Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Half

I really like Andrew Mayne and he has some cool stuff every once in a while, but it seems like most of his bigger stuff is created for the sole purpose of a video and lacks any real-world appeal. "In Half" is one of those effects.

A one-man sawing-in-half illusion is a big sell for a concept, but execution is where you have the problem. The set-up involves cardboard boxes, making this seem almost impromptu (which is the idea). Unfortunately, it also stops the effect from making any sense to those watching it.

You have two cardboard boxes that are closed, next to another one that is open. You walk behind the closed boxes, then open them up after you are "inside". The bottom box shows your legs and shoes, the top box is your torso. Then you move your torso to one side, leaving your legs behind. After moving the torso box on top of the empty one, you lift your torso showing it completely free of the bottom of the box. Then you slide back to your legs, close all the doors and step out from behind the boxes.

If you're working an elementary school assembly, this will kill. Anyone above age 9 or so will be able to tell you immediately what you're doing. Watch the demo video and if you haven't figured the method out after one viewing you probably weren't paying attention.

Here are the problems that keep the effect from being believable:

1) Most magicians step into an open box to demonstrate there are no gimmicks, then close it after they are in for this type of effect. In this one, everything starts and ends closed (and better stay that way after the effect is over or you're busted).

2) When you lift up the torso, you are floating in the box and can see the back of the box...which begs the question, "How did you get into the box if it's solid in the back?" That leads the thought processes naturally to how the effect is accomplished.

3) The angles are horrible. Dead-on, you're going to be awesome. Let anyone stand past 10 or 2, and you're busted.

4) Nothing can be examined before or after the effect--not even you. If you have a stage show where folks can't reach you, you're all right. If you try to do this in some controlled street environment, you'll spend the rest of your show hoping the wind doesn't blow a box door open, or that someone doesn't walk behind your setup...or that someone doesn't look at your clothes too closely.

You know, if this effect appears on Mind Freak the crowd will go screaming away and you'll think this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Criss pays his television crowds well for this "spontaneous" reaction. But if you buy the trick and try it, you'll realize this isn't something you could ever use.

To Andrew's credit, he's only charging $25 for the DVD, which seems fair if you really want to know the secret. You'll have to put together the props (not hard), and as with Mayne's "Shrinker" effect you'll have to do some clothing modification. Less than an hour or so and you're ready to perform. If you're desperate for a stage type effect on a budget, this could fit the bill for you. Otherwise, this isn't real world in the least.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Escape! Volume 1

I have been looking at lockpicks lately so the timing of this video's release couldn't have been better! Danny Hunt has put together a DVD explaining lockpicking and escapes in a very organized, user-friendly method.

This first volume deals mostly with padlocks and handcuffs, and how to escape them using tapping or using lockpicks. He does show how to use shims as well for padlocks, but some of the newer locks are made to defeat this method so it may not work if you try it at home.

Because Danny is from the U.K. (and the video was filmed there), some of the locks he demonstrates are not going to be familiar to an American audience. It's still interesting to see how they are defeated though.

Danny takes you step by step through each type of lock and how to defeat it. He shows you which lockpick is perfect for each individual type of lock just before he tears into the lock itself. He does a bang-up job of beating each one within seconds.

I haven't watched the second volume so I can't attest to how good it might be, but this one is great for anyone interesting in putting an escape routine into their performance (or if you just want to know how to pick a lock for fun). There aren't any real stage performances here, and I think Dixie Dooley has a better set of DVDs strictly for those grand stage illusion escapes anyway.

Is there anything here you won't find on YouTube from some kid breaking locks in his basement? Well, there's a little, yes. He shows you how to make your own gimmicked handcuffs, which is a nice little bonus. You also get some thoughts on performance and structure in escapes. Volume 2 reaches more into the stage escape area, so it might be a little stronger for a magician. Still, if you're interested in picking locks, this is a well-taught DVD on the subject. The only annoying thing is the swimming text title shot just before each segment. Sometimes the segments are less than a minute long, so you have that title shot flowing at you quite often. It's a minor thing though, so don't let that keep you from buying this!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Til Death Do Us Part

I have a policy of never purchasing an effect that the creator refuses to show any part of it in the demo video. While they may tout the effect as "The most powerful effect you'll ever perform" or "The closer you've been waiting for", if they don't show it in the video that usually means it's so easy to figure out you can't even watch it once and be amazed. When I saw "Til Death Do Us Part", the demo video showed nothing more than glowing praise for how powerful it was. I went against my policy and bought it anyway.

I should have stuck with policy.

Even the back of the box doesn't tell you anything about the effect other than how incredibly powerful it is. Inside you find 10 old photographs of married couples, an envelope, the teaching DVD and the "gimmick". The routine takes about 5 minutes to perform from start to finish, and if you amaze anyone with it you've found the perfect audience for a D'Lite performance as a closer.

Hand the spectator a black envelope to keep for later. Then you show the spectator the photographs while letting them decide which one "gives off strong negative emotions". If they can't pick the right one, then do what they do on the video and magician's force them into it (it's so painfully obvious too). Tell this spooky tale about how the wife killed the husband and ask them to tear the photograph in half. She ripped out his throat, so tell them to tear the husband's photo in half again. Have them arrange the pieces on the table and then tell them to open the envelope.

The pieces match! Kind of.

Even in the demo video, the pieces do not match perfectly. They're close, but it's not like "Holy cow! It's the same!" It's more like "Yep, that's pretty much how you'd tear a photograph twice". This isn't amazing to anyone, and the storyline isn't compelling enough to make it seem remotely spooky. They call this a mentalism routine, but there's nothing mental about it. I think even Derrin Brown would flop with this one.

