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The Ma ic


Translated from the Spanish by


Spanish edition edited by


Revision of Spanish contents by


First Spanish revision by


English edition edited by


Photo: David Linsell

Inner Worlds (Rafael Benatar) ix

Foreword xiii
Acknowledgments xvii
Preparation of this volume was aided by the proofreading
skills of Mike Henkel, Martin Kaplan, Maxwell Pritchard, CHAPTER 1: MAGIC 1
Will Randall and Mike Vance. The following pages show the Magic 3
benefits of their generosity and their devotion to our Magia. What Is Magic? 3
Magic-A Minimal (and Inexorably Failed) Attempt to Approach
a Definition and a Delimitation 7
The Emotion-Miracle 9
An Attempt to Comprehend the Magic Miracle 9
Notes Toward a Theory of Emotion in Magic-Pursuing Our Goal 13
Origins and Evolution 19
Magic and Art 19
On the Essence of the Art of Magic 23
Some Provoking Questions (Also Self_-Provoking) 25
Magic as Art and Magic as Show 26
The Material: Dreams 29
Dreams of Magic 29
Dream, Magic, Reality 32
Spanish edition copyright© 2016 by Juan Tamariz.
Magic in Movies, Theater, Television ( and Close-up Magic) 35
English edition copyright© 2019 by Juan Tamariz and
Magic and Surrealism 39
Penguin Magic, Inc.
To Whom Is It Addressed? 43
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright 43
Magic Is Only for Children
Convention~. Published in the United States of America by Penguin
Magic, Inc., Rancho f~ordova, California. CHAPTER 2: How Is IT PRODUCED? 47
Printed in the United States of America. How Is It Produced? 49
ISBN 978-0-945296-90-4 The Process of Creation and Interpretation in Magic 49


The Magical Effect 61
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 How Should It Be? 61
Classic Effects 65 conflicts in Magic and Their CuIVes of Interest 239
What Are They? Which Ones Are They? Why Are They Classics? 65 The Curves of Interest: Notions to Remember 239
Symbols 71 Magic: 'I\vo Conflicts 242
Magic and Symbolism 71 The Logical-Rational Conflict-Climax without Reso~ution 242
Example of a Practical Application of the Theory of Symbolic Magic 85 The Magic Conflict and Its Dramatization 254
The Magic of the Spheres 85 Time 285
A Study of a Truly Magical Effect: "El Cochecito" 92 Rhythm 285
More About Effect 97 The Time of the ,Performance 303
The Fascinating Effect 97 The Beloved Art of the Pause 310
The Effect and the Secret Method (A Love Story) 102 Timing 328
Variety in Effects 105 Patter 339
That Effect, in Effect, with Affection 109 Patter (A First Approach) 339
More About Patter (Second Approach) 347
Introduction 115 CHAPTER 6: THE SECRETS 355
The Memory. Generalities 116 The Seven Magic Veils 357
Card to Order 120 On Magic Energy: A Minimal and Impossible Attempt at an Unveiling 363

Encoding What Is Perceived 127 The Little Monkeys 365

Features 127 A Beautiful Profession of Love 369
Storage of the Memories 139
A Preliminary Digression 139
The Magic Pyramid 377
Altered Permanence 142
Evoking Memories 147 CHAPTER 8: STYLES IN MAGIC 395
The Comet Effect 147 From the Inside 397
Other Factors That Improve Memories 158 Impromptu Magic 397
The Magic of Accessories 403
CHAPTER 5: DRAMATURGY 185 From the Outside 407
Emotions 187 Magic and Comedy 407
Kind of an Introduction 187 Some Laws of Laughter 409
A Human Analogy 190 Various Positive Combinations of Magic and Comedy 419
Analysis of the Emotions in Magic 197 Other Pairings 424
The Emotional Scheme 223 Manipulation 447
About the Variety of Emotions: .A.n Example 225 Mental Magic 450
About the Construction of the Session 459


To Create Illusion 487
Technique in Service to the Effect 487
About ... the Art of Technique 490
In Order Not To Disappoint 495
Outs and Resources-The Art of Fixing Mistakes in Magic 495


About the Author: Highly Personal Comments 503
About the Preparation of the Session

Chapter 12: NOSTALGIA

The Spectator Facing Magic
The Spectator on the Other Side of Magic

Rafael Bena tar


Magic and Magical Narration
II TiiROUGHOUT my thirty years of friendship with Juan, I have witnessed,
from a privileged seat, the development of his magical thinking. He usually
Myths of Creation, Gods and Heroes, Fairy Tales 527 I put his thoughts in writing for the exclusive Circular of the Escuela Magica
I de Madrid, and he has shared them since 1974 at the J omadas Cartomagicas
Magic and Film 531 I
Magic and Drama del Escorial, of which he has, from the beginning, been the main force.

535 ··~
Magic and Music 539 1\ Expressing his thoughts to friends and checking them with acquain-
Magic and Painting 543 ti
tances and spectators is another way he refines his thinking. He_ enjoys
meeting with fellow magicians and sharing ideas, whether when dining
Background (A Brief Personal Story)
out or d,,uring late-night sessions that can last until breakfast, at which
time he might dish up his superb fried eggs.
Some Phenomena of Card Magic 555 Juan seems to organize his life instinctively to allow himself to spend the
Some Classic Tricks of Card Magic



majority of his time on the most substantial aspects of magic. He cuts out
any trivialities, as well as many common tasks and celebrity appearances.
Human Wishes 573 I As a result, he spends a high percentage of his time sitting at a table with a

Wish List of Mankind 575 deck of cards, working on card magic. He extends his passion to all aspects
Wishes and Their Corresponding Tricks 581 of magic in general and expands it to his enjoyment of allied arts; mainly
film, music, literature and painting. All that experience is poured, both


consciously and subconsciously, into sleights and moves, and into all the As we saw in the introductory pages of The Magic Way, he some-
principles of stagecraft, body language, scripting and construction, striving times uses metaphorical images of winged horses flying through the
to reach the deepest philosophical as well as symbolic, meanings of things. universe in search of The Magic Way. Such images are not always easy
When out for dinner, as he is an icon in Spain, he is approached by to understand, let alone to translate. Juan had concerns tpat some read-
people of all ages who want to shake his hand, request his autograph, see ers might not connect with this poetic imagery. He told me it is okay
a trick or have any reason to be near him and exchange a few words. He with him if you prefer to skip those parts. I confess, I have occasionally
usually complies gracefully. Most people are kind and pleasant, and some become lost in following the logic in some of his stories 1 as has the edi-
say something funny or something interesting to the rest of us. Yet, once tor and perhaps some readers-but I'm glad he didn't omit them. Who
they are gone, Juan subtly refuses to be distracted by such incidents. Our has not become lost in a Dali or a Bosch painting? Those words are
conversation promptly resumes as if nothing had happened, like a film edi- the reflection of Juan's dreams, and dreams have elusive elements. So if
tor's cut. He doesn't let anything throw him off his cherished conversation. you're not interested in such symbolic imagery, it's okay with Juan; but
Maybe there has been a show or a late dinner made longer with magi- I suggest you read through it anyway, if for nothing more than to experi-
cal moments, until the tolerant restaurant owner gives us a hint, or more ence the depth of his passion.
than a hint, that the staff needs to go home. After leaving, when the night The text as a whole is admittedly opinionated, but those opinions have
would seem to be over, a few friends will sometimes accompany Juan to grown out of many years of experience and many thousands of perfor-
his home-and then the visit starts, at 1:00 or 2:00 A.M. But people don't sit mances for audiences, for friends, for television and for people from all
back on the couch with a drink and talk; not at Juan's. He has cleverly set walks of life.
the scene, with the help of his beloved wife Consuelo (also a magician), to In all this, Juan has practiced what he preaches: Throughout this entire
lead you smoothly to a table graced with a few close-up mats and chairs. , book, he reaches us by showing us his inner world-all the magical things
Everyone is positioned for a productive session. And Juan always has an he really cares about, everything that occupies a substantial portion of his
amazing number of new things to show, fresh even to those who sat at a thinking time, all he has learned from others, from watching others and
similar session as recently as a week before. from reading. He opens the doors of his inner world for us. That's also
A restless thinker, Juan is always looking for the meaning of things, for the secret of how he engages and holds our attention throughout what
the most profound reasons for artistic things to exist. But he doesn't stop appears a very long text. If you don't agree with something, I'm sure Juan
there. He investigates all aspects of the performing arts, always nurturing predicted as much and even finds it desirable. In that case, though, he
his thinking with a variety of arts and crafts, and exploring the mysteries raise~· the issues for your consideration.
of the art of communication, of reaching an audience, one of his favorite What really matters is that you have here a rare opportunity of looking
topics of conversation. ' with a magnifying lens into the mind of a genius, who allows your inspec-
When discussing that topic throughout this book, Juan often refers tion and invites you to do so. He hangs it all out in these pages, just about
to the artist's inner world. He sees this as one of the most important ele- everything he thinks, every opinion, everything he has mentioned in con-
ments in communication with an audience. That's one of the true secrets versations over the years, everything he has learned, although it's easy to
of his success: not being afraid of being sincere, of showing who he really imagine that the process goes on forever.
is. He holds nothing back ~

Working with my good friend Stephen Minch has always been an enrich-
ing experience. I cannot imagine a better editor with whom to collaborate.
In this case, we faced a major challenge together. It is also a mammoth
project made possible by the commitment of Penguin Magic, to whose
support and confidence in the project we should all be grateful.
Stephen has spared no effort in pointing out anything that is unclear
or ambiguous, and we have exchanged many hundreds of questions, in
both directions. Some ambiguities were instantly resolved by my acquain-
tance with Juan's thinking and my many conversations with him through
the years. I have occasionally needed to consult with my friend Camilo
Vazquez, who has known Juan much longer than I have. Camilo is a
co-founder with Juan of the Escuela Magica de Madrid and has provided
invaluable insight. We then ran even the slightest doubts that remained by
Juan to get his input and blessing. FOREWORD
With our editorial decisions, maybe Stephen and I are also sharing
something of our inner worlds, in a quest for keeping Juan's voice-collo- J WAS seven years old. The sun ofEgyptilluminatedmypath. The Phoenicians
quial, engaging, humorous-as we have on previous occasions. carried me toward the confluence of the two seas, from the sea within the
A good portion of this material was originally written for the limited earth to the mythical ocean, land of the Atlanteans. It rained all the way
membership of the Escuela Magica de Madrid and published using a simple through the journey, and the sun and the rain formed their exciting Rainbow.
method of distribution. For this group, there was little need for referencing After dark, the beautiful moon, protected (as was magic) by Isis, mag-
each trick or article mentioned. Stephen has, when needed, checked and netized the gazes of all sailors and formed-oh, miracle!-a mysterious
researched references; and during the process, I asked Juan some questions and exciting night rainbow.
about his sources. In certain cases, he supplied additional information, The newly founded city of Gades (now Cadiz) was dedicated to Isis
which we have added to the text, (now Astarte), goddess of the moon and of magic (only 3000 years ago).
Now that the work is over, the relief is fading away and I am beginning And that's where, on that night, at the age of seven, I stayed awake and
to miss the exchanges with these men I am proud to call my friends. followed the hypnotic phases of the moon, and I traveled The Magic Way
under the night rainbow to find the wonderful palace-castle, castle-palace
of magic.
I sneaked through the slit under the back door-Father Ciur6 offered
his books to show me the way-and I discovered the fabulous world
of parlors and drawing rooms in the castle, which was looked after by
Mnemosyne (four clubs and nine diamonds embroidered into her man-
tle) and her nine daughters, the nine Muses. And there on the floor, other

children-in groups of seven, fifty-two and a hundred-played with cards, The moon of Isis blinded me and guided me. The sun of Gades warmed
balls, white doves and their pretty, lacquered, wooden boxes. me and' made me drunk with passion. T_he rain that descended from the
The three fathers (Robert-Houdin, Hofzinser and Frakson) were in sky and ascended from the sea refreshed me. The night-and-day Rainbow,
charge of, and inspired, the games that the oldest son (Dai Vernon) orga- that was formed among all this, made me marvel.

nized, while nephew Ascanio walked the parlors and analyzed their rules It makes me marvel and will still make me marvel in the s~venty-times-
with passion. seven coming years; and I hope to find you, dear reader who is holding me
I often came out, with some of the other children in the enchanted pal- in your hands, in our palace-castle-house of magic.
ace, to invite along children and adults of nearby fields and distant towns. In our home.
With some of the group made up by the playful and curious, we dis- THE MAGIC RAINBOW.

covered doors and spaces, some empty, others full of signals waiting to
be deciphered for the enjoyment of new and beautiful ways to play with
cards, balls and little boxes.
It was Paradise.

I have spent my whole life visiting this castle-palace. I live in it.


Here I tell you what I saw there and felt and feel and will feel, and what
the beauties of the parlors that "lazy chance or the precise laws that rule
this dream, the Universe" (Borges dixit) made me discover, with which I
was able to begin a playful exploration and passionate journey.
The castle-palace palace-castle still possesses unknown comers,
secret doors and hidden passages that lead to new and fantastic halls and
gardens strewn with minerals of wonderful colors (the seven colors of the
rainbow). In it, the charming Muses guide us and, while two sing and play
their harps, the other seven dance and extend their translucent veils that
cover, or allow, a faint glimpse of hidden spaces and gardens with their
beautiful and delicate decorations.
At times, during these last forty years (the number of cards in the
Spanish deck) I have taken a break and written on papyrus with my sweet
diabetic blood what I gradually saw, enjoyed and felt in the castle, and
what my little and maybe (but only maybe) interesting discoveries told me
and taught me how to feel and enjoy. Here you have them at this moment
in your hands in the shape of a magical book (what a redundancy!).

