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Topic: Essay #1
Message: Posted by: Brad Burt (Sep 21, 2006 08:32PM)
Hello fellow Caféites,

I received my first suggestion for a column and I like it. I like it a lot. The reason is that what is addressed strikes at the heart of what makes magic magical. Why is it that vanishing a small silk hanky with apparently bare hands is so much better a ‘trick’ than many of even the best card routines? And, so, here is the suggestion letter in toto:

“Hi Brad!

I've always enjoyed reading your posts and look forward to reading your column. I've been into magic a year and a half and find a lot of value in theories about magic. Ever since reading Strong Magic I'm kinda hooked.

A topic that I'm interested in is how can we make card magic as strong as other forms of magic. I'm into all kinds of effects, but by far my best reactions are magic with objects like vanishing things with TT, spoon bending, self tying shoe laces, etc.

However with card magic, no matter how good the effect is, they can always just think to themselves that it's just a trick and release themselves from their moment of astonishment. With everyday objects, they use these items everyday and can't think of an explanation. However, the secrets of playing cards are foreign to them.

Anyhow I'm wondering how I can make my card magic as strong as my other magic. I've chosen some of the strongest effects like Galaxy, and invisible palm to perform, but some of my audience just won't let it sink it.



First, I don’t think there is a comprehensive answer to this, but I do believe that there is an answer or perhaps a series of answers that make a somewhat cohesive whole.

One of the things that strikes me right away is that the question posed strikes directly at not only the difference between various effects and methodologies, but also and maybe most important of all…how do we select what we perform? Why cards and not coins? Why a Silk Vanish with TT and not Cards?

The easy answer, of course, is embodied in the question above. We tried ‘X’ and got one result and then tried ‘Y’ and got a better more satisfying result. The frustration in the original question is: How do I get the same level of result from Card Effects that I get from ‘Y’?


Consider the following: If you vanish a small silk hanky you have in effect only THREE items to watch. The effect is as magically and theatrically direct as you can possibly get. Small hanky pushed into the hand. Hand opens to show the hanky has vanished. There appears to be no rational way to explain how the hanky was there and then was not. The focus is diffuse in any way. Hand…hanky….Ta Da!

But, consider even the most simple and direct of card effects. Suddenly you go from TWO or THREE elements involved to fifty-four. That is you have the 52 standard cards and the two hands of the magician. The complexity of what you are doing has just jumped a quantum level above what just went before.

Because of this jump in complexity the best and most powerful card effects are ALWAYS in both my opinion and experience the simplest in effect and generally those that offer ONLY ONE EFFECT per routine.

Don’t misunderstand me. I am NOT saying that multiple effect routines can’t be good, or even great, what I am saying is that generally speaking the strongest effects with cards are those that offer ONE CLEAR AND OUTSTANDING EFFECT as THE effect and purpose of the routine.

Let me use two routines to illustrate this assertion. One is a sleight-of-hand routine and the other is wholly dependent upon a gaffed deck. The first is Doc Daley’s Last Trick. Personally, and I’ve said this elsewhere, I think that this is one of the best, most visually powerful card effects ever devised. For those unfamiliar: You use only the four aces. You show one of the red aces and turn it down and place beneath a spectator’s hand. You then show the other red ace again place it immediately face down under the spectator’s hand. There are almost no moves in the routine. Two cards are shown simply and without fanfare. You make the magic gesture and the spectator turns their cards to find they now have the BLACK aces and you have the red.

I have done this trick at least a thousand or more times. In virtually every case it produced the strongest of reaction on the part of those viewing the performance. As a magician you simply could not ask for more. But, notice the simplicity of effect. Notice also that since it only uses four cards and not the entire 52 you have a greater degree of simplicity working for you. The audience does not have to wonder what is going ON in the rest of the deck. The basic structure of the routine is so clean that the spectator HAS to believe they have the cards they just saw go under their hand. Seconds later they find that reality is the opposite of what the FIRMLY believe to be true.

The second trick is the Invisible Deck. Here the firmness of belief that leads to the strength of the effect is the belief that the deck used is in fact normal in every way. The beauty of Invisible Deck is that you prove it’s normality by not in any way attempting to prove it! It’s brilliant and I did not get this for many years and then one day I realized that of the thousands of times I had done the routine no one and I mean NO ONE had ever asked to see the deck!

Why? It was a stumper. And, then upon reflection I realized that the reason no one asked to look at the deck is because the EFFEC produced was so pure and direct and impossible! It was in fact TOO IMPOSSIBLE for the deck to be in any way involved. That’s what the non-magician mind thinks and thus they discard the deck as being involved in the method.


The reality is that there ARE card effects, routines, etc. that are AS good as vanishing a hanky with a TT. But, in almost every case they are themselves as simple in structure and effect.

There ARE wonderful and magical routines that you just love to watch. Most of the Torn and Restored Card routines are fine things. They ARE magical, but I don’t think that most laypersons accept them as ‘magic’. They look wonderful, but the very density of manipulation that it takes to produce the effect works against many otherwise great routines and gives the audience an out. The out is the magician, the manipulator himself. See, it’s just his great skill that makes the trick possible. Cool. Nothing wrong with that either, but that’s not the focus of this essay. Is how do we make card effects as strong as the ‘other’ types of routines that we do? How do they become AS impossible, etc.

My starting answer and I hope to write a lot more is that we have to look at THOSE card routines that ARE in fact every bit as strong as the strongest routine in some other genre.

Well, almost done with this installment. So to sum up: To find the answer to the original question we have to first look at those routines that offer the kind of power in the effect that we would like to have in ALL the magic we do.

Boy….I cleared that up didn’t I? All best,

Brad Burt