As reader or readers of this august news source for all things magic know, we intensely dislike April Fools’ Day.
Magicians by their nature — a nature honed through DNA revisions and natural splicing — enjoy embarrassing and entertaining people all the time.
But there is more enjoyment if entertaining than fooling in our book — the yet to be published tome, Make a Choice: Embarrassing versus Entertaining. We have submitted the book to several publishers but none have taken it up. We have several published articles on the topic but the circulation of those articles have been restricted — due to lack of interest — to our family members; and not even all of them. Actually just two family members took a copy of the articles and we’re not sure they read them.
We will also admit that although our act from the age of 9-years-old to 30-years of age included sucker tricks like Fraidy Cat Rabbit, the Sucker Sliding Die Box and Hippity Hop Rabbits — all sucker tricks — we have changed our approach to magic and no longer perform sucker tricks or effects where a volunteer from the audience is made to look foolish or like a dupe. We figure they are nice enough to pay for our best and by definition, our best cannot include effects where we can make a patron look stupid.
At this point in any article of this type, we would say something like “but of course, we don’t condemn those who use sucker tricks.” We have no such statement to make here.
We can say, as noted above that our use of the sucker trick was curtailed when we put ourselves in the shoes of those who were guests. We came to the conclusion and theory of performing that because no one likes to feel stupid ever, we should not make an individual feel unsafe or of decreased ability to fully enjoy the show.
But what about Slydini’s Vanishing Napkins? Do you still do that? Isn’t that the ultimate sucker trick? True, we are singling out a single volunteer to be fooled by the vanish of napkins or rolled up paper; whilst the audience clearly sees how the effect is done.
We still do the effect because it is a classic, is not meant to make a volunteer look stupid but as an active actor in the miracle. Perhaps that is not fair and just shows our hypocrisy, but we hope not.
Magic is unique in the entertainment world on the embarrassment/entertaining.
For our act and individual routines, we choose to treat volunteers with respect and allow them to join in the fun from the start.
What did we do over our summer vacation at Inside Magic?
We didn’t perform except for our poor family members who watched and noted each time our second deal was obvious. We also had them watch the Twisting the Aces over and over. They feigned interest for a couple of weeks and then found reasons to not be in the same room with us and any four cards – aces or not.
We read wonderful books on magic and our favorite topics, late 1800 through early 1900s spiritualism and magicians of the same era.
The Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost by Peter Manseau is one heck of a good book if you are into spirit photography; and we certainly are. He takes his time and provides background on the man that brought spirit photography into its own at the very start of Spiritualism and photography.
Lisa Morton’s Calling the Spirits: A History of Seances is similarly captivating. It asks, “Why do we need Seances” especially in light of the reality that they are very often (if not always) fraud. Sometimes the fraud is practiced by those who genuinely believe they are reaching through this mortal veil; and sometimes by those who are looking to take from the believing. She is thoughtful in her exposition of the phenomenon, its followers, its victims, the hope and devastation felt by those for whom the experiment has failed.
Herman Melville’s The Confidence-Man is not so much about Spiritualism as it is about the victims of confidence men (or a single man – no spoiler here) who plied their / his craft on a riverboat. The writing is so wonderful and the scenes are so real. There is no magic or swindle mechanisms explained but the notion of a person who can have a victim put confidence in a perfect stranger is explored completely.
Christine Garwood’s Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea provides a riveting history of individuals who believe against all science to the contrary that the earth, a globe, is flat. Their belief is true to them although not true. We don’t want to spoil the ending, but the earth is, in fact, round.
Finally, Ching Ling Foo: America’s First Chinese Superstar by Samuel Porteous is a different kind of book. It takes the reader through the history of Ching Ling Foo’s well-deserved ascension to superstar status in US theaters. He and his troupe made more money in a week than entire villages did in a year. But the book takes you through every stop along the way. Literally. The reader is treated to virtually every theater engagement, the songs sung by his young phenomenon, Chee Tai. She could mimic fellow vaudeville acts with perfection and soon became a star separate from the troupe. There are great posters, images, letters and headlines included in the book. It is at time longish but worth the read if you are a fan of this incredibly inventive magician.
We love reading and so while our performance opportunities were limited to non-existent, we filled our mind with the magic of wonderfully written books.
That’s what we did on our summer vacation here at Inside Magic.
In an effort to launch InsideMagic.com to the top of the charts, we have tried to copy or serve an homage to those captains of industry in the internet world. We found the clickbait method of asking a question and then directing users to a page with answers seems to be working for some.
Here are some of the questions posed we have noticed:
Remember [Actress] in the 1980s? You should take a deep breath and see how she looks now.
Scientists won’t tell you when the end of the world is coming, here is the info they’ve been hiding.
