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The Magic Cafe Forum Index Ľ Ľ Tricks & Effects Ľ Ľ Draven Reviews: Death Toll by Bruce Ballon (0 Likes) Printer Friendly Version

William Draven
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Los Angeles, CA
465 Posts

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Title: Death Toll
Artist: Bruce Ballon & Christopher Taylor
Instructions by: Bruce Ballon
Producers: TI Imagineering
Retail Price: $299.95 USD
Learning Difficulty: Easy
Notes: This effect isnít just a spirit bell, itís a wonderful utility device that lends itself brilliantly to multiple applications limited by only the performers imagination. TV performance rights are reserved. You are instructed to contact Christopher for any arrangements.

ē CD Rom
◦ Death Toll PDF written by Bruce Ballon
◦ Technical Operations Video
◦ Spectator Cueing Video
ē Counter Bell
ē Transmitter
ē Toe Switch

There are a lot of spirit bells on the market. Everyone familiar with bizarre magic knows the setup. Questions are asked, and the bell tolls out the answers as the medium contacts the spirits of the dead. The results are shocking, and audible. What is more, with Death Toll the audience actually SEEís the plunger depress ringing the bell, and they hear the audible ding! Simple, powerful, and amazing. Welcome to Bruce Ballonís Death Toll.

When I decided I wanted to get more into doing spirit theater, sťances, and the like I knew that I had to acquire a spirit bell to add to my collection. Nothing says sťance to me like the images invoked of ghosts answering questions through a system of raps, knocks, or dings lead by the medium. I considered a few different products that could deliver the required results, but none of them stood out to me quite like Death Toll did, and frankly Iím glad I made the purchase! Not only do I get the very obvious effect of a counter bell that rings itself, but I get a very inconspicuous looking device that doesnít scream ďpropĒ that lends itself very easily to a variety of other applications. In short, itís a beautifully crafted utility device!

The bell as seen in the demo video is deceptive. It lookís shiny silver when in fact the bell is brass, on a small spun wooden base. The way it comes, the bell looks like it could have been something from a hotel that was used in the 1940ís, but has been well cared for. In short it doesnít look antiqued, but could easily be aged to serve your purpose if thatís a direction you want to run in. Otherwise you could just leave it alone and have a very handsome counter bell to serve other purposes. Again what we see here is versatility. Age the bell more, and it could look like it came from a hotel that burned down decades ago, or leave it as is, and it looks like itís a very nice, well-constructed counter bell that youíd expect to find in service somewhere around your own town today.

Death Toll comes with a CD Rom with videos and a PDF. While the PDF does cover the technical aspects of the bell, with links to the videos that also accompany the CD Rom, thatís not all you get with the PDF. Bruce also includes a brief comparison to other spirit bells that are available on the market. Bruceís honesty rings through (pardon my pun) as talks about other products available, and how they compare or differ from Death Toll. I found this particularly useful being someone who just entered into the spirit theater arena, and having not previously owned any other spirit communication device before, itís nice to see where, and how my new bell stacks up against everything else Iíve looked at, or may be available on the market.

