The Faux Secret Imp

This idea comes from friend-of-the-site, Cristian Scaramella. It's an example of the type of thing I was writing about on Monday, and in line with a lot of the stuff I've written about in recent months about extending the effect with "exo-trick" moments (things that happen outside the trick itself). 

Here is how I used it this weekend. 

After a yoga class this weekend (yeah, that's right, don't judge me) I had a couple friends from the class come by my place to watch a movie and order some dinner. 

After dinner I asked them if they wanted to see a trick I was working on. They said, "No," and then went home.

No, I'm kidding. They said "sure" and I went and got a few half dollars. 

My two friends were sitting on the couch and I was standing facing them behind a coffee table. I asked them to hold on for a second and I went to a bookshelf across the room, opened a little box, fiddled around with something, and then walked back to them.

I was now wearing a ring. The ring wasn't weird or ostentatious. If I'd been wearing it all night it wouldn't have stood out. The only unusual thing was that I went out of my way to put it on before this trick.


I then showed them the trick. 

I had three half dollars and one by one they disappeared into thin air. (The trick is Joshua Jay's Triad Coins.)

The only thing different in my handling is that before each coin would vanish, I would tap it with my ring. It wasn't like an obvious gesture of tapping the coin with my ring for some kind of emphasis. It was just a kind of quick movement, not hidden, but not overt or done for attention. 

The last coin didn't vanish the first time I tried to make it go. And, if you were one of my friends, you might have noticed me sliding my ring up and down the coin a few times while I ad-libbed some stuff about making the last coin disappear. Eventually I tried it again and the coin did disappear. 

When the trick was over I walked back to the bookshelf, took off the ring, attached something to it, and put it back in the box. Then I excused myself to go to the bathroom. 

I went around the corner, turned the bathroom light on, and closed the door, but I didn't actually go in. Instead I hung out and listened to them talk. I couldn't make out exactly what they were saying because they were speaking softly. Eventually, they got up and walked to the bookshelf. I saw them pull the box of the shelf and open it.

Here's what they saw...

Screen Shot 2017-11-08 at 3.12.20 AM.png

One of them started laughing, the other turned to her with her mouth open and placed her hand on the other girl's shoulder. 

I snuck back to the bathroom, quietly opened and shut the door, flushed the toilet, washed my hands, and came out. 

They had scurried back to the couch by the time I got in the room. They were both looking at me. One was smiling with bright eyes. The other was cutely scowling.

"Whaddup, whaddup?" I said, plopped down in a chair, and fired up my Netflix account.

"So...," one of them said, "I liked your trick, Andy. Very impressive. Very interesting," she said.

I knew what she wanted. She wanted me to say, "Oh, thank you. And did you happen to notice my box of magic rings?" If I acknowledged it, then it would sever that tiny thread of mysterious tension. It would confirm their suspicion that this was all a little bit of theater. But while I know that's what they're likely to think anyway, I don't want to confirm that for them. I want a small part of their brain to wonder if maybe there's some practical reason why I need to wear certain rings for certain tricks. And I want to keep alive the tiny spark of an idea in the irrational part of their brain that maybe somehow these rings allow me to do certain things. 

So instead I was just like, "Cool, cool, cool. Ooh... Avalanche Sharks... this looks interesting."

The Faux Secret Imp is the idea of using a ring (or some other kind of "artifact" as Cristian described it to me in his email) as the impetus for the magic. But you act like you're trying to hide it from them. 

To a certain extent this should be how you treat most Imps. That is to say, the term Imp is short for Impetus, but it can also serve to remind you that, most often, these things should be IMPlied. 

What I mean is this: If I say, "If we sync our breathing, I can read your mind," that's pretty easy to dismiss as nonsense. On the other hand, if I try and read your mind and it doesn't seem to be working, then I ask you to do some deep breathing with me, and then I'm able to read your mind, the implication is that there's some connection there. But that's a connection you make. If I say it outright, it's easier to dismiss. If you make the connection yourself, I think you're likely to consider it more.

That's why I say that in most cases the impetus should be implied. 

The Faux Secret Imp takes that a step further. Not only don't you directly credit the Imp as causing the magic, you seemingly try and hide the use of it altogether.

I'm hoping this example clarifies what I was talking about on Monday. Looking at a 3-Coin Vanish from an endo-trick perspective, you might try new sleights or new gimmicks to improve the trick. I think Josh's trick is about as good as your going to get. There may be advancements that make it better from a knowledgable magician's perspective, but they will be things that most laypeople will never pick up on. So the endo-trick perspective is limited in that way. And, as great as the effect is, I think it has the same issue a lot of magic tricks do (certainly coin tricks). That being that it's visually arresting but not the type of thing that's going to be captivating long-term for the spectator.

While endo-trick improvement is limited, exo-trick improvement is infinite. The things you do before a trick and after a trick and the seemingly extraneous things within a trick—these things that place the effect in a different context—are things that can always be honed and refined in a way a spectator can understand and appreciate. 

A lot of this type of stuff is kind of "meta" in a way. It's presentation about the presentation of magic. And I think that's a good thing. You're not going to convince someone that your fiction is somehow truer than the reality they know. No one will say, "I thought coins couldn't disappear, but I guess I was wrong" But you can put a twist in your own fiction, so you still get that same kind of surprise moment. "I thought this was happening, but really it was that." Even if "this" and "that" are both just different levels of fantasy, that's still an engaging experience.

Now we're back at my apartment the other night. The smiler has left and the scowler has stayed to watch another movie. When it's over I walk her out to her car. Under the light of the street lamp I give her a hug goodbye, then I take her left hand in mine and press my right hand on top in a kind of odd way. She looks down. There's a ring on my finger! Which one? The mind reading one? "Yes, yes," I say, nodding. "I had a good time too," as if agreeing with some unspoken thought.

She smiles then bites her lower lip and punches me in the shoulder.