How to spot a liar in one second – warning, this is a devastating power.
Remember [Thelma] from [Scoobie Doo]? Wait until you see her now, she’s beautiful.
Pain in your wrist? Learn the seven signs of [Illness] before it’s too late.
For each of these examples, we’ve corrected the spelling and omitted the real gross ones, like creatures that take up home in your body while you’re sleeping or how to tell if your child has rabies. No need for that type of extreme.
Here is our tentative list of clickbait questions to drive readers to InsideMagic.com.
[We realize we don’t have advertisers on InsideMagic.com but that is more a function of our choosiness. Daily, we receive offers to post ads from sources other than magicians or magic suppliers. Just this morning we received two: BlitzDate – Faster than Tinder! and, FungiGone – to permanently remove nail fungus forever. Both offered to pay us a percentage of the users derived from InsideMagic.com but we felt it would let our readers down.]
What Magicians don’t want you to know (Number 7 will make you rethink your moral compass!)
Magicians in Ancient Egypt – What did they know that can cure [Illness] even today! [Note: this will not include anything about fungi encrusted nails]
What Nostradamus Predicted about Mentalists Performing B Wave – You’ll be shocked!
How Magicians use Pheromones to Deceive Audiences with Smell – This explains so much!
The Classic Pass is Possible says Noted Magician – but will not help securing dates!
What David Copperfield, Criss Angel, David Blaine and Your Uncle All Have in Common – It’s not what you think!
Why Starbucks Won’t Let Magician’s in their Stores – Seems unfair but makes sense!
The Bullet Catch Trick – How Magicians practice this most dangerous trick without injury, usually.
Is the Bill in Lemon Trick a Violation of US Currency Laws? – The answer will surprise you!
Rabbits from Hats – You’ll be surprised at the type of animals pulled from hats over the last 200 years – Number four will have you gripped in fear.
Following the link to any of these bait lines would direct you to a microsite chocked full of ads for different approaches to: dating, fungus removal, disease detection, dating with an emphasis on finding the perfect magician match, colorized versions of war footage, colorized versions of fungal infections, and, IHop / Arbys. IHop would be shown in the morning and Arbys for the rest of the day.
It is the policy of Inside Magic – a company unrelated to Magic Inside (a pseudo-Twinkie manufacturer now defunct) or Magic Outside (a well-established camping equipment rental for witches) or Magic Inside Out (a surgical practice specializing in removing things from people with “exceptional skill and knowledge of modern medicine combined with medical waste management) – to publish responses to emails received on a quarterly basis or earlier if required by a court of appropriate jurisdiction. If you have a question or letter to the editor, please feel free to write to email@example.com.
Q: In one of your stories you said that a man in some country did a really amazing trick with some kind of animal. Can you tell me what that article was and where I can find it?
A: From your detailed question, we were able to find the exact article, “Man Does Amazing Trick with an Animal.” We have sent you a PDF version of the article but as you likely know, it was removed from the InsideMagic.com website in response to adverse reaction not to performing magic tricks with animals, but, in the words of Professor of English Literature at the London Community College, “intentionally or reckless vagueness of subject and object in a headline.” Our lawyer said the chances of losing the case was low but because we only had about $4.78 in petty cash at the time – and all of that went to the lawyer – we decided we could not afford the risk. We removed the article and apologized to readers. See, “We’re Sorry We Had a Vague Headline on an Article We Published a While Ago.”
Q: Why don’t you have Mandrake the Magician comics anymore?
A: It’s true we used to run the Mandrake comic each day. We ran out of money and so we had to end our license with King Features Syndicate — publisher of Mandrake. We tried to replace the very popular feature – indeed, readers told us it was the only reason they read InsideMagic.com – with JoJo the Magic Clown comics. While not as well-known as Mandrake, the JoJo series featured a magician who investigated crimes he himself committed. The series ended after a week due to this unfortunate plot design. We then went with Ranger Steve comics. These strips lasted longer than JoJo but had nothing to do with magic. They were daily exploration of the animal world. No one read Ranger Steve; not even the editors of the comic. There were constant errors such as “the rabbit is the only flower that can create seeds without birds.” We reported the strip to the London Community College English Literature department.
Q: Every ad for a trick says, “It’s the best ever” or “I was fooled constantly by this one” or “This is a trick that wows audiences and slays magicians.” Which one should I buy?