If you're doing this at a Halloween party with the right ambiance you might get a "Huh, that was weird" kind of reaction, but it's not "an effect that will stay with the spectator long after it's over" or anything.

I will give Alakazam points for including the PDF files here so you can make as many "gimmicks" as you need later on, but it's a minor thing for an effect of this price. I can pretty much guarantee you've already figured out how to do this and create this effect on your own just from reading my description. And now you know why they wouldn't show any of the performance online. Save your money and skip this one.

Friday, October 23, 2009

iDeck by Noel Qualter

Take a deck of cards, throw in music, wrap it in an iPod theme and you've got a great little effect! Noel Qualter's "iDeck" is a wonderful trick that seems impossible but is so simple you can concentrate on the routine rather than some difficult moves.

In essence, you show a card box that looks like an old iPod. The cards inside all have various songs on them from different artists. The spectator chooses a song-card and keeps that song in mind. The cards are placed back in the box and a set of headphones is brought out. After a little magical attachment to the box, the thought of song begins to play through the headphones! The best part? You can repeat the trick with a different song instantly!

This effect might seem a lot like Adam Grace's "Ringtone" trick, and it does have some similarities in method, but this one seems a little more relaxed and the margin for error is practically zero. Between the two, this is the one I prefer and perform more often. It is almost angle-proof and allows the card magician to step up his routine to something slightly different. You could go the mentalism route with this, I suppose, but it's not necessary. This isn't meant to be a heavy "Criss Angel Space Man" routine; it should be fun.

The DVD that accompanies this really goes into a lot of detail in set up and handling. There's nothing hard to do in performing this, and you can have the whole thing ready to go about 10 minutes after watching the DVD. Noel also offers some great suggestions on how to make this trick truly spontaneous to the audience you are performing for by putting all of the songs in the playlist on your iPod so you can take five minutes in the bathroom and change it all up. The list of songs is very diverse and you're pretty much guaranteed to find at least a couple for everyone you encounter. You just need to pick your audience member with your song choices in mind.

Noel also includes his "Cut and Restored iPod Headphone" routine (and the materials necessary for it). It's a cute little effect that you can do to really shock someone if you see them holding their own iPod.

The only down side to this effect is that it's rather pricey. That will keep some folks away from this one.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Card College Light

I really like this book, and the one that follows ("Card College Lighter"). This reminds me of the "Scarne on Card Tricks" book that got me started in card magic many years ago. Each of these effects can be performed with no sleight of hand, but they make it appear you are working miracles. I love effects like this that allow you concentrate on presentation and not worry so much about that pass or slip cut you've got to execute perfectly with everyone watching your hands.

The good thing about this book is that the effects are already grouped into threes. This gives you (if you so choose) a ready-made routine with an opener, middle, and closer. They flow seamlessly between each other. But you can also choose to take any of them as a standalone effect and create your own routine. Some will require a bit of set-up (especially if they are part of a previous routine that would have naturally done the set up for you, like revealing the four aces or something similar) but many are ready to go when you are.

Not every effect is a gem, but there are so many good ones you can't complain. The book is professionally done, and Giobbi does a great job of explaining how to create your own routines and what to look for in them. This book isn't just for beginners, though they will probably benefit the most from it.

Monday, August 10, 2009


This is a fun little throwaway trick that you can instantly do when someone finds out you're a magician and says "Hey, do a trick." The ring the spectator sees and handles is a normal ring, so they can inspect it as closely as they want and they'll never see a thing. There is, of course, a swap involved along the routine, but Jay's handling allows you to start and finish clean.

If you decide to do this on the spectator's finger, you'll just have to keep an eye on the angles. It can appear a miracle to them, but if a crowd is standing around you it's going to be a little tricky. There are a couple of moves you can implement that will allow you to do the trick surrounded, but it will make the way you're holding the ring look a little suspicious.

This is one of those effects that will really mess with the spectator's mind, but won't impress many magician friends. I should say though that the rings are top quality for the price. You won't be wearing them around town or anything, but they don't look like cheap plastic or something. It's a solid metal ring to the spectator, and it handles that way.

This is a great trick either as an opener or even solo for those "apparently impromptu" moments (that really aren't impromptu).

Thursday, August 6, 2009


This has to fall under the category of "Geek Magic" more than anything else, but if you're a fan of that sort of thing it works. In essence, you are making your finger do things it was never intended to do, and if you practice enough even those with strong stomachs will cringe.

I could only find one thing that I saw he could have instantly improved upon but chose not to for some reason. Meir Yedid's "Finger Fantasies" is credited here for the beginning of the routine (making the pinky finger appear to disappear into the hand), but Will takes the second part of the routine (a complete pinky vanish) into material that he created for the move. Unfortunately, it's the weakest part of the entire thing because it's instantly obvious to everyone what you're doing. Instead, he should have followed through with Yedid's second move in "FF" to accomplish the same thing in a much cleaner way. It can actually give a shock and awe moment just before you make it reappear. From that point on the routine is superb and very nice for a time when you don't have any magic on you and folks want to see something. If you want to really turn this into something that can go about five minutes or more, I would suggest getting "Finger Fantasies" and combining it with this. The combination is a natural. Finish this off with the "Arm Twist Illusion" (also available from Meir) and you can have a lot of fun with a spectator using no props whatsoever.

