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
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.
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[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.
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
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
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 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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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
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
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
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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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
Yasuo Amano, webmaster of the Hey Presto blog often creates specialized versions of magic tricks devised by the Tenyo company of Japan based on the seasons or holidays. I guess he must be a Star Wars fan because, in honor of the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, he has combined a number of Tenyo's magical effects into Star Wars themed fun. Read the rest
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
Trick Decks, my e-book about making your own trick magic decks is just 99 cents today. Tomorrow the price goes to $1.99, and the day after that it goes to its regular price of $2.99. Learn more about the book on the Trick Decks website. Read the rest
My friend Yasuo Amano, who lives in the town of Shizuoka about an hour outside Tokyo, runs a Japanese blog called Hey Presto. It is mostly concerned with the unique magic tricks produced a Japanese toy company named Tenyo, about which I’ve just written an enormous set of books that will be released in early November.
The Tenyo Company has been in business since 1931, and sells its magic tricks to regular folks at its “Magic Corners” in department stores across Japan. Even though the tricks they devise are easy to do, they also appeal to magicians because of their creativity.
And then there is Tokyo Disneyland, which is turned into a most mysterious and magical place at Halloween. Amano’s latest blog video combines a recent visit to Tokyo Disneyland’s seasonal Halloween event with a performance of some of Tenyo’s newest tricks.
I know … Halloween is still weeks away, but for purposes of commerce Halloween now commences in early September at Disney parks around the world, and even at your local supermarket and drugstore where the candy and greeting cards now appear before summer has officially ended.
In the latest and most annoying development, yesterday at Rite-Aid I saw Christmas cookies already out in the Halloween aisle. Don’t make me punch you in the face, Santa. Read the rest
Jason wrote a terrific foreword to my $3 card magic e-book, Trick Decks: How to Hack Playing Cards for Extraordinary Magic, and has kindly given me permission to reprint it here. Jason was instrumental in rekindling my interested in magic, so I was thrilled to have him write it. Thank you, Jason!
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What Mark teaches you, in this fantastic book, is magic. Magic you can appreciate immediately, and marvel at its workings without ever performing for more than yourself.
Herein lie activities that are fun for the whole family!
Activities that create illusions you’ll never forget – or forget how they work!
The entire STEM course load that is so popular today is here in Spades! Clubs! Hearts! Diamonds!
It is truly magic on so many levels.
So much about magic is intentionally damn confusing. I have a large library of books on card magic. Few of them are comprehensible to folks who don’t spend hours trying to figure out how to use them! It is like law school! Fancy names for card sleights that are harder to remember than the moves themselves, illustrations from Lascaux, and dialect from the renaissance-faire are frequently used to keep the barrier to entry high.
Mark has worked hard to share easy, achievable methods to get immediate, amazing results. You can delight in magic in a way that took me over a decade, working with only a single deck of Bicycle 808 playing cards and a candle, in a damp, dark room, trying to perfect a double lift.
See sample pages from this book at Wink.
For over 100 years, the S.S. Adams Company of Neptune, New Jersey has been selling joy buzzers, sneezing powder, exploding cigars, fake vomit, extra salty salt water taffy, toy smoking monkeys, magic tricks, and hundreds of other inexpensive novelties loved by children and adults who act like children.
The S.S. Adams company gave Life of the Party author Kirk Demarais unprecedented access to its archives of tricks, gags, and ephemera dating back to the company’s humble beginnings as a manufacturer of Cachoo sneezing powder. Samuel Sorenson Adams sold 150,000 bottles of the stuff at ten cents each. The FDA eventually banned the powder, which contained a toxic ingredient called dianisidine. Undaunted, Adams went on to invent over 700 other practical jokes (many of which were awarded patents).
The photos of the many different magic tricks in Demarais’s book are the most appealing to me. Many of them are made from metal or wood and are beautiful and mysterious. I’m not a collector of anything, but I could become a collector of old magic tricks like this if I didn’t check myself. For now, I will content myself with this lavishly illustrated homage to a company that could only have thrived in an earlier century, when pleasures were simpler, and humor was broader.
The foreword is written by Acme Novelty Library cartoonist Chris Ware.
Life of the Party: A Visual History of the S.S. Adams Company, Makers of Pranks and Magic for 100 Years
By Kirk Demarais
S.S. Read the rest