Get Them Digits

A little over a month ago, I presented an idea in its “seedling” form called, “Blow Up My Phone.” The idea was basically instead of having one person think of something and then revealing that by whatever method you had, you would have everyone you were with text you something (a card, a number, a picture) at the same time and you would predict or discern which one got to you first.

Some people didn’t really understand why I’d want to do this. What’s the point? The point was just to add some apparent randomness and to get everyone involved in the process, rather than pointing to one person and saying, “Name a card.”

After I made that post I got an email from Hector Chadwick (a real person, btw, and someone who happens to be fucking pretty disgusted that there is someone out there trying to take credit for his work.)

His email:

Maybe this:

Don’t write your prediction at the beginning of the routine. Have each person write their number down in preparation to send, then ask them to hold their phones against your left temple whilst someone holds your phone against your right temple.

You pick up pencil and paper and brace yourself. When you say go, they press send. You wince and reflexively write something down. You gather your thoughts and ask to see your phone. The first message received matches your prediction.

I like the idea of tapping into ‘invisible beams’ and whatnot since nobody really knows how they work anyhow. The justification of writing the prediction rather than announcing it might need a bit more thought, but the image of everyone sending a message through your brain feels pretty strong.

Just a thought.

My response:

Yeah, I like that too. And yeah, I'm struggling to see a reason for writing it down….

oh... I think I might have an idea.

What follows is the result of working on that “idea” for the last month.


This was a difficult one for me to test out. It’s made to be performed for 5 or 6 people who you know. I perform a ton of magic, but it’s almost all 1 on 1, 2 on 1, and often for people I don’t know well yet; someone I just met at a cafe or on a train or something.

Fortunately I’ve been traveling a bit to places where I have groups of friends so it was natural to say, “Hey, I’m in town for a couple of nights. Let’s all meet up.” I mean, I would do this anyway, but it happened to coincide with my desire to test out this trick. Also, with Thanksgiving I had a chance to perform it for people who were visiting and with the holidays coming up I’ve been able to say, “Hey, let’s all get together for an early Christmas lunch,” or whatever.

In all, I’ve performed this eight times. The first four with some slight variations that aren’t interesting enough to mention, the last four pretty much as you’ll read below.

It’s a multi-phase routine. Usually I hate thinking in terms of “routines” and “phases” because it often means you’re doing the same thing over and over again, or jamming disconnected effects together. But in this case, there’s a cohesiveness to the beats and they’re all different.

Here is what it looks like. I’ll mingle presentation and method together. Presentation in in bold.

We’re sitting around a table at a cafe. Someone asks what I’m working on magic-wise.

Because I have a clear public relationship to magic, and because I don’t only talk about it when I’m performing something, it’s something people bring up with me more often than not. That’s one of the goals of my style of social magic. Make it a natural thing to discuss, not just something I only bring up when I have a trick to show them and that I only “discuss” in the form of “patter.”

“Eh, fuck that horseshit,” I say.

We’re all told we should have interesting lead-in lines to our effects. It’s hard to beat something as natural as, “Eh, fuck that horseshit.” It’s much better than the normal type of patter people try and cram into a casual social interaction, i.e., “Do you believe in fate?” Dude, we’re just having brunch here.

“Fake. it’s all just fake nonsense. I cant believe I wasted so much time on that stuff.”

Because of my personality and my style of delivery, it’s immediately clear that I’m not serious and that this is leading somewhere. You may not want that to be clear, but for my style, I do.

“I mean, like, mind-reading? What is that supposed to be? Your mind doesn’t send out, like, beams or some shit when you think of something. It’s just childish.

“I’m actually working on a new skill. But this is something that’s actually real and useful. Not make-believe. I’m learning how to interpret the signals coming from people’s cellphones, but just with my brain. No separate device. That way I’ll be able to walk down the street and people all around me are sending stuff on their phone and it’s like, Bam! I can see what you’re texting to your grandma. Bang! I can see the nudie pic your’e sending your boyfriend.”

This is what I call a “reverse disclaimer.” It’s a premise that is, in some ways, perfectly logical (if you were to read it in a sci-fi story or something) but it’s clearly not intended to be believed. This allows you to avoid the awkward situation where they might think you want them to legitimately give you credit for such a skill. At the same time it pulls the rug out from under anyone who would be tempted to “bust” you on your claims. “Hey, you’re not really reading the cell signals coming through the air.” Yeah, no shit, dummy.

“I’ve just started,” I say, “At this point I can really only pick-up on numbers. And the phones have to be really close to me. I’ll show you. I’ll try and show you, at least.”

I tell everyone to think of a two digit number and get prepared to text it to me (but don’t yet). I tell them they can text me the number itself, or spell it out and text it to me, or do a google image search for the number and send me a picture of the number, or whatever they want. As they get ready to do this, I go grab a piece of paper and a pencil. I might get a flyer from the near the front door to write on or I might grab a piece of paper or envelope from my car.

When I get back to the table I hand the paper and pencil to one of the people seated there and tell them to write down anything I ask them to after the messages have been sent.

I close my eyes, cover them with my hands, and bow a little and ask everyone to press their phones against my head (so they can still see the screen) and to send their message on the count of three.

Hector’s email suggested having their phones on one side of your head, and yours on the other. I think that is a very clear visual of what is supposedly happening (you’re going to intercept the message between the phones), but I prefer not to have my phone in the picture at this point, so that’s why I use this staging.

