Quinlan's Inside Magic's policy is
to publish letters to the editor, answer general questions, and issue
corrections from time-to-time and as required by applicable federal regulations.
If you have a question, mistake, suggestion about something appearing in
these pages, please feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org. All submissions
will immediately become the property of Quinlan's Inside Magic and may be edited
to meet the needs of this fine journal – or to take out cuss words.
Q: What is roughing fluid? Where can I get some and what would I do with
it when I got it?
– A Magician, Lake Park, Florida.
A: Dear "A Magician," if that's your real name, Roughing
Fluid is an anachronistic phrase used to describe any sort of liquid or
semi-solid material produced by physical exertion.
Sweat is the most common form
of Roughing Fluid because it is easily collected by the performer who is either
"roughed up" or "roughing it."
Robert-Houdin was the first to describe Roughing Fluid in his
little-appreciated Mes Fluides Magiques, ("My Magic Fluids").
"Perspiration is produced often by the performer because lighting
demands and nerves of the performer.
This is often wasted or collected by
clothing through absorption or wiped onto the clothing of audience members or
This too is a shame because the very same fluids can be used most effectively
to produce more magic of a most mysterious – and often odorless –
Robert-Houdin's recipes for converting body fluids into substances to assist
magic was not overlooked by his greatest fan, Harry Houdini.
Houdini wrote to Bess, ". . . and its (sic) not just sweat that can be used.
Spit, ear wax, toe nail collections, tears . . . have applications as well." We
have edited this passage slightly to maintain our family-image.
Houdini's rage against Robert-Houdin's legacy is famous and attributed to the
short shrift he received from the great magician's widow. This falling out lead
to Houdini's very acerbic expose, The Unmasking of Robert-Houdin.
Interestingly, Houdini describes the cause of the falling out in more detail
than that offered by later biographers.
"I told Mme. Robert-Houdin how her husband impressed my life with a
mark of grandeur and caused much excitement to me for our Magic – esp. the use
of body fluids in tricks. She told me that she found the statement distasteful
I suggested there must have been a mistake in our communication – I do not
speak French at all but did try to use German and English to explain my
admiration for her belated husband.
I tried again, 'I loved your husband's body fluids. They made me a whole
magician – the full package.' Mme. Robert-Houdin slammed the door on my face and
pulled the blinds to the front windows. At first I was sad and distraught that I
had apparently said the wrong thing but then I became mad and spiteful.
I donated fluids at Robert-Houdin's grave and left."
But what can you do with Roughing Fluids?
This question belies your naivete, Mr. A Magician.
The question is not what can you do, but what can you not do?
It was during the Cold and Flu season that Canadian native and arguably the
finest close-up magician ever, Dai Vernon, discovered both an abundant fluid and
an immediate and astounding use. Prior to The Professor's innovative discovery,
cards were marked with ink or "juice."
Both methods required unnatural movements by the card player or magician. It
was Mr. Vernon's technique that allowed magicians and gamblers around the globe
to mark in "plain sight."
Dai Vernon wrote to Charlie Miller, "the beauty part is that folks at a table
normally blink or turn their gaze when you sneeze. No more perfect cover has
To this day, Las Vegas casinos will bar any card player with a cold unless he
uses one of the casino's official facial tissue to cover when he sneezes.
The Flamingo in Las Vegas offered this rationale in one of their pamphlets
for new gaming enthusiasts, "Because in many card games every player has a
chance to touch the cards, and because we care about your health, The Flamingo
provides free Kleenex-Brand facial tissues to our ill or allergic guests."
Jerry VanDine was not the first to notice this tradition but was the first
writer to link the practice with the need to avoid the use of Roughing Fluid to
mark cards. (See, What the Casinos Don't Want You to Know,
Ace-in-the-Hole Press (Reno 1977)).
Q: What happened to Inside Magic for about a month? It had the same old
story on the front page and was never updated? What's the difference between a
"beauty mark" and a "mole." Can a "mole" turn into a "beauty mark" or vice a
– Loyal Inside Magic Fan
A: One day we will write about the month in question. We'd write
about it here and now but it is still too close in time to either be funny or
fodder for some crazy essay. Sorry about the hiatus. Also, if you wrote to us
during that time, chances are we did not get your email.
If you resend your
message, we would be much obliged.
A beauty mark is something on Cindy Crawford. A mole is something on your
aunt. We suppose if Cindy Crawford was your aunt and you knew her so well that
she was no longer the object of your inappropriate attention, you might think
the beauty mark transformed into a mole.
But frankly, we think it is wrong to
look at your aunt like that.
Q: With so many methods out there for making a jet plain (sic)
disappear, what is your favorite method?
– Anonymous Reader
A: Nice try.