Tii.1s book is little more than a mosaic made of articles and essays I've
written throughout a period of almost forty years. It is also a mosaic
because of the quantity and quality of people who have invested their
-~ffort, knowledge and care to help to polish my thoughts (Jose Puchol,
Roberto Giobbi, "Alan" [Alfredo Marchese] and my daughter Super Ana,
to whom magic in Spain owes so much); and those who transferred my
always handwritten texts, the early ones through a typewriter (Mary Pura
Mirelis, who gave me so much) and later ones into a computer (Alicia my
magical daughter, Pedro Hernandez and my companion and support in
life and magic, Consuelo Lorgia); and those who made precise and pains-
taking t~xt corrections (Carlos Vinuesa, Jesus Etcheverry and, above all,
Gema Navarro, who has also been the continuous engine that typeset and
carried out the almost eternal editing of the Spanish edition).
To all of them goes my total and heartfelt gratitude, which I realize can
be only scantly expressed in these lines, when I consider the magnitude
and quality of the effort, the patience, the dedication and the passion they
have poured into it.
Thank you! Thank you!! Thank you!!!

What Is Magic?
In the beginning, it was magic.

/2PROXIMATELY 52,000 years ago, a man and a woman emerged from

' a group that was sitting there, on the floor of the cave, next to the fire.
Dressed and made up, the man and the woman moved their bodies rhyth-
mically, let out shouts that increased in speed and shrillness and, with
their sooty hands, made drawings on the cave walls; they picked up mud,
still moist, wrapped it in a large tree leaf and, molding it with t};leir fingers,
fashioned a head; then they picked up stones and placed some on top of
othe:a;s to build a primitive altar in front of which they imitated the growl
of the lion and the bear, and ran after one another; they related something
about a legendary man who, with only his hands, caught the bear and
killed the lion; they simulated the rain with their fingers and imitated the
zigzag flash of a lightning bolt. The man in the cave threw his pine-branch
wand into the air and deftly caught it behind his back, showed his dry hand
and suddenly it was moist; the imaginary lightning bolt burnt his hand
and, upon his passing the pine wand near it, the red bum disappeared.
N 5

The expressions on the faces in the group changed from astonishment to thread from which their life hung was cut and subsequently restored); the
fear; they huddled together. The man and the woman pointed toward the joyful feeling of levitation, the flow, the rising to the heavens; and finally
sky outside the cave and fell to the ground, exhausted by the frenzy of their three brains-saurian, mammalian, hominid-softened and melded
the dance. Those in the group shouted and beat their open hands against into one. They felt like children and were able to play.
their bodies for a long while, after which they too were exhausted and fell To play the artistic game, useless and extremely beautiful, with life
asleep on the ground. and death, the power of the gods; and miracles: card divinations, invisible
And some dreamed ... travelers, single and multiple changes, here and there, to be or not to be
They dreamed that approximately 52,000 years later, what they had in a single moment.
started there, that night in that cave, would be called dance, music, ballet, And the irradiated playful and positive energy became love: They met
singing, theater, sculpture, painting, religion, medicine and magic. Frakson.
The man's magic of that night was now art (and science and religion) Some among those who awoke approximately 52,000 years later exer-
as well as magic-the magic that spoke of and imitated the power of the cise their voices in singing, their bodies in dance, their speech in theater
gods, of rites and myths, of desire and dreams, in an ancient, universal and and storytelling, their words in poetry, novels and tales, their fingers on the
profound symbolic language. piano keyboard, their steady hands with the brush and the palette knife,
A young man woke up about 52,000 years after this and met Vernon their gestures in pantomime. And some among some, not many among so
and Slydini, saw Lavand and Frakson, visited Fu Manchu and Ascanio, many, exercised at one and the same time their fingers, their gestures, their
communicated with Robert-Houdin and Hofzinser through the written words, their chatting, their bodies (forward and back, tum, relaxation and
word, saw in a little magic box how Copperfield flew and how Doug tension ... ), their gazes crossing with their hands, their hands coordinat-
Henning went back to childhood. He played with the ghosts of Leipzig and . ing with their words, their voices and even their psychology; all to create
Malini, read the Tarbell Course and Stars of Magic, got together with Juan and perform their extremely beautiful and difficult tricks with four Aces,
Anton, Alfredo Florensa, Jose Puchol and Ramon Varela at the Sociedad with ten thimbles, with an Okito Floating Ball, with doves created from
Espanola de Ilusionismo (Spain's main magic society), admired Chung nothing, inexhaustible coins and their triumphs, and the Triumphs of their
Ling Soo's posters, enjoyed the effects of Fred Kaps, felt the emotion of astonishing card magic.
the impossible when a pocket knife changed color, a sponge ball disap- An extremely complex art that demands control of fingers, hands,
peared (dis-a-ppeared!) and cards separated into blacks and reds. body, voice, eyes, words and psychology; an extremely beautiful art that
And he was not the only one who woke up. Others attending that initia- speaks of myths and symbols (with the depth of play!), that enchants and
tory evening in the cave awakened thousands of years later and were able haunts and fascinates and excites every layer of the brain, that brings
to see the magicians of the time, and revive the emotions that combined us headfirst into mystery, that speaks to us of desired dreams-that imi-
to tickle the inner layer of their saurian brains, to arouse the profound tates, not the human being as does theater, not the interior rhythm as
sensations of their mammalian brains and the astonishing intellectual does music, not the trill of birds as does singing, not nature (landscapes,
admiration of their external hominid brains, of thinking beings. In a sec- people, sensations) as do painting and sculpture, not dreams as do mov-
ond, they felt the arcane power of myth again; the ancestral horror vacui ies. Instead it imitates the power of the gods (no less): the fascinating
of disappearance; the horror of death and the victory of resurrection (the total art of magic.
That's why it reaches everyone. Its universal language touches chil- Magic-A Minimal ( and
dren (who don't question its veracity) and adults (who are aware of its · to Approach a Definition_ and a Delimitation
unreal reality); the educated (who appreciate its complexity and depth),
the ignorant (who feel its power), the young (who delve into the adven- What is it?

ture of the unknown and mystery), the old (who take joy in their new Magic is one of the performing arts that represents at a simbolic level,
childhood); to men and women, foolish and wise, intellectuals, artists, through rites and spells, our myths: the archetypal desires and dreams of
scientists and merchants, strippers, aristocrats and lawyers and tramps man. It makes those myths come true (or poses them as r,eality), makes
and ... and ... and ... the impossible possible (the impossible for humans). Thusjt imitates the
All of them, all, can feel its power, the call to their inspiration, to their gods or superhuman beings.
intellectual freedom (first challenged, then surrendered), to their desire Magic utilizes an artistic approach with a highly complex technique of
for play, to that beautiful and enchanting art of the impossible, of imitating fingers, body, eyes, words, etc., which is kept concealed while beguiling
the actions of the gods that will continue for a long time to enchant and the senses and the mind through the psychology of perception, attention
poetically to bring back to childhood all those who fall prey to its games and memory. It is based on dramatic structure-exposition, rising action,
and dreams, its mythical effects, its spells and rituals-its magic. climax, resolution-but without resolution in the usual sense, but rather
And this for at least another 52,000 years, approximately. a resolution/solution such as: The magician has supernatural powers or
And we, the magicians, the magicians, will transmit it. conjures up those powers.
It is addressed, in terms of a fascinating effect, to the inner child
of pre-logical age. The young receive it as the adventure of encoun-
tering an emotional mystery, and the logical adult as an impossible
" effect experienced as possible. It first challenges and defies the Bull
of Logic. It provokes it, teases it; then fools it, mesmerizes it and puts
it to sleep. Finally it plays with the Winged Horse of Imagination, fan-
tasy and enchantment, employing metaphorical and surrealistic poetry
(the key?). It charms the Horse, makes it enjoy its flight, letE? it live its
dreams, projected in the power of the magician, invites it to participate,
transforms it from a spectator into an "expect-ator". And it plays and
dances with them, the Horse and the Bull. The Bull of Logic bellows,
from beyond, its belief: "It's not possible." But now to no avail, because
the expect-ator is in awe at witnessing and living the impossible. He
plays and enjoys in freedom, pleased with his condition of being a god,
or being one who shares experiences with a god.
Magic mixes mystery with fascination, reality with dreams (impossi-
ble dreams made possible within the artistic reality). It mixes surrealistic

and poetic games, spells and enchantments dramagical 1 emotions secu-

' '
lar miracles and wonders without end.
It's magic.
And then comes the awakening of the Logical Bull. And the peace of mind,
the rest, the serenity granted the owner of the beautiful and human power of
reason. Lucidity is recovered through the lmowledge of ignoring the how but
not the natural and artistic foundation of what has been experienced.
The expect-ator now feels more complete, more lucid, richer, a bet-
ter person.
And no one can take that from him!
I. Dramagic is a word I owe to my friend, magician and great connoisseur,
Armando de Miguel.


An Attempt to Comprehend the Magic Miracle

MAGIC is fascination. Magic is the art of enchantment. It's wrapping the

audience and the magician in a cloud, a mesmerizing atmosphere, like the
' sibyls with their sulfurous fumes. It's not about putting into the known
as real something that is not so real, but about creating an enclosure, a
temporary space, where the real has another dimension. And that enclo-
sure should feel, even physically, like a cloud or like a stage filled with
smoke, as if the energy surrounding the magician became ectoplasmic
and were gradually expanding to reach the onlookers. Yet you can breathe
and allow
,,,,, yourself to be invaded by the cloud; or you can cover your nose
and mouth with your hand, with a handkerchief or with an anti-magic
mask. You can even stop breathing. That's the shortest route to settle into
the anti-life. Because magic should be, and is, life. Love for life, passion
for life, despite everything and against that everything.
Life, more life; a more and more powerful life; a vital magical energy
that exudes through the pores of the skin, the hands and the fingers, that
spills out of the eyes and mouth of the magician .... Such an inner, intense

energy, so concentrated that E = mc2 seems to be a black alchemical for- labyrinths of the brain in search of a comfortable answer.... It is possible?
mula opposed to M = al 2: Magic= abracadabra times life squared. The •only possible answer has already arrived. The mind also dissolves.
Captivating magic, fascinating magic, not numbing but invigorating, the There is no longer an It is possible or It is impossible. No, it simply is.
magic of enchantment and spells. Magic that transports us to a more real The magician, more familiar with the road, guides and conducts. His
here and now. An enclosure for living and dreaming. For dreaming our life. hands, separated, fly and come to rest on the floating hea~s of others.
For living our dreams. Where Descartes either regenerates or dies, where And something new is· produced: The hands penetrat~ the heads. This
the emporium of reason becomes the Arcadia of communes, and feelings seems to be the signal for the humid, hot and shapeless a,nns, feet, breasts
and emotions are set free; where tight lips relax and open in a mix of wows and thighs to cross and intertwine and melt into new and fantastic limbs
and smiles, where the body levitates, floats and spins, where gravity (real- taking whimsicalBhapes (a hazard): a heart with fingers, a stomach with
ity) disappears, magic pushes, minimizes and finally cancels the formerly lips, penises with eyes.
almighty force of gravity, that power which pulls our feet toward reality. No The combinations of forms, colors and smells are continuous and ever
more with our feet on the ground. No more of the almighty and universal law changing. The kaleidoscope constantly turns. There is no more fixture, no
of gravity. Or Newton and his dreams, or Einstein and his love of mystery. A more calm, no more tightness, no more ties. The nervous system grows
meeting with Breton, with the best of Freud, with Magritte and Bosch. like a vine and vibrates and makes all around it vibrate, mixing sensa-
But what is the image of the new reality? Let's visualize the phenome- tions: red smells, sweet-and-sour sounds, touch in B#, peppermint visions.
non, describing it minutely, just as it takes place. Memory overflows all remembrances, those we would like to know· and
In the beginning were the Words "Hocus Pocus" and the Playing Cards. ones that are censored, those of the recent past and those of the warm
Fed up with wisdom, they start their games and daydreaming among the maternal breast. Imagination loses its fear, mixing with memory, and pro-
magician's skillful fingers. Their eyes open wide and wider. Their feet duces the memories of as long ago as once upon a time, of years past and
begin to rise from the floor. days ahead, of centuries ago-now I remember-and of centuries in the
Feet up! This is a holdup waged against stability, against the estab- future. Now I remember what will happen.
lished. A laborious and slow levitation of the magician's body. He rises, Playing cards provide the music. They are the fish that inhabit this sea
clinging to a deck of cards. All the fluids in his body begin to pour from his of magic. They are those who-blushing and transforming themselves, dis-
eyes, nose and ears. The blood, first red, turns green. Then, uncontrolla"" appearing and reappearing, becoming larger and smaller, by themselves,
bly, lymph, urine, plasma and semen. The liquids, free of tension, become in a fan, in a ribbon, or forming butterflies, rising from the pack, sneak-
red vapors, purple vapors, white vapors. They dissolve the rigidity of the ing into cases, pockets, bags and wallets, calling to the colors, playing

