Examination Judo Part Two: Munchausen

This builds off the technique I talked about yesterday. It allows you to perform an essentially invisible switch of a gimmicked object using psychology. This is very satisfying to perform.

We’ve all seen magicians do a trick with an object, then put it in their pocket at the end, and then pull it out again to be examined. This is a switch that fools, literally, 0% of the population. Once the audience has established a locus of suspicion, you can’t remove that object from their sight without ratcheting up that suspicion to its maximum degree. This is human nature.

The following technique allows you to do the same type of in-the-pocket switch (or any other sort of switch) in a way that draws no suspicion.


The basic concept is this: I show you a trick with a gimmicked object. Before the trick, I tell you it’s a gimmicked object and that it can’t be examined. Then, when the trick is over, I switch the object for a non-gimmicked version of the object.

Here’s what it might look like in practice.

We’re hanging out at my place. You tell me you want to go out on my balcony for a smoke. I say, “No problem. Actually… I’m going to grab something while you have your cigarettes out. Hold on.”

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I meet you on the balcony and I pull out a quarter in a plastic case. “I got this from the magic store. It’s a trick coin. I can’t let you look at it closely, but I’ll still show you what it does. It’s pretty cool.”

I remove the coin and put the plastic case away. I borrow your cigarette and push it through the quarter. Then I put the quarter back in the case and set it on the handrail of the balcony.

Maybe we talk a little more about the trick and the magic store from which I got it. “I like the trick a lot, but it’s sort of expensive to do. The coins are $8 and they’re one-time use only. Actually, I can bring this back to the shop and get a $2 deposit back. So they’re really only $6 each, but still….”

You ask me what I mean that it’s “one-time use.”

“They don’t…like…the quarter won’t…you know…accept another cigarette. Look…,” I say. I cleanly open up the container with the trick quarter in it and press the cigarette against it. Nothing happens. “You just can’t push it through a second time.” I give you the cigarette and quarter to try yourself. You look at the quarter and as far as you can tell it’s a normal quarter.

The method here is that I switched the quarter in my pocket as I reached my hands in to get the plastic case at the end of the trick. That’s it. But there’s zero suspicion on this switch because… well… why would I switch the coin? I told you it’s a trick coin. I told you that you can’t look at it at the end. There would be no point in switching it. So even if you make note of the hand with the quarter going into my pocket, when it comes back out with a quarter and I put it back in the “trick coin” case, that moment is forgotten. There’s no “suspicion” that the quarter might not be legit, because suspicion denotes uncertainty. There’s no uncertainty here. You’re positive that the quarter is gimmicked.

The way I actually use this technique with cigarette through quarter is even more bold. What I do is I’ll perform the trick, put the coin back in the box [switch] and then say, “I can’t show you how that one works. But I can show you how they used to do it. Hold on.” I now go to get something, leaving them alone with the “trick” coin, which they may or may not try to sneak a look at while I’m gone. When I come back I’m holding… a cigarette through quarter gimmick. And I just show it to them. “See… it’s like a little door in the coin. But obviously you can’t show the person both sides like I did with that one.” I didn’t show them both sides the other time either, of course, but they don’t remember either way. “This version,” I say, pointing to the coin in the plastic case, “is pretty new. It’s only been around 8 or 10 years. I have no clue how they make these ones. It’s pretty baffling.” I then act like, “what the hell, I’ll show you the new version too,” and I let them open the case and all they see is a seemingly normal quarter.

I can understand if you feel uncomfortable exposing the cig thru quarter gimmick. but the truth is, this is a trick where the secret is so easily discoverable online (there’s no question what you would google to find the secret), that exposing the “old way” of doing it may be the best way to really fool them in the long-term.

Of course this technique doesn’t need to just be used with Cigarette Thru Quarter. Any gimmicked object that you can switch for an ungimmicked version would work.

Munchausen By Proxy

This is a combination of the ideas presented yesterday and today. It came to me via reader Derek D., who had independently come up with this combination of ideas that I was using separately.

It involves pairing two tricks together. One that can be examined, and one that can’t be (without a switch).

You do the trick that can be examined, but claim it can’t. For example, Paul Harris’ Reset. When you’re done you place the cards on the table. “Let me show you something similar I’m working on,” you say, and go into the trick that can’t be examined. In this case, let’s assume you’re doing NFW.

You now bring the attention back to the cards on the table. “I’m not supposed to let you look at those cards, because they’re trick cards. But honestly, I’d be curious if you have any insight on how they work. I can’t figure it out.” Or, if you don’t want to play dumb you can say, “The truth is, you can look at those cards [indicating the Reset cards]. You’ll never figure out how they’re gimmicked. It’s so cleverly done.”

Now, with their attention on the first set of “trick” cards, you can do a very clean, unhurried switch of the actual gimmicked cards you now hold for some ungimmicked cards, and set them on the table as you help the person look though the Reset cards. Then you can turn your attention to the NFW cards (the switched in ungimmicked ones) and be like, “These ones are the similar. I can’t for the life of me tell what’s unusual about them. But obviously something is or they couldn’t change like that.”

Now, in a sense, this is just a switch done under some misdirection. But you’re directing them towards the exact same thing you’re misdirecting them from, i.e., “gimmicked” cards. So I think it would be especially effective.

It’s easy for a spectator to think, “When he shot the confetti from the wand, that’s when he switched the cards.” That might be “obvious.” But here’s what’s not an obvious thought: “I think when he showed me the first trick with gimmicked cards, they were actually normal cards. Then when he showed me the second trick with gimmicked cards, they were gimmicked cards. And when he asked me to look at the first gimmicked cards which were actually ungimmicked, he then switched the real gimmicked cards for ungimmicked ones before he asked me to look at those ones too.” That’s not the sort of construction they’re just going to stumble their way into.

Both yesterday and today’s post are about extending the presentation beyond the effect itself. Traditionally, talking with the audience about the concepts of secrets, gimmicks, magic shops, trick-cards, exposure, etc., might have been seen as undermining the magic. But in the world we live in now—where almost all magic secrets can be found on a device in everyone’s pocket—messing with their understanding of secrets and gimmicks and those sorts of things, can be one of the strongest ways to fool them.