The Bazillion Dollar Bill Mystery

I want you to do me a favor. I want you to imagine you've purchased a limited edition effect from me.  It's a slim manuscript and you paid $150 for it. Here's why. If you had paid $40 for the trick below, you would probably do it. If I had put it out in a limited edition manuscript for $150, you would definitely do it. Instead I'm going to give it to you for free and none of you will do it. Such is life.

This is a much improved version of a clever UF Grant trick. "Much improved, Andy? Well... you certainly think highly of yourself." Uh, yeah, you don't know the half of it. I think I'm better than all these old dullards you revere. Like Erdnase? That guy isn't responsible for 6 minutes of entertainment in the history of the world since his book was published. Put me and Erdnase in a room with a handful of non-magicians and see which one they find more entertaining. I will demolish him. And that book of his? What a total snooze-fest. Erdnase, you can suck it. And UF Grant? Well, FU UF Grant. I just made your trick 100 times better. 

I'm just kidding (No, I'm not). But I do believe I've added something fairly significant to Grant's trick. The trick is the Million Dollar Bill Mystery. Here is the effect. The magician borrows 2 one-dollar bills from two different audience members. He tears the bills in half and gives each person half of their bill and then the other halves disappear and reappear in a sealed envelope. While I've changed the vanish and the handling of the moves in Grant's effect, that's really just a personalization. The significant change I've made is to the set-up, which allows you to follow up a strong trick with a devastating trick. 

You see, Grant created this really clever method but then knew fuck-all of what to do with it. "Eh, I'll make both halves go to an envelope." 50 years later Michael Ammar did a similar trick on one of his Easy To Master DVDs and the halves of a bill transported into a peanut. That is, essentially, as good a representation of how magic progressed over those 50 years as anything is.  

Grant's trick suffered from a problem that a lot of magic does. It's a structural problem of the trick itself. And I call this the 9/11 Was an Inside Job problem. If 9/11 was a false flag attack so the US could go to war, why did they take out both towers of the World Trade Center? Wouldn't one have been enough? Why double the amount of people or time required for your conspiracy to succeed for no greater benefit?

What does that have to do with magic? Well, because the UF Grant trick has a similar logical flaw in it. Why do you borrow two bills and then have both torn halves reappear in the same place? Why do the same trick twice? Well, you do so because you need to have two bills in play for the method to work. But while it's true you need to borrow two bills to do the UF Grant trick, you don't need to do the exact same trick with them. It was this realization that led to the following trick. 

The description below is how I performed the trick this weekend. When you get to the end you will think that it's crazy and way too involved to set up. Trust me, keep reading, it doesn't have to be that way. I will give you other options at the end that are much simpler and require only 30 seconds to set up. 


Two bills are borrowed and torn in half. Each spectator keeps one half of their bill. The other halves disappear and are transported to two different places.


It's a Saturday, late afternoon. My friends Chris and Michelle are at my apartment where we're passing time before going to the beach to get dinner and have a night-time beach hang-out with a bunch of friends.

"Can I try something with you two?" I ask. "Have you ever heard that when Robin Williams would do a movie -- when he would shoot a scene -- they would do it once according to the script and then a second time where he would just improvise and do whatever he wanted? I think it's the same thing with Will Ferrell. Like they'll shoot things one time according to plan, so they know they have something good. But then they do it a second time -- knowing it might not work at all -- but giving themselves the possibility that something amazing might happen. I want to try something like that with you."

"We're going to try a trick twice. The first time we will be completely 'on-script.' And hopefully it will be an amazing trick. The second time we're just going to kind of leave it up to chance and if it doesn't work, it doesn't work. But if it does work, I think it will not just be an amazing trick, but a pretty amazing life experience. We'll see."

