I'm out getting a late-night meal with a group of friends. It's a pretty low-key affair. There are maybe 8 of us. A few different conversations are going on. I'm just screwing around on my phone waiting for my loaded potato skins. One of my friends who also does magic is trying to make a move on one of the girls there that he just met that night.
"Did you ever do the soulmate test?" he asks.
"I don't think so," she says. "What's that?"
"My grandfather told me about it," he begins. "Apparently it was big in the 50s. Guys would carry a picture in their wallets of a random object, then when they'd meet a girl they'd ask her to name any object in the world. The closer the girl got to the object, the better suited they were for each other. Supposedly. It was created by some psychologist back in the day. It's probably horse-shit but I guess it got popular because there was some 1950s dating show called The Look of Love where people were paired up, in part, based on a similar type of matching pictures thing. It was apparently a big deal because it was like the first dating show ever and it was maybe a little scandalous at the time. Do you want to try it?"
"Sure," she says. But the positive kind of "sure" not the dismissive kind.
"Okay," he says. "Think of any object in the world. Something in your home. Something in your school. Something at work. Or just anything out in the world at all. Got one?"
"Uhmm.... okay... a basketball."
"Really? Now... okay... wait. Uhm... just for the sake of... of... getting a clear mental picture, I want you to imagine the basketball is a particular color. It doesn't have to be basketball-color. What color is it?"
"Green," she says.
"A green basketball." He sits there quietly for a moment, nonplussed. "I mean... I've asked maybe 50 girls to do this and none of them even said anything sports related in any way. Much less a ball. Much less a basketball. This is just.... And green! I mean, I only made it green so it could be definitive and not ever just be a lucky guess. But I never thought it would actually work. Oh... sorry," he says, stopping his rambling.
He reaches into his wallet and pulls out an envelope that says "Soulmate Test" on it. He rips off the end and dumps out a photo onto the table.
A photo of a green basketball.
Look, I'm not saying telling people which hand holds a coin is a bad trick. I have dozens of types of interesting little moments in my repertoire. I love those things. But sometimes you don't want to make someone scratch their head, you want to make them drop their jaw. You want to make their heart skip a beat.
When I was originally going through my unpublished effects for inclusion in the Jerx Book, I thought I would put a bunch of my most practical routines in there. Borrowed deck stuff, impromptu stuff, because I figured that would be what people wanted: things they could perform a lot. But after talking with some magic friends I decided that the only criteria I would use is what gets me the best reactions. You guys have more than enough resources for hyper-practical routines if that's what you need. Buy John Bannon's books and you'll be set for life. Hell, buy Easy To Master Card Miracles and you'll have more than enough routines to do entertaining magic. We're not lacking in practical magic effects.
I think there is something of a dearth of breathtaking magic effects. Effects that really rattle spectators in a personal and overwhelming way. You can't perform these effects one after another for someone. It's just too much. It would be like if you did some staggeringly romantic gesture every night for your wife. The first few nights she would be swooning, but then it just becomes standard. Much better to just be a low-key romantic guy on a day-to-day basis, and then do something over-the-top every few months. You'll get more credit.
Here is, I think, why magicians sometimes seem to neglect or overlook the need for powerful effects in their repertoire. Let's say you're 12 and you start seriously pursuing magic. And you have all these ideas in your head for the type of bold effects you want to do. "I'm going to make a dozen roses appear for this girl." "I'm going to levitate in front of the school." "I'm going to make Tony disappear." Your brain at this point in time is mostly layperson-brain. So the effects you want to do are big and powerful. But as you grow in magic, you grow your magician brain, and your magician brain knows that everything is fake and is more interested in the process of fakery than the outcome of the fakery. It's just as interesting to fake doing something dull as it is to fake doing something spectacular, because the process is often very similar.
It's like if you were an artist capable of creating photo-realistic drawings. And for you, the process is fairly similar whether you're drawing an apple or drawing Aubrey Plaza 69'ing Alison Brie. They're both just exercises in light and shadow and color. But for an audience, one is a nice picture of an apple and the other is going to move them (to jack off).
This goes back to the audience-centric approach to magic. You need to fall out of love with methods and back in love with effects, like you were when you first started magic. Especially now that you have the knowledge to pull off some harder-hitting effects.
Quit dicking us around. The method?
Okay, this is an effect I love, but it didn't make the book because it requires a couple things not everyone is going to have access to. The first is something I just mentioned the other day, the Polaroid Zip printer. The second thing you need is me, hanging out with you, pretending to play Candy Crush, but secretly listening in to the conversation and sending a picture to the printer that's in your lap. (The printer, if it's not clear, is the size of a cell phone.) Or if not me, some other competent person you trust.
Your confidant listens in, does a google image search for whatever is named, sends that picture to the printer. Maybe 30 seconds after the object is named, a perfectly-palmable photo of it is being silently printed right into your hand. And you just load it into your card-to-wallet wallet.
And yes, you can add any color to any object in the world and google images will have a picture of it.
You can't stump it, so don't worry about that.
This effect has multiple layers of deception: the secret use of a non-standard technology, a secret accomplice, and the card-to-wallet technique. And while any trick using only one of those layers might be easy to unravel, together they present a fairly impenetrable mystery. The spectator doesn't know to break up the trick into the component parts. She just sees the end result, so it's very deceptive. You know the elements of the trick. You know that you need to get a real photo printed mid-trick, you know you need to have someone else to send it to the printer, you know you need a way to load it into an envelope in a wallet. Spectators don't break down tricks like this.
On top of the deceptive methodology, it's couched in a kind of gentle presentation that doesn't encourage someone to "debunk" you. It's not, "I was graced with the power to predict the future. Earlier today I put a photo in my wallet...." They'll fight that presentation. Here you let them choose the narrative. Maybe it's just a crazy coincidence. Maybe there is some kind of connection between you two. Or maybe it was just a cool magic trick.
Even if you don't use this effect, you can still reference the old tv show, The Look of Love, in a drawing duplication presentation or something like that. They really did used to pair people up on that show based on similarities in random drawings and things like that.
Ok, no, that's not true. No such show ever existed. But you can picture it can't you? Young people being put through the paces and subjected to tests and games to be paired off on innocent 1950s dates? "Calgon presents, The Look of Love, with your host, Bud Collyer [orchestra swells]"
I could probably write a book just on effects I've used that little printer for. But I won't because that would make a dull book. But here are two more quick ideas.
1. Want to do the above effect in the context of your stage show or your ABC hour long special? You could rig the printer up inside your jacket so it hangs down and the photo falls right into your CTW wallet. Imagine, any person or item named, you reach into your pocket with empty hands and remove your wallet, remove a sealed envelope from your wallet, and inside is a picture of that person or thing. Your offstage assistant just needs to send the photo to the printer. Easy.
This is one of those ideas that no one will do because I'm giving it away for free. if I had packaged the printer with a CTW wallet and sold it for $750 it would be used in every Magic Castle parlor performance until California falls off into the sea.
2. This also requires a secret helper, but they don't have to do much.
Effect: You ask your wife to get your photo printer from upstairs. While she's gone you take a picture of your friend Dave. When your wife returns she hands you the printer and you print out the photo of Dave. Then you burn it or cut it up (you can't tear the photo really) and restore it.
Method: So your wife goes to the other room to get the printer You take a picture of Dave and immediately send it to the printer. Once it prints out she places the photo under the printer, and that's where it is when she hands it to you. Dave gets the sense that he's watching you print out a one-of-a-kind photo of a moment that just occurred and then destroying it. But you have a duplicate to swap in as the restored photo.