David Copperfield and the lottery

Okay, I can’t believe I’m posting this one, but I just don’t get it.

According to yesterday’s newspaper, David Copperfield predicted the winning numbers in a German lottery. He put the numbers in a box back in February. The document with the numbers was signed by a notary and the box was placed under constant guard. [An aside – what a horrible job. “You watch this box.”] Anyway, a few days ago, the predicted lottery was held. An hour later, Copperfield’s box was opened revealing the winning numbers.

Any thoughts on how this is possible?

…okay, back to more important things, now…

DC could tell you, but then he’d have to kill you.

Really. :smiley:

But seriously, it’s just something called “sleight of hand”, and stage magicians have been doing it for centuries. DC is just one in a long line of practitioners. If you were able to check out the complete procedure, you’d find that there was an opportunity to swap envelopes, because that’s how “sleight of hand” tricks always work.

Always. :wink:

Think about it. Wouldn’t it have been far more impressive (and lucrative) for Copperfield to buy a lottery ticket with the winning numbers? The fact that he did not points strongly to the sleight of hand theory. He didn’t know in advance, but somehow swapped the numbers after the fact.

Pure showmanship. I’m suprised it wasn’t an armed guard with killer dogs.

It was possible because the box contained nothing. The numbers were written on the paper after the lottery and produced at the appropriate time. This is what magicians do. It’s a trick. Any other explanations and additional show is just dressing for plain old sleight of hand.

I once saw a magician in a mall do a similar trick. There were about eight of us around him in close proximity. He asked one member of us to write down a seven digit number. A short while later he pulled the same number written on a piece of paper out of his pocket. How did he do it? I have no clue. How did Copperfield do his trick? The same way.


I read with great disgust about this. Copperfield has been inundated with people wanting to know future lottery numbers but he says he can’t give them out, or even buy tickets for himself, because “if you tell anyone the numbers it doesn’t work. They have to remain a secret.” He claims it wasn’t a trick - that he used mental powers to “know” the numbers.

Funny how “psychics” won’t publicize the winning lottery numbers because then the numbers won’t play out that way but they can predict how there will be terrorist attacks or a plane crash and then when those things coincidentally happen, they claim they saw the future and wasn’t it lucky that they were able to warn people? But I guess they can’t warn some destitute homeless person that his ticket’s numbers aren’t the right ones and he should choose different ones. Yes, those psychics are so kindhearted and generous and full of a desire to help their fellow man.

As to how he did it, either the box was empty or the guards were in on it. How do we even know for sure it was guarded 24/7? Because Copperfield said so? He’s a professional liar; he makes his living misleading and misdirecting people - that’s what a magic act is, after all. Who’s to say he’s not misleading people now?


Is Copperfield claming to have real psychic powers, or even magical ones for that matter? It was all very well & harmless when he caused us all to wonder how certain tricks were accomplished, but now he’s asking us to accept his illusions as genuine?

If so, he’s officially moved from an illusionist to a fraud. Or maybe even a nut case.

Every interview i have seen in the past with DC he has always admitted up front that he is an illusionist and not into any para-normal, pardon the language, crap. I have always enjoyed his tricks. A good part of the fun is trying to figure out how he did it. If he is now starting to claim that what he does is real magic i will be very disappointed.


The interview I read was at AT&T WorldNet Service. The article isn’t there anymore; I’m trying to find another source for it.

Here is a link to the story.

Also this bit of crap.

I found it in a cached copy. This was a Reuters report from Berlin, dated 10-14-01, with the headline “Copperfield Says German Lottery Forecast No Trick.”

BERLIN (Reuters) - American illusionist David Copperfield
said Sunday he was bombarded by requests for tips on the winning numbers in Germany’s national lottery Saturday night – numbers he said he had predicted seven months ago.

Copperfield wrote down his forecast on Feb. 17 for the multi-million mark lottery drawing due Saturday Oct. 13. The prediction was sealed by a notary and locked in a box that was kept under round-the-clock surveillance. One hour after the winning numbers were drawn, the box was opened on a live television broadcast and the numbers on the slip of paper matched the winning draw: 2, 9, 10, 15, 25, 38, 4.

“It wasn’t a trick,” Copperfield told Bild am Sonntag newspaper after the Saturday night performance on the popular “Wanna Bet?” broadcast on ZDF television. “It
was more an experiment and mental exercise. We only use about 10 percent of our brain capacity.”

Copperfield said he doesn’t participate in lotteries because “I find them boring. I’m not a gambler.” He said he isn’t tempted to play the lottery himself because then he wouldn’t be able to “see” the numbers.

“I used to try it out by giving friends the numbers, but then it would never work,’’ he said. ``If the numbers aren’t kept secret, it doesn’t work.” [Remainder of article snipped.]

ARRRGGGH!!! If I hear this idiotic comment one more time, I’m going to vomit. Repeat after me: “In a given day, most people will use the majority of of their brain’s capacity (talk show hosts and guests notwithstanding)”

When’s the last time you heard an ER doc say “Well, your loved has a serious brain injury. Fortunately, the injury was to the unused, unimportant part! They will be fine”

It’s one thing to perform a trick and not say how and act mysterious to keep the illusion going. It’s quite another to say you have legitiamte magic powers of some sort.
Looks like Copperfield is headed into Sylvia Browne/James VanPraagh/John Edward territory. Hopefully, they’ll cut each other’s heads off fighting for the prize.

