Failed Experiments

I tend to write about the effects and ideas that work out in some way. But I have a whole lot of ideas that don't work. Things I try that just never come together, don't end up fooling people or just completely fall apart. For the most part, these are not very interesting or entertaining things to write about. It's not that exciting when you come up with a presentation that you think might hide a mathematical procedure, then you perform it and afterwards you talk with your spectator about it and they say, "It seems like it was somehow mathematical." I don't feel like, "Oh, I need to tell everyone about this!" It's more just like, "back to the drawing board."

However, here are some recent failures that have stuck with me for one reason or another. 

Brown Rainbow

My friend has one of these motion-sensitive glowing toilet lights.

You can set it to glow any color you want. (Well, not like "Country Eggshell" or something, I mean, like, the main colors.)

I thought it would be fun to have someone name a color and then they go in the bathroom and the toilet is glowing that color. I couldn't think of a way to do it with a free choice (without having an accomplice setting things up in the bathroom), so I decided to go with a force of the color via equivoque.

I had a decently clever second-wave style equivoque for the color choice. It would begin with an "imagination game" where the other person would picture a rainbow coming in through the bathroom window and landing in the toilet. "Now we're going to flush some color down the toilet. What color should we flush?" I'd say. That had the dual meaning I was looking for. For example, if my force color is red, and you say "Red," then the procedure is over. The toilet is now glowing the color you chose to flush down the toilet. However, if you say something other than red, then "flushing a color down the toilet" means to get rid of that color. So eventually (via a combination of equivoque and a PATEO style force) we've flushed all the colors except the force color. "Now we just have a red rainbow shining into the toilet, right?"

When I performed it, the person named the force color straight away. I had her go into the bathroom and see what was there.

"Oh, that's funny," she said.

"See? It's glowing the color you chose," I said.

"This one little light lights up the whole toilet like that? That's neat." 

"Yeah, and it lights it up the one color you chose."

"Oh yeah. Do you change the color with your phone or something?"

"What? No."

"Or is it voice activated or something?"

"A voice activated toilet light? What the f....why would such a thing exist? No, it's just... it's glowing the color you chose. Look it up online, you can't change the color without adjusting the light itself manually."

"If you say so," she said. 

(I would later go on to perform Faith, from JAMM #6 for her. So I brought her back around to the idea that I'm a catalyst for incredible experiences and not just some weirdo with a glowing toilet.)

I did try the trick again with someone else. This time I used food coloring to color the water instead of the light. So there could be no suggestion that I manipulated things technologically. Once again, she named the target color right off the bat and then went in to look at the toilet. She was more impressed than the first person but not in any significant way. So I abandoned the idea. I think any toilet related trick will seem like a joke, even if it's an okay effect. This hasn't stopped me from toying around with the idea in my mind more. (What if you dyed the water in the bowl one color and the water in the tank a different color. Then it's almost like a two-way out. Or what if you had red in the bowl, blue in the tank, and a bladder full of yellow pee. You could mix and match to make any color called for.)

The Vanishing Icicle

Icicles have a certain inherent "magical-ness" and during winter I'm always intrigued by the idea of using them in a magic effect.

What follows isn't an effect I put any thought into. I just thought it would be funny to say I was going to make an icicle vanish, then break one off from the house and start jacking it off like I was trying to get it to melt and therefore "vanish." 

After the joke I would say I was going to do it for real, break another icicle off and do a flip-stick vanish, bring it back, then do another flip-stick vanish and just let it fly off into the snow behind me where it would be gone for for good. Just a little trick. Nothing earth shattering.

While it wasn't earth shattering, it did turn out to be side-view mirror shattering. As I went to do the first flip-stick vanish with the icicle it just flew out of my hands and cracked my friend's car's side-view mirror. 

Apparently icicles are slippery and not great for manipulation.

The Magic Flute

One of my favorite experiences ever was performing the Talent Swap as written up in this post.

Earlier this year I had an idea for a much simpler variation that I thought would make another good Christmas party trick. This time the person would be picked genuinely at random. They would be sent to a back bedroom and I would explain to everyone that I was going to back into that room for one or two minutes and in that time I would use a combination of accelerated learning and hypnotism and when we returned that person would be able to play any song on the flute by ear.

Truly a random person and truly any song named they would be able to play on the flute.

That was the idea. This was the method.

My friend showed me a bluetooth speaker that was built into a pen. My idea was we could shove that into a flute and then have someone who could actually play the flute by ear broadcast to that speaker. 

The two minutes I spend "hypnotizing" the person is really just two minutes spent informing them how this is going to work and having them practice fake-playing the flute. Unlike most instruments, the flute is one I think you can get away with pretending to play. You just make that flute pucker but don't actually blow out. 

Then you have your real flute player able to listen in on the party so when someone names a song to play, she can start playing it from her location. 

I still really like the idea, but when we tried it out, the sound of the flute just wasn't right. It sounded... well... it sounded like a flute playing out of a tiny speaker in another flute. 

It's something I want to try again with a better mini speaker in the future. I just think it would be a fascinating and amazing thing to see—this randomly chosen spectator can all of a sudden play the flute.

And it's better than the first idea I had when I saw the pen which was to shove it up someone's asshole and then tell people that his butt was like the oracle at Delphi. Then I'd have someone doing cold-reading and mentalism from another room and broadcast it out of this guy's butthole. So people hear a voice coming from this guy's ass that is telling them personal things about themselves and what card they picked, etc.