How do they do magic tricks involving random audience members?

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.

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!

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.

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.

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”.

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.

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 …

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?

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.

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 :wink:

Ah, yes…it always comes down to money…


Excellent post. Couldn’t agree more, kudos to you! :smiley:

For the same reason someone sees a movie or a play or watches tv, they are no more real. That’s entertainment. :slight_smile:

Personaly I hate “magic” (I also hate sport though) but it is valid as entertainment as anything else.

Isn’t that why they now call them ‘illusionists’ not ‘majicians’?

In other words, every book on magic that’s ever been published is a complete fabrication? :dubious:

LOL … looks like I’m not the only one who picked up on the logic loophole in the magician’s code of secrecy. :slight_smile:

Amazing! I chose 1 and 13 too!! We must be psychic

Who cares when you are psychic.

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.

I picked 1 and 15. I’m only two thirds psychic. :frowning:

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.

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.