“1, 2, 3, send,” I say. Everyone presses send and I flinch a little, as if all these messages sent so close to my brain are having some effect on me.

The truth is, all those phones next to your head probably are eating at your brain in some way, so keep that in mind in order to inspire your acting here.

The phones are removed. I rub my temples and continue to keep my eyes closed. I tell the person with the paper to write this number down. 82081272. I lift my head up, blink my eyes a few times and wince a little like all the information I took in has me a little rattled.

I point to a couple of the people and say that I’m pretty sure it was one of their messages that came through first.

I look at the number on the piece of paper. “Is this one of your phone numbers? No? Is the number anyone sent in this number somewhere? Maybe backwards?” I take the pencil and start doing some odd calculations on the piece of paper.

In Hector’s email to me he wrote, “The justification of writing the prediction rather than announcing it might need a bit more thought.” In this presentation I haven’t really justified writing down the “prediction” but I’ve tried to justify having the pencil and paper. They’re there so you can do your calculations. This, I think, allows you to smoothly transition into writing down your guess as far as what number was sent, at least more so than if you just had to pull out the paper and pencil from nowhere.

“Okay, yes, I think I’ve got it,” I say. I write something down at the bottom of the paper.

I ask someone to grab my phone from my pocket. I don’t want to touch it.

I give them the code to unlock it and ask them to go to my texts.

“What was the first number to come through?” I ask.

“13,” they say.

“And who sent it?” I ask.


I turn around my paper and it says, “Isabelle’s number 13 has come through first.”


Okay, so the number is written in with a nail-writer or thumb-writer, but how do we know whose came through first?

This requires about a two minute set-up on your phone. Think of the five (or however many) people you’ll be performing for and rank them in your head from 1-5 on some scale you can remember. So it may be based on height, how long you’ve known them, who you like the best, alphabetical order, who’s the hottest, etc. Regardless, each person has a number assigned to them, 1-5.

Now go into the contact for each of those people on your phone (this works on iPhone, I don’t know about Android). Go to Contact>Edit>Text Tone>Vibration>Custom-Create New Vibration. And you will go in and create a custom text vibration for them that will vibrate the same number of times as the number you have assigned to them. This isn’t difficult. You just press your finger on the phone screen how you want the phone to vibrate. So, for example, for person two you’ll set it so their custom vibration goes bzz-bzz. Include a few seconds of silence at the end of the vibration, this way you’ll be able to tell when one vibration ends and the next one starts (since you’ll be getting a lot of texts one right after another).

It is very easy to differentiate one text from another as long as you’re in contact with your phone in some way. I usually have it in my pants pocket or jacket pocket. Even if I’m not wearing the jacket and it’s sitting on the chair behind me, I just need to place my hand or arm so it rests on the part of the jacket where the phone is.

You feel the vibration. Bzz-bzz-bzz-bzz. And think, “Okay, that was four buzzes. Who did I say was the fourth hottest person here?” (or whatever)and you know whose text came through first.

I don’t actually do it this way. As I mentioned in this post a couple of years ago. I have a custom vibration for everyone in my phone. It’s their first and last initial in morse code. That way I can know who’s texting me without taking my phone out in every situation (not just this one). But this is a simplified version of that system for someone who doesn’t want to A) learn morse code, and B) set this up with everyone in their phone.

So the number and the person has been revealed. People at the table are maybe looking at the calculations or asking if I know what their number was. I tell them at this point I don’t really have that ability. It’s not so difficult to figure out the first one that comes through, because that comes through cleanly, but after that the numbers are getting jumbled together and mixed in with each other. “In fact, that’s probably what happened here.” I pull out the calculator on my phone or ask someone else to go to their calculator. I ask everyone what their numbers were and have someone multiple them all together. They do that and the number they get is 82081272. The number I first blurted out within seconds of the texts being sent.

This is the true climax of the trick. Picking up the first person’s number is good. But knowing the product of everyone’s numbers almost instantly, the moment they were sent, is very strong. I play it off like it’s a useless skill. Yeah sure, anyone could pick up on the jumbled mass of all the numbers combined, the valuable skill is to be able to pull out the individual numbers as I did with the initial one.

This is, obviously, just the TOXIC force. I do it one of two ways. Either I have it set up and ready to go on my phone from the beginning. Or, while I’m doing the calculation on the paper, I ask someone to open their calculator for me (I don’t want to use my own at that point because I don’t want to see the texts on my phone). Then, while I’m apparently using their calculator to do some math that is too complicated for pencil and paper, I set up their phone to force the number via the TOXIC force.


  1. If you want to make this more disturbing, it might be fun to make it look like you’re bleeding from your ears after all the texts are sent with the phones pressed to your head.

  2. You can do this for strangers or other people you don’t have in your phone, you’d just miss out on that first bit where you know who sent the text that got through first. In this case you’d just know the number.

  3. When breaking down the trick with some people who saw earlier versions, I twice heard the idea that maybe I had an app or some sort of program running that would automatically multiply together any numbers sent to me. That would be a weird app. But it’s really not that bad of a solution. This is why I changed to asking people to send me the number in its two-digit form, or written out in words, or they could write it down and take a picture, or grab an image off google images and send it to me. The implication is that having the numbers come to me in different forms will be more of a challenge, but the real reason is because I think this eliminated the idea that the product of the numbers somehow came to you automatically.

  4. You’ll find how easy it is to tell who texted you based on the vibrations and you may choose to tell the order all the texts came in. I don’t do that myself, but you could.

Thanks again to Hector for the inspiration.