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Old 09-19-2004, 05:29 AM
Carnick Carnick is offline
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How do they do magic tricks involving random audience members?

I was just at a David Copperfield show tonight, and most of his tricks involved the use of seemingly randomly chosen audience members. He would drag people up on stage and have them write down a number, card, secret, etc. He would then show that he predicted everything they wrote down or overwise conjured up for proof. Now, the only explanation for these tricks is that he uses audience plants. Either that or he's actually magical.

What I'm wondering is, how does he pull off the illusion that his audience picks are truly random? His schtick was he'd toss an object into the crowd, and when someone grabbed it they would show that person on a large tv screen, holding the object. The lucky fella would then go up on stage to participate. I would imagine that he purposely throws the object to a section of the audience filled with people that were in on the act. Sometimes you could clearly see it being passed along by several people before it got to the right person. But what happens if he misses or fumbles the shot? What happens if someone else jumps up and grabs the ball/frisbee/whatever before it got to the target area? If that happened, the entire act would be shot. How's it done?
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Old 09-19-2004, 05:56 AM
richardb richardb is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnick
Now, the only explanation for these tricks is that he uses audience plants. Either that or he's actually magical.
I'm afraid your basic assumptions are incorrect. I am not a magician myself, but I have seen many magic shows. I cannot tell you exactly how these tricks are done because I do not know the specifics of these particular tricks, but the amazement proceeds from the fact that most of the audience thinks the way you do.

I'm sure several posters will pop up in this thread explaining why no one should tell you how these tricks are done, but there are many books written on the subject, easily available to anyone interested enough to look for them or to buy them, that will explain some ways of performing these mentalist acts.

I'll give you a bit of "proof" that I am correct. What cemented this concept for me as a young kid was seeing a particular trick done once or twice. The magician would throw a pretend pack of cards into the audience, then ask whoever "caught" it to throw it to someone else. He would then ask that second (or third) person to "open" the pretend deck of cards, then have a person next to him "pick" one of the pretend cards. When he asked that person what card he had picked, surprise! He "magically" produced some flamboyant way of demonstrating that he had that card written down already.

Since I've seen this trick done at a private party where I personally knew several of the people who ended up participating, I knew it wasn't based on a plant who called out the card he had already written down. It couldn't have been any tricky way of detecting or seeing the card that was picked, because there wasn't really a card! I dismissed the possibility that real magic was involved (this was before I ever saw Willow do her stuff on Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

The logical conclusion to me that all the flamboyant invisible card theatrics aside, what the magician really accomplished was somehow being able to produce in short order in some flamboyant way ANY GIVEN CARD at a minute's notice. That was the trick.

If you think of it in those terms, I'm sure you will also agree that whatever trick it was that mystified you, the way David Copperfield did it was not limited to either having a confederate in the crowd or using real magic.
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Old 09-19-2004, 06:45 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
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There are many ways to achieve a trick like that, including using elaborate props or set pieces to drag the trick out for a long time, giving the chance for other machinations to occur behind-the-scenes to achieve the result.

But the simplest way, and I use that term advisedly, is to engineer the trick so that every element may appear random, when in fact most of them are not.
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Old 09-19-2004, 07:24 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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There's also the famous mind-reading trick, where audience members write something on a piece of paper, seal it in an envelope, and write their name on the outside of the envelope. Envelopes are all put in a bowl. The magician draws an envelope from the bowl, calls out the name and tells the person what's in the envelope; opens it to confirm, and repeats this many, many times.

Of course, the first person called on is a plant. Then the magician is one step ahead -- he pulls a second envelope, but calls the name of the person that was really on the first envelope (if you follow me), which he's already opened. He pulls a third envelope, but calls the name of the person on the second envelope.

Most of magic involves preparation, hidden gimmicks, and misdirection. The specifics vary with each trick -- if you see the same trick often enough, you can usually see through the misdirection.
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Old 09-19-2004, 07:28 AM
ianzin ianzin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Carnick
the only explanation for these tricks is that he uses audience plants. Either that or he's actually magical.
Not true. There are other explanations. That's how magicians, such as myself, make a living. Obviously, we don't discuss our methods on a public forum such as this. However, I am pleased that the illusion of magic was so strong and compelling for you. Copperfield's show is one of the greatest magic shows ever put together.

Quote:
What I'm wondering is, how does he pull off the illusion that his audience picks are truly random?
It's no illusion. His audience picks really are random.

If you want to know how the tricks are done, take up an interest in magic and mentalism (mind-reading magic) and pursue it diligently for many years. You'll get there in the end!
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Old 09-19-2004, 09:05 AM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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I have done a little amateur conjuring, I'm not going to tell you the full details, but here's a few hints.


First of all, there is The Force - yes, its really called that. Magician can trick the volunteer into thinking he has a free selection, but actually he picks the item magician wants him to.