I take out a 6" by 9" kraft paper envelope and hand it to Michelle. I say that from this moment on I will never touch the envelope again. I ask them both to examine it as closely as possible, making sure the envelope is completely sealed and that there are no slits anywhere or any openings of any kind. I ask Michelle to write her name across the sealed flap of the envelope, so that if it were to be opened we would have evidence of it being tampered with. I then give her a roll of duct tape and ask her to seal the small natural openings on the corners of the envelope where the flap folds over. And I ask her to sign her name halfway on the tape, and halfway on the envelope on each corner so we'll know if it's been disturbed. The envelope is now completely sealed. Even more so than a normal sealed envelope. I ask Chris to draw a target on the front of the envelope. Then I ask him to look around my apartment and prop it up anywhere he wants where we can see the target. He places it on a bookshelf a room away.

This is all very deliberate and methodical and "test conditions."

I ask each of them to give me a dollar bill. With completely empty hands I take the two dollar bills, rip them in half, and give Chris half of his bill, and Michelle half of her bill and have them put them in their pockets. 

I take the other halves of the bills and put them in an empty card case. A thought comes to me and I remove one of the halves from the card case and write on it with the marker:

  If found, please call  

I then drop that half in the card case with the other half and give the cardbox to Michelle to hold between her hands.

"This trick is about teleportation. Remember these things: One, the first thing we did, before anything else, was seal up that envelope so it was airtight. Two, you both gave me dollar bills that you had in your wallet or purse. They're your own dollars that you brought with you today and you've been holding onto them the whole time since we ripped them in half. Three, the other halves of your bills are in this case. What I am going to try and do is teleport one of the halves of the bills to that envelope in the other room." I ask Michelle to hold the case out in front of her between her hands. I ask Chris to put his hands around hers, and I put my hands around both of theirs. I start breathing deeply then close my eyes very tight and squeeze their hands between mine.

"It's done," I say. Michelle hands me the cardbox and I open it up towards her without even looking. "They're gone, right? Put your finger in there, it's completely empty, yes?" She verifies that it's empty. 

I ask Chris to get the envelope from the other room. I ask him to check if it has been tampered with in anyway. It hasn't. It's still completely sealed. I ask him to open the envelope and pull out what he finds inside. He does and he pulls out a second envelope. This one sealed with tape across the flap. I ask him if this one is completely sealed too and he agrees it is. I tell him to open it and dump the contents onto the table. He rips open the end of the envelope and turns it over above the table. Out flutters one half of a dollar bill. 

I look from one of them to the other and let the moment marinate. "To be fair, that could be any bill. Does it match one of your bills?" They pull their half-bills out of their pocket as I take the half-bill from the table. I line it up with Michelle's but it doesn't match. I hand it over to Chris, he lines it up with his bill and it's a perfect match. Every fiber, the serial number, everything.

"Ta-daa," I say.

It's a very strong trick. 

"But where is my half?" Michelle asks.

"I have no clue," I say. "I mean, it's probably around here somewhere." I start looking around my apartment, pulling the cushions off the couch, looking behind things on shelves, etc. As I'm doing this I'm explaining to her... "If it's not here, then it's most likely somewhere within a couple miles. It's hard to say, it could really be anywhere. I concentrated on sending one bill inside the envelope, but the other one I just sent out."

They ask me to clarify.

"Remember I talked about doing something twice? Once according to a script and once without knowing what would happen? That's what I did with the bills. The thing about teleportation is this: It can be exact, like sending a letter in the mail. You write down an address and know where it's going. But it doesn't have to be. Yes, you can send a note in the mail. But you also can put it in a bottle and throw it in the ocean. That's what I did with the second half. I just sent it out. Maybe someone finds it, maybe they don't but I figured if they did it would be pretty ama--"

My cellphone starts ringing on my coffee table.

It's an unknown number. I pick it up. "Hello?" I start to laugh a little bit. "I'm sorry, do you speak English? L'anglais?" I listen for a moment and turn to my friends and mouth "Oh my god!" I say, "I'm sorry, but do you have skype by any chance? Can we continue this over the computer?" We exchange some information, I write something down, and I hang up. 