bones, allowi~g the magician to bend without twisting. Eventually they princesses and cannibals, creeping up sleeves, turning over triumphantly,
tear off his limbs. ThesR vapors reach those who attend the magical trans- tearing and restoring themselves, dissolving into oil and water-keep this
formation, if they don't escape and this magma with a softened body and
magical universe alive.
ethereal fluids helps them untighten, untie, free themselves. Then, at the end, the end of only a phase, fluids evaporate, limbs come
And what about the mind? This way.... Is it possible? Between anxiety together, some intermingled with others, enriched with new powers,
and admiration, the mind still doubts. But it finds itself wrapped in the disguised as normal to survive to the next session, until the next, and
magician's cape .... Is it possible? The question turns soft and enters the hopefully near, magical space-time enclosure arrives.
at the limit, at the ultimate climax, lies a continuous field without Magic-
Notes Toward a Theory of Emotion
distances or cracks, without borders or clocks, a universe of hazard, of Pursuing Our Goal
joy, of emotion, of feelings, of games, of imagination, of pleasure and life.
And that's where we are heading .... The Secular Miracle
Are you coming, Alice? more emotion there is in the magic, the stronger the magic is.
Emotion can be, at times, intellectual. But only at times . ~ The enigma
of How did that happen, of It seems impossible andJ can't.figure out how
is a good thing, but ....
Emotion may also be aesthetic, but then only as companion to the
main or essential emotion.
The essential emotion that is specific to magic is the emotion of mystery.
The emotion of mystery is what is felt when we confront the unknown,
the unfathomed, the enigmatic, the unfathomable or the impossible.
Perhaps these are the degrees or various notes creating the scale of the
emotion of mystery, from a puzzle to sawing a woman in half, passing
through the How did he manage to bring the selected card to the top, the
Where did the ball come from or the How can that ball.float in the air.
However, all these are in themselves,· for now, intellectual emotions;
tpe head, the brain, crumples, the mind is in tension; it searches, it is sur-
prised at the unfathomable, at the not possible ... and that applies to-and
is specific to-magic. Our first efforts are directed toward boosting that
intellectual emotion of mystery to the maximum, to the limit, to achieve a
mental shock, a headfirst collision with the totally impossible.
Although that purity of the emotion of mystery, attained only at the
maximum degree, is very challenging and rarely achieved, when reached
it shoul<i be strong enough to have the same impact as a miracle for the
believers of any religion. We could be talking of secular miracles.
That purity and maximum power of a secular miracle is strong
enough-or it should be-to represent a whack on the spectator's head,
leaving him stunned, dizzy, making his common sense wobble, making
him rub his eyes, making him think he's dreaming, causing him not to
believe himself, his senses, his logic, his mental structures .... He's wit-
nessing something that can't be. A magical effect is, at first, unsettling.
Magic is in a certain way, and only in a certain way, a mental bout in the chill down my spine and the goosebumps. The emotional

which the contenders are, on one side, the spectator's logic and reason, also remembers.
and on the other, his fantasy and imagination, aided by the magician in Such should be the case with magic. But the dead play with an edge. 0
cooperation with him. It's a gentle bout, with no harm. It's about the magi- I have it all within me, regarding death. The horror stories, 1the fears and
cian and the spectator's imagination overcoming or convincing his reason anxieties our culture has woven, filling us with them, are vtry strong and
to take a break and let his playful, cheerful and imaginative side play joy- the firm belief that the ·dead are truly dead. I

fully and freely. 2 The cemetery and the night. An appropriate atmosphere. It's hard to
However, the intellectual emotion of mystery can be strengthened by achieve the same atmosphere in a theater, but it is achieved in the movies.
the sensitive emotion of mystery. That's the magical atmosphere. It's the A cold atmosphere? No, but we do feel horror in good horror movies.
sensation that something abnormal or out of the ordinary happens or is But it also suffices to listen to tales of the afterlife told by people who
happening, despite the belief that it can't happen. believe in them, as happens with the "cantos de meigas y aparecidos"
I know that a dead man can't rise up at night in the cemetery and do (stories of witches and apparitions) told in Galician villages on winter
me harm. I know it. I'm positively sure of it intellectually, but emotionally nights; stories about something we don't believe in, told to make us feel
it's another matter. I feel fear. I physically feel it. A simple leaf falling from disturbing fears ( and how!).
a tree onto my face can startle me, make me yell, frighten me, horrify me ... The magician needs to create his own magical atmosphere with music,
in fear of something I don't believe possible, of something I know for a lights and shadows, colors; but, above all, with his performance. What he
fact cannot be possible. says, the sound of the words, the gestures, his general attitude, his pace,
Can we, through magic, make people who don't believe the impossible should all lead to the creation of the magical field required to embrace the
possible-people with solid Cartesian minds who know that that can't spectators and make them readily feelthe ineffable, the unsettling, the
possibly be-feel the impossible? , beautiful, fascinating and wonderful emotion of mystery.
When I come out of the cemetery, I might not know what it was that
2. The Desired Goal
touched my face. Was it a bird? A leaf? A piece of paper carried by the
wind? Or was it, perhaps, a deception of my sense of touch? Did I believe We are already on our way to achieving the dual magical emotion of the
I felt something that didn't exist? Did my daring imagination play a sick intellect and the senses. A magic field has been created, and it involves
joke onme? the spectators.
In any case, later, at home, in the daylight, I smile as I remember it, But only the spectators?
perhaps aided by my logic (I know it couldn't have been a dead man), but The magician is also absorbed into this magnetic field, and he will also
suffer its consequences or, rather, enjoy them.
2. However, fair play should not admit low blows. Stooges and marked cards are But how long does the field live (or last)? It has begun, but when does
low blows, because the spectator, aware of their existence, doesn't protect him-
it end?
self against them. Those are implicit rules of the game. The spectator is aware
Let's remember: The Sorcerer's Apprentice unleashed certain pow-
that someone could be a stooge or that the cards may be marked, in which
ers that later escaped his control. We are sorcerers' apprentices. When
case there would be no mystery, but he takes our artistic honesty for granted
and trusts us in believing such low ruses are not in operation. He believes us. the magician, with art, sincerity and soul, has managed to achieve the

essential atmosphere of mystery, he will have generated a cloud of glitter- Because by now the effects of the sleights, tricks and routines are no
ing magical powders. · productions, transformations qr disappearances. Once logic and
This brilliant and beautiful cloud, shimmering between visible and reason are broken, we experience them as creation, meta~orphosis and
invisible, floats and embraces us. And it is a lasting embrace.
evanescence. I

Because the magician, as midwife of the cloud, must have, from this The magical emotion affords us knowledge and feelin~ that what we
point on, two certainties: thought impossible, unthinkable, is thinkable, is possible. Jt exists.
The :first is that he is also inside the cloud, within its atmosphere, That's why all our strength and effort-the alchemical rite of learning the
inside its field. From this point on, there is no more I do (performer) and techniques, of living with the cards awake or asleep, the psychological subtle-
We watch (spectators); the me here and you there is over. Now we, com- the structural knowledge of effects and routines, the brilliant wrappings
municants of the dual magical emotion, have embarked upon the same in which we present them-are directed toward the achievement of an atmo-
magical, vital adventure. And what an adventure! sphere that makes the tremendous emotional storm possible. (Let's remember
The second certainty is that this new intellectual-emotional experi- again, too, that it is intellectual and sensitive to time. That is its specificity.)
ence has no end. Needless to say, we could, we can, settle for less, for much less: enter-
tain, amuse, intrigue or amaze our friends. That's fine! To search, perhaps,
for a bit of food for our egos. Why not? Feeling closer to others. No doubt
about it!
With all those bricks added to the cement of narcissism and exhibition-
ism, the wish to have a good time, and other amalgamating circumstances,
they have constructed-we have constructed-many magic sessions. And
of good quality. No one can, I believe, argue against that.

From that point, every authentic secular miracle, whether ritualized 3. The Ideal Goal
with playing cards or numbers or little pocket knives or colors or thoughts We can settle for that. But I believe that, as an ultimate goal, only those
or gazes, will acquire the shape and presence of a lightning bolt, a lively who, loving the art of magic to the marrow and believing in its power,
and glimmering light accompanied by thunder, a deep rumble and a high have wished for, hinted at and almost come to participate in one of those
vital potential. orgasmic and orgiastic magic sessions; only those who fearlessly entered
The ex-spectators and the ex-performer will be forever present. the emotional-magical enclosure and have been touched, shaken, rotated,
Inextinguishable. Because it has become part of them. elevated, transformed, blinded and illuminated by the strengths created
The magic storm will touch us, perhaps in a different way, and surely by imagination and mystery; only those who have enjoyed the possible
with a variable quality, but undoubtedly with tremendous power. Whether reality of what they had imagined to be impossible, the profound reason
it blinds us or illuminates us, deafens us or opens our ears, throws us of incoherent dreams, or the internal and true sense of wishes formally
against the ground or levitates us to the heavens, will depend on each of rejected for being impossible; only those know, only those have managed
us. On how we are. And how we feel. to see, only those have found out through emotions, what magic truly is.

Magic and Art

The "magic of art", "as if by magic", and "the art of magic" are expressions
that refer to the effect of magic, excluding its original sense with esoteric
and occult connotations. We are talking about magic as illusion.

The Magic of Art

But can there be art without magic? When we say of a painting, a dance or
a piece of music that there is magic in it, we are talking about magical fas-
cination and magical enchantment. However, aren't fascination and charm,
in a certain way, part of our aesthetic pleasure; or, in other words, art?

As Ifby Magic 3
This refers to something that doesn't seem natural, that doesn't seem to
obey the laws of nature. But this expression refers mostly to the means,
the execution, the technique, and is equivalent to "through magical means".
3. The original Spanish expression "par arte de magia" is a commonly used
phrase. The author makes a point of the inclusion of arte in this saying. The
English equivalent, "as if by magic'; doesn't include the word art, but art is
implicit in the expression, meaning "as if by artful magic".-TRANS.

The Art of Magic

This is where we talk about our magic as illusion, of the authentic art that ~e certainly artistic differences _between large illusions ( close to
is capable. of expressing beauty, of conveying our own world, our personal and mentalism ( close to theater), as there are differences in the n
vision, to others. This is done through a specific language that makes the performing conditions and individual nuances of manipulttion ( almost
aesthetic emotions resonate, and that is charged with a huge symbolic visual poetry) and close-up magic with coins, knives-cards/ ( an exciting,
potential: the art of the emotion of the impossible, of the supernatural. An at times provocative, intrusion of the absolutely impo~sible, of mys-
art that plays-a key word here-with wishes and dreams, a first cousin ·~-~,..,.,·,"' secular miracles, into our everyday reality, with us as participants
of dance and drama, a brother of poetry and surrealism, the father of mov- in the rite). Analyzing those differences would require much more space
ies and the son of mythology. It is, in a certain way, the art of making us needless to say, much more time to meditate on.
witness myths and their symbols as living things.
Wishes, Petitions Pleas ( to Others, to Myself)
Something beyond a performance, much more than a show, a thou-
sand leagues beyond entertainment. A very beautiful and fascinating art, May we experience the extremely beautiful art of magic.
May we join Hofzinser, Fu Manchu, Slydini, Vernon, Ascanio, Kaps and
the art of illusion.
Rene Lavand.
Definitions May we respect our art.
Magic: The art of lying to create illusion, without true deception. May we love it.
Magic: Dreaming while awake. May we find the way to express, to reveal, ourselves through it.