A: You’re right that many advertisers make claims that an effect is unique and the best thing to ever come down the pike. In fact, we received an email today that said just that, “this effect is unique and the best thing to ever come down the pike.” In our opinion, the best trick is the InsideMagic.com “Incredi-deck.” It is the only combination of a marked deck where every card is the same. The possibilities are endless. You’ll know immediately whether the person took the card you handed them because it will have the name of the card written in ink visible only to those wearing the Incredi-glasses or Incredi-contact lenses (sold separately). We printed up about 1,000 decks and still have just over 900 left (if you consider “just over” to mean, 987). We sold out of the Incredi-glasses and Incredi-contact lenses to a spy organization that we think works for either the U.S. or some other country. The reviews on the deck and vision methods were fantastic – but only from the spy organization and even then only in coded messages visible only whilst wearing the Incredi-glasses or Incredi-contacts. We would re-print them here but we’re not sure about international spy regulations when it comes to copyright law.
Q: At that party at the convention before Covid-19, you left early and forgot to pay for your ticket. We’ll wave the penalty fee and interest but insist you pay for the ticket. If we do not hear back from you with payment, we may be forced to pursue legal action.
A: We weren’t at that party and we didn’t leave early, it was just running so long with the constant music, free-flowing drinks, wonderful, mini-wieners on toothpicks (by the way, you should warn guests that there is a toothpick in the mini-wieners before they eat a handful), that we would have been well-within our right to leave early; if we had been there but we weren’t. We should send you the hospital bill for the removal of tooth picks lodged at various points in our digestive system. We used Magic Inside and Out and they did a great job. The best version of wood removal from a digestive track to come down the pike.
Mentalism, Magic and Mystery are three very different things – at least in our tattered book. We have never gotten into trouble with Magic and Mystery but on a couple of occasions have experienced harsh but understandable reactions from Mentalism.
First of all, we are out of the Mentalism biz. It used to be the cool thing around the time of people bending things and using specially patterned cards to read minds. There was a time in our business when everyone claimed they could read minds. Why they did that was always a mystery (little “m” mystery) to us. It gained them some notoriety but it would seem to invite constant challenges.
Slowly the world of Mentalism evolved to not claiming to be capable of reading minds. There were some who continued to make the claims but they were now considered psychics and not Mentalists. We were always in the Mentalism camp – back during our Mentalism days. We would, contrary to psychics, affirmatively tell audiences we cannot read minds. We could influence choices and perhaps pick up tells given by volunteers but never, ever could we read minds.
Except one time.
The following story is an amalgam of two events to protect the innocent and make our point.
We performed what Magicians would call a one-in-a-million shot. Our hole card is the Four of Hearts. We don’t know why but it seems like a good even number and has pretty hearts that can be read from the back of the audience. We were performing for some Boy Scouts and held an over-sized card before us and asked a woman in the far back to name a card. Our intention was to fail to have predicted the card and then go about our act explaining why we do not claim Mentalism power.
She called out in a loud and clear voice, “The Four of Hearts!”
We were far less mature then.
We should have joked it off, not shown the card, and said that was why we did not claim to have special powers. But we couldn’t resist. We milked the moment and when we finally turned the card to face the audience, there was true amazement. Unfortunately, there was also deep concern in the heart of the woman – the mother of one of a young scout.
She asked us almost immediately after finishing our routine, how we could possibly know the card. She had told no one and didn’t even know she was going to be a volunteer. Again, we were immature and in need of validation; even at the cost of someone else’s emotional toil.
“I don’t know for sure, we have a talent to read minds sometimes,” we said proudly.
It wasn’t true and still isn’t. We can’t read minds. We can’t even read fortune cookies without bifocals. We do have a very special talent in reading The Racing Form but our mounting losses over the years have proven that talent does not lead to accurate predictions of horse races.
The scout mom became upset. She asked if we could read her mind at that very moment. We paused as if trying to gather psychic messages and had to admit that we could not. But now she did not believe us. We were lying and reading minds. A very bad combination at a scout meeting.
“The Bible is against false prophets,” she told us as she took her boy behind her back and walked away from us.
We felt terrible. Horrible. We had offended – unnecessarily but for our own self-aggrandizement – a seemingly innocent, concerned mother and likely her son.
That is where the Mystery comes into the equation. Magic, to us, is clean. Things vanish, appear, and change shape or quality. Birds come from places you would least expect and disappear into places far too small for them. Magic is the kind of thing you would do (or we would do) for children, teens, adults and even people our age. Mentalism requires some advanced thinking on the part of the audience and if introduced as a real power can cause real concern.
We don’t want to concern anyone with our act. We do our double-lifts, false shuffles, second deals and what passes for a bottom deal and no one is emotionally concerned. We do a short card divination but never describe it as Mentalism. It is merely a demonstration of influence and picking up “tells.”
There are performers with more experience and ability than us. They would handle the troop mother incident in a far better manner. Perhaps they could even devise a method of proclaiming psychic powers that would cause no concern. We lack those abilities. But we can drink whole milk without having stomach or intestinal upset so we are all blessed in different ways. (We are not saying and would never say all self-proclaimed psychics are lactose intolerant; only that most are and we are not).