Just for the record, I knew it was a trick. I didn’t think that Copperfield actually knew the numbers before hand.

Sleight of hand occurred to me, but how do you get the Notary to sign both versions of the numbers, without the Notary being in on it, anyhow.

I’ve never really enjoyed Copperfield anyway. Too much Las Vegas glitz. I really liked the late Doug Henning. He would do something amazing and then let you enjoy the surprise.

Drum God: the duties and responsibilities of a notary vary from state to state. In my state, for example, all they do is verify that the signature was made in front of them and to the best of their knowledge the signer is the person he is claiming to be. Notaries don’t have to believe or verify that the content is true or legal. They’re not supposed to notarize clearly fraudulent documents but they can certainly notarize a blank piece of paper with someone’s signature on it. Maybe that’s what happened here and the numbers were added in the convenient hour between drawing and “the revealing.”

Interesting how DC had to wait until after the drawing to reveal the numbers. Why not have two crews simultaneously filming the drawing and the opening of the vault? Hmm, maybe the spirits wouldn’t allow that.

jk1245, I’m pretty sure you know this, but just in case: those are DC’s words, not mine!

Let’s see if I can shed some light here.

Copperfield’s Lottery prediction was\is a trick. This kind of magic trick falls into the category we call ‘mentalism’, which covers tricks related to ‘mind power’, ‘ESP’ ‘psychic’ stunts and so on. Forecasting things like lottery results, newspaper headlnes and so on is a staple of the mentalist repertoire. I’ve even done it myself (see the photo essays on my website) but I’m not famous and I’ve never made breakfast for Claudia Schiffer, so that’s not really important.

I won’t explain how it’s done for two reasons. First of all, I don’t believe in exposing magic tricks, and on one or two threads I’ve suggested that such exposure should not form part of the SD’s remit. But that’s a separate discussion. The second reason is that there is no one way in which this kind of thing is done. Mentalism tends to involve lots of different sneaky and ingenious strategies for creating an ‘impossible’ outcome, and the mentalist can put them together any way he sees fit to produce the desired result. Copperfield and his team could have done this Lottery trick in any one of several different ways. I happen to know the specifics of this particular example, but if they didn’t use method x they could have used method y.

It is not ‘sleight of hand’. ‘Sleight of hand’ refers to deft physical manipulations and manoeuvres with small props such as cards, coins, rings, billiard balls etc., some of which call for an extraordinary degree of practice, skill, timing and experience. Most of the professionals who are good at ‘close-up’ magic are sleight-of-hand experts (though one or two are spawn of the great god Klutz). It is possible for sleight of hand to be involved in mentalism, but most mentalism does not require any sleight of hand as such. It generally relies on what we often call ‘sleight of mind’.

There have been news reports which cite DC claiming the Lottery stunt was not a trick. This is unusual for DC, who has hitherto been known for openly admitting that magic tricks are magic tricks. If the reports are accurate, then for some reason (?) he has decided on this occasion to go the same route as some famous psychics and claim it is somehow “real”. I have no idea why on earth he would do this - one can only speculate. But it was a mentalism-type magic trick, and of that I can assure you.

If you want to know how mentalism tricks are done, there is a page on my website listing various books which can help you find out more.

The real answer is…envelope, please:

The mechanics are unimportant.

Back in the 1970s a “psychic” named Hoy (David Hoy?) was a regular guest on KMOX-AM the CBS owned and operated station in St. Louis.

He had started out as a stage magician, but apparently found it more lucrative to answer questions from the radio audience via his mystical powers. For instance, somebody would call in and say: “Where did I leave my car keys?” and he’d say “Look behind the sofa”. Then we’d never hear from the caller again, and everybody would act like this was something miraculous.

At least he didn’t tell people their keys would be in the last place they looked.

In any case, Hoy was something of an expert on old-time magicians, and he used to tell about a trick one of the greats–I believe it was either Houdini or Harry Blackstone, Sr., used to perform. On his first day in a town, he would hold a press event at a local bank. He’d write down a prediction on a slip of paper, put it in a box, and give it to the bank president to seal in a safety deposit box.

The next day the box would be opened with great ceremony and it was invariably found that he had make an accurate prediction about a surprise upset in a sporting tournament, the unexpected performance of a horse in a local race, etc.

What made it impressive is that the magician was not the one who lifted the lid of the box, nor was he the one who took out the slip and read it.

He was, however, the one who had palmed the original slip of paper as he appeared to put it in the box. And he was the one who rolled up a new slip of paper, with the correct prediction on it, and stuffed it into a hollow tube in the special key he used to unlock the box. When the key was turned the key shot the slip of paper into the box through the keyhole.

This may not be the exact method Copperfield uses, but you can rest assured he does something of the kind. It would be no great trick to get a notary to put his signature on two different slips of paper.

And yeah: that comment about 10% of the brain is a largely meaningless claim which has been refuted many, many times. I recall that the Society for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (a group founded by Carl Sagan and Isaac Asimov, among others) published an article on this last year.

Well, fortunately it turns out that Copperfield was misquoted in this case (or, rather, a misleading quote):

-James Randi

he swapped the evelopes…no doubt about it…even the guy guarding the box is probably his beer drink mate

“I’ve had psychics tell me all sorts of things, but not one of them ever said I was an undercover cop about to arrest them for fraud.”
–NYPD undercover cop, on psychics

As for Copperfield, pfffffffffffffffffft! I always preferred Penn & Teller anyway.