Magic: Wishes, dreams and myths that we consider impossible (still), May we more and more enrich our personality, our inner world, with

experienced in reality (apparently). the assimilation of words written, music performed, images that appear to
move, the shapes and colors that impregnate canvases; and then our per-
Requirements sonal experiences: joy and pain, laughter and sadness, fears and loves ...
The art of magical illusion also needs its talismans and objects of power (the all these to express later through our games of illusion and our artifices
magician's wand when used with due artistic respect), its rites, gestures and of fascination.
spells (when executed and spoken with artistic credibility) and by all means, May we study the craft with the humility of an artisan, may we come
a symbolism (visible or concealed) that charges it with truth and power. to master it, or be left on the road to mastering: digital technique; the
Nothing is further from the See what I can do or the J bet you don't techniques of the body and the gaze, their coordination, their tensions and
know how I did it. It is, in tum, very close to causing the exciting chill relaxations; the feelings that trigger words to suit them and that will enrich
of disappearance-death, the joy of appearance-creation, the amazement
1 the magical effect; the handling of pauses, rhythm, timing; the fine-tuned,
of paradox (something that is and is not at the same time) and the gasp subtle, as well as powerful, control of attention, both physical and men-
of astonishment at experiencing (for a time, at least) the impossible, the tal; the ever-changing, eternal study of the spectator's psychology, of his
miraculous, the supernatural, the logical, without being tied to physical mental reactions, his perception, his memory; the combined management
laws. As a dream. As the untouchable, unreachable and unreal Rainbow: of the parenthesis of forgetfulness and in-transit actions; the evocative
an illusion. Beautiful. Exciting. Art. hooks that enhance the luminous Comet Effect, cancel false solutions,

guard against the spectator's becoming lost in the true solution and make On the Essence of the Art of Magic
him willingly join us along The Magic Way in our journey toward the fas--
cinating effect. The true problem, in my judgment, is not answering the questions: Is magic
And. all this amidst the party, like a game, with the joy and happiness an art? Is it a high art? A low art? First there is the diffifulty of defining
of the creator, the artist, achieved at times through dramatic, continuous art. (A classic definition is: an expression of oneself throu~h beauty.) Then
and dedicated work in search of the precious stone, the jewel, the dia- there is the near impossibility of clearly distinguishing high art from low
mond, which we then extract unharmed from the rock, to polish it and art. What is the real importance of magic's inclusion academically among
shape it and fix it into an optimal mounting, allowing it to shine more the arts, whether they be high or low, grandiose or minimal?
strongly, purely and beautifully. We will not consider this most difficult problem, not only because of
May we achieve with our magical art the maximum expression of the reason just given, but also for a more valid one: As always in life, the
ourselves, a maximum of suggestions, a maximum of causes for emotion human factor is the most important thing-to us humans, of course-and
and poetry. although the human factor does play a key role in the constitution of the
All with our deeply loved art of magic. audience, the recipient of our magic, there is another human factor of
utmost importance in our art-for, as you can see, I take for granted that
magic is an art. That factor is the guide, the issuer, the artist: the magkian.
That's where I believe our art sometimes fails. The performer, the
magician, doesn't believe his art is art, and doesn't attempt to express
himself and reveal his inner world and his way of living within his outer
world. He doesn't feel, in the deeper meaning of the word, like an artist.
That's where the root of the problem lies: not so much in the recipient
(the public, the social viewpoint on magic, etc.) as in the transmitter.
Do magicians feel that their art is art, and therefore wish to express
themselves through it; or do they simply regard it as entertainment (for
themselves and for the audience), as nothing more than fun (and nothing
less, by the way)?
Heel that for something to be a work of art-independent of its qual-
ity-it needs someone isolated from reality Gust that?) who invites us to
appreciate the beauty of that something by expressing himself through
it; through that something, through the work and through his election or
creation of it. At one boundary, illuminated by Duchamp and his ready-
mades (objects would be transformed into works of art by the sheer will
of selecting them and isolating them from that reality they inhabit, pre-
senting them as works of art, as objects of arts, not real any more but
ex-real), we all know and have agreed that that is almost the only condition Some
required to regard something as a work of art. From the urinal-fountain (Also Self-Provoking)
to the tableware, tablecloths and leftover food stuck to a vertically hung
tabletop, modern art (modern for today) supports and enjoys a beautiful Do we consider that art has no objective or practical use other than sheer
and fruitful creative freedom. And the human factor in the authorship is, pleasure and aesthetic joy?
to my understanding, absolutely essential to the artistic consideration of The simple photo we took as a souvenir while on vaca~on or at a gather-
something. Not even the most beautiful sunset, or the abstract paintings ing with friends, is it art? What if we took it carefully, caring for the framing,
that a chimpanzee could produce on a white canvas (beautiful as they focus and lighting? Is it art? How about the trilling of birds? Is it art?
might be) can ever be regarded as works of art, because they lack expres- Would the photo be art if-independent of the conditions and our
sion from a human being. They might cause in us observers emotions and objective (objective as in goal, not as in lens)-we hung it in a photogra-
profound and joyful sensations, but I don't believe anyone can regard phy exhibition?
them as works of art. Note: In the questions above we are not judging the quality of the result.
Still, without reaching that boundary (one that is certainly valid), I Or perhaps it might not be thought of as art when we can evaluate its
believe that our "magic games" (a beautiful combination of words) will quality by objective criteria. If our aim, for example, is to remember the
be artistic the moment they convey the inner world of the magician to the faces of those who got together that day, it is essential that they are in
spectators. This is not done by chance-for any action, gesture, word or focus, so that we can recognize them; while, if it was taken with an artistic
attitude of a human being expresses something about himself, whether aim (expressing ourselves through that picture), an almost absolute and
he wants it to or not-but through the free and voluntary will of the magi- intentional blur could have considerable artistic value.
cian (now artist) conveying feelings, emotions, his deepest and richest Having said the above, would it be possible to assess a work of art
inner world, his innermost being, his persona, his own personal or com- objectively, or can it be valued only subjectively: "It moves me," "It tells
munal loves and fears, his wishes and his dreams, through his "magic me something," etc.?
games", his impossible and fascinating miracles, told in a beautiful and Is there a minimum level of quality in magic below which it is not magic
harmonious language. any more, when we define magic as the "art of the impossible and fascinat-
Summing up, I think that to elevate magic to an artistic level, the first ing"? Would that minimum level be when the trickery-the cause that turns
requirement is that the magician believes in his magic as art and tries to the seemingly impossible into the perfectly possible-is seen or perceived?
express himself through it. To express himself, not just to be liked, and not Wouldn't it be the same level for movies-which are after all a game
just to fulfill the wishes of his audience for amusement and entertainment, ofillusion, a magic trick-if we were to see on camera the stage elevators,
regardless of how well that is accomplished and of how highly interesting the microphones, the technicians or the artificiality of a rear projection?
that function could be in the context of our vital and social destiny. And, Would this take us out of the supposedly intimate and loving atmosphere
of course, the richer our inner world, and the more intensively and harmo- and prevent us from regarding it as artistic by not allowing us to feel and
niously that inner spiritual world in us is expressed, the higher the artistic believe the artistic truth of the scene?
quality our beautiful, mysterious and symbolic magic tricks will have: a Does any other art share the existence of this essential minimal level?
quality they will acquire-as if by magic. Is there, then, an objective valuation of quality in art?

as and Magic as Show Let's remember how a painting, a poem or a movie that is barely com-
or is a total commercial failure can endure and be exhibited, and
The only goals of certain magic venues are making money and entertain- such lasting works continue to b(t created, when they express ( or at 0
ing. The show must be liked by the audience. It's a requirement. If a trick least attempt to express) the author. 1

from the show continuously receives little or no applause, the producer Otherwise, the enriching and marvelous works of Ka:q<:a, Kandinsky,
and the magician himself will agree to remove it from the program, or at Monet and Orson Welles-to name a few that are classics today but were
least improve or alter it to please the audience. Only the taste and sensi- damned in their time-could not have survived.
tivity of the performer will dictate the lower limit he will accept to make So a possible approach to a personal criterion as to whether we want
a trick be liked. Such limits do exist in these venues and for the dignified to be artistic performers (I insist yet again, without comparing the worth
performers working them. of our work as a human activity) would be this: If we agree to include in
The lower limits defining a minimum level of quality barely exist, or our show or performance only those tricks that are liked by the audience,
are very near zero, for television networks, producers and many entertain- and we remove all those that are not liked-even if we feel them and they
ers on worldwide commercial television. express our sense of self-then we are not artistic performers.
But the final verdict on whether something can or cannot be in a show On the contrary, we are artistic performers if what guides us in the
will rest on its entertainment value for a majority of the audience. The composition of the show is our desire to express ourselves, even if our
public rules. true expression might not appeal to or be liked or understood by some or
That is not the case with movies, theater, painting or music regarded all of the spectators.
as "artistic", but it is so with such forms as the so-called ( often wrongly) There is, naturally, no clear division of attitudes; we all, in varying
"commercial" modes-popcorn movies, music for the masses, hit songs, degrees, have a part of each in us: "artist" and artist.
etc.-even though these could be dignified works by wonderful perform- We can still be, most certainly, good or bad artists, capable or failed
ers worthy of admiration, performers who amuse us and entertain us and artists. But who is to define and decide?
leave us endearing memories. To continue playing with such themes, we could aim above all for
In those other arts just mentioned-and I believe the same is true in applause, for the external brilliance, the amusement, the sensationalism,
magic-it is the will, above all, of the author, the creator, the performer, the glamour or commerciality; or we could be more guided by the attempt
that transforms, through his wish to express his inner world, a performer to express ourselves, by the richness and depth of our inner world, by our
into an artist. (I continue to avoid judging the quality of the final work.) way of looking at the external world and conveying our dreams expressly
It will happen in magic just as it happens in movies, music, painting, or symbolically.
sculpture and literature: Although we take into account the reasonable We can choose either one set of values or the other, although I believe
desire of the artist for his work to reach and move his audience, that will and expect that it will almost always be a combination of the two. But
not be the final arbiter of artistic communication; neither will it be appeal here my concern is with which values end up dictating our priorities, the
that determines the permanence of such work in a show, which by now is essential values of our creative and performing process. We can choose,
an artistic one. The important thing, the essential thing, will be the expres- I repeat, either harmonic and beautiful construction or the cocktail that
sion of the performer through the language specific to magic. "works"; either the truth and authenticity of what we communicate or

an acceptance, within limits, of the demands of the audience; either sen-

sitivity in communication or a certain sensationalism; either the quest
for knowing and enriching ourselves or that of the public knowing and
"enriching" us; and, finally, either the desire of feeling and communicating
ourselves through beauty or the concern of I hope they like it.
The answer and the choice lie within each of us.
It's -your turn.

Post Scriptum:
I am very conscious of the danger that lies in big words like culture, art,
graveness, seriousness, and of the disastrous consequences to which they
can lead us, making us rather arrogant at times, paralyzing us at others
and occasionally deceiving us. And I needn't tell you how I find myself in
that continuous quest and choice, often in combination, of values; nor do THE MATERlAL: DREAMS
I want to hide that, in recent times I have become more and more aware
of my most intense desire and my innermost truth. Dreams of Magic
A magician enters a dream.
What prodigies can he conjure up?
What astonishment can he cause?
The universe of dreams
is the kingdom of the prodigy taken for granted
(how to open your eyes in astonishment as you sleep?).
There is no room for "How!"
"Impossible!" has no meaning.
But, in turn, the pleasing, the fascinating, the fantastic and the
wonderful are the very essence of the dream.
The amazement and the astonishment
occur on awakening
with a How is it not possible?
The "reality", during a few moments,
is flat, limited, small,
Somewhat miserable and, needless to say,
and perhaps because of it,
30 31

incredible. (Magic as .
(The sensual and exciting knowledge of dreams.) an advance of the dream.)
Open your eyes in order not to see? In any case
Tum on the light to blind ourselves? welcome, dear magic.
Wake up completely, for what?
The usual oblivion of the dreamed is forgiving;
it spares us the comparison with reality.
To sleep is not to die if there is dreaming.
To live is to vegetate if there is no dreaming.
A portion of dreams
is served to us by magic.
And an air of life.
Magic, then, like ...
memory of the dreams,
rebellion against oblivion,
freedom for the dreamed wishes.
Magic doesn't imprison the dreams in reality
to transform it into dreams.
Perhaps a certain magic is
a memory of an old ancestral and forgotten reality?
And, perhaps, yes, an evocative kind of magic
but also a foreshadowing
of other possible dreams.
And, of course, a kind of magic
that generates dreams yet undreamed.
Thus a freeing, liberating, Houdiniesque magic.
Opioid magic?
Quite possibly a magic
that boosts the sense of
the wonderful not-yet-possible.
The dream sends magic
to reality
for it to announce its forthcoming arrival.
moving toward, from and parallel with the action, through the air
en inside the brain. Spatial unifo~ity and temporary continuity ver-
To wit: Theater represents, is, the reality of everyday life, the great the- ·umps and mixtures of geographic locations, condensations of time,
J '
ater of the world. Actors, flesh-and-blood people, represent-act-are. They el actions, flashbacks, etc.
w1 as witnesses.