The Mystery is why we would do such a thing? Why would we concern a troop mom by persisting in the “gag” and asserting an ability we do not have and have never possessed? We learned our lesson years ago but pass it along for those starting out in our wonderful Art. There are very real consequences to what we do and how we choose to entertain.
It is a tough thesis to defend but it is one we hope to convince a group of professors at our on-line PhD Thesis Oral Examination this Thursday.
There are those who would suggest spending good money for four and a half years of on-line instruction for a doctoral title in Common Things and Thoughts at one of the lesser on-line schools would be a waste of money but we stuck it out.
First, because we cannot understand the language they speak – it is not a U.S. school. So really we’re getting a free language class at the same time and if we ever visit the native island from which the education has been provided, we will sound like a well-educated native.
Second, the cost was surprisingly small. We pay in the native island’s currency and yes there was a decided increase with the Hawaii volcanoes and thoughts of the utter destruction of their own island from flying bricks of lava, but that never happened and a “vang” (their equivalent to a “dollar”) is still roughly 86 cents. They believe education is essential and so they have many programs through which folks like us can learn at the rate of about one-hundred vang per year.
If we were on-campus, it could be slightly cheaper but more expensive for dorm living plus we too would worry about flying bricks of lava even though they would be about 800 miles from our island.
But back to our thesis.
Magic stores were once prevalent brick-n-mortar places where folks of magic backgrounds congregated and exchanged stories, sleight of hand methods, taught and encouraged youngsters, drank soda and smoked cigarettes.
Those stores are gone pretty much.
According to a statistic we just made up, there are 2/3 fewer magic stores of the brick-n-mortar type than there were in 1972. In 1972, we learned magic by demonstrating Cups and Balls and Hyrum the Hank 14 hours a day for 50 cents an hour credit towards goods at the store. It was a wonderful training ground and we were under the best of the best when it came to tutors. They were patient, kind and knowing. Our guests were the best in magic as well. We had stars from New York come to visit our Palm Beach area store and we could listen to their stories and still have it count towards our 50 cents an hour credit.
But those days are gone. We’re not sure how the young’uns learn magic now but assume it is through ad-hoc clubs at school or on YouTube. We wish they could have met the folks we met and worked hard to perfect a Color Changing Knife move. Maybe they do and we just don’t see it because we are looking in the wrong places.
And that, our good and kind friends, is where hardware stores come in. Yes, they too face blight and some are being lost to deconstruction or remodeling but in our area here in West Hollywood and the island nation on which our esteemed professors reside, hardware stores are alive.
One can go into a hardware store and walk the aisles for hours without being harassed or questioned. During that stroll, one can find things that will easily fit into the average magician’s imaginary construction of the perfect act.
An example from our thesis, the harness ring is a ring ostensibly for a harness. A harness is a device to fit over a horse. We have not seen many horses with loose or broken harness rings since we were a replacement for a rodeo clown in a strange mix-up that led to a court case and our first double-wide trailer we could call home free and clear.
And yet, most any hardware store sells harness rings of various sizes and polishes. We buy them whenever we can afford the $1.75 to $3.25 they charge depending on the diameter or circumference – we wish there was a way to figure out the circumference from a number representing a diameter because they usually list either circumference or diameter but not both and our needs are always circumference-based. It seems like there should be some relationship between the two sizes.
We then mosey (keeping with the western theme) over to the rope section, purchase a yard of their softest rope with a core; and Bob’s your close relation. We remove the core and we have the perfect Ring on Rope with a shiny, durable ring and a non-fraying rope ready to break-in. It is not as smooth and soft as they type one could buy from a magic store on the web but it is cheaper, novel and a perfect example of how magic props can be bought and assembled from items purchased in a Hardware Store.
This is just a taste of ourthesis. The paper version is now just under 900 pages with diagrams. It covers PVC pipe, copper pipe, steel pipe, clear garden hose, kitchen drain equipment (including a chapter on the under-sink pipe system alone), screws, nuts, bolts, hack saws, canvas, coasters, ball bearings (another full chapter), cloth bags and various forms of lighting that attach to metal.
Our session is, as we mentioned, this Thursday. We are nervous but excited. Like a mouse who sees cheese but cannot determine if it is in a trap and if it is not a trap, why his friend isn’t moving so much anymore.
It is a shame that the magic store in its original form no longer exists in as many places as it once did but as long as there are shops that sell things that can be used for other things, magicians will seek them out and make their own de facto magic shops – and maybe talk to each other over harness rings.
P.S. we forgot to mention Plungers. There is a chapter with wonderful illustrations by a former animator for a major motion picture company that makes our thesis something to cherish. Plungers do everything.