Then there are various methods where the volunteer is genuinely given a free choice, the magician gets a sneak peek at the choice, then reveals it to the audience. One example is using marked cards, but there are much cleverer methods than that

Then there's The Boon - the magician has a cunnigly concealed pencil in his hands, and writes down his prediction after the volunteer has revealed his choice

Then there's the Get Out - no matter what card is chosen, the magician has a way of revealing that he 'knew' that. "Aha, you chose the ace - observe as I remove my glove, see that the word 'Ace' is written on my palm. Thank you" " Aha you chose the seven - observe as I raise my foot - see how the word "seven" is printed on the underside of my boot. Thank you"

And loads of other methods too.
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Old 09-19-2004, 10:41 AM
astro astro is offline
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What happened to the admonition some time ago by the SDMB admins, that we could be banned for revealing the way professional magic tricks are done. Is that still an SMDB policy?
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Old 09-19-2004, 10:49 AM
Q.E.D. Q.E.D. is offline
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Originally Posted by astro
What happened to the admonition some time ago by the SDMB admins, that we could be banned for revealing the way professional magic tricks are done. Is that still an SMDB policy?
That was an intellectual property issue, which I believe was resolved. It was decided, IIRC, that revealing the essence of a a trick in one's own words was acceptable, and did not violate any US intellectual property laws.
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Old 09-19-2004, 11:29 AM
KidCharlemagne KidCharlemagne is offline
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Ok, so my source is the NBC show "Las Vegas," but the technique portrayed certainly makes sense. In those shows where the magician/mentalist "reads" the minds of members of the audience, hidden microphones have been placed in various spots and monitored while the audience waits for the show to start.
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Old 09-19-2004, 12:57 PM
Julius Henry Julius Henry is offline
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Then there's the probability play. This involves asking someone to name one or two things and have the magician show he's predicted this. It turns out there are some questions that will seem to have an endless number of answers, but where one or two will be chosen by people often enough that magicians can perform mind reading tricks with them. Here are two:

Select one of the following numbers:

1 2 3 4
SPOILER:
Only Dopers pick 3


Pick a random number between 10 and 40, both digits must be odd, and the two digits cannot be the same as each other.
SPOILER:
You picked 35, or was it 37


There are many of these. Dig around in the magic section of your public library and you'll find more.
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Old 09-19-2004, 03:11 PM
anamnesis anamnesis is offline
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Since Carnick's "basic assumptions" are clearly "incorrect" according to nearly everyone here, perhaps someone can tell me how David Copperfield manages to pull off the following favorite act of his, which has had many thematic variations over the years, each one getting a bit harder to pull off but nonetheless all working on the same principle. (Please also note that despite what I have to say may seem more like seething skepticism than the typical SDMB "fortuitous agreement response", that I hugely admire Copperfield and acknowledge his amazing skills, and that I am only posting this because I am not only a very scrutinous fan, but also someone who draws a line between what is logically feasible and what is not.)

He pulls a person from the audience (randomly, of course!) and sits them down to talk, all the while having a covered blackboard off to the side of the stage, in full view of the audience. He tells the audience that he's written something down on the board, which he'll reveal by the end of the trick. No one can see what's written on this board, of course, as it's covered with a fancy drapery. Only after talking to this "totally random audience member" about whatever topic it is he or they choose to speak on, he reveals what's on the board: essentially a perfect transcript of the details of their conversation is read aloud while we watch in amazement! We're supposed to wonder at how he could have possibly known all of that beforehand, and how if he didn't have precognitive psychic powers, it could have possibly been written on the board after the fact, since we've seen it standing there on stage completely untouched and in full view. We're supposed to ask ourselves how it could be possible since the totally random audience member is a totally random audience member.

The fact is, the audience member isn't totally random, it doesn't really matter which of them does most of the talking, what the subject was, or how the audience member appears to have been selected, because the audience member is a plant. Years ago, Copperfield would scarcely hesitate to go out and hand-pick an audience member himself (at least, he did on several of his numerous ABC television specials). Whether or not he still does this in his current performances is irrelevant, because I wouldn't be surprised if he's ditched the hand-picked audience member method in favor of the more believable "random toss" selection in recent years. More than likely, he still uses both approaches, but his method for getting the plant to the stage in a seemingly random manner is the real trick. The material itself is scripted, memorized, rehearsed and written on the blackboard beforehand, of course, and then performed with an extemporaneous and witty conversational exchange onstage so as to make the audience believe the plant is real. Copperfield's ability to make viewers believe he has a random and impartial audience member is the lynchpin to making the trick work, and this is why the repartee between the two of them must be very fluid and believable. As Peter Morris here offered, this is the "Force" technique at its very best, but instead of forcing the random participant, he's forcing the audience (with a disarmingly cute performance) into accepting the illusion that the participant is randomly chosen.

Copperfield has also done one rather impressive variation on this illusion with audience members who use spraycans to paint cute little pictures on a big piece of white linen. After they're all done spraypainting their doodles, Copperfield removes another sheet from an envelope that has been hanging in view of everyone the entire time, and to our amazement, the drawings are virtually identical to the ones the audience members made. Same concept, more impressive performance. I wondered endlessly about how this could have been even remotely possible, and the fact is that it isn't. It's rehearsed and the supposedly random participants are more than likely well-practiced members of Copperfield's payroll. Perhaps this is where those aspiring amateur actors who don't get chosen on their final audition for the latest TV reality show go to get work?