are really there. And our positions in our theater seats are felt by us as Features of reality against features of dream. And
a testimonial to what is happening there. We feel c;mrselves witnessing \.\\l!itI1tes:se1:, of the reality. Witnesses of the dream.
what is happening in front of us. And that which happens could be lyrical, How does magic, our illusionistic magic, fit into all thii3?
dramatic, sad, cheerful, interesting or very touching. But these are events Magic, as does film, deals with dream; yet, like theater, it takes place
that could have happened; events we could have experienced as witnesses the realm of reality. Real people carry out actions extracted from
or spies when they hypothetically would have taken place. In that case, U ..Ll..,U,ALU.J,
and are witnessed from a unique, normal, physical point of view,
we are witnessing something belonging to reality, although perhaps to an in an outrageous and fantastic environment where there is no place
imagined reality that never happened, that never will happen-but a pos- the laws of space and time (for example, ubiquity, predictions ... ).
sible reality nevertheless. Theater is, therefore, a mirror of reality. Magic is produced in an environment like that of theater ( close-up
On the other hand, there are movies. Inside the theater, in the dark, we magic is something else; we'll get to that later) but with contents like
feel carried away, immersed in what happens on the screen. And we for- those of movies.
get about ourselves; or more precisely, we forget about being witnesses, Magic presents us with dreams spun into reality.
spectators. I am not saying that, like Buster Keaton's extraordinary mov- There are two distinct styles of magic: stage magic, which has us play
ie-projectionist in Sherlock, Jr., we live the actions of the movie inside spectators, witnesses; and close-up magic, which allows us to be actors,
the screen and take part in the development of the story. What I'm say- participants.
ing is that the combination of darkness, the huge size of the figures, the But whether we are spectators or participants, the reality is the same:
power of sound and lighting, etc., produces in us a kind of hypnotic fas- the dream. When we say magic presents the impossible, we mean and
cination that prepares us to feel like witnesses of a dream. Movies are a should say: the impossible in reality but the possible in dreams-things like
mirror of dreams. appearances and disappearances of characters, sudden transformations
We find ourselves as witnesses of two different events: the theatrical of one character into another, contents that are larger than thetr container,
event, as a possible reality; and the movie event, as a possible dream. reappearances of characters who have just died, walking through the air,
Real people versus shadows, images of people. Actions extracted levi~ting, flying, absolute disregard for physical laws (gravity, impenetra-
from a more or less everyday reality versus actions extracted from bility of solids ... ), gratification of conscious and subconscious wishes (an
dreams. Events we ,could have witnessed-conversations movement abundance of goods, money, food; creation; resurrection; knowledge of
' ' the future; divination of thoughts; total control of risk and fortune; X-ray
actions that occur or are simulated on stage-against events that we
could have never, or hardly ever, have been witness to-incredible gal- vision; instant translocations; ubiquity... ).
lops, the flight of Superman, the burning of Rome, etc. A regular, natural, That's why we are so interested in knowing what dreams are, how
normal and unique point of view from our seats versus multiple, unusual, they develop and why. That's why we are so interested in knowing their
outrageous, at times impossible viewpoints from above, below, amidst the measure and the true nature of our most private wishes.
And so we begin to glimpse something of the true essence of illu~ Magic Movies, Theater, Television
sionistic magic and its huge power to fascinate: its ability to make us be . (and Close-up Magic)
genuinely present, at least for the duration of suspension of disbelief, in
of my first more-or-less theoretical articles (written over forty years 0
the experienced environment of dreams and desires.
I said that illusionistic magic didn't work in movies. lt produces no
Therein lies, in part, its specificity within theater, movies and other 1
t. Hitchcock had already said this. 4
arts: to see our most wanted dreams and wishes ma~e possible in reality.
One reason to explain this is that the people in a movie audience feel
We are talking about the magic of desire.
think, for obvious reasons, that there will be camera tricks: cutting
We are talking about the magic of dreams.
editing, special effects, CGI, etc.
Furthermore, in fictional movies, we know and feel that what we are
...·,,.,.,.n,,ncr is a set story,.events that were not genuinely happening at the time
.u..1..L• .........
( unlike documentaries) and that never happened. We're viewing
work carefully and laboriously crafted through many days or months
shooting, with images later manipulated and edited. The impossible
cannot survive this process and our knowledge of it. It disappears imme-
diately. It is not even presented.
We can see that the same thing can happen to magic on television.
Camera and editing tricks are too easy to believe.
And yet magic on television does reach us and touch us, sometimes in a
powerful and lasting way. The best-known magician of recent times is David
Copperfield, thanks to his television specials. Two of my favorite stage illu-
sionists are Richiardi, Jr. and Kio. Another two are the Pendragons and
Moretti. I have been touched by them, I have felt the fluttering of mystery,
the extremely strong impact of the fascinating It's not possible. And yet, I
haven't had the joy of seeing any of these performers live. Nevertheless,
the memories of their wonderful and powerful miracles (Richiardi Jr. 's
Vanisrung Lady and Broom Suspension, Kio's Telephone Booth and The
Lion) live in me, and every time I recall them, I feel a deep and delicious
chill down my spine. Such wonders! Such beauty!
4. Hitchcock/Truffaut by Frarn;ois Truffaut, 1966, Simon and Schuster: New York
Since my first encounter with this book, I have consistently recommended it to
magicians, for its monumental teachings, imparted by "the magician of suspense".
The concepts of suspense, a rigorous script, artistic honesty, control of attention
on screen, control of interest, etc., are perfectly defined. It is an essential text.
36 '27

Another example is the enormous number of people who have been . more depth in the section on "Conflicts in Magic and Their
touched by Lavandian magic-only through television. ' 1Il
of Interest" (p. 239). I refer you there.
So magic on television does reach and touch people, while in movies Television, in turn, is only a means: an instrument to see reality, much
it doesn't. Why?
sophisticated than, but not essentially different in its use from, a
And in theater? Magic within a musical comedy-such as Beauty and opera glasses. Television brings us near somethin$ far away. We
0f . '
the Beast, with its magnificent effects (The Talking ~ead, the transforma- ·ve it as a transmission, not as a representation. Even -When we know
tion of the beast into a prince), brilliantly solved by Jim Steinmeyer-are the program we are watching (not a fictional work, not a series and
perceived as special effects within the play. No one perceives them as a movie) is not being broadcast live, we perceive it ,as being in the
something impossible. 5 They are simply integrated theatrical effects; they t or at least"as a preservation of something recorded live. We look

are part of the drama, of the story and, although we don't know how they at reality through the television and that's where, in that reality, that the
are done, we don't wonder about it. We are not there to respond to the ,tmpossible can hit us. Needless to say, we need to be able to trust that
logical challenge, to the challenge of reason. We are there as passive spec- ·neither the magician nor the director is using camera tricks.
tators ("watchers"), not as active spect-actors. This is why trust is necessary in magic on television; but no more so
The question persists: In movies, why doesn't magic touch us, why tltan in live performances, where we need to take for granted that stooges
doesn't it reach us? And why is it received, as are magical effects in a are not being used. Otherwise, how interesting can half of our impossible
theater play, with I don't know how it works and I'm not interested now · tricks seem, especially those in the category of mental effects? This leads,
because I'm absorbed in the story? '
in a lateral way, to another related theme: close-up magic. Now we can
In the case of movies (the representation of dreams) this happens better understand the strength of the impossible in close-up magic, the
because, as I said earlier, 6 there is nothing impossible in the realm of real close-up magic, which takes place not only close to the spectators
dream, the kingdom of anti-logical transformations. but among the spectators and with the "spect-actors". This close,..up magic
Besides that wholly sufficient reason, there is another that movies and has, as we have all tested as performers and spectators, a huge impact,
theater share: Our magic is a presentation of the impossible in reality. But incredible, brutal at times.
movies and theater are representations, the former of dreams, the latter of Here I am talking about the true close-up magic, 7 which utilizes and takes
reality. Magic, then, would be, within them, a presentation within a repre- advantage of all the options and features of this specific art wit~ the art of
sentation, which is to say a re-representation, distanced a second or third magic: maximum proximity of all spectators, the capacity for spontaneous
level from reality. It is a severely weakened reality. participation,
,.,, spectators' physical contact with the objects in, or with, which
And the ,impossible within a near nonreality has no power, it doesn't the magic is produced. Sometimes they experience even physical contact
move us, doesn't se~m impossible to us, but is only a representation of with the magician; they touch the miracle maker, the one with "the power",
the impossible. I will analyze this point of magic and theater, magic and the prodigious one. Close-up magic can allow them to be a "live stage" on

5. See the very interesting analysis by Iurgi Sarasa in his essay about magic
which certain "miracles" occur: The coin changes in a spect-actor's hand!-
viewed from the standpoint of social psychology, published in the Circular of They tell you what you 're thinking!-The cards in a spect-actor's pocket
the Escuela Magica de Madrid, Feb. 1999, p. 73. 7. Or parlor magic that turns into close-up magic when the magician moves
6. See "Dreams of Magic", p. 29.
around and performs among or with the spectators.
multiply! ... That's why it is so fascinating and wonderful and makes you feel
experiences that are unforgettable and indelible. That's why I almost always
search only for close-up magic situations, even when I present shows in a Secret Miracles
theater. I try to get as close as possible to the sensation of reality, an.d I use
the same lighting for the stage and for the house, to avoid creating two dif-
ferent spaces. There is, rather, one continuous spac~, only one, to make the What is Magic?
spectators feel they are within an everyday reality, and to remove them as 1. Reconciling in the individual the imaginary and t11e real.
2. When the paradise that is offered merges with desire.
far as possible from the sensation of a show. 8 And that's also why I attempt a
3. A time when there is a longing for the pre-logical attitude.
maximum of interaction with the spectators who come onstage, who partic-
4. When the isolation between actors and spectators, creators and
ipate (and dance!), the spectators I approach and with whom I mingle where
they are seated, those who come and go, and those who shout the name of contemplators, is broken.
a selected card in unison, throw clouds of cards into the air and yell, "Out!" 5. An event full of symbolism.
6. Searching for the wonderful to free us from logic.
exorcising the most feared demons (war, death, poverty, grief... ). 9
7. A special sensitivity in facing the poetic power of myths.
But back to our original subject and to summing it up:
8. An intention to play freely with the identity of objects.
The presentation of magic in movies (dreams) is not perceived as
impossible. Magic in movies and theater (re-representation) has no 9. To call tobacco what is ear.
10. Reaching the Supreme Secret: where life and death, past and
impact, while magic on television is perceived as tele-viewed in reality
future, the real and imaginary cease to be perceived as contradic-
and can be very powerful.
But live magic is the one form that, logically and naturally, presents tory elements.
the impossible and the fascinating in reality and with maximum impact- Material required
and that is a lot! Books on surrealism by Jose Pierre.
8. I do have my problems with theater directors who, with the best intentions, want Quotations from Benjamin Peret and Rene Magritte.
to light my stage performance in a way that creates two spaces, two realities, and The second surrealist manifesto of Andre Breton.
who wish to produce an "atmosphere of magic" with lights, colors and effects,
while putting the audience in total darkness; all of which is theater. They tend
to regard me as an eccentric, ignorant of the theatrical art. And they are right. The ten phrases I used for responding to "What is magic?" are actually

9. This is aµ approach opposite ( only in this) to that of the great Rene Lavand. He paraphrases of answers by surrealist painters and writers to "What is sur-
almost always pr~sents stage magic, even if he performs it close to the specta- realism?" I have only substituted the word "magic" for "surrealism".
tors: his diction, more theatrical, his expression through gestures, his stories, It's useless trying to demonstrate a greater parallelism, or rather con-
his magic, all with scarce participation by the spectators. I clearly remember vergence, between magic and surrealism. If you read the phrases again,
the time I said to him, during one of my television series, "Rene, we '11 rehearse
you will experience it for yourself.
now with cameras, and this afternoon we'll shoot, when the audience arrives."
But even without such demonstrations, the parallelism is proved when
To which he answered, "No, I prefer to do it now, alone with the camera."
looking at Victor Brauner's painting "The Surrealist" and the paintings of
These are, I believe, two equally valid artistic approaches.
N 40

~ Rene Magritte, the objects of Man Ray, the movies of Cocteau and the l sensitivity in facing the poetic power of myths.
~ writings of Breton. ent: Echo and Narcissus, <;}alatea, Pandora, Thor, Siegfried,
Indian, Chinese and Aztec mythologies .... What are they if not dra-
~ Comments f enormous poetic beauty? When will they be broug~t to the stage?
~ I

~ Nevertheless, here is one comment by me on each of the ten answers above: · present, again or finally, a levitation like the Ascen~ion. (Brachetti
done it), ventriloquism like the legend of Echo, a fa~r feat like The
Reconciling in the individual the imaginary and the real.
of the Nibelung, a play of mirrors and flowers like the,' transformation
Comment: In magic, "It is or it is not; that is not the question."
cissus? Can there be a good magician, a truly good magician, who
When the paradise that is offered merges with desire. 't lean on mythology, whether he is conscious of it or not? Universal
Comment: From here arose the theory of the magic of desire. logy: a classic of good magic. Passionately recommended.
The time when there is a longing for the pre-logical attitude. intention to play freely with the identity of objects.
Comment: As with very young children, before the grid of logic traps Comment: That's what Magritte said about his painting. That's how the
our minds. As with a very primitive place, before culture and civilization ,cian works. A ball that is a handkerchief that is a flower that is a smile
restricted our freedom, reduced our fantasy, limited our imagination and a goodbye. Or a Hello! full of hope. Are surrealistic objects (Duchamp,
killed our intuition. Ray, Picasso ... ) magical objects or do they ask for the magical?
When the isolation between actors and spectators, creators and Magical objects (wands, boxes, cards, cups ... ) are or will be surre-
contemplators is broken. alistic when they fulfill their function: to be and not to be, to change, to
Comment: Magic is an art in which the spectators participate actively, transform, to grow, to be, to disappear, to be again, not to be again. At the
with physical actions, and can alter the development of a trick This is same time: not to be and be.
fully applicable to close-up magic. Isn't it beautiful? Example of a surrealistic and magical object: Clayton Rawson's egg-
beater used as a thought transmitter.
An event full of symbolism.
Comment: In Conjured Up, S. H. Sharpe wrote: "All magic is symboli- To call tobacco what is ear.
cal, even when the artist is not conscious of the fact." This is demonstrated Comment: Magritte says it, Magritte does it. The magician makes you
by Luis Garcia, Eugene Burger, Robert Neale, myself and others, in our see that what is an ear is tobacco.
search for magic symbols hidden in classic tricks. Reaching the Supreme Secret: where life and death, past and
Searchingfor the wonderful to free us from logic. future, the real and imaginary cease to be perceived as contra-
Comment: A spectator who saw Slydini's Helicopter Card: "It is not dictory elements.
possible! ... but it is." It's a paradox; logic is useless. Magic is an escape (tem- Comment: Words of Breton in the second manifesto of surrealism.
porarily) from the ties of the sometimes excessive and almighty reason. If that is not magic-and the objective of magic ...
"Magicians: Surgeons of the absurd crowned with a top hat."-from Magic is the harmony between contradictory opposites.
an interview with Juan Tamariz by Quico Rivas in El Pais Semanal. And then ...
The humble craft of making possible what was said to be impossible.
Long live the absurd-the e~d of the impossible!
N 42
~ The sane art of showing a utopia achieved, which makes us live our
~ dreams (to fly, to be invisible, to create ... ), which helps us go through the
~ mirror and enter the paradise of granted wishes, which liberates us from
;::s the force of gravity. Like this:
"""l I) From Force
Beautiful weapons were those that the magician transformed into
inexhaustible taps of wine, into orange throwers, hempseeds, atomic soap
bubbles, nice tanks, three-cornered neutrons. When the magician turned
them into frogs, soft snow and large beds with mattresses.
2) From Gravity
Frogs that sing and jump over the snow, which melts into white mead-
ows that half cover the inviting bed: joy, laughter and love.
3) From Magicians
Oh, magicians!
Jugglers of reality and dreams, escape artists from all jails, shackles TO WHOM lS lT ADDRESSED?
and cells of physical and mental torture. Ventriloquists with a thousand
voices, some false, many real, all nonexistent and free. Mockers of Cronos, Magic Is Only for Children
with their Cortazar-style mirror, which foresees and reflects the future.
Preliminary thoughts:
Supplanters of Zeus, no Zeus left standing, neither a Zeus with a head,
From what they tell us, due to the evolution of our species, each of
no Zeus who can deal with them. From Zeus, Zues, from Zues, Suez and
us has several layers in the brain, each covering another: the saurian
Nuez, which is Nut in Spanish.
brain (instinct), the mammalian brain ( emotion), the primate brain
And inside the nut, the rolled-up banknote that is missing the precise
corner being held by the stunning lady in the third row...
With this there would come some form of memory of what we have
You may check:
been throughout the evolution of our species. And our species would be
a summation of all previous phases. We would retain instincts, emotions
and4ntelligence to constitute our present species: the human species.
Likewise, I believe that we as individuals keep memories of all the
phases of our personal evohition. We are made of several layers: the new-
born, covered by the baby, the pre-logical child, then the logical child,
Like (Ex-)Zeus, they create and uncreate,
they believe and disbelieve, the teenager, the young man or woman, the youngster in his twenties, the

