Learn 3 cool magic tricks with a Sharpie

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Oscar Owen has a nice tutorial for doing three different tricks with a standard Sharpie pen.

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The Gozinta Boxes: a work of mathematical and optical genius


There are geniuses in almost every creative field. In the world of magic and magicians, there is Lubor Fiedler. While many magicians create tricks, Lubor did something much more difficult: he created new principles on which tricks are based. Lubor lived in Czechoslovakia, escaped to the west and lived in Austria, then returned home after The Czech Republic was liberated. He was a brave and clever man; Lubor died two years ago at age 81 while sitting at his computer, still inventing. He was far and away the most creative person I’ve ever met, and he learned a lot in his years of working in a chemical factory. He would give lectures for groups of other magicians and fool them deeply because the principles underlying his tricks were always new.

One of his most famous creations is “The Gozinta Boxes,” as in “one goes into the other.” What you see is amazing: a box is displayed and the lid removed. There is a small box inside it. The small box is removed, then the lid is replaced on the larger box. Next the small box’s lid is taken off. And here’s the part that hurts your brain: the large box is then inserted into the smaller box, and the lid of the smaller box put back on. It’s a work of mathematical and optical genius which seems utterly impossible when you see it. This shaky video was taken at a magic convention where Lubor lectured the year before he died, and it shows him performing his “Gozinta Boxes.”

Author Peter Prevos, on his website Magic Perspectives has put up a downloadable file which allows you to make your own set of “Gozinta Boxes” with a bit of arts and crafts. Read the rest

26 facts about magic

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Mental Floss presents a brief history of magic tricks with 26 facts. Read the rest

Learn Magic with Penn and Teller


Do you trust Penn & Teller?

Do you think that magic is just for kids?

Do you have an urge to learn a few simple magic tricks?

If you’re thinking “Yes, no, yes” then the Penn & Teller Fool Everyone Magic Kit is just the thing you need to add a little pep to your step in the unbearably hot dog days of summer. Really … who the hell wants to go outside when it’s 95 degrees? (Well, actually folks who live in Las Vegas like Penn & Teller do—go figure.)

You may have even seen P&T give away some of these magic kits on their TV show Penn & Teller Fool Us as prizes.

Here’s what makes this magic kit good: it’s filled with classic effects that can be performed by and for both young and old. Some, like the Ball Vase, are so simple that an intelligent 5-year-old can do them, while others, like the Penetration Frame, come from the repertoires of professional magicians of years past and will handily fool adults.

The Penn & Teller Fool Everyone Magic Kit has been produced for Penn & Teller by Royal Magic of Chicago (who actually does all of its plastic injection molding in its factory in the U.S.A.; it’s actually possible to buy something that isn’t made in China). Royal makes a wide variety of tricks, which enabled those whose photo adorns the box to actually pick the tricks to include in this set. And in addition to all the plastic props you see in the photograph there are sheets of cardboard punch-out magic tricks, all customized with artwork of P&T to further delight. Read the rest

Lowest price I've seen on a 12-pack of Bicycle playing cards - $16


I don't know how long this deal will last, but you can buy a 12-pack of Bicycle playing card decks for $16. You get six red-backed decks and six blue-backs. I just bought 2 boxes. That should last me until the end of the year (I go through a deck a week or so). Read the rest

Magician flubs trick, impales spectator's hand on spike


WARNING: A person gets stabbed in the hand in this video.

This has happened again.


Here's how the spike trick is supposed to work: a magician shows the spectator a large nail mounted on a block of wood. He sets it on the table so the nail is pointed up. Then he covers the nail with a paper bag. He places three identical paper bags next to the bag covering the nail. He turns his back and asks the spectator to shuffle the four bags around on the table so that the magician has no idea which one has the nail. The magician turns around to face the bags, then slams his hand down one a bag. It was empty. He repeats the process until only one bag is left. He lifts the bag to reveal the nail. It's a nerve-wracking trick.

Recently a magician performed the trick and made a bad mistake, driving the nail through his hand. You can see the photos here. Fortunately, he's going to recover.

And here's a video from 2007 that captures another magician stabbing himself. It's not too graphic, but it is hard to watch anyway because you know what's coming.

I have no interest in performing this trick. Read the rest

Ultimate Marked Deck for magic tricks

These are ordinary Bicycle cards (not marked)

Bicycle playing cards are probably the most common playing cards, at least here in the United States. I prefer to do magic tricks using Bicycle cards, because they don't make people suspicious like a deck with an unfamiliar back might.

In my book, Trick Decks, I show how to mark your own Bicycle deck with a Sharpie, but to use it, you have to memorize the code.

If you are lazy and want an easy-to-read deck, get the Ultimate Marked Deck, available with red or blue Bicycle backs. The cards look and feel exactly like a regular bicycle deck, but you can instantly read the suit and value of any card with a quick glance at its back.

Historically, the company that makes Bicycle cards has not made marked Bicycle decks, so this is kind of a big deal in the magic world. At $30, it's pricey, but you can do some amazing tricks with a marked deck. Read the rest

Muhammad Ali had a personal magic trick teacher


I had no idea Muhammad Ali loved magic. This is a great story about a friendship between a young magician living with the aftereffects of polio, and the world's greatest athlete.

From Vox:

[Terry] La Sorda took the dare, opened Ali’s pack of cards, and asked Ali to pick a card, any card. Then he gave Ali the deck to put the card back in it without telling the magician where it went. Ali turned his huge back and shuffled the deck.

"He turned around saying ‘You’re never gonna find this card, you’re going to make a fool out of yourself!’" La Sorda recalled.

Then Ali looked up and saw his card dangling from La Sorda’s mouth. Ali dropped the deck in shock.