Monday, August 3, 2009

M.I.N.D. (Mentalism In New Directions)

If you're into mentalism, "M.I.N.D." is a great book to work with. It is a collection of Lee Earle's writings, along with a bonus CD that has a lot of nice extras on it. Lee does a nice job here of presenting a lot of different effects, and also of explaining the motivation behind them and updating some of his earlier stuff with a sentence or two of new handlings or thoughts.

Unfortunately, if you're not using a special clipboard prop Lee describes, the first section of the book might not mean a lot to you. It can be adapted to other types of readers that use carbon paper or the like, but the beginning of the book is geared that direction. Stick with it though, as there are a lot of great effects still to come in those pages.

Lee goes into detail about his billet work, and he makes an excellent case for its importance in mental magic. One effect he uses involving his photographs and different ladies from the audience leaving a kiss on them as he figures out who is who is particularly nice. The method isn't brand new, but his handling is great and I can honestly say I probably would never have caught it (he includes a couple of the photos in the text so you can see how it's done). His reasoning behind choosing this method rather than gathering items from the audience is especially sound in today's litigious society.

Earle's earlier work is actually some of his most versatile for the average performer. There are several headline prediction variations, and they each have a strength and weakness. I think this allows the individual performer to figure out what's best for him. Earle also includes everything you'll need to print out for some great performances involving fake stock certificates, headline predictions matching a seemingly innocent photograph, and handwriting samples.

The price is a little steep, but for the vast range of material it's a good investment, even for the beginning mentalist.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


This is the first effect I've ever purchased that told me to try it on myself before reading the instructions just to see how magical it was. You have to give them credit for that. Unfortunately, the effect didn't work right for me when I did it on myself, but after learning the principles I was able to perform it flawlessly for others. This is truly a simple effect that really makes it look like real magic has occurred. There are no fancy moves on your part other than just keeping pressure on the deck as you fan it out to show their card has vanished. You are dealing with a variation of the rough/smooth in part of the deck, and it has a tendency to not work without a good amount of pressure on it. You're not breaking your fingers with a vice grip or anything, but it's definitely not a Mirage deck.

The effect is good, but It's not perfect. The deck can't be examined afterward, and unfortunately the effect can't be performed with a signed card unless you can dupe the signature. If you want to change the ending slightly, it's possible to do a switch with a signed card for the ending, but then you wouldn't need the KONA deck since you're controlling the cards. Also, this is pretty much a one-time one-trick deck. It's impossible to repeat this trick or even perform it around the same spectator, and you'll have to do a switch immediately afterward if you want to do something else.

This effect does have potential, and if you're not the greatest card handler in the world then this is a nice way to put a card trick into your act with a minimum of practice.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Emotional Intelligence (E.I.)

I wish I could say something really spectacular about this video, but it is at best mediocre. I have to give Jermay credit in that he didn't edit this thing down during the performance because he could have and we would have understood why. When the person you're performing the trick for on the video actually looks bored and keeps looking around as if to say, "When will this be over?", it's time to get another trick. That being said, this is an incredibly long video with a lot of teaching on it. Even though it's only one routine being taught, the teaching can be applied to other mentalism effects.

This is basically a three-phase effect that is supposed to supply perhaps 15-20 minutes of material for you. If you choose to do this, however, you are going to bore your group to tears unless they really find you fascinating or are simply really good friends. Jermay seems to go on forever before actually beginning the effect, and then unnecessarily explains to the spectator how the first letter of the cards form the words "THE SCAM". After talking about fake psychics, then mentioning "THE SCAM", the spectator is then supposed to believe you can read emotions and minds for real? Nope, not gonna happen.

Derren Brown has performed an effect very similar to this, but his pacing is much faster and it serves to streamline the whole thing. I'm not saying you should rush through the effect, but I AM saying you should "trim the fat" on the presentation given herein. Jermay has some nice ideas on cold reading that you can apply to other work if you want to.

I do like the fact that you get to involve another spectator during phase 2 so this becomes a little more interactive for others. Also, if you can somehow get phase 3 to work flawlessly for you, it ends with a bang. That's going to take some practice though, and you're going to miss it a bit in the beginning.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Aunt Mary's Terrible Secret

This is a full performance in one routine. You basically play a 3 phase gambling routine that's tied to the story of Aunt Mary. Is it vital that you repeat the story? Pretty much, yes. But it's not that hard to learn.

Keep in mind that this is a 25 page booklet and you have a lot to learn before you perform this. You won't be doing this effect 10 minutes after you get it. That being said, it IS something you can do with any deck of cards (after you set it up) and it's something you'll be remembered for.

I, for one, would have rather seen this as a DVD simply because of what's involved, but the book is easy to follow.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bigger Finish

This is a fairly strong effect that requires just a small amount of practice. Jay presents four different ways of doing the effect, ranging from basic sleight of hand to almost none. He also teaches two good forces to help your spectator find the right card. Everything is taught in detail and even a complete beginner could pick this up in a few minutes.

This couldn't be called a perfect closer necessarily, but it does fool a lot of people and sets you apart from a lot of other card guys out there. The gimmicks are printed on quality stock and pass a relatively quick inspection as they go from your hand to the spectator's.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Tear Down

This was one of the first Andrew Mayne effects I could actually use. Most of the DVDs or books I have purchased of his contain concepts that could never work real-world, and I've often felt burned and have stayed away from many of his products because the descriptions don't tell it all. That being said, I love this trick. If you're looking for a torn-and-restored-newspaper routine that's relatively easy while still playing big, you'll love this.

For one thing, it's impromptu. I mean that. Unlike other TnR routines that require some setup of a particular section, this one is good to go at any time with any newspaper.

Second, it involves a signed newspaper. You have to admit that's pretty unique for a routine like this. You can even hand out the paper at the end for the spectator to keep (or read again if they don't mind it being crumpled up).