at will, dawning of our first maturity (thirty to forty), etc.

but without a reason, for its own sake, without aim or measure, for fun. I also think that each of these "persons" covers but doesn't dissolve
Magicians. the others. We are all of them.

Each of us, each personality, is made of the last visible layer, but all adult is someone who possesses a viscous, impenetrable layer that
our previous persons are there, sometimes in a latent state, some loving 'and suffocates the young adven~er, the lyrical teenager, the magical
themselves, some struggling to come to the surface. leaving them choking inside. An adult is someone who seeks security
' ;

power, money and power, politics and power. Magic attemfts to dissolve
You also get a feeling that human activities capture the interest, call
attention to or fascinate different layers in a person. Here are general penetrate the layer of ma~ty (it can barely do so with the /adult layer) to
examples, perhaps interchangeable and subjective, .and suggested only h the pre-logical child, excitable, imaginative, a dreamer of ~possibilities.
for us fo understand each other: Magic is addressed to mature people, in addition to youngsters, so that
I believe poetry is especially addressed to the teenager within us: feel- can also laugh and feel the child they are.
ing, emotion, lyricism .... If, on top of that, the magic carries poetry, it will strike the sensitive
Sport as a show brings out the child possessing vitality and energy, the in the impossible dreamer (love), the teenager.
child we were around the ages of eight to twelve. If it includes play and participation, it will appeal to the child from
Trips re-experience the taste for adventure that the youngster has to eleven. If it carries intellectual adventure (how is that possible?),
from the age of fifteen to his early twenties. reaches the restless twenty-year-old. But essentially, it will search for
Science, research and discovery are intellectual adventures that fasci- the innocent, the intelligence unaware of the concept of "impossible", the
nate the young person from twenty-five to thirty who lives within us. pre-logical child.
Different styles of music and painting call and awaken different peo- Only by letting that child within us breathe can we savor and enjoy
ple-layers: the baby (rhythm, African dance ... ), the teenager (Chopin, magic in all its marvelous wonder.
impressionism in painting ... ), the child (rhythm, Klee, Chagall, Calder, -If we leave our imagination free to fly, liberated from logic
Kandinsky... ). -if we joyfully accept to play with little colored balls, handkerchiefs,
What about magic? little boxes and little wooden cars: toys
It obviously appeals to and fascinates the pre-logical child; fantasy, -if we can repeat the magic words and spells aloud, along with the
imagination, eagerness to play, the wish to fly, of being invisible, of trans- magician
forming things, of making whatever you want to appear or disappear -if we cherish the abracadabrian gestures and sprinkle magic dust,
without the interference of logic and so-called reality. feeling it in our fingers
To dream. -if we are capable of looking and feeling with innocence
The Three Wise Men, fairies, dwarfs, genii, witches, magicians .... 0:aly then will we be able to enjoy the immense fascination of magic,
That's why the prestidigitator, the magician, never fails to fascinate no matter whether we are the magicians or the spectators.
and enchant small children, those not yet seven. Their faces whenever It makes no difference, if we agree to dream, to mix fantasy and real-
they watch a magic show tell us that. That's why, at every children's party, ity, to play, to be enchanted, as we did with the Magi and Santa Claus
always and everywhere, kids most often ask for a magician, along with when they deliver gifts to us on the Feast of the Epiphany and Christmas,
other forms of magic such as puppets and balloon modeling. without asking ourselves how these workers of wonders could know our
So, does magic appeal to adults? wishes and requests, or how they can be everywhere on the same night, or
Adults, an ugly concept, an ambiguous little word sometimes .... how they can enter through the locked door of a house.
Only then will we feel the lost emotion of pre-logical and magical inno-
cence. Therefore, only if the magician is capable of finding that child in
others-and in himself!-will the magical spark occur.
And for that, I believe, he should be able to address and fascinate
with his tricks and demonstrations and miracles the young dreamer, that
adventurous boy who loves mystery, the mature person who is amazed
and enjoys having lived the impossible, momentary and joyful liberation of
reason-and he will have to do it (careful!) in the appropriate language for
each of them, in the language understood by the teenager, the youngster
and the mature adult, to be able to invite them all to discover, to show them
(and have them show themselves) the hidden child, the tender and magical
child that is perhaps dormant and is bored, lonely and forgotten inside.
Magic casts its spell when that child revives. That unveiling, almost at
times a resurrection, is the magic act. That's when magic appears.


The Process of Creation and Interpretation in Magic

I believe this attempt to approach the subject can be very useful for clari-
fying ideas and can serve as an analytical tool to understand magic and its
creative process better.
Let's attempt it in a schematic way.
1. The author of a trick possesses an inner world (ideas, beliefs,
defined personality, etc.), which has been shaped by his experiences, his
character, the acquired culture (artistic, historical and philosophical) and
surroundings (his external world).
We will diagram it like this, willingly ignoring the innate, inherited part
of his character:
N 50
~ 51
~ 2. The author also possesses a magical wisdom, a specific part of his
~ culture, which could be divided into two large zones: technical wisdom
~ (effects, sleights, methods ... ) and a magical culture (magic history, magic
~ philosophy, psychology... ). influerces

3. Points 1 and 2 give us this result:

5. The more magical wisdom or intuition this trick embodies, the more
it incorporates the inner world of the author, the more it expresses about
the author, the more traces of life there are in it, the more artistic it will be.
There are, therefore, many tricks that are amusements or pastimes
(no less than!), which express only the general magical emotion of an
apparent impossibility, of mystery. Others are more expressive and gather
certain expressive intentions that are clearly transmitted: multiple produc-
tions of coins and banknotes, the production or creation of living beings,
gambling demonstrations, escapes, decapitations, etc. In certain cases the
intention, the expressiveness of the trick is less clear, more obscured, or
is simply suggested, such as the Cut and Restored Rope (resurrection)
and Four Ace Assemblies (reunion of the four elements).
the other hand, as examples of tricks that are limited to the expres-
sion of the general emotion of mystery, an impossibility adding barely
4. The author devises or creates a trick In that act of creation all
I ) anything else, we have productions of thimbles, colored disks, etc.
the elements are included: his magical, technical and cultural wisdom, It is my belief, I'll repeat, that the more traces of life there are in an
and his inner world. If we believe in muses, the collective unconscious effect, the more expressive and artistic it will be, and the more deeply it
or any other form of human or divine inspiration, we could add that to will touch the spectators when they receive it or witness it at the end of
the scheme. I prefer to include it in the external world, to simplify things. the creative and interpretive process. It will be a trick that impresses them
Then the creative act would be as shown next. more, and therefore will last longer in their memories.
6. The trick at this point consists of two fundamental elements: \the
The transmission can take place through written means (book), visual
effect and the secret. In other words, the magical effect and the deceptio
form (video, DVD, Internet), a lecture or through personal instruction by
m~th od, ruse, etc. Example: The disappearance of a coin up the slee:,
the author or others.
usmg a Pull. e
9. The author might transmit only the bare bones of a trick--'--effect and
But if the trick contains a minimum of complexity, it will also carry method-to the future interpreter; or he might provide a fuller form by
a ~o~d d~se of magical structure-parentheses of forgetfulness, mental including the dramatic script, partial or complete. He might also transmit
m1Sd~rect10n, etc.-and an important dose of dramatic structure, with information about the creative process. 11
conflict, dramatic curves, a climax .... These components constitute alo We'll leave for a later time the assessment of the advantages and possible
·th h ' ng
WI t e patter and certain indications for the interpretation of the trick- disadvantages in transmitting to the interpreter the bare bones of the trick or
rhythm, pauses, attitudes, etc.-the dramagic script, as follows: including more elements, and the pros and cons of the means of communi-
cation (lectures, books, videos, etc.) used to convey the different elements.
At this point, the scheme is:
Technical method Effect
Magic structure Magic
structure Teaching
,( . )I jPerformerj
Dramatic structure Dramatic
structure Dramagic Learning
Patter Dramagic script
Indications for
Indications for
10. The trick has reached the interpreter from the author. The inter-
7. In general, the possibilities of the technical method have been studied preterwill have his own inner world and his own magical wisdom (technical
tho~oughly and deeply-moves, sleights, gimmicks, hand gestures, body and cultural), different from those of the author. Now the trick must be
~otwns, gazes, etc.-and the effect to some extent, although a lesser one- adapted by the interpreter to fit his personality, his technical knowledge,
its expressive possibilities, its communication of different emotions from his capacities. So a process of re-creation of the trick is initiated. The
the basic ones present in every magic · al effect (mystery, impossibility).10 degree of re-creation can be slight or thorough, depending o~ how many
But let's continue with the process of the trick: elements of the trick, as it has been received, are maintained (though they
will q,lways exist). Sometimes the re-creation can be as essential as the
8. The trick devised by the author must be transmitted to the inter-
creative process. Ascanio's "The Restless Lady" is obviously as deeply
preter and learned by ~im. (We will assume author and interpreter are not
one and the same.) personal as was Tenkai's "Card Flight", its model.
There are three elements participating in this process of re-creation: the
10. Always without forgetting the advice about the elements of magic structure original trick, with whatever it contains from the world of the author; the
(Robert-Houdin, Vernon, Ascarno
· .. •) , ofdramat1c
· structure (Fu Manchu, Slydini, inner world of the interpreter; and his magical wisdom. It looks like this:
perhaps myself... ), of patter (Rene Lavand, Jose Carrol Armando d M" l )
~ , e 1gue .. 11. For an example of that, see the attempt I made in "The Hypnotic Power of the
and ef1.ect (Sharpe, Delord, Burger, Neale ... ). .
Jokers" in Sonata, 1991, Editorial Frakson: Madrid, p. 192.

