Mindfreak guy on Snopes.com...

Have you ever seen how the people act in most of his tricks? You can tell they’re all acting and doing a bad job of it at that.

The messing around with the short girls at the beginning is the variant on the “there’s nothing up my sleeves” line. Because their legs can clearly be seen when they lie down, it reinforces the (true) fact that the bench is real and that there’s nothing underneath it, no hidden chamber or whatever. Then the age-old routine of hiding things behind a long skirt comes into play.

Well, yes and no. There are some generally accepted “rules” to the genre, which a magician should not be expected to violate. Any sort of effect at all could be produced (for a television or Internet audience) via digital editing, green screens, and all the rest of, say, WETA’s toolbox. But nobody would call the folks at WETA “magicians”. We accept the use of greenscreening in a movie, but for a “magician” to use it would be cheating. Plants are a bit trickier: There’s a long and venerable tradition of using a few plants in a trick, but if a trick requires the entire audience be plants, it’s cheating.

Not that I’m saying that this is the case here: The trick could probably be done with only three plants, and any number of genuine bystanders (although it still seems a bit cheap to use a contortionist and an amputee as two of your plants). I’m just saying that it’s not “anything goes”, as far as the lies allowed in a magic trick.

It is a tricky one. I don’t think anyone wouldn’t consider David Copperfield to be a magician, though perhaps a particularly “showy” one in the current age of gritty, street magicians. All of DC’s make the giant ___ disappear are essentially made for TV tricks, which the entire live audience being plants. Statue of Liberty is a perfect example – a small grandstand of “spectators” supposedly looking through a little wooden frame along with the camera.

“From this point on, we won’t cut away…” Great…you don’t need to.

I’ve performed as a magician for over 20 years. Of course it is possible to do “impressive” street magic with no plants in the audience. The main problem with your logic is that this wasn’t street magic, it was television magic that was presented AS IF it was street magic. You fell for the first unstated lie. “Here is some street magic”… WRONG. And there is a very good reason why everyone had to be in on the trick in this case… much of it was done through careful editing.

I did no such thing. I said only that it wasn’t necessary for the entire audience to have been plants. I was specifically objecting to some posters’ assertion that everyone is a plant in every one of Criss Angel’s tricks. He does a lot of mentalism and sleight-of-hand magic tricks similar to that performed by countless other street performers; in such cases there’s no need to use plants.

Well, go on, then. Tell us what careful editing was required to execute the trick, and why it absolutely could not have been performed live with only four plants (a girl with no legs, a contortionist, and two people to hold the former two’s limbs).

I don’t buy it. I think that the woman in the long skirt was two people the whole time, rather than one person who was switched for two, as you’re suggesting. For several reasons:

(1) She is standing abnormally stiffly at the start of the clip. What’s the reason for her to stay so still, if not for the fact that she’s actually one person balanced on another?

(2) Criss Angel puts his hand on her back as she walks to the bench (presumably to steady her, because she’s one person balanced on another).

(3) Her face looks the same before and after the split.

(4) Snopes says “the illusion is not dependent on video manipulation.” Trick editing certainly sounds like video manipulation to me.

I suppose it’s possible that (1) and (2) are just coincidences, but if so then they were being sloppy, as both those things helped to convince me it was two people. If they wanted me to believe it was one person, they should have told her not to be so stiff. (Of course, if it really was two people the whole time then she had a reason to stay stiff.)

As far as (3), yes, they could have found a woman who looked just like this unusual amputee from the neck up, but is finding an exact lookalike for a specific person really easier than finding a contortionist who can walk while doubled over?

As for (4), maybe Snopes is just wrong, but I doubt it.

It seems more likely that it was two people the entire time.

Really? That bastard! What a gip.

If that is considered amateur hour, I would REALLY like for you to point me in the direction of a pro, because taken on first impressions, that was a pretty damn impressive effect. I hear this sort of thing a lot from people who criticize Criss Angel and David Blaine, that it is sloppy or whatever, and yet I have not come across any performers that blow them away as far as illusions go. I’m starting to think that this kind of criticism is of the “it’s cool to be cynical” variety.

Here’s another one

Hmmm…sounds vaguely familiar. You wanna know what I think? I think Snope’s lack of explanation has a lot less to do with their sacred allegiance to The Magician’s Code and a lot more to do with the fact that they just don’t know!

