Tweak-End: Paul Harris' Son of Stunner

If, as discussed in the previous post, Paul Harris’ magic is “mental rape to the highest order,” the ideas discussed in this post may elevate this particular effect to a “mental gang rape” which I’m guessing is even a finer “compliment.”

From the True Astonishments Box Set, Paul Harris’ Son of Stunner is really a wonder of construction. You have three big moments: a prediction, a Triumph effect, and a color changing deck and it’s really just one technique used that accomplishes all of this.

If you’re unfamiliar with the trick, here it is performed by Bro Gilbert.

I performed this for a while after the release of True Astonishments. The reactions I got were good, but I felt they should have been better.

The prediction was well received, but the Triumph and color change phases weren’t as strong. And certainly not as strong as those effects had they been performed on their own.

And I realized that while the construction of the trick was clever methodologically, it could be better in performance.

In the True Astonishments DVD, Paul and/or Bro Gilbert kind of acknowledge this, making the point that the prediction effect often overshadows the Triumph that follows it. And they’re 100% right. The prediction takes people’s focus so much off the deck that when the cards right themselves, then change color, it’s easy for them to think maybe you switched the deck or did something while they were distracted by the first part of the trick. (Watch the demo video at 3:38 and you’ll see the woman going on about the prediction part of the effect. This is before the other two phases. Obviously no one is paying very keen attention to the deck at that moment.)

This is compounded by the fact that the patter Bro uses (and I used at the time) is that he did the switch the deck. The problem with that presentation is that it would actually be quite possible to switch the deck for real while the audience is distracted with the first part of the effect. And I think this is clear to laypeople as well. So the reaction I was getting was a “wow” for the prediction, followed by and “oh, neat” for the two latter phases. If they genuinely believe it’s possible you switched the deck, then obviously the fact that it’s a different color or the cards have been reoriented isn’t that impressive. And beyond that, the impact of the prediction can diminish because they might think, “Oh, maybe in the first deck, all the face-down cards were the 10 of Spades.” (Or whatever the prediction card was.)

My friend, AC, is a big fan of this effect and has come up with some tweaks to the presentation that I think account for these issues and strengthen the effect and he’s allowed me to share them with you.

A Celebration of Specialness

This first presentation changes the order of the phases, putting the Triumph first.

The revelation in a Triumph effect hits hardest the closer it comes to the audience seeing the deck (apparently) mixed up. In the original SOS, that revelation comes after the prediction, and is weakened because of that time delay. Here it happens immediately.

Here’s how my friend perform is.

He writes a prediction then gives it to the spectator to hold. He talks about one of the cards in the deck being “special.” What does this mean exactly? He doesn’t say. He shuffles the deck face-up into face-down. Then he says, “The special card is one of the face-down cards. Try to stop at the one that feels special. It won’t look different. It will look just like all the others, so you’ll just have to go by feel.” This reinforces that all the backs look the same.

The spectator stops him and he sets that card face-down right in front of them.

“Do you know why it’s special,” he asks. They say no, and he says, “because it’s the only face-down card.” Then he does a big wide ribbon spread of the face-up deck.

Now he brings up the prediction. “What also makes it special is that it’s the one card I wrote down before we even started.” He turns over the card and the spectator opens the prediction. Boom. Second big moment.

Then he turns very corny and says softly, “But you know…it’s not the only special thing here. You’re special. I’m special. That lamp is special. And each and every one of these cards is special. They’re all unique in their own way.” And with that he starts turning over the cards one at a time, and then en masse, to show they all have different backs (Joshua Jay’s Prism Deck).

The triumph portion hits harder than the original because it’s the first moment of magic, and it’s not following a stronger moment. So it’s not anti-climactic. And because it happens right after they see the deck mixed face-up and face-down.

The color change is stronger as well because they have no reasonable explanation for how it happened. You’re not talking about deck switches, and that won’t occur to spectators either because the deck is spread wide across the table making it impossible to switch.

The presentation is more fun as well. Find the “special” card. And then it becomes like a cheesy commercial from the ad council about how everyone is special and unique in their own way. It’s not intended to be a deep or meaningful presentation, but it’s a cohesive one. The original presentation is kind of a mish-mash of ideas. “I predicted the card. And the cards are marked. And also I switched the deck.” Huh? It doesn’t make a whole ton of sense. Here the consistent thematic presentation of “specialness” justifies doing them all together.

The Ackerman Home Invasion

This is a presentation I worked on with AC. It follows the same structure as the original trick: Prediction. Triumph. Color Change. But here we’re going to take some steps to make “he switched the deck” seem to be a truly fantastic explanation, rather than a rational one.

The name is a nod to a past presentation I wrote up here that mined similar territory.

You write the prediction on a piece of paper and have someone put it in their pocket.

You go through the trick up until the point the selection is made. You turn over their selection and note what it is. Then you place it at the back of the deck, oriented with the rest of the cards and immediately hand the deck to the spectator to hold.

You say, “Just a second,” and grab the table edge and grimace like you’re exerting a lot of effort.

“Ok,” you say. “I think that worked. Can I see the prediction I made?”

The prediction is removed and opened and you show that you accurately predicted the card they’d stop at.

“Do you want to know how that’s done?” you ask. “Simple. I didn’t actually write anything on this paper before I gave it to you. Then… after you selected the card, I froze time. Then, while everything in the world was paused, except for me, I went in your pocket removed the blank paper, wrote the prediction, and put it back in your pocket.

“You don’t believe me. I knew you wouldn’t believe me. That’s why, while time was frozen, I also fixed the deck so every card faces the same way.”

You take the deck from them and spread it face up.

“You’re still skeptical. Wow. Why do I even bother teaching you something if you’re not going to believe me. Well, I knew you’d be like this, so I did one other thing to prove I stopped time.” You pick up the random card on the end of the face-up spread. “You see this 3 of Diamonds? I actually went next door and grabbed a 3 of Diamonds from a deck in their house and swapped it with the one in the deck you were holding.”

You turn the single card over to show a different back.

Obviously this one card with a different back doesn’t feel like it’s proof of much of anything.

You pick up the next card, “And this 4 of Spades? I got this from the house on the other side. And this 8 of Diamonds from across the street.” You turn over the cards to reveal completely different back designs.

“In fact, I went to 52 different houses in the neighborhood and grabbed a single card from whatever deck they happened to have, making an entirely new deck of random cards,” you say as you turn over all the cards to show 52 different backs.

The benefits of this variation are:

  • Handing the deck to the person directly following the selection greatly strengthens the Triumph and the color change phases as the deck is clearly out of your hands even when their attention is diverted to the prediction.

  • The second and third phases are connected presentationally to the first. It’s not just a random mashing together of effects based on method.

  • I particularly like the idea of a rainbow deck being composed of a card stolen from 52 houses in the neighborhood while time was paused.

As mentioned, Son of Stunner can be found in the True Astonishments set or as an individual download. Use promo code JERX52 and you’ll save 20% and help support the site. Just kidding. You ain’t saving shit, and nobody is giving me any kickback for damn sure. But it’s a trick worth knowing so track it down if you don’t already own it.

[Edit: It seems that promo code actually works now. Do I have the power to manifest Vanishing Inc promo codes into existence? If I’d known that I would have conjured up a larger savings on a product that most everyone reading this didn’t already own. Hmmm… Well… let’s see what happens. Did you know you can get Joshua Jay’s Balance buy one get one free? Just use promo code: WHATAMIGOINGTODOWITHTWOOFTHEESE2019 ]