RE-CREATION Re~created Rehearsal Rehearsed

reter trick trick

13_The trick now need~ to be performed for one or morf other persons:
spectators. They are the receptors of the trick. But let'~ remember that
also receive many other things through the trick, enriched by a series
expressive and emotional elements. There are traces i:t;1 the trick of the
r worlds of the author and of the interpreter, traces of their respec-
e cultures, of their magical knowledge, of their magic culture, and even
.t>f the dramatic wisdom of the author, interpreter and magical director. In
·.;~ther words, if this process is sufficiently rich, expressive and artistic, it
Js not just a simple puzzle to solve but something much more interesting,
11. The interpreter now possesses an adapted (enriched?) trick and is ·tornplex and exciting: a magical effect created by the author, re-created by
prepared to rehearse it. This rehearsal is a long and sometimes complicated ·the interpreter and staged with the help of the magical director. Behind the
process. It includes the staging of the trick, the elements oflighting, music, prtef minutes occupied by the presentation, there are hours, days, months
rhythm, blocking, acting, etc.; components that could not be included in ~. . and sometimes years of creation, transmission, assimilation, adaptation,
their entirety by the author. That's the task of the interpreter, aided by his ;e-creation, rehearsal and study by two or three people. There is a whole
magical director, who can be the interpreter himself or someone else. 13 t world of creativity, efforts, study, expressiveness and emotions. In such
12. A trick, once studied and staged (still without an audience), is what we cases, the magical effect can eventually turn into a work of true art.
will refer to as a rehearsed trick, in a broad definition of the word rehearsed. Let's now look at the second phase of our schematic:
Diagrammatically, it looks like this:

12. See a very interesting approach to the subject in The Magic of Ascanio: The
Structural Conception of Magic, Jesus Etcheverry; 2005, Paginas: Madrid,
pp. 266-70. And while you are there, read the whole book. And learn. And enjoy it. .--------, Presentation

13. I would like to differentiate the magical director, who is acquainted with and
lives and knows and feels the magic and its features as a theatrical art (very
Magical director
different from theater or drama), from the theater director, who comes from
that field of the dr~atic arts and is able to make magic theatrical, to trans-
form the presentation into a representation, and in doing so weakens the
magical impact. A few of the good magical directors are Eberhard Riese in 14. We must remember that in this process of presentation, at the time
Germany, Henk Vermeyden in Holland, Georges Bell and Roden in Spain. And
the effect is performed for an audience, other variables come into play:
I've done a bit of that work as well.
the conditions of the venue, the positioning of the spectators (around the

magician, far, near, standing), the position of the table, the type of stage, It is impossible to elaborate here on the previous point, given its
· and complexity We will have to talk about the capacity of the
the number of spectators, the composition of the audience, its cultural 1mess ·
level, the current condition of the magician (happy, sad, healthy, sick .futi.e"1.'f'Jf':)rpi to provoke varying moods in people, of creating a playful feast, n
' communicating the rich inner world, of emanating energy, of receiving,
sleepy1 hungry, full ... ), interruptions, etc.; in other words, all the elements
that in magic, and more so in close-up magic, make every performance the spectator's reactions, of resonating with them, of expressing
turn, '
different and give every trick a unique presentation. That's where the per- 81\d transmitting their truth, their capacity to create a communicative atmo-
former also expresses and transmits all his values,· his energy, his inner sphere, of transforming the magical presentation into an ~ct of ~o~e (see,
world, his personality, his ability to improvise, his truth, his persona. Chapter 6, "The Seven Magic Veils", p. 357). I want to stress my opm1on that
Thus, there is a specific way to transmit the inner world of the inter- those who disregard this fundamental aspect of a magical presentation,
preter, one not so much through the trick as through the performance though that presentation may be admirable, transform it into a cold, tech-
itself. Let me explain: Jose Frakson performed a trick in front of an audi- nical, almost lifeless and scarcely artistic transmission of a trick
ence and in it he naturally expressed elements of his personality. But 16. Having reached the last component of the transmission (the spec-
independently, Frakson also revealed himself in an even more evident tators), it would seem we have finished our analysis. But something of
way through his performing style, his movement, his speech, his way of utmost importance is missing: The trick has been witnessed by the spec-
addressing the spectators, of looking at them, of smiling, of loving them. tators and has produced certain sensations in them. The trick seems
After all, "Magic is love" and "You should love what you do." unmodifiable; it is as it was during the presentation, period.
Frakson's communication of his inner world would have been similar But that's not the case. Not even close. At least I believe so.
if, instead of magic, he had been singing or telling stories. In fact, when Given the characteristics of magic-with its elements of mystery and
Frakson gave a talk about magic, in which he recounted anecdotes of his surprise, the spectator's possible search for solutions, the impact of the
life and miracles (quite literally), he conveyed his inner world, and we impossible on his logical mind, etc.-the magic trick is re-created and
were all completely receptive to this transmission of joy, wisdom, humil- re-elaborated by the spectator in his memory. The trick is, in fact, altered.
ity and goodness. The conditions the spectator believes to have coalesced during the trick,
I am convinced that in this communication lies the true secret of the its vicissitudes and even the magical effect itself are altered and trans-
interpreter, the reason why, regardless of the trick performed, he manages formed in an exaggerated form by the spectator during various mental
to reach, captivate and move the audience. That's the ultimate reason for processes: first, when he perhaps tries to understand the why, to find a
the success of some magicians, not discounting, of course, the more evi- way to embed it in his logical grid of thought without its grinding; second,
dent quality of their magic. when he remembers it in order to appreciate and enjoy it; third, when
The two· means of communication between the interpreter and the for some reason, after time, from minutes to years later, he evokes it for
spectators could be diagrammed as follows: himself and tells it to others (and they usually hear something amazing).
Human communication (energy, feast, love ... ) During this phase of permanence in the memory, tricks can vary
notoriously. This phenomenon of the changing process of a trick in the
memory is sometimes as fundamental as the whole preceding process of
Interpreter Re-created Rehearsed Presentation Spectator
trick trick creation and interpretation. It can be like a second re-creation of the trick.

I believe a good trick should be a comet, a brilliant point: the during

its presentation. And this comet has a long, luminous, beautiful and gradually
broadening tail: the trick in the memory of the spectator and in his frequent
and amazed evocations of it over time. This enhancement of the memory is
what I refer to as The Comet Effect, which I will analyze in Chapter 4 (p. 147).
Thus the diagram broadens:

17. To attempt to push this process nearer its completion, I should

point out that there are at least two elements we have forgotten.
The first is the cultural disposition of the spectators during the presen-
tation of the trick. I understand cultural disposition as the mental attitude
of the spectators toward the magic, their willingness to be moved, to per-
ceive the inner world of the magician, to make an artistic reading of the
magic feat and not simply to watch a more or less ingenious pastime. This
will obviously depend, for each spectator, on his or her personality. On a
general collective level, it depends on the attitude of the magician: Look
at this trick or See the beauty! It also, to a great extent, depends on the
cultural environment's perception of illusionistic magic. AN
When presenting a magic trick, we are not putting ourselves into the
same mental attitude we assume for listening and watching a musical con-
cert, classical or rock, a circus performance or a basketball game.
The second forgotten element relates to impromptu, or seemingly
impromptu, magic. 14 With this kind of magic, the author, the director and
the interpreter quickly gather for a very short time. The magician creates
an effect and presents it almost immediately. To do this, he must rely on
his magical knowledge, which must be deep and rich, and on his imagina-
tion and capacity to improvise.
Here, not without some fear that I may have forgotten an element of
major or minor importance, I conclude (for now) this analysis, hoping
that it serves as a template to better understand and assimilate the pro-
cess of creation, interpretation and reception of a piece of artistic magic.

14. See "Impromptu Magic" in Chapter 8, p. 397.


How Should It Be?

A LONG time ago, in the beginning, all my interest was focused on how
to conceal the secret of a trick. Later, I gradually became interested in the
presentation, on making the development of the trick interesting. Later
still, I concentrated on making it seem impossible, truly impossible. More
recently, I grew interested in the effect: His Majesty, the Effect.
Nowadays my attention is centered on the emotions, the experience,
on what the spectators feel during the development of the trick: before
the trick begins, during it and after it is over, from a moment later, a day
later, a month, perhaps even several years after.
I will now outline some of the values that make a good Magical Effect
for me.

A magical effect should be (for me, I insist): tmakes the magician: a Legend. .
arration ( sometimes made aloud to others, sometimes
anks to ora1n -
Initially . . . . . . .
voice to oneself). O
In its development. makes magic and the magical effect almost: a Myth. .
At the climax. . . . . Dramatic hidden symbolism of classic effects (sY/ffibolic magic) .
Thanks t o the ,
And intellectually . Impossible
y it be so. Amen.
Which produces . . . a Fascinating Experience
In such a way that it's . . Memorable
And over time, more and more. . Magical
That makes the magician . . . . .a Legend
And makes magic and the magical effect almost. .. a Myth

Let me explain:
Initially: Interesting.
That is, it must be appealing and should make people want to see it
(the magic of desire).
In its development: Exciting.
It should touch us and relate to our lives (sensations, people).
At the climax: Dramatic.
Thanks to the emotional development, thanks to the art of the pause,
thanks to the patter and to suspense (dramagic).
And intellectually: Impossible.
Thanks to the technique, to the method, to the psychology, to the inge-
nuity (False Solutions and The Magic Way).
Which produces: a Fascinating Experience.
Thanks, above all, to the magician's personality, which is expressed
through the art of magic (the magic of dreams).
In such a way tl{,at it's: Memorable.
Thanks to the evocative hooks, to the power of internal experience, to
the fluttering of mystery.
And over time, more and more: Magical.
Thanks to the desire of making it that way and to the affective distor-
tion of memory (The Comet Effect).

What Are They? Which Ones Are They?

Why Are They Classics?
Magicians and audiences like them, they are moved by them. Their appeal
is long-lasting. People have liked them and been moved by them for many
years, even centuries. And it seems these effects will continue to be liked
and continue to touch people for a long time.
Examples: Cut and Restored Rope, Linking Rings, Multiplying Billiard
Balls, Rising Cards, Miser's Dream, Six-Card Repeat, Egg Bag, Cups and
Balls, Coins through Table.
These are some of the many classics that come to mind. Many? Well,
I woo.Id call almost forty card tricks ( or more) and just as many non-card
tricks classics. I am deliberately excluding stage illusions, comedy magic
and mentalism from this essay. (See my personal and subjective list of
card classics in Appendix 2, p. 561, and a discussion of other branches of
magic in Appendix 3, p. 581.)
But what do these seventy to eighty classic effects have in common?
On reviewing their titles, the first thing that comes to mind is that they
are simple and direct. Simple in the sense that they are not intricate, and

direct in that they are not far-fetched. If coins are to go through a table ing or difficult is not enough. Having been loudly proclaimed an
' · .bility, it should be perceived a~ such.
they penetrate it without further ado. If rings are to become linked, they
link. There aren't any additional, minor or supplementary effects to dis. ll we are moving forward, but something remains to ,be mentioned: n
tract us. There are always six cards, the card rises, the egg is in the bag 1
a~le to repeat the effect, we recognize it should b brief without
· g· but that condition is fulfilled automatically by the effect
and then it's not. bonn, ,
The mere attempt to describe the effects makes me aware of another simple and direct. It also needs to be seen as an "impossible" effect
feature of them (perhaps a consequence of their simplicity and direct. spectators are to be interested in seeing it again. A puzzle intrigues
ness ): They are easily described in a few words: Four balls come out of impossible effect truly interests us. ·
one, a dove appears from a handkerchief, coins appear from everywhere. But haven't we said for centuries that the same effect should not be
While the first trait-a simple and direct effect-can be subject to ed twice, let alone several times? What of that?
individual judgment, the second trait-described in a few words-can It seems like a contradiction or, better expressed, a small technical
almost be measured in inches, the length of the text describing the effect. . It turns out that it should not be repeated; but it also turns out that,
However, if I observe carefully, I see that something special happens be a classic, it should be repeated, even several times.
in almost all the effects on my list: The effect is not performed just once Let's try to untie the knot. Should not be repeated doesn't have a magi-
but is repeated several times. It's never just one dove or just one coin ~al function but a defensive one. It should not be repeated, not because the
out of the ear. Neither is it just one multiplication of a ball. Two rings are ect isn't improved by repetition, but because in the repetition there is no
never linked and unlinked just once. and spectators will watch more closely. They know the result, they
ii"'t.1...,. r,'£'.~"J.a'"''

This third feature seems to give a hint of why these effects are classics. more time to think, they have more information, they watch every-
They are classics-which were, are and will continue to be liked- more carefully and might discover the secret and be disappointed.
because a simple, direct effect often means it is brief and, as such, the Ah! Then it isn't that an effect should not be repeated but that you
effect can be repeated without wearying the attention of the spectators; must be careful when you repeat it that the magic doesn't disappear.
with repetition, the mystery gradually increases, though not the surprise. Now it has become clear to me: Repeating is better.
More and more, the magic conflict increases, interest increases, the In fact, every time you do something magical that is strong and brief,
impossible becomes magically possible. But a doubt now arises: Can any you are usually asked directly or indirectly to repeat it. How many times
simple and direct effect be repeated? have you heard, "Can you do it again?"
I don't think so. It should be interesting the first time, and it needs Alurther trait then of a classical effect is that, for some secret reason,
to be a truly impossible effect. The simple and direct effect of a wrin- it may be repeated without being discovered, retaining its magic. But what
kled handkerchief that becomes unwrinkled would not work because it is that secret reason?
. ' I see an important point here. I'll begin by saying it doesn't depend on
doesn't seem impossible enough.
There are intriguing puzzle-like effects, that will never be classics, no the effect but on the method. In other words, the method should be inge-
matter how simple and direct they are, or how clever their methods are. nious, indetectable and repetition-proof.
So, to the trait of simple and direct effect, we could add another: I am about to be satisfied with this· thought when, reviewing the list
truly impossible (we might add miraculous, strong, etc.). Just curious, of classical effects, a new thought occurs: In some cases there is not a

single method, but several methods used in succession to achieve the djust as I am about to declare this short study :finished, a new doubt
same effect. The ultimate example of this is the wonderful Linking Rings. : These characteristics of met~ods and effects are certainly neces-
Its only effect is solid through solid, which is sometimes achieved through but are they sufficient?
a false ring count, other times by the use of the "key"-a ring with an think that, if a trick were to comply with all of t~ese conditions,
opening-other times through an optical illusion of the rings being linked ·ng effect would be a good one, even excellent. This is rational
result1 . i