I beseech anyone to prove me wrong, and will gladly accept the "magician's code of secrecy" pretext as proof that I'm right. Perhaps as a disclaimer, I should state that this post reflects only my own opinions, that I'm not a magician, and that these are not official secrets so that I'm not in danger of being blackmailed, kidnapped, or tortured by the secret society of aspiring stage illusionists.
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Old 09-19-2004, 03:36 PM
Revtim Revtim is offline
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anamnesis, perhaps the trick you describe can be reduced to the standard "one thing magically replaced with another" trick, where the chalkboard on stage is replaced with one off stage with an assistant transcribing the conversation, much like a lady being replaced with a tiger.

I don't know how other replacement tricks are done, but perhaps some of those techniques can be used with the chalkboard, and hence still have a truly randomly picked audience member.

Just speculating, I have no real knowledge of these are done.
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Old 09-19-2004, 04:51 PM
Balthisar Balthisar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Julius Henry
Then there's the probability play. This involves asking someone to name one or two things and have the magician show he's predicted this. It turns out there are some questions that will seem to have an endless number of answers, but where one or two will be chosen by people often enough that magicians can perform mind reading tricks with them...
Damn it. I fell right in with 3 and 37. But why 37? I thought that I deliberately picked something that most other people wouldn't pick.
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Old 09-19-2004, 09:54 PM
VernWinterbottom VernWinterbottom is offline
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With magic, you must remember that nothing is what it seems to be.

With the technilogical advances we have today, in contrast to what Houdini had available, it's a wonder that magicians can still mystify folks. (Think about it. . .I'm in my study typing this and you halfway around the world are reading it seconds later. . .that's MAGIC!) The biggest tricks magicians pull off are making you think you're seeing one thing, when in fact you're not. There are many, many ways to "write" a message on a covered "blackboard" that have nothing to do with a hand holding a piece of chalk. But the audience doesn't even consider that possibility. As long as the audience thinks it's seeing an ordinary slate chalkboard (Do they even make those today?) and that it's not switched or not written on during the act, the trick works. The audience member is probably not a plant. The magician did not know what the person was going to say and did not write it on the board in advance. The trick is how to get the words on the board while its covered with a cloth.
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Old 09-19-2004, 11:05 PM
MelCthefirst MelCthefirst is offline
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If the audience member really was a plant, why aren't there hundreds of ex-audience members singing like canaries as to how it was done.
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Old 09-20-2004, 01:12 AM
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I picked 31.

I would think that an easier way to "randomly" pick a plant would be to not really throw the item, and then have the plant hold up an identical item that he/she already had.

I had a "magic trick" book when I was a kid that explained several more commonly used schemes, but the only one I remember is the Forced Choice.

I also remember reading at least one novel in which a supposed "genius" type figured out the magician's mindreading schtick and demonstrated how it was done. It's obvious once you know how it's being done.
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Old 09-20-2004, 06:28 AM
Ashtar Ashtar is offline
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[QUOTE=Julius Henry]Then there's the probability play.QUOTE]

I bombed both of 'em with a 1 and a 13.

I guess I'm not a magically inclined sort.
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Old 09-20-2004, 07:46 AM
C K Dexter Haven C K Dexter Haven is offline
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Remember that picking 35 or 37 is merely playing the odds, not saying that everyone will pick those numbers.

The same kind of trick is used by mediums and ESP-type tricksters, See Straight Dope Staff Report: How come TV psychics seem so convincing?, to which our own ianzin gave invaluable information.

If you're interested in cold reading and similar magicians' tricks, I recommend The Full Facts book of Cold Reading, written by ian, and available from his website at www.ianrowland.com (Note: we normally don't allow such "advertising", but Ian's stuff is a Moderator-approved exception.)
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Old 09-20-2004, 08:37 AM
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Similarly to the above, I have demonstrated 'ESP' at my School.
I asked a pupil to think of a number between 1 + 10. Then I told him he was thinking of 7 (reasonably likely). I followed up with 'think of a colour' = 'blue'.
Gratifyingly, his mouth fell open!

I've had the pleasure of being on Derren Brown's TV show. Not only is he an impressive illusionist, but also a very polite chap!
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Old 09-20-2004, 08:41 AM
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Another example of Thr Force that I've seen is getting someone to take one of two items. For example the magician holds up two books (A and B). The magician wants the volunteer to take book A. They hold up both books and announce "Please point at the book you feel is more magical." If the volunteer points at book B the magician will then say "You chose book B to be more magical so that is the book I will use to perform magic, you hold on to book A."
If the volunteer points at book A the magician will say "You chose book A to be more magical, therefore I will give you book A."
Either way it appears that the volunteer had control over the choice (which he did) but it was never said what the choice would result in.
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Old 09-20-2004, 01:35 PM
PoorYorick PoorYorick is offline
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Really seedy version of a trick with me as the plant

I'm probably not giving up any deep, dark secrets when I tell you about my only experience as a magician's plant.