It plays relatively great, but there's a horrible moment where you have to ditch the paper shreds and it doesn't look good. The clean up offered here is completely unbelievable, and you'll notice how awkward the moment is while watching it demonstrated in the video. It's as if he had a great concept up to that point, but ran out of ideas for the finish. You'll have to tweak this part to make it clean. Other than that, this is pretty good for the price.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Card College Lighter

Much like John Scarne's Card Trick book from years ago, Giobbi has developed an entire book of effects that require no sleight of hand. He also takes it a step further by putting this into sections of openers, mid-routines, and closers so you can put together your own routine if you'd like. So how are the effects? Up and down.

Some are pretty good. "The Card Sharp's Triumph" is one that takes a few minutes to learn but makes people think you have way more ability than you actually do as long as you build it up right. There are also a couple of poker routines and one routine that involves choosing a movie star from a list of 150 of them, counting down cards, and finding your chosen card matches the one held by the star in a photo that's been sitting in a sealed envelope the whole time. Unfortunately, making a decent photocopy of the picture or the list is next to impossible thanks to the way it's laid out in the book, so you can plan to do a little bit of doctoring on another photograph later if you have the skills (or know someone with a baby you can photograph).

Will you use every routine in this book? No. But they are all explained in detail with great illustrations so it's easy to follow along. Even if you don't use the routine as written you can probably find a few things to change here and there to make it your own.

I've been doing card work for a while, and I still found a few things in this book that I loved and added to my repetoire immediately.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


As long as you can keep in mind you're not seeing Max Maven in action here, you'll probably enjoy the simple effects available. Some of the mentalism offered is straightforward and plays well to a small group or even two individuals. The "ESP with Playing Cards" routine plays well for a layman audience, but it won't fool anyone with even a beginner's experience in magic until you get to the sandwich effect at the end. That pays off well, I'll admit.

"Flip Flop" is so complicated it almost confuses the spectator in the video. The "Hoy Book Test" and "Pick-A-Date" are old routines that are probably on several other videos out there (Ross Johnson's "Simply Psychic" has a better version of the book test that involves describing entire paragraphs rather than a single word, and the video costs half the price). To be fair, David's method does allow a certain impromptu handling if you're at a party and you know someone is going to ask you to do some magic for them.

"Grey Elephants in Denmark" really blew the audience 1995 when Max Maven did it on "World's Greatest Magic". Unfortunately, since then it's been so over-used you can't even consider trying it any more. My 13 year old son came home from school trying to pull it on me because his friends had taught it to him. You might fool a few folks with it, but it's a risk.

"Jumbo 8 Card Brainwave" is probably one of the best effects on the video. It can be adapted for regular Poker size cards if you don't want to play it big for stage. His handling is good on it and for the effect it doesn't take much practice (one move is all you have to learn). He also does a couple of routines using ESP cards that you might consider. It should be mentioned that they can be adapted for use with regular playing cards if you tweak them a little. That would allow you to throw in a little mentalism in the middle of your card routine if you wanted to.

So all totaled we have one killer routine, two fairly good ones, two that can be tweaked to be useful, and four that probably shouldn't have been used. If you're just getting into mentalism, you might consider this, but if you have any experience with it you can skip it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


If you watch the demo video for this, you're going to immediately freak out and think this is real magic. Hey, it's about as real as you could hope for! You borrow a spectator's quarter, and proceed to freeze it with your breath like Superman.

In theory this is one awesome effect. It's a lot better than the other "Frozen" effect out there that came out years ago (the signed coin appears in a block of ice in the magician's hand), but both fall victim to the same problem: impractical set-up.

This is not an effect you are going to do impromptu. As a matter of fact, there is a very tight window between setup and performance of the effect. You can't leave home thinking you'll do that trick today and wait an hour to actually try it. You've got at most 15 minutes to get it done after you set up, and that's pushing it. Adam Grace does give some pointers on packing it to go, but it's going to require fairly roomy pockets.

There is another setup he shows you that does allow you to do this the trick impromptu. Truthfully, I doubt he ever does this himself though. You might love the idea, but it didn't seem practical to me.

And finally the biggest problem: I've never gotten the effect to work. I use the exact same items he does on the video, I set them up the exact way he describes, and I've never had the effect work once. Forget 15 minutes, I'm trying it within 2 minutes of the set up and it still won't work. That may be just me, but I can't remember the last time I couldn't get an effect to work at all no matter what I tried.

You may get it and you may love it, but for me it's just too limited to be practical. I have to say though that if it works for you like it did on the video, you'll blow the spectator's mind.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Silver Dream

If you watch the demo video for this, you're going to immediately be thinking this is done with gimmick coins. You would be incorrect. What you see is done with 3 coins, and only 3 coins, and it is done in such a way as to make it completely clean when you are done.

Justin Miller has created a symphony of coin manipulation with this routine. Watching it performed is like watching some piece of fine art being sculpted from nothing. You think it's amazing when you see it? Wait until you see what it takes to make it happen!

Miller gives you a wonderful play-by-play breakdown on how to accomplish this miracle. His work on sleeving is incredible, and the moves are so smooth you'll never get caught once you get it down pat. The only "iffy" move was the final vanish which you'll probably catch right away when watching it. Every other movement is perfectly subtle and impossible to catch, but that final vanish is a little obvious. Granted, the spectators will probably never catch it though.

If you decide to do this in a warmer climate using short sleeves, you can still make the magic happen if you use an expanded coin shell. This will give you some angles to worry about that the long-sleeved version doesn't have, but it's more practical in some situations.