Sure the information in the PDF detailing set up, and mechanisms is handy, but the real power of this portable utility device is evident in the multiple routines included in the PDF file. The Death Toll can be made to work for different themes of presentations, and Christopher is more than generous in suggesting a couple uses for you. He even goes as far as to give you full presentation routines that you can utilize in the performance of the Death Toll! Some of those themes are:
ē Sensitive- Cueing: Mentalism Theme. Use the bell as a cueing system to demonstrate sensitivity to psychometric vibrations.
ē Ring of Truth: Psychological Theme. You reveal spectators hidden truths via subtle use of the Death Toll as a lie detector device.
ē The Curse of the Machiavelli Ė Duel Reality/ Spirit Bizarre Theme. Two spectators are shown a cursed ring belonging to the evil Machiavelli, and must resist itís sinister suggestions, the bell rings true when they begin to falter and give into the rings dark powers.
ē The Hand of Balsamo: Convincers & Attribution- Spirit Magic Theme: An inanimate object (such as a rapping hand) is placed over the bell, and spirits are invoked to move the hand in order to ring out the answers to the questions asked.
ē Dark Hotel: Another routine created by Ron Dayton A.K.A. Kotah. A monologue depicting a rundown building about to be demolished, and its haunting memories still looking to cling onto something living.
ē Strolling Spooky: This section covers using the Death Toll, out and about in a strolling fashion. Any place around town that has a counter bell has a potential to see application use of Death Toll. This section gives wonderful ideas to almost impromptu performances, with devastating results. If only youíre brave enough to try.
ē Medical Mystery Mind Games/ Psychological Spirit Theme: You set the stage with a few props, a bed turned down, a picture of a young lady, the Death Toll bell, and you ask the audience what they can infer from observation. Engage, and then at the end, the bell rings once. A little personal side note on this section: I personally liked the idea, but the set up for this is a little beyond my ability to re-create.
ē Invisible Doggie- Children Presentation Theme: Using Death Toll, and a few other well known & loved props (such as the invisible dog on a leash or stiff rope) you can present a friendly spook show for kids!
ē Please Ring for Service- Humorous Mystery Theme: A mysterious but humorous plot designed to get a laugh. May not be practical for every show setting.
ē Time is Up- another Humorous Mystery Theme: The bell rings by itself signaling the end of a conversation or meeting. Just another personal note: This application again seems to be something of sorts that may not work for 100% of the people 100% of the time. Though if you work in an office, or frequently have meetings this may be a great way to get peopleís attention.
ē Engraving Meaning: Another idea presented here by Bruce is to engrave a revelation of some sorts inside the dome of the bell. Not only does this give you a reason to open the bell up for casual examination, but you get a cool reveal as well!
ē Billets: For you mentalists out there Bruce details a few quick ideas for using the Death Toll to do billet switches, and the like.

The two videoís on the CD-Rom arenít anything to write home about in the sense of production quality. Then again, I donít think they really need to be. They serve the purpose for what they were created for. One to explain the technical operations of the bell, the other video expands a bit on Christopherís personal favorite effect for the bell, and a subject Bruce covers in full in his PDF document, Spectator Cueing.

I wanted to take a minute and discuss the quality of the craftsmanship that went into this product. Simply, itís amazing. The bell is very well constructed, the mechanics work silently, and reliably, and it looks ďold schoolĒ enough to be an antique, but mundane enough that it could still be in use in some business today. Personally I had originally planned on aging the bell to look quite old for the purpose of doing spirit theater, completely ignorant to the power to other applications this bell offers, but after having read Bruceís PDF file, I think Iím going to instead engrave something on the inside of the dome, and leave it as is. One thing is for sure, this will be the center piece of my working act for some time to come!

Since receiving the bell three days ago Iíve been playing with it non-stop. Iíve tried operating it with the toe switch, as well as with a stooge. Iím pleased to say that it does operate silently, and can be held in the spectatorís hands while activated without tipping the mechanical operations. Though I would advise against this, as my wife *** near dropped the darn thing the first time out for shock of fright! My transmitter works just fine at about fifty feet, which is perfect for any room size conditions I will ever encounter in my work with this bell. If I go more than fifty feet away from the bell, the signal from the transmitter gets weaker. Iíve noticed that the ideal distance from the transmitter to the bell should be twenty-five feet or less for maximum effect.

My initial reactions once unboxing my bell was that of a kid at Christmas time. My excitement has only been increased with each use of the bell. Iím truly very happy with this product. I would advise anyone though, that during the unboxing of the bell, be careful when you first disassemble the dome to remove any packing peanuts from inside of it. You donít want to accidently disturb the mechanics behind why it works. If you do though, the good news is itís an easy fix. Really, I can see this bell lasting a lifetime of performances with proper care. Itís built very well.

My audience reactions to this product have been a very large range of silenced dumbstruck awe, to one girl shrieking in fright and refusing to come near me for the rest of the night, and Iíve only owned it for three days! It is very clear to me that this product requires time to master the subtle ways it can be used in a show, and the more subtle the use- the more powerful the effect. I agree with Bruceís words in his PDF file, Less is certainly more when working with the bell.