I was at Six Flags Over Texas several years ago with my girfriend and her daughter, and we decided to see the magic show. We were one of the first to sit down on the bleachers at the open air amphitheatre. After a few minutes this guy sits next to me, casually leans over and asks, "Would you mind doing me a really big favor and volunteering for my magic show?"

With my girfriend egging me on (I'm sure he took this into account), I said sure. He asked me replace my wrist watch with a sad looking substitute that happened to have a velcro clasp instead of the usual buckle. Now, I'm no idiot, so I figured out pretty quick what my part was going to be. He then said that I was to "volunteer" when he asked for volunteers.

The show started about 15 minutes later with the introduction of my new friend, but now in a tux. Sure enough, about a third of the way through his act (pretty much your usual high school talent contest fare), he asked for volunteers, I raised my hand, and proceeded to the stage amongs much applause (well, as much applause as about 35 audience members can muster). I can't remember his patter, but soon enough I felt his hand grappling with the wrist band of my new watch as he was waving his other arm about, then he triumphantly announced, "Is this your watch?"

I sheepishly admitted it was, and left the stage, again amongst much applause.

The cojones of that guy; I mean, he had to go on sheer trust to make sure I didn't screw his act using any one of the multitude of ways I could have: Not volunteering, substituting his watch for mine, saying, "Nope, that's not my watch," demanding "my" watch back before I left the stage . . .

You just had to admire him.
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Old 09-20-2004, 03:42 PM
Jayrot Jayrot is offline
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If those Magic Secrets Revealed shows are to be trusted, many of Copperfield's big object disappearing acts are done with an entire fake audience! One particular type has an audience sitting in some kind of small bleachers. Everyone is looking through this picture frame thingy (or window). Through the frame is a tank, airplane, statue of liberty, or whathaveyou. Copperfield closes some blinds over the frame, and when he opens it up again, POOF! the big thingy is gone.

IIRC, the trick hinges around the whole audience (and frame/window) being on a track which slides ever so slightly to the left or right.

The funny thing is that the whole time, the narrator is making this big deal about saying "From this point on, the camera will not cut away" over and over. He doesn't say anything about the "studio audience" one way or the other! The fact is that the whole audience is a plant, but you just take it for granted that they must be just seeing live what you see on TV.

One might be a little turned on to this idea when you think about the fact that Copperfield makes the Statue of Liberty disappear, but only about 15 people are in the audience. I mean, his shows are usually pretty damn expensive, but only 15 spots?! Those tickets would be like $50,000 each!
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Old 09-20-2004, 03:56 PM
Hampshire Hampshire is offline
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In the David Copperfield Makes The Statue of Liberty Disappear
the audience was real and not a plant.
The trick was done as you descibed with the stage with the audience seeing the statue through a small opening, close the curtain, rotate the stage (slowly) a couple degrees to the left, open the curtain and it's gone.

I don't believe the entire audience fell for it since they'd only have to fool a few of them so they could catch their reactions.

But no, the audience was not a plant.
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Old 09-20-2004, 04:00 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Quote:
If those Magic Secrets Revealed shows are to be trusted, many of Copperfield's big object disappearing acts are done with an entire fake audience!
What clued me in to this one was the disappearing railroad car. He has a big circle of people standing around the car holding hands, while he throws a big drapery over the car. He then does whatever his mumbo-jumbo is, and the drapery-covered car levitates. When he dramatically pulls away the drapery, there's nothing underneath it. But while the car is levitating, every "audience member" is looking straight across the circle! Now, if you were a legitimate audience member there, and there were a railroad car levitating thirty feet in front of you, where would you be looking?

Don't get me wrong, Copperfield appears to be pretty good with the standard fare, palming roses and the like. But his Big Special Tricks for the Climax of the TV Special all seem to be pretty hokey. I can see better special effects on Star Trek every week; at least most of them don't telegraph how they're done.
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Old 09-20-2004, 04:12 PM
ianzin ianzin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by anamnesis
The fact is, the audience member isn't totally random, it doesn't really matter which of them does most of the talking, what the subject was, or how the audience member appears to have been selected, because the audience member is a plant. / The material itself is scripted, memorized, rehearsed and written on the blackboard beforehand, of course, and then performed with an extemporaneous and witty conversational exchange onstage so as to make the audience believe the plant is real. / ...and the fact is that it isn't. It's rehearsed and the supposedly random participants are more than likely well-practiced members of Copperfield's payroll.
Since this place is about combatting ignorance rather than spreading it around, let me state for the record:

1. Anamnesis doesn't know what he's talking about (apologies if I should be using the female pronoun).
2. He is 100% wrong. The audience members involved in the routines described are not plants.
3. I believe part of his post is intended to cajole or entice someone into revealing the actual methods.