This will take practice, and lots of it. The sleeving moves alone will have you picking coins up off the floor for quite a while, but once the move is smooth it can even amaze you when it happens! Major props to Justin for sharing the work on this incredible routine!

Sunday, July 5, 2009


For a visual card change, you would be hard-pressed to come up with something more impressive than "Believe". The spectator chooses a card and signs it, the card is lost and another pulled out. After tearing a corner off and placing it on the table, the magician suddenly changes the corner of the indifferent card into the corner of the chosen card--without ever apparently touching it! The torn card is turned over and it is seen to be the signed card...even though the spectator saw it as a different card just before it was laid down.

I'm not usually very high on one-trick DVD's that cost $20 or more, but I have to make an exception here. The change is so visual that there's a good chance you'll hear your spectators actually gasp when it occurs.

Joel Paschall does a great job of teaching this effect and the moves involved. Even the clean up is relatively easy and of course it's ready to go at a moment's notice. Understand something: this will take practice. There are 2 key moves you'll have to have down pat before considering this, and Joel's one-handed double-lift (yeah, you read that right) alone will take some time. Once you have it down though, I guarantee it'll be the only double-lift you use.

This will require a table to perform properly, so this isn't really a stree magic effect. If you're into table-hopping though, this is something you seriously need to consider. Actually, it's something every serious card worker should consider.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Simply Psychic

I was hesitant to purchase this video since it was so cheap and I'd never heard of Ross before, but I'm so glad the salesman at Tannens talked me into it. This is a wonderful video and goes into the theory of mentalism and doesn't just show you effects and moves on.

I have to say the first few effects aren't that great. They're more demonstrations than any kind of mentalism. Stick with it though, because things really get good as it goes on. I found five routines I used almost immediately, and that's almost unheard of for me! Most of the time I'm lucky to find 2 effects on the same DVD I actually want to use, but Ross has put together some incredibly simple mental magic that is easy enough for a beginner but that blows away even seasoned magicians if done properly.

Don't get me wrong: you aren't going to fool everyone every time. And since this is mentalism it's going to depend on you to be the showman and sell the effect, but for the amount of practice and effort you have to put into them (not to mention the fact that ALMOST all of these have no chance of failure if done properly), you can't beat it.

The only major change I immediately saw was Omar's Prophecy. As Ross does it, there is that chance of messing up at the beginning just to prove a point...but there's no reason for it. If you apply the last two principles to the first one you have zero chance for failure. He even mentions doing this in his explanation, but still feels his way works best to show the "1 in 3" on the paper. I adapted the handling for parts 2 and 3 into part 1 (which eliminates the chance of missing with your prediction) and have never had anyone question it. Other than that, you're pretty much ready to go out of the box with this video. Awesome magic at an incredible price!

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Digital Dissolve

While the Copper/Silver Transpo isn't a new effect, "Digital Dissolve" add an element to it that makes this version stand out among the rest. Steve Dusheck has tweaked this effect to turn it into an instantaneous miracle in your hands.

Watch the demo video and you'll see how fast this happens. Literally in an instant the English penny becomes the half dollar right before the spectator's eyes. And as soon as the transformation occurs you can drop the coins into the spectator's hands and they can examine them all they want to. There is only one move involved and it's really easy to learn. Once you get it down you'll be performing this effect over and over again.

I keep this one close, and I often just do the effect for myself--and it still gets me even though I know how it's being done! That doesn't happen often. It's so strikingly visual that is just begs to be performed.

The coins are high quality, and the gimmick needed looks like it will last forever if treated right. The instructional DVD gives you everything you need to know about the effect and the move involved. It also helps with ideas for the clean up at the end. If you're into coin magic or just want something to sprinkle into your routine that's different from cards but you don't want to spend days learning the sleights, this is something you must own.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Nothing DVD Set by Max Maven

The premise is simple: Max Maven spends a few minutes in the supermarket and comes out with a complete act. And believe it or not, that's exactly what happened.

If you're into mentalism, then you've heard of Max Maven. Actually, even if you aren't, you've probably heard of him. Max is somewhat famous for his sinister-looking appearance, which actually covers an incredibly intelligent man with a passion for magic. This DVD set shows you exactly what can be done when you have to come up with something quickly and can only use the items on hand.

There are several effects taught here, and the amazing thing is that the teaching DVD (the second in this 2-DVD set) is so in-depth you'll know every nuance of Max's routine and why he chose every particular action. This isn't just "here's how it's done", but is more like "here's why it's done"--which helps you as a magician to create your own effects later.

Most everything here can be done within a few minutes of watching it. While you probably won't do his complete routine, you'll probably find parts that immediately resonate with you. He does a sort of book test with magazines that I particularly liked.

This is an expensive set, but worth it.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Boris Wild Marked Deck

If you're looking for a marked deck that you can use for mental effects or the casual card trick, Wild's deck is a good choice. It is a Bicycle deck that looks and feels like the real thing. You can use the deck for several effects before going into the marked deck trick and you might be safe. The marking system is relatively easy to learn (about 10 minutes to get really good at reading the card backs without looking like you're doing so), which makes this perfect for hobbyists or someone just needing a marked deck for a new effect they're working on that has almost a zero chance of failure.

Unfortunately, the ease of reading the marks is the major weakness of the deck. While you can spread the cards and have the spectator choose one for any number of effects beforehand, it will only take them a few seconds to find the mark and even if they can't figure out what it means they'll know the deck is marked. To be fair, Wild includes 3 unmarked Jokers in the pack, so if you're slick enough you can pass these off to the spectator who wants to examine the cards. Still, it won't fool everyone every time.