Claim: We know but we’re not tellin’
Status: Lame-ass cop-out

I just would have expected Snopes to be much more dismissive of the whole bit and just acknowledged that even though there’s no post-production SFX the whole thing is a complete scam.

Magicians annoy me. This is the freakin’ 21[sup]st[/sup] century. Magic acts should have gone the way of circuses and snake-oil salesmen. To paraphrase Penn Jillette, magicians are con-artists, its all gaffers tape and springs and plants and lies…


Why is everyone insisting that the bottom half is a contortionist? My immediate assumption was that it is a little person (the current PC term for dwarf or midget) wearing some kind of framework that comfortably supports the woman on top. That seems to be a much simpler solution. And I don’t think there’s enough room for an ordinary-sized contortionist inside the skirt.

It is possible that the woman who walks over and lies down is not the two people who are pulled apart. The second or two we see of her walking look pretty natural. It’s too hard to tell from the Web video, but it would be easier to tell from the original video as broadcast.

I also think it’s possible that a couple of witnesses weren’t plants. But I’ll tell you who was one for sure: the girl who screams when she’s “pulled apart.”

What’s your point, Sherlock? There are several ways this trick might be done, and I wouldn’t expect Snopes to run down all of them, nor to say specifically “Angel is using the such-and-such technique” unless Angel himself confirms it, which is unlikely.

Further, Snopes’ account indicates that the video clip is being spread via e-mail without attribution. They did the research (such as it is) and confirmed it’s a Mindfreak clip. Snopes is a get-the-basic-facts website, not an explain-everything website.

I admit though, this line:

…indicates to me that Snopes wasn’t especially interested in analyzing Angel’s performance. But for the clip being distributed over the net, I doubt they’d’ve given it space at all.

And thus you arrive at Sherlock’s point: that in fact, they shouldn’t have, and they definitely shouldn’t have twice. Yes, that’s a crucial detail there, that the woman isn’t really being pulled apart. In case we thought it was real or didn’t know what the phrase “magic trick” means…

You had a point? I thought you were just bitching about Snopes not spoonfeeding you every detail about how the trick was done.

Not really, but you sounded like you wanted one, so…

Yes, Bryan Ekers, you’re right: I want it all. Spoon-fed. In fact, I want it fed through a straw. Everything. I want them to describe in detail every possible way it could be done. And I want instructions. And a VRML demo. Was it a little person or a contortionist or a little contortionist? I want names of plants and names of bystanders with full follow-ups on all of them. Why? Because, I care, Bryan Ekers, I care. And I’m not going to let you make me afraid of caring anymore.

Oh, in that case…
Wizard did it.

Sure, I’ll point you in the direction of a pro. David Blaine himself.

Criss Angel may be a very Mandrake with his other illusions. I don’t know. I haven’t seen them. This one. however, is amateurish.

You don’t think it would have been more professional to use a few stooges who could act convincingly, to disguise the blatant camera cutaways with just a little more art, to tell the woman holding the legs to at least act like she’s pulling, to tell the amputee that she’s not competing in the Special Olympics?

As I said, amateur hour.

Did anyone else notice the strange lump on the back of the “top half” as she ran away? I think it was part of a brace to keep the two people together. Before reading the rest of the thread I had already come up with:

  1. there are some strange lumps. When the woman lays down, there is a lump that looks like a beer gut…except that she’s too thin to have one. Then the top half has a lump on her back and the bottom half is too tall when it sits up.
  2. the skirt isn’t right at all either when walking or when sitting/laying.
  3. the ‘victim’ is definitely a plant since she knows how to sit, and where to put her hands without being asked/told and the ‘magician’ is too familiar with her.
  4. why would the girl pulling the ‘top half’ keep pulling after the two halfs were ‘seperated’?
  5. why would the ‘top half’ run away or why wouldn’t the ‘bottom half’ run away?
  6. the magician blocked the view of the audience while the ‘victim’ was laying down and the camera was too far away to see detail. Then he walked around to the other side and the filming was all done from the audience side. Plenty of opportunities to hide what you were really doing.

As this is a discussion about how a magic trick is done, here’s the obligatory link to a past thread that sums up some of the pitfalls of this kind of discussion. Just adding it here in case it’s useful to anyone who hasn’t seen it.