As I've said before here on the Boards, asking about how magic tricks are done is rather pointless. Those of us who know won't tell. Those who tell - or seem to tell - don't really know, and are often amateur dabblers in the art who call to mind the adage that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".
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Old 09-20-2004, 04:44 PM
MelCthefirst MelCthefirst is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
What clued me in to this one was the disappearing railroad car. He has a big circle of people standing around the car holding hands, while he throws a big drapery over the car. He then does whatever his mumbo-jumbo is, and the drapery-covered car levitates. When he dramatically pulls away the drapery, there's nothing underneath it. But while the car is levitating, every "audience member" is looking straight across the circle! Now, if you were a legitimate audience member there, and there were a railroad car levitating thirty feet in front of you, where would you be looking?

Don't get me wrong, Copperfield appears to be pretty good with the standard fare, palming roses and the like. But his Big Special Tricks for the Climax of the TV Special all seem to be pretty hokey. I can see better special effects on Star Trek every week; at least most of them don't telegraph how they're done.

Like I said, if audiences were plants, there'd be a lot of people who know it's fake, and a percentage of these people would be telling everyone that they were a plant in a majic show audience and generallyl how fake it all it.
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Old 09-20-2004, 07:52 PM
anamnesis anamnesis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ianzin
Since this place is about combatting ignorance rather than spreading it around, let me state for the record:

1. Anamnesis doesn't know what he's talking about (apologies if I should be using the female pronoun).
2. He is 100% wrong. The audience members involved in the routines described are not plants.
3. I believe part of his post is intended to cajole or entice someone into revealing the actual methods.

As I've said before here on the Boards, asking about how magic tricks are done is rather pointless. Those of us who know won't tell. Those who tell - or seem to tell - don't really know, and are often amateur dabblers in the art who call to mind the adage that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".
And since I already "stated for the record" that the "magician's code of secrecy" whitewash would gladly be accepted as affidavit for what I said to be true, you've done nothing but help my case. The opinions here are split 50/50, with the half who agree with plants being a staple in stage magic having explained their rationale far better than the one's who want to play the "it's a secret" card. I never asked how the trick was done, and wasn't trying to entice anyone to reveal it because I already did. But I suppose since I'm ignorant, I guess what I have to say is less worthy than condescending double-talk.

The point is: the stalemate of secrecy continues until I'm proven wrong. Somebody get a Snickers, this may take awhile ...
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Old 09-20-2004, 08:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ianzin
If you want to know how the tricks are done, take up an interest in magic and mentalism (mind-reading magic) and pursue it diligently for many years. You'll get there in the end!
Also, if you want to know why there are tongue depressors in a dermatologist's office, take up an interest in dermatology and pursue it diligently for many years. You'll get there in the end!

And hey, if you want to know why batteries explode, get a degree in chemistry and then get a job at a battery manufacturer. You'll have it figured out in no time.

Why bother asking the SDMB to answer a question when it's so much more rewarding to devote your life to finding the answer instead?
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Old 09-20-2004, 09:10 PM
Valgard Valgard is offline
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Anamnesis -

I am not a professional magician nor even a "dedicated amateur" (call me a dabbler) but I can think of a couple of ways to do the blackboard trick you describe and none of them involve audience plants. Years ago my Dad picked up an old copy of Dunninger's encyclopedia of magic, many decades old (classic magic dating back to at least the 1920s) and there's several explanations of the blackboard effect. There were other tricks that did very much the same thing with other media - for example you write a letter and seal it in an envelope while seated well away from me (heck, you could be in another room). Minutes later I reveal what you wrote and I never get near the envelope. This is done without tricked paper/pen/envelope, no audience plant, no mirrors, no psychology, etc.

Sounds impressive to me and I know how it's done. To an audience watching a master showman it was probably astounding.
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Old 09-20-2004, 10:26 PM
Runs With Scissors Runs With Scissors is offline
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Maybe I'm just a fuddy duddy, but I don't see why anyone would watch, much less PAY to watch, a "magic" show.

There should be nobody on the planet who doesn't know it's all fake. (I do understand that the art and science of making it seem "real" is truly remarkable and takes years of training and practice...but for WHAT? Illusions! Wait a minute...I'm starting to see how government works...)

I couldn't possibly care less how they do it.

I like going to the local open air market and listening to the musicians and watching the jugglers and other street performers. It's real. And so much more entertaining because it's real.

The only exception I'd make is sleight of hand "tricks" where there is no pretense that it's "magic." Just good skills that took a long time to perfect. Making the Statue of Liberty disappear is just plain asinine.

Human beings' capacity to believe in magic and (insert any other thing that's fake such as baldness cures, penis enlargement, easy weight loss, religion, get rich quick schemes, etc. ) is truly astounding. And a lot of money can be made on it

Ah, yes...it always comes down to money...
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Old 09-20-2004, 10:29 PM
anamnesis anamnesis is offline
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Brian_ax,

Excellent post. Couldn't agree more, kudos to you!
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Old 09-20-2004, 10:35 PM
calm kiwi calm kiwi is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brian_ax
Maybe I'm just a fuddy duddy, but I don't see why anyone would watch, much less PAY to watch, a "magic" show.