That being said, if you've always wanted a marked deck but didn't want to spend hours learning the markings, you'll love this. Likewise, if you want a marked deck that you almost can't miss the reading on, this is for you. Most everyone else, however, will probably want to move to a more professional marking system that's worth the effort to learn.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


I am a huge fan of mostly everything coming out of lately, though there are a few effects here and there that aren't as good as the others. Fortunately, Ringtone is one of the good ones.

In essence, you are changing the spectator's ringtone on their cell phone to a new song--preferably one they didn't already have on their phone. The spectator believes they are the ones who came up with the song randomly, which adds to the strength of the effect.

Here is the key: you must have a combination of guts and technical skill to pull this off. The dream setting for this is to find someone who uses either the iPhone or the exact same cell phone you do. Both are ideal, but not necessary. You just might have to spend a little time in Best Buy playing around with their cell phone displays to learn the key factor you need to know about each phone to make this work. Once you have that one move nailed, the rest is performance.

The "gimmick" that makes this work is nice. I've only had mine about three months but it's held up well and was easy to set up. Even though the demo video shows them going with "The Star Spangled Banner" as their song choice (and the teaching video does the same), you can actually use any song you choose. Set it up once and you are ready to go from that point on. You can't change the song on the fly, but you aren't locked in to anything. You can change it before you go out so you're using a different song every day if you so choose.

Handling is good, and the angles are fairly safe (though you can't perform this surrounded or even for a group that's getting too close). Adam Grace does a great job of teaching you how to handle everything and set it all up. There are several ways to help the spectator to choose the right song, and they are explained in detail. Clean up is safe as well. The best part is that you don't damage or even do anything to their phone that could cause it to get messed up. You're safe.

Pretty close to perfect once you spend time learning the moves you need. It's just that element of possible failure that makes it lose a star. Grace gives you ideas of how to get the information about the phone from the spectator themselves, but it's still a little chancy.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ghost Vision

I've been brutal to Andrew Mayne in the past, but as I've said before when he's made something good, it's really good. "Ghost Vision" is that "really good" effect. You borrow someone's cellphone and ask them to put it in video mode. With them watching with you, suddenly they see a ghostly form move across the screen. The beauty is that they have recorded it so they can show it to friends and others to prove what a supernatural time they had with you.

As you expect, this is an effect that will require a good deal of showmanship on your part. If you just say, "Hey, watch this!" it's going to be useless to you. If you incorporate it into a mysterious evening or spooky environment, you're going to do some serious damage to the spectator's sense of reality. This effect is easy to perform and it leaves the spectator with a lasting souvenir of the performance. It uses something perfectly normal--the spectator's cell phone--and gives them a moment of the surreal. There is only about 2 seconds of set-up you have to do, and it can be done while you're talking about the ghostly experiences you've had or heard of or whatever.

The effect also comes with ways to make a chosen card show up, and just a ghostly face if you want to go that direction. Whichever way you choose, this is definitely something that will set you apart from any other magicians your spectators may have seen before.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pyro Perception

While the "make a blister on your finger" trick may be a little old, this effect puts a new twist in it. The spectator chooses a card, you bring out a lighter and proceed to light it up, "grab" the flame, and then show your fingertips to show them their chosen card.

The nice thing about this trick is that you can repeat it four times with different results. In truth, if the setup is right you can actually switch around the pips to get more combinations, but that will require a little more wiggle room when the spectator isn't watching you closely.

The gimmick is very well made and fits reasonably well in your pocket. You're better off putting this in your jacket pocket as it gives you more room to "do the magic", but if you wear loose pants you can make it work in your pants pocket as well. There is something special about the gimmick that allows you to pick the right card to blister simply by touch.

You need to be able to force a card, and above everything else you need to be able to sell what you're doing. Performance is key here. You're trying to push some supernatural event, so this needs to be a bit mysterious.

For the price, this is a nice effect that offers something different than the usual card trick.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Plot Thickens

I call this book a "firestarter". That's not because it should be burned; on the contrary, I think this is a fabulous investment. This is the kind of book that gets you thinking outside the box in a lot of ways. Once you see how some of the effects are done, it's very easy to take those principles and move them to other effects or create your own. Meech has come up with some very interesting ideas, and it's fairly safe to say you'll find at least a couple of things in here you can add to your set.

There are mentalism effects, card tricks, coin tricks, and other various goodies that will make you fly through this rather thin book quickly. There is an effect where you cause a fish drawn on one side of a quarter to jump into the fishbowl drawn on the other side as the coin is spinning on the table. Another effect has you making the spectator believe they must be invisible since another spectator can see the card they chose even though they are holding it close to their chest.

There are several things to enjoy here. Some of them you'll perform immediately, while others might just sit on the back burner for just the right occasion. And then, of course, there are those that will just be read over and forgotten. Meech is currently working on a second book to follow this one, and if it's as promising as this was I'll be buying it as well.

Thursday, June 18, 2009


Andrew Mayne is one of those magicians that either gives you a brilliant effect, or gives you one so bad it makes you cringe. Unfortunately, "Shrinker" is the latter. To say that this effect is not "real world" would be an understatement.

Let me put it this way: there is no way on Earth to do this effect in any environment other than stage, and it would have to be the only effect you did before walking off. I'm not saying it's your closer, I'm saying this effect can't be preceded or followed by anything.