"The cards fell on the floor and I thought he was going to hit me," La Sorda said. "One of those huge fists would hit me. Then, suddenly, he’s on the ground, the robe all around him, picking up all the cards … [saying] ‘put another one on me. I like that!’"

For the next two hours, the two men were nose to nose, as La Sorda performed one trick after the other.

La Sorda said that Ali told him that he had asked professional magicians in Las Vegas to teach him magic before, but no one took him seriously. That first night, Ali asked La Sorda who his manager was. La Sorda didn’t have a manager; he wasn’t a professional magician. La Sorda was, instead, an engineer, a burgeoning metallurgist, having first worked with steel when trying to fix a pair of broken polio braces when he was 13 years old.

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Brian Brushwood's mind control magic trick


Here's Brian Brushwood showing how to do a great mentalism trick. The effect: Brian explains to the spectator that a psychologist once taught him about a famous Robert Frost poem that, when recited, will force the person who hears it to imagine a specific playing card. Brian then recites the poem to the spectator and asks the spectator what card he thought of. Then Brian tells the spectator to do a YouTube search on the psychologist who told Brian about it. The spectator plays the video and the psychologist says the same card the spectator thought of. Read the rest

Fun with FriXion pens


Last year my friends and I formed a club for (as Cory puts it) "people who aren't good at magic tricks." (Actually, Cory, John Edgar Park, and I are the only ones in the group who aren't good at magic tricks. The others are pretty accomplished magicians and passed the audition to become members of the Magic Castle.)

At our last meeting Michael Borys introduced me to the FriXion pen. It's an erasable pen made by Pilot. It comes with a small eraser, but you can buy a large eraser, which is a smooth brick of plastic. When you rub a mark made with the pen, the friction creates heat to erase the mark. The cool thing (or bug, depending on your use case) is that the writing will vanish instantly when you apply heat. It's a heat-activated disappearing ink. I read that if you apply ice to the erased writing, the writing will reappear (it will be faded, however).

Amazon sells a 3-pack of the FrXion pen for $4, and a 4-pack of erasers for $6. Read the rest

Borrowed Time: a magic show and portal to another world


On Sunday evening, I attended Helder Guimarães spellbinding card magic performance, Borrowed Time in Los Angeles. I was excited because Helder was the 2006 winner of the close up card magic awards at the World Magic Championships and is regarded as one of the finest close up magicians in the world. I expected the magic to be good, but what I didn't expect was for the entire experience to be as wonderful and mysterious as it turned out to be.

When I reserved my ticket, I received an email telling me that I wouldn't be given the address of the venue until the day of the performance. When I got there, I wasn't sure I in was in the right place. And it just got weirder from there.

If you live in the LA area, I highly recommend that you go. The show ends May 29, and most performances are already sold out. I interviewed Helder about Borrowed Time and, trying not to give away too much, asked him about the origins of the show. I think you should see the show before you read what follows, but if you definitely can't make it, go ahead.

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Ricky Jay's fancy way of finding playing cards buried in a deck

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Ricky Jay demonstrates his admirable faculty with playing cards. To learn more about this remarkable person watch the documentary, Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay, which is often available on Netflix.

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Baboon surprised by magic trick

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It's hard to tell if this baboon is astonished or angry about the behavior of the tailless primate on the other side of the glass. Read the rest

Chimpanzees enjoy magic tricks


Simon Pierro's iPad Magic delights an mystifies chimpanzees, especially because the magic tricks involve peanuts, which the chimps like to eat. Read the rest

Get my card trick book for 99 cents - today only


Trick Decks, my e-book about making your own trick magic decks is just 99 cents today. Tomorrow the price goes back to the regular price of $2.99. Learn more about the book on the Trick Decks website. Read the rest

Magic trick gives you X-ray vision


I had a magic meet-up at my house yesterday afternoon with six other people. We had a great time showing each other tricks and giving each other tips on presentation, resources, sleights, and more. I learned a couple of rubber band tricks and how to do a convincing false shuffle. I think we are going to make it a monthly thing.

My friend Jeff gave me a wonderful magic trick from the Japanese manufacturer Tenyo, called Magical MRI, which gives you the ability to "see" through a solid metal plate. It's a very clever trick that's easy to learn. I love it.

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That ain’t baloney, it’s magic!


Yasuo Amano, a Tenyo collector, author of the Japanese blog Hey Presto, and all around creative guy recently bought a package of what is known in Japan as “Fan Shaped Sausage.” It appears to be a cross between salami, baloney, or perhaps a luncheon meat as yet undefined.

He took out a few slices, put them on a plate, and saw something that no one else in Japan noticed, which is pretty impressive considering its population of almost 200 million people. Said slabs of meat can be used to do a well-known magic trick (or, more rightly, the optical illusion shown above). But it all looks so innocent on the plate.

Discovered by Joseph Jastrow in 1889, magicians have been performing this for years and calling them “Magic Boomerangs.” Two pieces of identical size and shape, when placed one below the other, produce the uncanny illusion that one is larger and the other smaller. Take another look up at the lead photo: that ain’t no baloney! Both pieces are exactly the same size.

The question of why it looks so amazing can be answered by the first magic set produced in Germany after World War II, in which I discovered said boomerang trick with props that were short and very squat. This produces a much stronger illusion that what magicians have been futzing around with for years.

If you want to do magic tricks with your canapés, then you may attempt to order the “Fan-Shaped Sausage” from its manufacturer.

As an added bonus, since we’re still on Yamano’s fascination with making magic tricks out of edibles, take a look at this video, in which he manages something miraculous with a French fry and the Tenyo trick “Zig Zag Cig” invented by Hiroshi Kondo decades ago. Read the rest

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