My friends are asking me what's going on but I don't give them any information. "Just hold on," I say, "you'll see." I sit at my desk and fire up my computer. I log into skype and have my friends pull up chairs around me. I call up the skype name I've written down. After a few moments an image pops up on my computer. It is a bearded, straggly haired dude of about 40 years old. In his lap is an adorable little blond 3-year old in pigtails and pajamas.

"Bonsoir!" I say.

"Hello!" he says, in a French accent, and waves. His daughter waves too, excitedly. He introduces himself as Benjamin and his daughter as Élodie. "You have to tell me what is happening," he says.

"haha, What do you mean?" I ask.

"This," he says, and holds up half of a bill.

Michelle gasps, like out of a movie.

I am laughing. "Where did you get that?" 

He shrugs and points up in the air.

Élodie screams, "Il flottait dans l'air!"

"What did she say?" I ask.

"She says, 'It floated out of the air.'"

I ask him to hold the bill up to the camera and direct him to orient it and hold it at a distance to where it's just about actual size for us on our end of the screen. "Michelle," I say, "see if it matches up." She pulls her half-bill out of her pocket and holds it up to the screen. The serial numbers match, the tear matches down to the small crooked tear at the bottom.

"I do not understand what is going on," Benjamin says.

Michelle scoots over into my place and animatedly explains what happened. "That was my bill!" she says. "It was in my purse when I came over here today. We tore it in half. I kept this half and the other part disappeared and now you have it." She turns to me, "How is that...?" Then back to the the computer, "Are you really in France," she asks?

Benjamin picks up his laptop and walks into a bedroom, he steps out onto a small balcony, and holds his laptop out so we can see the street then tilts it up and in the far distance the Eiffel Tower can be seen. He holds out the half of the dollar in the frame next to the Eiffel Tower putting the whole effect into perspective.

He returns to his daughter in the other room. We talk for a few more minutes. And then say our goodbyes to our new friends. 

We go to the beach where the story is retold throughout the night, getting more and more impossible with every retelling.


There are a number of variables in this effect. It does not have to be as big as I made it in the presentation. It can still be a very strong effect without being a transcontinental effort. Read to the end for other options. But first I will explain how I did it.

Set Up: Take a dollar bill, tear it in half. Make it mostly straight except for a tiny jagged tear at the bottom. Seal one half of the bill in an envelope and seal that envelope in another envelope. This is the "target" envelope set up.

Take the other half of the dollar, write the message from the description on it (with your phone number and country), and mail it to someone you know who is first and foremost a good actor. It also helps if he/she lives in a place that is very far away from you and that you can see a recognizable landmark from their place.

Handling: This effect could be done on stage, close-up, parlor or whatever. It's really very practical. I will tell you how I did it in a casual performing environment and you can figure out the particulars that will work well for you wherever you perform.

I sat on a couch between my two spectators.

I introduced the envelope as in the presentation, and I truly don't ever touch it again. That's one of the beautiful parts of this method. That envelope is prepared as I mention in the description of the effect and set aside somewhere.

I then ask to borrow two dollar bills. I put them back to back and tear them in half. The choreography of what follows is this (and it matches perfectly what you would do in real life). You hold the bills in front of your chest to tear them; you tear the bills into four pieces, two pieces in each hand; then your arms unfold, christ-on-the-cross style, to offer each spectator a piece of their bill. But as you do, your left 1st and 2nd fingers turn over its bills. That's all their is to it. It all happens in the movement from your arms going from bent-in at the elbow to opening up and straight at the elbow. The flip of the one packet is completely lost in the overall movement. Your arms should be mirroring each other at the end with your hands holding the bills, fingers on the bottom, thumb on top.

I now say this, I thought a long time about the wording, and I'm not even sure it's grammatically correct but it cements what the situation should be and I think clarifies everything going forward. I turn to the person on the right and extend my right hand to them, "Okay, now you take the half of the bill on top," then I turn to the person on my left and extend my left hand to them, "and you take the half of the bill on the bottom."

