The Sweetness In Water

This trick was pulled from the forthcoming book for reasons of space. I didn't pull it because it was the weakest effect -- in fact it has one of the strongest visuals of anything I've ever done -- I pulled it because it has the biggest performing requirements: you have to be at the ocean and have something very specific with you to perform it.

I performed this last summer at my friend's beach house for about a dozen people who absolutely flipped their shit over it. It's a truly amazing effect that could not feel more organic, and it utilizes a secret that almost no one outside of magic knows about. 


I'm at the beach with a group of friends. It's around 7pm, there are still a couple more hours of daylight and we're getting ready to eat some dinner. In reality I was probably wearing swim trunks and a t-shirt, but to emphasize how clean this trick is, and to feed your sick jerk-off fantasy-file, let's say I'm in a Speedo -- my thick manhood pulling the fabric taut against my buttocks. Does that do it for you, you creep?

Seriously though, this is a trick that legitimately can be done naked.

I asked a friend to grab me one of the kid's sand pails. She brought one over to me. I told the people that were around that I'd be right back, I just needed to rinse out the sand pail and get some ocean water for dinner. I walked out to the end of the dock, laid on my stomach, dipped the bucket in the water a few times to rinse it out and returned with a bucket full of water. 

At this point everyone was gathered around. I walked with the bucket and grabbed a red disposable cup off the picnic table. I poured some of the water from the bucket into the cup and then handed it to one of my friends. I told her she could keep take a sip of it if she wanted or just keep it for the moment. Unsurprisingly, she didn't want to drink any ocean water.

I was asked what I was doing. "Going to make Kool-Aid," I said.

I held the bucket out to another friend and asked him to swirl the water around and feel if there was anything in the bucket. There wasn't. It was just a bucket of water.

"You can't make Kool-Aid with saltwater; that's disgusting," someone said. 

"No," I said. "I'm going to take the salt out." Then, with 100% empty hands and no sleeves, I reach my right hand into the bucket, swirl the water a little, then pull my hand out in a fist. I extend both of my arms out, the bucket in my left hand, and out of my right hand begins to flow pure white salt.

I brush my hand off on my hip and say, "Hmm... that should do it."

I bring the pail back and hand it to my friend and ask him to take a sip. He does. It's fresh water.

My other friend who is holding the cup I filled from the bucket before I removed the salt takes a sip of her water and spits it out -- it's salty ocean water.

I then use the water from the bucket to make Kool-Aid. 


Take Sands of the Desert. Remove everything Doug Henning about it. Take it off the stage. Do it with a borrowed vessel that's natural to the environment -- an ungimmicked bucket. Allow everything to be examined every step of the way. And do something that makes perfectly logical sense. Something you might actually do if you had these abilities.

The bucket isn't switched. The water isn't switched. You end completely clean. You don't need anyone other than yourself to pull it off. And it fools multiple senses, not just the eyes.

I love Sands of the Desert. It doesn't make any sense, really. You make a mess and then clean it up. It's only good in a theatrical context where you're free to do stuff that doesn't make any sense. But that moment where your empty hand reaches into liquid and pulls out bone-dry sand is perfect and fascinating to me. And that's why I developed this trick.

As per many versions of Sands of the Desert you will need waxed sand. But in this version you need it to be pure white. Waxed sand is sand that's coated in paraffin. You can clump it together into a ball and put it in water and it doesn't get wet. It's not the same a hydrophobic sand, which I don't believe clumps together in its dry state. I'm not sure where you can get it. I had someone make it for me. You might try here.

You also need a large plastic bag that you can put a gallon or so of water in. I used a couple plastic bags from the grocery store that you put produce in. I doubled them up to make them a little stronger.

As close to your performance as possible you fill the bag up with water, drop a large egg sized clump of the white waxed sand in there, then knot the top of the bag. 

There's one difficult part to this trick, but the difficult part is during the set-up, not the performance. You need to find somewhere out in the ocean where you can stash this load bag. I nailed the bag to the bottom of the dock (going through the top of the bag above the knot). Then when I went out to get the water I, loaded and unloaded the bucket a few times from the ocean water, and the last time I reached over the dock I pulled the bag off into the bucket, tore it open, and tossed the bag into the sea. [Edit: Some people are concerned about putting a produce bag in the ocean. Well, the good news is, in my case the ocean was a bro about this and secreted the bag away until later in the evening when it spit it back on the beach with perfect timing for me to dispose of. If you're concerned that might not happen, then you can shove the bag in your Speedo if -- unlike me-- you've got room.] My body and the dock covered these actions. But they were also covered by the fact that nothing had happened yet so people weren't overly suspicious. You go out towards the ocean with an empty bucket and come back with one filled with water and you don't have anything on you -- it makes sense that you got the water from the ocean.

So look for a place to stash the bag, at the end of a dock, behind a jetski, on a buoy, or wherever. When I first considered the idea I thought of attaching it to the ocean floor with a tent stake, but I didn't know if that would work. I think it might if you could keep track of where you put it. (You attach the bag in water about waist deep. You scoop the bucket in the water and pull up the stake releasing the bag into the bucket. You dump out any ocean water that's in the bucket, then break the bag releasing the fresh water and waxed sand load. Dispose of the bag. Do it all with your back towards the people on the beach. If that would work you could seemingly get a bucket of water from the ocean with nothing else around.)

You come back to the beach with a bucket of water. 

On the table is an opaque cup with a bunch of popcorn salt in the bottom of it. (Popcorn salt is very fine and dissolves quickly.) You poor some water from the bucket into the cup and give it to someone to hold onto. They are now holding salt water poured from the bucket. 

Then you swirl the water in the bucket with your right hand while your left hand supports it from the bottom. As you pull your right hand out, you slide the waxed sand ball up and against the side of the bucket. So now you're holding the bucket at the rim with your right hand and your right fingers are covering the sand ball, so the bucket looks empty other than the water and someone can reach into and feel around. Once they do you just go to swirl the water again and leave the sand ball back inside. You might think this is over-proving, and you may be right. It's a judgment call. I think at the very least you have to show the bucket only contains water at this point.

Look where we are. You got water from the ocean. You set some of it aside which anyone is free to taste. Someone has reached into the bucket and found nothing but water. And now you're in that same beautiful position from the original Sands of the Desert routine. With an absolutely empty hand you reach into the bucket. (Tip it towards them so they can really see your hand enter and exit the water). You come out with a handful of clearly dry "salt" that spills from your fingers. It's perfect. 

They can taste the water to see that it's now fresh. If someone wants they can taste the sample that was set aside and find that it really is saltwater. And then you make some Kool-Aid. (I actually came up with a way to de-Kool-Aid the water too, but it's overkill.)