The Baby Who Knows


Your friend's unborn baby is clairvoyant.


I'm visiting my friend Rebekka who is pregnant with her second child. 

"This is one of the oldest tests there is for psychic powers," I say. I give her a die and a little plastic canister and ask her to hold both behind her back. I tell her to roll the die around in the palm of her hand a little and then to put it in the canister and cap it. I ask her to hand the canister to me and I slide it into another plastic canister and set the whole thing on the table. 

"That die is now inside an plastic canister, which is inside another plastic canister. In the field of psychic research this is what's known as a "double blind" test." [Yes, of course I know it's not, but that's never stopped me.] "Imagine we opened the larger container and removed the smaller container, and then we opened the smaller container and looked down on the die inside there. Some number will be pointed up at us, yes?" She agrees. "Do you know what number that would be?" She says she doesn't. "Right, because you did it randomly. And if you don't know what it is, then I surely can't know what it is. And there's no way to tell by looking at the canister is there?" She picks it up and examines it and shakes her head.

"If someone in this room was psychic they could know what it is, but I'm not, and you're not." I pause for a little bit. "But maybe she is," I say, pointing to her stomach. 

"I can't wait to see where this is going," she says.

"Many people believe it's possible that unborn children are able to perceive and pick up on things that they can't after they leave the womb. But it's almost impossible to test because they don't understand language so we can't communicate with them in that way. But we're going to try and see if we can get her to tell us how many spots are pointing up on the die inside this canister. Are you ready to try?"

She says she is. 

I ask her to hold onto the canister between both hands. "I can't just ask your kid to answer the question. No one can. At least not with language. But there are those who believe you can with your thoughts. Let's try it. I want you to close your eyes. Now picture the canister you hold in your hand. I want you to see it sharp and focused in your mind. Now picture opening it up and removing the smaller canister. Still keep it a sharp image until I tell you otherwise. Now imagine popping the top off the smaller canister but don't look inside yet. So take off the cap in your imagination, keeping everything in focus. In a moment I want you to imagine looking into the canister, but when you do I want you to imagine that what you see is unclear and unfocused and kind of hazy, like a dream, okay? Okay, look in the canister and I want you to see a blank white cube. And there are black spots floating above it. They are fading in and out. Sometimes one dot, sometimes two, all the way up to six. Do you see that? Okay. In a moment I want you to take that image that you're picturing and I want you to imagine pushing it towards the back of your brain and down your spinal cord. Almost like you're swallowing that image in your mind. And when you're done I want you to open you eyes." After a second she opens her eyes. 

I ask her for the canister and hold it in my right hand between my thumb and forefinger. I shift myself closer to her and place my left hand gently on her stomach. 

"With your mind, and with visual images, you've painted a clear picture except for one aspect. Now, the idea is that your child may be able to sense that void of information in your thoughts and and answer the question even though you never explicitly asked it. If this works, she's going to tell us how many spots are on top of the die. In a moment you should feel something. I want you to keep your eyes on my hand on your stomach and make sure I'm not moving it. I'm just acting as a bridge from your body to the canister. I'm not going to move at all. You're going to feel something and it might feel like a kick, or maybe like she's waving her arm, or tickling the inside of your stomach, or just a weird sensation of some kind. This is not doing any harm to her at all. Anything she does is because she wants to, because she wants to play with her mom, and answer her mom's question, okay? Now just sit still."

After a few moments my friend's eyes go very wide. "What... was... that!" she says.

"You felt something? Okay let's just wait and see if you feel more."

After a second she starts laughing. "Yes. There it is again." Then a moment later she feels it again. "What on earth is that?" she says.

We sit for a few more moments. "Anything else?" I ask. She shakes her head no. "So how many was that? How many times did you feel it?" She says she felt it three times.

"Okay," I say, "let's take a look." I open the larger canister and dump out the smaller one, then hand it to her. "She indicated "three," yes? Take a look."

My friend opens up the small canister, the die inside shows three spots.

She looks at me. "Andy... what was that? That was so strange. Sweet but strange," she says, her eyes tearing up a little. She squints them at me and gives me an accusing look. Then she smiles, grabs her stomach with both hands and coos, "You did a magic trick, sweetheart!"


I often have the desire to use a method that is not intended for one person, on one person. This is what inspired some of the one-person dual reality effects I've worked on that I've mentioned in the past.

This particular effect was spawned by the idea of doing a trick one-on-one where the method was an instant stooge. Obviously that seems impossible. And I didn't exactly accomplish it, but that was the genesis of the idea.

The method is pretty simple. Obviously the dice part is just Crazy Cube. One of the best $2.50 investments you can make in magic. But you don't need to do this particular effect with dice. You just need a way to have your spectator thinking of a number that you apparently don't know, and I think it's better if she doesn't know the number either (although you could easily argue the other way). So you could force a playing card or an Uno card on her. Just keep the number relatively low. 6 is about as high as you want to go. 

The "kicking" of the baby is, of course, not that at all. You have a remote-controlled thumper on your left wrist. The remote is in your right hand (you pull it from your pocket while her eyes are closed during the visualization part) which also holds the canister during the main part of the effect. You will activate it to vibrate your hand which the woman will feel as a sensation on her stomach. To be clear, the vibrating part of the thumper is not being pressed against her, it's just sending the vibrations into your hand and out into your spectator. The thumper I use was made by a friend of mine out of a remote-controlled vibrator. You probably have some of them lying around, you horny little sicko.

So the way this effect evolved is this.... One time, while doing an electronic version of a "which hand" effect with a coin, my hand got too close to the spectator's and she felt the vibration emanate from my hand (well, from the thumper strapped to my wrist and through my hand). "I felt that," she said. But she didn't mean it like, "Hey, I felt the vibration of the electronic gizmo on your wrist that goes off when it senses a magnet nearby." She meant it like, "Wow, I felt the energy of you doing this effect coming from your hand." It was part of the trick to her. 

I wanted to repeat this kind of moment in a more deliberate way and I began wondering if that sensation could masquerade as something else. Like could you maybe hold someone's stomach and say you could make it growl, or something like that. I had a couple other ideas that were all okay, but then I hit on the idea of the sensation being caused by a woman's child in utero and it was perfect. It's perfect because you don't say exactly how the child is causing the sensation so it doesn't have to exactly mimic any known feeling. Plus the concept of a child in a woman's stomach who is poking her or tickling her from inside to communicate -- I mean -- that's like one of the greatest images anyone has ever come up with in the history of magic.

I would also like to highlight the concept of "swallowing" a thought. The notion that you can have an idea at the front of your mind and then imagine sucking it back into your head and down your spinal cord and perhaps into your central nervous system and then down to an unborn child or out to your fingertips is one that I find people have a surprisingly easy time grasping, given what nonsense it is. And I've used it in many situations to have them send a thought from their brain, down into their hand and into mine; or into a glass of water for me to drink; or things like that.

Now go knock someone up so you can do this trick.

Update (2/13/17): I was just informed that Christopher Taylor at Taylor Imagineering has a product called Impulse that looks like it would be great for this effect or similar effects where the spectator feels some kind of unknown sensation. While I don't own it myself, I've only ever heard great things about his products so I would definitely check it out if you're interested in this sort of thing. I can think of dozens of uses for this and will definitely be picking up one in the future. I don't know if Christopher was the first person to use a thumper like this in order for the spectator to feel "something," but it's the only other example of it that I've seen, and I look forward to playing around with the idea more once I have Impulse.