There should be nobody on the planet who doesn't know it's all fake. (I do understand that the art and science of making it seem "real" is truly remarkable and takes years of training and practice...but for WHAT? Illusions! Wait a minute...I'm starting to see how government works...)
For the same reason someone sees a movie or a play or watches tv, they are no more real. That's entertainment.

Personaly I hate "magic" (I also hate sport though) but it is valid as entertainment as anything else.
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Old 09-20-2004, 10:38 PM
MelCthefirst MelCthefirst is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brian_ax
There should be nobody on the planet who doesn't know it's all fake. (I do understand that the art and science of making it seem "real" is truly remarkable and takes years of training and practice...but for WHAT? Illusions! Wait a minute...I'm starting to see how government works...)

Human beings' capacity to believe in magic and (insert any other thing that's fake such as baldness cures, penis enlargement, easy weight loss, religion, get rich quick schemes, etc. ) is truly astounding. And a lot of money can be made on it

Ah, yes...it always comes down to money...
Isn't that why they now call them 'illusionists' not 'majicians'?
  #34  
Old 09-20-2004, 10:49 PM
Colibri Colibri is offline
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Originally Posted by ianzin
As I've said before here on the Boards, asking about how magic tricks are done is rather pointless. Those of us who know won't tell. Those who tell - or seem to tell - don't really know, and are often amateur dabblers in the art who call to mind the adage that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".
In other words, every book on magic that's ever been published is a complete fabrication?
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Old 09-21-2004, 12:29 AM
anamnesis anamnesis is offline
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Originally Posted by Colibri
In other words, every book on magic that's ever been published is a complete fabrication?
LOL ... looks like I'm not the only one who picked up on the logic loophole in the magician's code of secrecy.
  #36  
Old 09-21-2004, 01:21 AM
dtilque dtilque is offline
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Originally Posted by Ashtar
I bombed both of 'em with a 1 and a 13.
Amazing! I chose 1 and 13 too!! We must be psychic

Quote:
I guess I'm not a magically inclined sort.
Who cares when you are psychic.
  #37  
Old 09-21-2004, 03:50 AM
Fish Fish is offline
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I am not a professional magician, but I can see one way that the "random tosses" through the audience can be potentially fabricated.

It needn't be that everyone who handles the pack of cards in the audience is a plant: only the last one. If you, the magician, see that your plant hasn't got the cards, you tell people to keep passing it around. Heck, you could even say "now give it to the person next to you" or "pass the cards to the right five times" to make it sound more random. After all (thinks the audience) the more people that handle the cards, the more random it is, right? They can't all be plants, we think.

A second way is simply that the magician has a means of producing a number of cards on his person, through various pockets and sleeves and things under the table, and can deftly produce one (or appear to do so) upon demand. There have been, after all, performers whose entire acts were based upon their ability to produce cards of all kinds from various pockets; one man carried thousands! (Read "Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women," by Ricky Jay.)

If one is daring, it would be rather easy to substitute in a few cards into the deck (put two nines of hearts, for instance, and remove the nine of diamonds) so you reduce the number of possible cards your subject may pick from. They only glimpse at the deck for a moment; they're hardly conducting a survey of its contents.

I picked 1 and 13 also, by the way.
  #38  
Old 09-21-2004, 03:58 AM
Mr2001 Mr2001 is offline
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I picked 1 and 15. I'm only two thirds psychic.
  #39  
Old 02-18-2018, 02:31 PM
Dr. Hackenbush Dr. Hackenbush is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ianzin View Post
amateur dabblers in the art who call to mind the adage that "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing".
Interesting, and what does your quote have to say about the dangers of secrecy?

I know this is years after the fact, I just happened across this thread and found the sheer quantities of either blind or intentional misinformation in this thread staggering.

Yes there are many wonderful techniques that individuals skilled in mentalism and sleight of hand can employ to achieve the same effect as using a plant. Forcing is effective and very common.

However anyone who goes to great lengths to tell you that magicians don't use plants... is a magician who uses plants. Magicians who admit that it is a vulgar but common practice probably don't use plants themselves and have nothing to lose by admitting the fact.

Here is a very abridged list of terms either coined or used regularly (often both) by magicians to describe the various skills of the trade;
back palm, crimp, ditch, force, gimmick, load, mark, PLANT, riffle, sleeving...
In fact the conjuring fraternity has more than one word for a plant; Confederate, Stooge and Shill are the first three to come to mind.

To paraphrase Penn Jillette, the illusion is beautiful, but the trick is really ugly and messy. Which is why nobody wants you to think about a magician running through a scripted routine with a trained "volunteer" and gimmicked props for weeks before the show but that doesn't mean those things don't happen.