From the way you tear the bills, to how you give out the pieces, to what you say -- everything is in keeping with how it would happen for real. But the actual condition is that they are both holding halves of the same bill. And you are holding two halves of another bill. 

I tell them to put their pieces of the bill in their pocket just because that seems more "secure" and I don't want the remote possibility that one of them might notice the other half has the same serial number.

Then I vanish the other two halves. I did so by using Paul Harris' Angel Case. But it doesn't matter what happens to these halves, so you could do anything with them. Burn them, flush them, send them into the air in a helium balloon. Whatever you want. But before you vanish them, reconsider what you're about to do, remove one of the halves, and write the message on it to match the one you mailed to your friend. 

After I vanished the two halves, I had the envelope retrieved, opened, the other enveloped dumped out, opened, and the half bill dumped out.

Now comes the next and final move. It's not even really a move. What you need to do, under the actions of comparing one person's half-bill (either person's) to the half-bill that fell out of the envelope, is switch the two. Here's how I did it. I asked Michelle for her half-bill and took it with one hand while taking the half-bill from the envelope with the other. Then I stood up from the couch and turned to face them. In the process my hands come together to match up the bill. I see that it doesn't match and I gave Michelle back the half that had come from the envelope as if it was the half she just gave me. Done casually there is not much to suspect here. It's a moment of non-magic. The shifting of my body was probably overkill. You can really just take the two half-bills, try to line them up, then put them flat against each other and examine the torn edges, turn them over once or twice in the process and hand her back the opposite piece. Whatever feels right. The fact is that when you hand the other piece back and keep all attention on the piece you retain, it's going to feel like that's the important piece that we've been dealing with the whole time. You then say, "If this isn't part of her bill, then it must be the other half of yours," and hand it to the second spectator. He gets to take the bill and match it up with the piece he retains. The "magic" moment is the one you're not involved with. It's very deceptive.

The other half can now appear wherever you want it to. In fact, the only place it shouldn't appear is where it does in UF Grant's original, i.e. in the same envelope as the first piece.

I set it up with my friend to have him call at a particular time, about 15 minutes after I knew I would be starting the trick. It doesn't need to be exact. In can be any time later that evening. Just make sure you remove that person's contact info from your phone, so when it rings they won't notice it's from a friend.

But let's say you don't want to go to that trouble. Where else can the other half go? Did you not hear me above when I said it could go anywhere? Why do I have to come up with all the ideas?

Okay, here are a couple other ways I might do it in the future if I don't have someone helping me on the other side of the world.

1. If I was in my friend's place earlier that day, I would leave the half-bill somewhere. Maybe on their dresser or on their kitchen counter before we left. Then when I performed the trick I would say, "I teleported his bill to the envelope, but yours I tried to send all the way into your apartment. When you get back tonight check your coffee table or your kitchen counters and see if I was able to get it there. Call me if it worked." I like the idea of magic that concludes when you're not around.

2. But let's say you didn't have access to their place. You're in your house and you decide you want to perform this effect for someone. Here's how you could do it with about half a minute's set-up. Get two envelopes. Take a dollar bill, rip it in half. Put half in an envelope, then fold that envelope and seal it in another envelope. Take the other half of the dollar bill and put it in your microwave. Then proceed with the trick. When it comes time to show the teleportation of the second bill say, "I teleported the first bill towards a target. But the other one I just shot off without aiming. It could be anywhere around here." You send the spectator whose bill matches into the kitchen, the other spectator into a different room, and yourself into a third room. It's almost like an easter egg hunt at this point. Eventually your spectator will find the other half of her bill in the microwave. If she doesn't after a couple minutes just say, "Make sure you check everywhere. The cupboards, the microwave, the refrigerator." She'll find it

Obviously if you do one of these other versions, you don't need to write anything on the bill.

There you have it. Thank you for purchasing this $150 manuscript. I hope you get some use out of it.