[Note: While there is no "official" online magic store partner for The Jerx (And there won't be until I start my own magic store or someone writes me a check with a bunch of zeros to be the official sponsor for the site. (And look, those zeros have to come after the other numbers, guys. It can't be, like, $000000000046.00. That's still just 46 bucks. I know that now.)), there is currently one online store who gives a little back to The Jerx when you visit them and buy something via the link on this site. If there isn't a local magic store you choose to support, or an online retailer who has earned your loyalty, then I would encourage you to use the Vanishing Inc. link in the sidebar. If enough people do so, that will translate to more posts here. It's a win-win-win. It's the circle of life. It's like a 69 with three people.]
I have a number of very strong revelations for peeked information, but I don't have what I would consider to be a perfect peek. I think it's very difficult to know with any certainty what an audience will find suspicious when it comes to a peek. Last year I did some testing where the audience could register as they watched a performance when they thought something fishy was going on. They did this via swiping up and down on an iphone to register their suspicion. Swiping up meant they were skeptical about what was going on, swiping down meant they were believing what they were seeing. It's like those dials they give people to watch the presidential debates and register if they agree or disagree with what the candidates are saying. What we had after this testing was a little seismograph of audience suspicion that we could play along with the performance and see exactly where they were calling bullshit in their minds as they watched the performance. This may seem like a lot of effort to go to, and it was, but I've been on the lookout for a perfect peek for years now and I knew doing this would point me in that direction, or at least let me know what techniques I should avoid.
The main thing I learned from this testing is that if you want to avoid suspicion you can't ever look in the area where the information supposedly is. This may seem beyond obvious, but many peeks do just that.
For example, putting a card with an unknown word on it in your wallet raised suspicion slightly. If you then re-open that wallet to get something, suspicion goes off the chart. (And this is the exact choreography of a number of peek wallets.) The problem is, unless you draw undue attention to it, the spectator's aren't focusing on the layout of your wallet. So they will remember you putting it in, but when you go back to your wallet they don't remember if you put it in a section that somehow precluded you from seeing the other side, so they'll just assume that's what you're doing.
Similarly, if you tear up a billet with your head clearly facing left and your hands outstretched to the right, there is little suspicion. But if you even glance at the pieces in the process, the action is completely suspect. It was disheartening to watch people be unimpressed by world-class mentalists peeking the word in real time as they tore up the card. Then to watch those same people get fooled by my friend who would tear up the card (eyes tightly closed, head facing the opposite direction), and drop the pieces in the spectator's hands to go flush down the toilet, then take all the time he needed to read the word on the stolen piece while they were in the bathroom.
So that principle, as basic and obvious as it may sound, is what guides me when looking for a new peek. The one you'll read below isn't perfect, but it's one of my new favorites.
The $10 Peek Wallet
A month or so ago, my friend showed up with a new peek wallet. It cost him ten dollars and it was pretty much the dumbest, simplest peek wallet you could imagine. But its simplicity allowed me to come up with what I found to be a very disarming handling for it.
The wallet comes with The Ultimate Networking Tool. I do not have a clue of what the Ultimate Networking Tool is, but I do know that the package includes this wallet and it's 10 bucks total. What do you have to lose?
I should mention that it's not an actual wallet. Like it doesn't hold cash. It's meant to hold business cards. But it's not unlike the type of wallet I do often use in my everyday life which is designed to hold a few credit cards (I just keep my cash in pocket).
You should have your license in the peek area and a couple credit cards and a business card in the wallet.
You take the business card out of your wallet and have your friend write whatever you plan to reveal on it. You're turned away throughout this. When she's done you turn back to her and say, "Hold it between... actually... hand it to me...." And you take the card and put it in the wallet (sliding it under your license and leaving a couple millimeters hanging out so it can be removed easily).
Justifying the Wallet
People are always looking for a justification for putting the card back into the wallet. I don't know that anyone has found a good reason for this. So instead of giving a rationale (which might come off as bullshitty), you're going to imply one. And since you're not actually stating it outright, there's nothing for your audience to push back against. They're not going to call you out on a rationale that they themselves have concocted in their mind.
The implication you make is that you were first just going to ask them to hold the card between their hands, then you "decide" to put it in the wallet as something of an extra barrier. You then have her put the wallet between her hands. And then you place your hands on either side of hers. The wallet is now just one of many layers of protection between you and the card.
What makes this so disarming is that you're handing the wallet in the "peekable" state to your spectator immediately after you put the card in. And getting the peek as you do so. In action this looks like this (except placed onto the spectator's hand, and not your own):
The card is in the wallet, the wallet is between her hands, her hands are between yours. At this point you will act as if you're receiving/reading part of the information. So if she wrote down a name you'll be able to guess the gender or the first initial. And if it's a number you might be able to say how many digits and if it's even or odd. Then you act like you're stumped, that the information isn't coming through as clear as you'd like, and you say something like, "Can you?... actually, no... I don't want to see it." At this point you are going to have your spectator clean up for you. Walk across the room and turn your back to your friend. "Can you open the wallet and pull out the card? Toss the wallet aside, we don't need it anymore." Now you have your friend crumple up the card and hold it in a fist or sit on it or put it in her bra or go outside and bury it. Whatever you want. The point is that the effect ends with the wallet out of play and the card in a completely unreadable position and that's when you do the bulk of the effect.
But Andy, you can't put a peek wallet in the spectator's hands and have them handle it and remove the card.
Sure you can. This handling puts very little heat on the wallet and the likelihood of something going wrong is greatly diminished by the choreography of the effect. Consider:
- There is an implied justification for the wallet.
- It's immediately placed in the spectator's hands once the card is in there. And then it's sandwiched between her hands, meaning there isn't time for her to fiddle around with it.
- People are less likely to suspect an object that you've placed in their hands.
- The wallet is only not sandwiched in her hands once she's given the task of opening it and removing the card. Most spectators are more engaged in following your directions than screwing around at that point.
- The main part of the trick is done after the card is removed from the wallet. And after the card is removed, the wallet is completely examinable. So the only time they can bust you is before the heart of the trick happens, when their guard isn't up as much.
You can test the safety of this without actually doing the trick. Take a bifold wallet and ask your friend to watch you put a card in one of the slots. Then have them hold the wallet between their hands. Then ask them to open the wallet and remove the card. At no point will they turn the wallet over. It doesn't aid in any of those actions.
And in a worst case scenario, where for some reason they start looking the wallet over rather than opening it and removing the card when you tell them to, here is what you do.
Them: Hey! You can see the card through here...
You: [turning around] What's that? Whoa, hey! Don't show it to me, you dingbat! Just put it in a different slot or something or fold it up and put it in your pocket.
Unlike most peek wallets that have some features that are clearly not normal, with this wallet you're just taking advantage of a fairly standard wallet construction. So even when the card is in peek position, it's not really unnatural and you can easily pass it off as just a mistake if it was noticed. Because the peek itself is so smooth and motivated it draws no attention to itself. The brief moment where you are holding the wallet with the card in it isn't memorable enough for them to zero in on as being the moment where you did what you needed to do.
Again, I don't know what makes this the "Ultimate Networking Tool." (It really should be called the Conjurer's Ultimate Networking Tool -- you know, so people will know it's for magicians. No other reason. None at all.) But at this point in time it is the only peek wallet I have in rotation and it allows an innocent handling that many of the $100 wallets don't.