meal is amazing and the cupcake is just okay.” You’re feeling them as distinct things that are all great in their own way. Even though to the chef it might all just be “cooking.”

Further reading: The Hedonic Treadmill and the Art of Not Always Doing Your Best, Bedrock: Outer Game

Here is the TL/DR version of the Surprise-Astonishment-Mystery spectator reaction pathway:

1. A spectator’s initial reaction to a trick is Surprise.

2. If that trick cannot be explained or undermined by their internal faculties, then Surprise morphs into Astonishment.

3. If the trick cannot be explained or undermined by any external factors (googling, youtube videos, asking around) or if the spectator just chooses not to seek out an explanation from external sources, then Astonishment will transform into Mystery over time.

Those are the two “gauntlets” you need to pass through: their internal knowledge/logic, and the external tools they might use to figure out a trick.

The “Mystery” pathway is just one you may want to pursue. There are other pathways.

Is a person doing manipulation on stage really trying to engender feelings of true mystery? I don’t think so (if they are, they’re doing a terrible job of it). I think their goal is probably something that puts a focus on esthetics as much as magic. There should be a flow and a rhythm and beauty to it. The Beauty Path is different than the Mystery Path.

Another path might be if your goal is to impress people with your supposed or real skill (influence tricks, gambling tricks, memory tricks). That might be a two-step pathway from Surprised to Impressed.

First they’re Surprised that you did whatever. For example, there’s the initial surprise when the four aces show up in your poker hand.

Then their mind processes what must have happened for you to get those aces and they’re Impressed with with how difficult that must be (or how difficult you suggested it was).

You’re not looking to create Mystery here. You want them to believe they know how it was done: via your exceptional skill.

The Mystery Path wants to leave them with no reasonable answer. The Impressive Path tries to lead them to one reasonable, but still impressive answer. The Beauty Path might not care what answers they come to as long as they’re engrossed in watching the magic.

I haven’t really thought these things out all that well, my point is just that Mystery isn’t always the end goal, and you’ll want to find whatever the path is for the experience you’re hoping to create.

The benefit of the Mystery Path is also probably its weakness. When you have something that really stays with people, they may feel compelled to research it and figure out what happened, depending how comfortable they are with mystery.

The nice thing about presenting an “average” card trick, for example, is that it doesn’t really feel like it’s meant to be anything other than a momentary pleasure. They’re not going to look up how you did your four ace trick. They’re barely going to remember anything about it other than, hopefully, “that was fun.”

But an immersive trick is intended to stick with them long-term so the inclination to figure out what happened might be very strong.

This is why, generally, I try not to do anything in these contexts that can be unraveled with an obvious google search. And I also try to limit my audiences for this sort of thing to the kind who seem to really embrace mystery.

A prime example (and I do mean prime hahaha…. oh wait… that doesn’t make sense yet… don’t worry you’ll get my hilarious joke soon) of a trick with a high Surprise response, and an almost non-existent Astonishment response is any trick built around the 37 force. This isn’t something I do regularly, but if I see the number out in the wild, say, on the back of a guy’s sports jersey, I might make a little moment out of it for someone. I’ve had people jump when they initially see the number, but then there is very little Contrecoup Astonishment. It succumbs to the Easy Answers pretty quickly.

The 37 force is a Broken Trick. What condition would need to be established for it to be truly impressive? That the spectator had a free choice of a wide range of numbers. What method is used for the trick? Limiting them to a small group of numbers. The method precludes you from establishing the condition which is the definition of a Broken Trick.

This reminds me of an Easy Answer that I forgot. It’s the Easy Answer of, “He must have got lucky.”

This is related to the, “I guess everyone says ____,” answer, although not identical.

How do you plug the “He got lucky,” hole? You use time. If I say, “Name a musical instrument,” and you say, “Piano,” and I turn over a picture of a piano. You might say, “Everyone must say piano.” If I remind you that i asked you to change your mind a few times, you might think, “Well, he probably got lucky.”

But if there is a build up in the effect that takes 15 minutes to occur, you’re not going to think I had us invest all that time on something that was strictly based on “luck.”

I have a trick coming in the next book where using time in this manner is essentially the only method, and it’s one of my favorites to perform.

Almost all magic trailers show you only the moment of Surprise. I think the lie of magic demos is that that’s the moment that matters. In reality, if they kept the camera on the people for 10 more seconds after the trick, then we’d get the real story.

An uncritical audience is the biggest impediment towards generating Astonishment. True “Astonishment” requires to process the trick and still having no clue how it was done.

The way to know a trick has gone from Surprise to Astonishment is to look for a secondary reaction. With Kolossal Killer (for example) you’re likely to get a reaction that looks like the diagram below. An initial high plateau of (Surprise) followed by a steep descent after their brain processes it. The line doesn’t fall all the way to the bottom because they haven’t (usually) figured out the trick. Instead it drops much of the way because they have an easy answer to account for generally what happened. Then, in the long-term, there is a gradual decline of the residual surprise.

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With a trick that goes from Surprise to Astonishment, you’ll have a reaction like the one below. First, an initial moment of surprise. Then, when their mind thinks about it and gets no answer, you get their peek reaction. Over time, that reaction will turn to Mystery and gradually diminish to a point. But that’s more because it’s not at the forefront of their mind like when it just occurred, not because it’s necessarily any less impossible to them.

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I know a number of people who do the Creepy Child version of Directed Verdict, as mentioned in the last post.. If you do, and you’ve been reading this series of posts, I’m going to reward you by telling you my favorite way to extend the trick.

First, you definitely need to include the initial drawing—the one that matches that day’s newspaper. I know it may seem like a small thing, but it adds a lot to the effect. It broadens the moment from just the few minutes the effect takes, to something that you set up, potentially, much earlier in the day. Instead of just saying, “Oh, and my niece predicted this.” You’re saying, “Oh, remember that kid I mentioned earlier tonight, the creepy one? Well, you’re not going to believe this but….” You’re re-introducing a character they’ve met.

Then a couple weeks later, you can reinvigorate this storyline by doing a headline prediction effect, but with the “creepy child” presentation on top. “My niece gave me this envelope, but she said not to open it until Sunday. Will you hold onto it for me? I think I’ll be too tempted to see what it is.” And then everything comes full circle. You introduced “your niece” by saying, “She predicted this would be the front page of the newspaper.” And then weeks later your spectator gets to experience that impossibility in real time. This is a very strong story construction. So strong that I’ve had a couple people say, “Wait… do you really have a niece who can do this?” What they were sure was just a fun storyline for an effect feels almost possible for a brief moment. (In Jerx-parlance, this would be them poking their head out the Little Door.)

Okay, we’re wrapping this series up with a mailbag post related to it on Monday. When I initially mentioned this series, I said it would consist of three “shorter posts.” I don’t know what the hell I was thinking. In my head it was going to be three posts of two paragraphs each. Bu obviously I ended up having much more to say than I expected.

I was asked to write about this subject by a couple friends who have seen and been a part of some of my performances of this style of trick, and seen how intense the reactions can be. I think if you just see the end result of that sort of performance, it may seem like I simply found or created some really powerful trick, and that makes it seem like an issue of luck or inspiration. But for me it’s really just a matter of finding a strong trick, and then applying this systematic process to it that will—in the best circumstances—transform it into an impregnable mystery.