Death Toll is very portable, as it takes up very little room, and there isnít much of it to pack up and cart around. Though the plain white cardboard box it came in is nothing to write home about, I did happen to have a nice dark stained cherry wood box laying around that is just about the right size for the bell. A little cut foam insert, a nice dark red crushed velvet inlay, and this thing looks like it belongs in a museum!

About the only part of the product that Iíve had an on again, off again, love/ hate relationship with is the toe switch. It seems to be too sensitive when I have it taped to my foot, and not sensitive enough when I just leave it inserted into my shoe. Granted, Iíve never worked with a toe switch before, but I imagine they all work just about the same. After spending a few hours with it, I was pleased to find that I managed to get the positioning just right to where I could operate the bell when I wanted to, without obvious foot movement, and with minimal accidental dings due to movement, walking, etc.
In closing, Iím very pleased with Christopherís work, and Bruceís applications. This bell when used correctly is a miracle! Itís a bit expensive, but for a handmade piece of art, itís worth it. As a bonus, Iím a fan of magical props that can lend themselves to different uses because it means that I can repurpose a prop for different style of shows without the need of purchasing something else to do what I need it to do. Iím thrilled that Death Toll facilitates many purposes, and magical themes leaving me many performance avenues to explore. Iím certain that this is one prop that will remain a worker for me for some time to come.

When I give my product scores below I am measuring them on a scale of 1 to 10. 1 Being absolute the worst score possible, and 10 being the absolute best, making a score of five average. The four points that I grade upon is Product Quality, Teaching Quality, Performance Practicality and Overall Quality.

Product Quality: 9
The price is steep, but the handmade quality is worth it. The bell is silent, reliable, and versatile.

Teaching Quality: 9
Bruceís PDF file is amazing. Itís not only educational in how to use Death Toll, but it catches you up to the other spirit bells available on the market. Thereís a lot of material here to chew on, and the routines & applications are priceless.

Performance Practicality: 9
From the front desk at the hotel youíre staying in, to the creepy abandoned haunted house you ahemÖ ďborrowedĒ it from, this product lends itself to quite a few different performance styles. Itís versatile applications from stage, to close-up, bizarre, to mentalism will keep the mind awake for long hours trying to come up with more uses for it. This isnít a prop that will collect dust in your magic drawer.

Overall Quality: 9
I donít give perfect 10ís, but Death Toll has come the closest of anything Iíve reviewed yet to scoring one! This is a masterpiece, and something both Christopher Taylor and Bruce Ballon should be very proud of. Iím almost afraid to publish this review because I selfishly want to keep this thing a secret! If you do Bizarre work, youíll need one. If you do anything else, youíll want one. Iíd say this product comes highly recommended. Death Toll passes the Draven Seal of Approval with high marks!

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Inner circle
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Profile of MentalistCreationLab
Thanks Draven, that was a great review.
Derek Dean
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Regular user
Monterey, CA
129 Posts

Profile of Derek Dean
Yes, a very thoughtful and thorough review. Thanks for taking the time to post it. I do like that it is a more common type of bell that I've seen many places, and I can see many uses for such a utility device. Neat.
Dr Spektor
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Eternal Order
10576 Posts

Profile of Dr Spektor
Thank you for the kind words - and I am so happy you read the PDF Smile - you would not believe how many people take the bell out and start using it without reading the PDF... you made my strange eon, Draven!

Aside: I might whip up some props for the routines in the PDF in the near future...

Glad the Bell is bringing you creative fun!

All the best,

"They are lean and athirst!!!!"
Christopher Taylor
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British Columbia Canada
2179 Posts

Profile of Christopher Taylor
I would like to echo what Bruce has said. Man, are you thorough! Cheers.

Christopher Taylor

Member P.E.A.

The Magic Cafe Forum Index Ľ Ľ Tricks & Effects Ľ Ľ Draven Reviews: Death Toll by Bruce Ballon (0 Likes)
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