Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Does every magic effect have to contain a "magical moment"? Can it be equally as strong if instead of magic (as in defying rules of nature), it resulted in something that is in fact possible in real life?

Let's explore Triumph, a classic Vernon effect where a deck that's been shuffled with half the cards face up and face down "magically" straightens out. In most variations, there is a magical moment (casting a shadow, a mystic wave of the hand, a quick riffle of the cards, etc.) that causes the condition of the deck to change. But how connected is the audience in this process? Are they truly involved in the "hey, look what I can do" demonstration? Yeah, they selected a card, but are they genuinely part of the experience?

What if Triumph was presented with the spectator unshuffling the cards? Imagine hopelessly mixing the cards up and down, then simply handing the deck to your participant. They place the deck behind their back and turn groups of cards up and down, stopping whenever they want. They bring the deck back out, the cards are spread on the table, and they are all now face up, except the card they named before the trick started. The participant somehow defied all odds in unshuffling the deck—something that is in fact possible, but utterly unbelievable.

This approach is a reminder that not all magic has to highlight the magician's mystical powers, but rather the true magic is often in the audience doing, seeing, feeling and experiencing something rare and incredible. In these moments, I am not a magician in the traditional sense; I am a mere catalyst sparking remarkable and extraordinary experiences within the audience. They create the impact.

While this approach is not new and can be seen in many classic effects, it would be worth applying the idea to effects that aren't typically "participant-induced." By transferring the wonder from your hands into others' hands, I think you'll find them talking more about extraordinary possibilities, and how they play a role in it.


Jordan said...

Hi John,

Nice post you got here. Truly sometimes an effect would be more magical if the audience would be more involve in such a way that it defies odds.

Thanks for the insights


Anonymous said...

How about if someone deals the cards at random in two piles and they end up separated in reds and blacks?

Strangely enough one of the strongest tricks has a high probability of working with no method at all: Have someone name any card and any position in the deck only to find that exact card at that position.

Even stranger is that predicting one suit out of four is strong in such a trick as B'Wave.

Would be most interesting to understand why tricks with a high probability of succeeding with no secret method impresses people.


John G said...

Hey Tomas,
I suppose these types of classic effects work because they're more accessible to the audience. The line between the stage and the audience is blurred and the question shifts from "how do YOU do that?" to "how did I do that?" They trace their steps, full of wonder, understanding that THEIR choices led to this most unlikely of events. And while this approach is certainly nothing new, I agree it is interesting to look with curiosity what makes them so powerful and so personally astonishing.