I would be curious to know what the folks who were involved in this thread have learned about plants, magic and lying in general in the 14 years since the OP originally posted.
  #40  
Old 02-18-2018, 02:53 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dr. Hackenbush View Post
Interesting, and what does your quote have to say about the dangers of secrecy?

I know this is years after the fact, I just happened across this thread and found the sheer quantities of either blind or intentional misinformation in this thread staggering.
Could you point out these cases of blind or intentional misinformation? I don't see any, just a lot of very non-specific information about possible techniques used by magicians, none of which were refuted by you.
  #41  
Old 02-18-2018, 03:35 PM
RealityChuck RealityChuck is offline
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Magicians do use plants from time to time.

Top magicians don't.

There are many methods of getting results with a random audience member. I saw one explanation of Chung Ling Soo's (deadly) bullet catch, which used three random audience members: one marks the bullets with a secret symbol, and a second confirm it and loads it into the gun. The third fires. Soo pops the bullet out of his mouth and it's confirmed by everyone that it's the bullet used.

There was a gimmick, but that was independent of the audience members.

Remember, the magician is fooling the volunteer as much as he is fooling the audience?
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  #42  
Old 02-18-2018, 03:54 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
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Good magicians will also often have different techniques for doing "the same trick" on different occasions. That way, when people try to figure out how it was done, they'll say "No, it couldn't have been that, because that one time when he did it..." and "it couldn't have been that other thing, because that other time...", when he really did use both of those methods.

That said, I've never seen any reason why it should be considered "unfair" or "unprofessional" to use plants, as long as the plant(s) are a sufficiently small proportion of the audience. Do a trick for an "audience" of three, one of whom is a plant? Yeah, that's cheap. Do a trick for ten thousand, that needs ten plants? You've still got 9,990 real audience members, and you still need some trick for picking your plants without looking like that's what you're doing.

If anything, the real problem is when you do a trick that looks like it could be done using a plants, because then, people are going to assume that that's what you did, whether it's true or not, and it ruins the illusion.
  #43  
Old 02-18-2018, 04:38 PM
Quartz Quartz is offline
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Originally Posted by Dr. Hackenbush View Post
Interesting, and what does your quote have to say about the dangers of secrecy?
Since this is an old thread you should know that Ianzin is a British magician and a member of The Magic Circle. They throw out members who reveal secrets, which is pretty much the death knell of any career.
  #44  
Old 02-18-2018, 05:12 PM
Tim@T-Bonham.net Tim@T-Bonham.net is offline
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Originally Posted by anamnesis View Post
He pulls a person from the audience (randomly, of course!) and sits them down to talk, all the while having a covered blackboard off to the side of the stage, in full view of the audience. He tells the audience that he's written something down on the board, which he'll reveal by the end of the trick. No one can see what's written on this board, of course, as it's covered with a fancy drapery. Only after talking to this "totally random audience member" about whatever topic it is he or they choose to speak on, he reveals what's on the board: essentially a perfect transcript of the details of their conversation is read aloud while we watch in amazement! We're supposed to wonder at how he could have possibly known all of that beforehand, and how if he didn't have precognitive psychic powers, it could have possibly been written on the board after the fact, since we've seen it standing there on stage completely untouched and in full view. We're supposed to ask ourselves how it could be possible since the totally random audience member is a totally random audience member.
I can think of another possible way of doing this.

We just had Precinct Caucuses here, in high school classrooms. The blackboards I remember have all been replaced with electronic whiteboards, which teachers can write on with erasable markers, or can display images from their computer.

So easy enough to have one of those electronic blackboards, with an assistant backstage listening to the conversation, and transcribing it onto the board.
  #45  
Old 02-18-2018, 05:28 PM
JRDelirious JRDelirious is offline
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Applause please for The Amazing Dr. Hackenbush for making this thread reappear almost 14 years later. Truly a trick worthy of Houdin, Blackstone or Teller
  #46  
Old 02-18-2018, 07:03 PM
Peter Morris Peter Morris is offline
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Originally Posted by Quartz View Post
Since this is an old thread you should know that Ianzin is a British magician and a member of The Magic Circle. They throw out members who reveal secrets, which is pretty much the death knell of any career.

Not true. If it were, no magician would ever write a book. The fact is you can find instructions manuals for conjurers at any large bookshop or public library. You don't need to have a secret password to access them,

If you have an interest in taking up magic as a hobby, Ianzin would be happy to help. He would suggest some books to get started. HE might be able to guide you to a magic club in your area. If time permits he might explain a few basic tricks to you, by private mail and not on the open forum.

If you just ask how a trick is done, he will tell you to mind your own business.

I have a slightly different approach. I used to be an amateur magician myself, although I gave it up years ago. If someone asks me how a trick is done, I'll point them in the direction of the appropriate magic manual. The information is publicly available, but I won't just give it away, I'd expect them to take some effort.