I can't reveal why without giving away the secret behind it, but suffice it to say the things you wear are crucial to making this work. Unfortunately, the things you are wearing will look as unnatural as humanly possible. Even rappers don't have that much slack in their droopy pants. Add to that the "thing" that makes the effect possible and you now lose the ability to bend forward more than a few inches. This is not something you'd keep on for your whole act.

The only nice part of this effect is a part where he comes out of a small cardboard box and proceeds to grow. That looks good. Everything else in here is great in theory, but pretty much useless in practice. The angles are so wide on this you almost have to be dead-on to the person you're performing it for. He puts together a routine where you use an umbrella to cover the angles and says you can do it surrounded. You can't. People behind the umbrella wouldn't know what they were seeing, and it's not hard to figure out what's going on.

For the price, this is a horrible effect. I could see possibly $50 (and even then it's overpriced), but $149 is far too much for what you end up with. Even though he's throwing in an "impromptu" shrinking you can do as you walk away from a person (it wouldn't fool a first-grader, by the way), it's over-priced.

Andrew puts together some great stuff, and I'll be reviewing a lot of it in the future, but this is just not a good effect.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Wild Poker Trick

With the recent surge in popularity of poker, there's no shortage of poker packet tricks out there. If you're willing to take the time to learn the moves you can amaze some folks and make them think you're a master gambler.

WPT--for "Wild Poker Trick" from Boris Wild--is a packet trick that fits that description. You show the spectator five indifferent cards that would make you an automatic loser in a poker game. Bringing the cards together, you spread them out again and you are holding a royal flush.

There's no difficult sleight of hand here. It can be done with minimal practice. While this is a very visual card trick, you do not end clean and the spectators can't touch the cards when you finish.

For the price, this is a decent effect if you're wanting some sort of poker miracle in your bag of tricks.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Director's Cut

This is my favorite mentalism effect out there right now. It uses something familiar to just about everyone (popular classic and modern films), literally packs small and plays big. To top it all off, it's dead easy to master which leaves you free to concentrate on performance more than anything else.

You get 26 laminated cards, each with a movie poster printed on it along with the movie's main stars and year of release. These should all be familiar to your spectators--I had seen 24 of the 26 movies already--and even if it's not you can choose to describe the movie poster or even name the stars and year of release if you have to.

The DVD teaches you five different methods for revealing the chosen movie. The beauty of it is that you can use them all on the same group of spectators and they'll never catch on to the secret. This is one of those effects that grows even more powerful as you repeat it. And they can examine the cards all they want to because they aren't marked, stripped, transparent, or even color-coded! One of the revelations even has the spectator choosing the card under the table, turning it over in the deck, and then bringing the deck to the table and covering it. This means that neither the spectator nor the magician should have a clue as to which movie was chosen...but you'll get it right every time.

If you happen to be unfamiliar with some of the movies, the DVD includes a PDF file that gives you a brief synopsis of each film and things you can mention as you reveal it. There is a small amount of memory work involved here as you'll have to memorize the 26 movie cards you have there so you can remember which films you're working with, but this shouldn't take long. Once you learn the secret of the effect, you should be able to perform this confidentally in about 20 minutes.

My only complaint is the lack of any form of case for the cards. You're basically holding half of a bridge-sized deck of playing cards, and it doesn't seem too much to ask for at least some small plastic packet case for this since it'll be pretty hard to find something that will hold them. You don't want these cards just sitting in your pocket.

This one is highly recommended. It uses familiar objects, can be examined, plays to a crowd or to just one person, and is easy to learn.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Mental Yarn

This effect is about the size of 10 or so Poker-sized playing cards, and it comes with it's own small plastic case to keep the cards in. Basically, you have a spectator choose a characteristic of an item from a list on one card (fuzzy, golden colored, child's toy, etc), then choose an item from a list on another card that they feel matches that characteristic. This is something that's subjective, as it's how the spectator feels the characteristic matches one of the items, and it's not necessarily something obvious. But in the end, the magician can easily tell the spectator what item they are thinking of, even though they never told him the characteristic or even the characteristic number they were thinking of.

You can perform this trick within five minutes of reading the instructions, as there are only about six things you have to memorize. After that, it's all presentation. You can perform this either one-on-one in a close up situation, or on stage with a spectator (or even two at the same time), and yet it packs so small you can carry with you at any time. While they say you can perform this over the phone, I wouldn't suggest it. The spectator will have to write down the lists you give them, and if they keep them and study them long enough, they'll discover the secret. However, someone casually doing this trick at normal speed will never figure it out.

The effect can be repeated for the same spectator six times without them thinking of the same items again, making this one of those rare effects that actually gets stronger with each repeat performance while still remaining impossible for the spectator to figure out. I have performed this close-up and in group settings and always find it plays big to the crowd, especially if you choose to draw the item they are thinking of rather than just say it out loud.

Some people might think it would be cool to actually have the item on hand and pull it out of a bag or something, but to me that just makes the trick go from a mind-reading effect to something different. The spectator will know they were fooled because you had to have the item ahead of time, rather than just going with the moment and drawing. But I guess that's all a matter of personal taste.

At any rate, if you're looking for a powerful, fun effect that takes little practice yet looks like real magic, you can't beat this for the price.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The M5 System

Here's what you need to know: you must own this product. Ellusionist has done a stellar job of setting up a PK magic system that is easy to use, practical, simple to set up, and will work absolute miracles in your presence. If you want something that will set you apart from every other magician your friends know, this is the item.

There are two different ways to go with this, and I highly recommend the "Bundle Combo Deal". While the M5 comes ready to go with several effects (stopping the spectator's watch, making a needle stand up in the spectator's hand, etc), you'll find the most fun comes from the extras you can use. You can even fix up your own items with the supplies they include.

My favorite effect of this system is an extra you'll have to purchase separately for about $25. You put a 50 cent piece in the spectator's hand (fully examinable) and then--without ever touching them in any way--that coin flips over in their hand. It provides screams of astonishment every time.

There is some initial preparation you'll have to do when it first arrives (just a little sewing), but after that you are golden. Practice is obviously important, and performance is key. If you just go up and say, "Hey, watch this!", you'll be crippling the potential for this effect. You can do so many amazing things with it you owe it to yourself to spend some time alone working things out and creating a routine or persona before trying it.

So what makes this different from less-expensive alternatives like The Bat or The Raven? It's simply the power of the gimmick. You are given a lot more distance between yourself and the spectator (never even touching them sometimes) which makes the obvious answer to them completely impossible to be true. Understand: this is an investment on your part (I consider any effect over $50 an investment, but topping $100 is a commitment to me), but the miracles open to you and the looks on the astonished spectator's faces make it worth it all.

There are a few warnings to keep in mind that they mention, and you should take them seriously. Nothing life-threatening, but you can do permanent damage to some electronics if you aren't careful.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Precognition Deck

If you put a little bit of your own touch on this, you might make a decent trick out of it. However, if you're going to go strictly by the directions you're heading into dangerous territory. For one thing, handing these to the spectator to count out will make you sick to your stomach the whole time they have them. One wrong move on their part (such as turning the deck to the side to see the backs) and you're busted.

Second, the kicker isn't a kicker at all. You're supposed to have done this amazing effect and you end with a very weak laugh at best. There's no way this makes sense.

If you want to salvage this effect, then YOU handle the cards and skip the countdown. Instead, do an instant ribbon spread and have them search for their card quickly. They won't find it, you scoop up the deck and slip it into your pocket or the case (and switch it out at the end for a normal deck if you want it examinable). The trick can end there (it's just a full-deck Princess Trick at that point). As an alternative, pull out the envelope and do that horrible "52 on 1" ending, but finish by pulling the card out of your wallet, shoe, pocket, or whatever. The unique build of the PD allows you to only have to carry a few cards on your person at a time. When they tell you the card they thought of, you just have to remember where you're holding that particular card.

Just come up with something on your own. Don't let the limitations of this deck keep you from performing some small miracle or another.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Coin Flux 2

This is powerful close up magic. If you watch the demo video, you're probably thinking it couldn't be that simple, but it is. This is done slowly with no strange out of the way moves, and it will impress even you while you're doing it. This is an excellent close up trick for magicians of all skills, and it is one of the few that you can actually repeat a few seconds later and still fool them. As a matter of fact, that actually builds the strength of the routine!

I had to take off one star simply because you don't end as clean as I'd like to. This is a "look but don't touch" type of effect, which can cause problems in the wrong crowd. But on the plus side, it sets up quickly and takes very little practice to master.

Monday, June 8, 2009


I love this effect. Have the spectator choose a card and sign it if you wish. Then the card is "lost in the deck" before the magician spreads them all over the floor (or in a ribbon spread if you prefer the neat look). The magician passes his hand over the deck and one card begins to move. When it's collected and turned over, it's the signed card. Thinking invisible thread? Think again. This effect can be performed with the cards poured into a sealed Zip-loc bag and it will still work. And they get to keep their signed card to examine forever...because they'll never find anything wrong with it since it's just a normal, signed card.

While I like the handling Jeremy uses for the gimmick, you'll probably come up with the same idea I did when you watch the video. There's something else you might already own if you're into PK magic that will do the same thing and allow this trick to be almost completely impromptu (provided the right color deck is being used and you have your gimmick on you).

For a wonderfully spooky effect that will blow your spectator's minds, this is great. And you end fairly clean with the ability to repeat the effect immediately if you so desire.

Sunday, June 7, 2009


If you are looking for an incredibly powerful closer to your ambitious card routine, here it is. This is amazing visual magic that will literally take the breath away of your audience. In the video this is presented as a sort of stand-alone trick, but I've found it plays much better as part of a routine like ambitious card. A signed card lost in the deck, the deck put back into the case, the case is dropped onto the table or a spectator's hands, and the signed card is on the outside of the case in a rubber gets them every time.

You will need to practice the clean up move just a little, but it's not that hard to do. I have yet to see a spectator who reaches for the case after I extract the card. They always want to examine the card itself, which is perfect because it allows me to clean up without their knowledge.

The prop will eventually wear out and you probably aren't going to be able to make one yourself, but you'll get a lot of magic out of it before it dies.

Very visual and fairly easy to work with.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Dynamite Book Test

I have to say this for the trick: the description is true...for the most part. There are no prearranged stooges or confederates, but if you pick the wrong person to do this with you, you're in trouble. You're actually setting up for an instant stooge, which is enough to steer most folks away. This is an effect that will amaze everyone else, but not the person you are doing it with, and that's what I don't like. While I'm the first to admit there's a time and place for this sort of thing, the Hoy Book Test is a much better choice and it allows the books to be examined at the end. Understand that this is a parlor or stage effect, and not an intimate piece of mind reading for one person.

There is a separate routine to be used with the "San Francisco Travel Guide" book by itself, but it's equally unimpressive. You can still allow the volunteer/stooge to choose any word from the page and it's what was written beforehand in a sealed envelope onstage. It doesn't change the fact that this is a lame effect.

For the price, this is far too expensive. If this was $25, I could see it being a great first book test for a beginner or comedy magician. But if you're going to spend this much money on a book test, go with the Dracula or War of the Worlds book tests.