By the way, folks. A bit of a spooky co-incidence here. I just suddenly thought of this thread a couple of days ago, and searched for it to read it. This before it was bumped. Imagine my surprise. Coincidence ...or precognition? Dun Dun Duuuuuunnnnn.
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Old 02-18-2018, 08:43 PM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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Practising magicians are pretty clear about just how flat a trick can fall if the audience knows how it is done. Like a lot of geeks, I have investigated the well known stuff, and I stopped when I realised it was wrecking my enjoyment. (I still like to think about how tricks can be done, and it can be fun being able to pick up on some.) But really, the knowledge is not generally bandied about because it wrecks the enjoyment, and thus the show. Which is hardly a good plan.
On the back of a discussion many years ago on this board I bought one of Ianzin's books. It makes a great read, and for fans of Derren Brown, a great juxtaposition to a lot of his more serious work.
If you look at the availability of information of tricks, not only are there lots of books, but many tricks are available for purchase from their inventors. But there is some modicum of control and honour to try to avoid someone wrecking things. Lets face it, a TV series that exposes the background to the mainstay set of tricks makes money for the presenters, and can potentially ruin the ability of many thousands of professionals to put on a good show.

I can't help but link to this animation. (Safe for FW, but you might want to avoid chasing down some of the others from the same source.)
  #48  
Old 02-19-2018, 08:56 AM
MikeF MikeF is offline
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I've done that pick a number thing (1 2 3 4) in a bar many, many times. I write the numbers on a piece of paper and then write "Why 3?" on the back. I put the paper on the bar in front of them and ask them to pick. I'd say that 75%+ of the time they pick 3. Why? My guess is that the eyes automatically go to the middle and, as there is no middle, they move to the right one spot to the right since we read left to right.When it works they are amazed. When it doesn't, not so much.

I have a clear recollection of seeing Kreskin on Johnny Carson eons ago. It was a card trick and he picked a card, seemingly at random out of a deck. He then told the camera, "Pick a suit". "Clubs." said I, instantly and out loud. "Now pick a number." I said "three", without hesitation. He turned over the card and BAM! The three of clubs! My college roommate and I could hardly believe it, nearly spilling the bong. Kreskin then said something along the lines of "Some of you at home probably got this". I don't know that worked but its etched upon my memory, or what's left of it.
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Old 02-19-2018, 09:21 AM
SciFiSam SciFiSam is offline
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I was a volunteer in a magic trick in Vegas last year and I'm certain that the others he picked weren't plants (they were members of a large high school tour group who'd have noticed if a stranger suddenly claimed to be one of them).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
Not true. If it were, no magician would ever write a book. The fact is you can find instructions manuals for conjurers at any large bookshop or public library. You don't need to have a secret password to access them,

If you have an interest in taking up magic as a hobby, Ianzin would be happy to help. He would suggest some books to get started. HE might be able to guide you to a magic club in your area. If time permits he might explain a few basic tricks to you, by private mail and not on the open forum.

If you just ask how a trick is done, he will tell you to mind your own business.

I have a slightly different approach. I used to be an amateur magician myself, although I gave it up years ago. If someone asks me how a trick is done, I'll point them in the direction of the appropriate magic manual. The information is publicly available, but I won't just give it away, I'd expect them to take some effort.


By the way, folks. A bit of a spooky co-incidence here. I just suddenly thought of this thread a couple of days ago, and searched for it to read it. This before it was bumped. Imagine my surprise. Coincidence ...or precognition? Dun Dun Duuuuuunnnnn.
Not sure how you think you're disagreeing with anything there. Like you say, a pro magician will tell you basic public domain stuff but not tell you specific tricks because revealing your colleagues' trade secrets would be pretty crappy behaviour.

You can't copyright magic tricks. It's not legally permissable and even if it were copyrighting the trick would itself mean that you were telling everyone how your trick works so it'd be self-defeating. But magicians use a lot of time and skill to create their tricks, so they need some way to protect them, hence the Magic Circle's code of secrecy.
  #50  
Old 02-19-2018, 09:41 AM
Francis Vaughan Francis Vaughan is offline
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You can't copyright magic tricks. It's not legally permissable and even if it were copyrighting the trick would itself mean that you were telling everyone how your trick works so it'd be self-defeating.
Nit pick. I think you mean patent. Patents require disclosure. If the trick requires a specific setup or equipment you could quite reasonably patent that. Good luck enforcing the patent, but you could probably obtain it. There are however plenty of magic trick patents. If you want to sell the trick, or the equipment to perform it, to other magicians, this might be a good thing to do to protect your invention.
You can obtain copyright on artistic works. So if your trick had a very specific patter, or could be argued to be an artistic expression, you might obtain copyright protection on that. Copyright would however not extend to the actual mechanism of the trick. Just its artistic expression. Things could get very fuzzy when mentalism tricks were involved. Copyright would just enable you to stop someone else performing your trick exactly the way you do it, it would not protect the knowledge. Whether this has ever been done is another matter.
I would imagine these things would mostly come under the category of trade secrets.
I think the Magic Circle approach is vastly better.

Last edited by Francis Vaughan; 02-19-2018 at 09:43 AM.
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