others by switching loose rings for linked rings, and yet others by secretly
' Onable But is the trick sure to become a classic? Maybe-
reas · ;
adding a key ring after all the rings have seemingly been examined. This be not.
brings me to the idea I explain in detail in The Magic Way: Each repeti- Let me explain. I believe that, aside from all the conditions cited, the
tion of the same effect with a different method can be complementary; it should have a certain special appeal, equivalent to sex appeal or
can cancel weaknesses or solutions of other repetitions. In other words a magical allure.
' But what does this appeal consist of?
repeating an effect (which complies with previous conditions) with differ-
ent methods increases its apparent impossibility. 15 To begin with, I lean toward thinking it should be emotional (like
Needless to say, if the effect is repeated more than twice, the condi- handkerchief that is accidentally tom); but I immediately see many
tions and the dramatic build-up should be varied. in the list of classics that offer no emotional aspect, such as the Ace
I will conclude for now my meditations on the issue of repeating or A.ssembly. Perhaps the trick should possess visual beauty, like the Color-
not repeating with this: You must either have an absolutely indetectable iChanging Handkerchief; but only some of them possess that attribute.
method (like the Han Ping Chien sleight with coins) or use different meth- So what produces the proper appeal?
ods for each repetition. I am comforted to remember that the same question occurs when peo-
With this we have reached a point in our discussion in which it seems ple try to define the causes of sex appeal, glamour, charm or duende. They
convenient to take a break and contemplate what we've found: A class'ic are concepts that elude reasoning and logical constructs. They are slip-
effect should be simple and direct, describable in a few words, truly pery, sneaky, playful; and perhaps that's where part of their essence, their
impossible-seeming and have one or several methods that are indetect- charm, their appeal, lies. We have entered a circular reasoning: the charm
able and, if possible, complementary. of "charm" and the appeal of "appeal".
Stating this makes me feel we've reached certain valid considerations. But is it really impossible to pin down a practical definition? Is it
It seems to me that all the tricks on my list of classics comply with these impossible to explain that quality?
conditions. I think I have come to a conclusion. I don't think so. I believe a certain correspondence of an effect with

the wishes of man and woman has something to do with it. That corre-
15. This resource, known and utilized by magicians, relates in some way to the
famous assessment of Bruce Elliott: that it is better to know one method for a spondence can be found at a primary level (money production) or at a
hundred effects than a hundred methods for one effect. He refers to the use of secondary or tertiary level (Cut and Restored Rope: resurrection; the Egg
a single method to produce different effects at different moments, comparing Bag: creation of life, birth). They are conscious or subconscious corre-
it to a certain uselessness of knowing many methods and using only one. He
spondences, but always correspondences.
also refers to the monotony that could arise when the magician repeats the
I find myself returning to the same point: the magic of wishes, the
same effect over and over, believing each repetition will be perceived as a
different effect, only because the method used for each was changed. magic of dreams and of myths.

I would add, then, one last feature: The classic effect must have
h. a
myt ical and desired component. In summation: The effect should b
simple, direct, impossible, repeated and mythical. But that's another story~
.ilim~eoo~ ·


Magic and Symbolism

maybe not.
That's how the preceding study on the classic effects ended.
I searched for the duende of magic, the hidden charm. I suggested the
magic of desire. I wrote, without saying as much, about the magic of sym-
bols-of the symbols that fulfill the archetypal desires of humanity. After all,
part of the essence of artistic magic is to produce and share the experience
of the impossible we desire. That's the sap that nurtures our art, a meta-
phoric art that is expressed through a perceived symbolism, _sometimes at
a conscious level, other times at subconscious and more concealed levels.
But let's take it in steps:
What were the steps I took, the road that led me to these conclusions?
I'll tell you through some examples:
During the study of classic effects, I found that the Cut and Restored
Rope was a wonderful trick that has been performed and enjoyed for
centuries. The magical impact it produces is very strong and it is one of
the effects that is always included in the repertoires of both professional
magicians and amateurs.
But-and this is a big but-its magical construction has a weak p~int; in
settle my own doubts about the truth of this understanding of
fact, a very weak point. It's nothing less than the initial situation: The rope
k and to make sure it wasn't just a mental construction of mine,
C ' .
has been cut in half. In the methods commonly used, the rope is never shown
t from reality, I thought of an artistic, practical experiment: What
clearly cut in half. The magician goes only as far as showing two little ends
d happen if the effect were the opposite? A rope clearly shown in one
of the alleged halves of the rope, held next to each other, which are then tied
appears to break in two. i
together in order to display a rope with a knot in its middle. This is done in an ' I
effect would be very weak, and when the two pieres of the rope
attempt to convince the spectators that the rope has 'been cut in half.
e handed out at the end of the trick, perhaps it wouldn be long before
After some analysis, it became evident that a real proof that the rope of the spectators gave them back with the request, .'"Can you put it
has been cut in half would be to show the two pieces at a distance·, ior k together?" They want to feel the hope of resurrection, not the painful
example, with one in each hand. If we were really to cut the rope in half
·dence of death.
and then forgot to show the separated pieces, any magic friend seeing The artistic intuition of magicians throughout the centuries has
this would undoubtedly indicate that oversight as something that strongly evented the presentation of such an absurdity. 16 Remember what
undermines the conviction that the rope was cut in half. Remember the openhauer observed: Intuition is the true and powerful means of
insistence of Maestro Ascanio on the clarity of the initial situation. owledge for the artist.
I asked myself why an effect with such a grave weakness could have From all this comes an observation I've felt, both as a performer and
such a magical impact. Then I remembered that, in almost all cultures a spectator of magic: The effect is far superior when the rope is cut
and their mythologies, the rope symbolizes life: Atropos, one of the three the magician with a large pair of scissors, compared to a mimed snip
Fates, cuts the thread of life in Greek and Roman mythology; in Indian the fingers simulating scissors. If to that you add the simulation of an
mythology the rope-life brings the heavens and earth together; in many ,accidental cut, one made by a spectator and apparently unwanted by you,
other cultures a circle of rope represents the circle of life. which you appear scared by the misunderstanding, which results in
The symbolism of the effect became evident: death and resurrection doubly dramatic situation, a conscious drama plus symbolic drama-in
the greatest, the most powerful of man's wishes, immortality. ' all an accidental death-the effect acquires an emotional impact of the
So that hidden symbolic meaning made spectators subconsciously
highest degree.
feel an immense pleasure, and this entirely subjugated the weakness Fortune (the vague Borgesian chance) granted me a book I've always
in the method. The spectators were not just passive witnesses. They been a reader of the great Romanian historian of religion, Mircea Eliade.
became, at times, spect-actors who cut the rope themselves and kept the His Mephistopheles and the Androgyne fell into my hands, and in it is an
"resurrect e d" rope afterward, feeling the powerful magical impact of an essay on the Indian Rope Trick In this legendary effect, a yogi or fakir
impossible wish fulfilled, realized, lived in the artistic reality. throws a long rope into the air. The rope becomes rigid and a child climbs
And that experience, like many artistic experiences, was transmitted, it, pursued by a man with a knife. He eventually catches the boy and cuts
was felt at a subconscious level, metaphoric and symbolic. It didn't need him to pieces. The parts of the boy's body fall to the ground, but the yogi
to enter the level of consciousness. Furthermore, it would probably be restores the child and brings him back to life.
experienced, if the symbolic meaning were verbalized by the magician, as
16. Even though this reverse effect appears in an early magic book, it never caught
something pedagogical rather than artistic.
on with magicians. I have never seen it done.
symbolic explanation came once more to my rescue. The selected
In Eliade's essay, the rope was identified, through symbolism, Wi
er having been lost in the deck, rises (ascension); ends up on top
life. Furthermore, it became evident that what had given this magic effect
others (power); loose, not trapped (liberation); and in view, not ()
its great impact and legendary status-even though it has probably never
d anonymous among the others (individualization). iThe fulfillment
been seen or performed-resides in its symbolism: rope-life, a union of
e four wishes, reaching us via symbolism, afford~ the trick mas-
earth and heaven. Let's remember, in the simplest version of the effect, it's
We love it, we ·enjoy it, and that's why we want to experience
only a rope the yogi throws into the air. The rope becomes rigid, the child
, to feel again and again the great inner satisfac~ion, the joy, the
climbs and eventually disappears at the top; heaven in its physical and
symbolic shape. Even though the Cut and Restored Rope doesn't appear and the overall fascination.
then carried out more tests, this time in performance. If the card doesn't
in this trick-legend, Eliade found that its appeal and magical impact lay 1
but rather descends, the reaction is not even a tenth as great. Perhaps, I
in the existence of a symbol. That symbol was the rope-life, union of
t, when the card descends, it remains hidden and very near the hand
heaven and earth, of reality and the beyond. And if I had reached a similar
magician. Maybe that diminishes the clarity of the effect. So I next
conclusion to his-discovering the impact and symbolism of a magical
performing the standard Ambitious Card effect, making the card rise
effect-even though his starting point (sociological) was different from
the center to the top of the deck but while holding the deck in a ver-
mine (artistic), I thought I could congratulate myself for being in excellent
position. The physical impossibility is exactly the same, the card ends
intellectual company. Of course, my conclusion came much later than the
the same place, with equal clarity; yet a great part of its charm is lost.
great Eliade's.
you try performing it for yourself, you will see that it doesn't look nearly
Another example of how I reached this belief is the Ambitious Card.
good. Of course! Because there is no position of power, no ascension, no
Being an unquestionable classic and one of the essential tricks in the
sation of freedom. The card goes from one position to another, but it's
repertoire of any professional card magician, it also has a very weak
one more card in the deck. Even its resulting position is ambiguous: it
point. In this case it wasn't the initial situation but rather the effect
itself. If I were to say that a magician made a signed card travel to his be perceived as lying in front or behind, first or last.
A third example: For years, I performed another classic among the
pocket, or that he changed the identity of a card in my own hand, the
classics, the Egg Bag. I used a bag made of black cloth in the style of
listener would be amazed at both of these narrated impossibilities. But
Malini, and with it I achieved the success this wonderful trick_ usually pro-
if I were to tell him instead that the magician made the card move a few
duces. Then one day I lost my bag. Months later, I attended a lecture of
positions in the deck (twenty, twenty-six cards, half an inch-it makes
the ,...creative Sam Berland. He performed a trick with a bag and a watch.
no difference) while he held it in his hands, the listener, aware of the
The bag was gimmicked in a similar way to the egg bag, but the effect
magician's skill, would probably remain politely indifferent to the "little
different. I bought it to replace my lost bag, but when I worked with
miracle". And yet we all know that the effect produced by the Ambitious
it, making the egg appear and disappear-same effect, same routine-I
Card is very strong, and that spectators request that it be repeated. In
noticed I and my spectators liked it less. Something was not clicking,
some routines, such as Vernon's, with its wonderful emotional structure
the effect can be repeated ten times! It is a weak, almost mediocre effect something was wrong.
One day I figured it out: Berland's bag was made from a Scotch-plaid
that everyone, magicians and laymen, like and savor to the maximum.
cloth. If the trick symbolizes (can there be any doubt?) the creation of
How can you explain that?
life, then the black symbolizes the mother's womb where th \.
. . e miracle ction. symbolized the creation of abundant food from nothing,
creat10n 1s developed. A Scotch-plaid womb? After that, I went ba
Mr ., bl ck ve that's how it was experienced: two dozen eggs and a hen
a m1 s ack bag, and my and the spectators' liking for the trick w empty bag! That meaning hasn't the same resonance for modem
back But the symbolism goes further. All the versions of the Egg Bag es. Eggs have become cheap, and a hen amazes above all for its
with the appearance of the egg (creation or resurrection) after its dis: and the difficulty of concealing and handling it tithout telltale
pearance (the void, death). That must be for a reason.
ents and clucking. ·Because the hen is alive, we feel the creation
That's. why it's necessary, artistically speak1ng, to do it with an eg (eggs: symbol; hen: reality), but we do not have the disappearance
and not with a wooden ball or any other object It would lose the 1· . ) and reappearance (resurrection) that are always part of the com-
· mp11ci
symbolism, and the effect would be weakened. It would sacrifice emo- g Bag routine today.
tional content.
en came to me the revelation, in flashes, of the symbol of so many
But one might think: Yes, the effect would be weaker but not because tricks, some more evident than others.
~f the !oss of the alleged symbolism. The cause would be because the egg Linking Rings: To magically undo a chain of metal rings is an act of
is fraglle, and ha~dling it without breaking it, while hitting and crumpling ation. What would the effect be like if done with wooden rings, no mat-
the bag to prove 1t empty, seems nearly impossible. Doing so while con- how thick and solid they were? What if it were done with metal squares?
cealing an egg inside the bag carries serious risk of a disastrous result: If test proposed, imagined or real: Show two loose rings. Link them
the egg breaks, the bag and the magician's hands will be a mess. cally. Hand them out and wait. When the spectators return the rings,
It's a good point, I admit. But what if the trick were done with a hea 't you hear them ask if you can unlink them, separate them, release
lead ball? That would be much more difficult to conceal. Or what if the tri: from each other? You now show the two linked rings. You unlink
were done with a thin, glass light bulb? That is even more fragile than the em magically and hand them out separated, free. And wait. Wait. Wait ....
egg and more dangerous, should it break The magician's hands might be cut. u can wait forever; you will probably never hear anyone say, "Can you
If anyone wants to try performing these ideas with a lead ball or a light kthem again?" We want to be free, not chained.
bulb, I'll bet that, although the trick will be effective, it will lose a signifi- If I am right in regard to the symbolism of this trick, every routine should
cant amount of the charm and fascination generated by the classic trick: not with the striking image of a chain of rings, all linked together, but
the production of the egg (the creation of life), which then disappears less dramatic image, totally faithful to human desire and symbol,
(death), then triumphantly reappears (resurrection, renaissance). I finish the rings loose, representing liberation. The artistic intuition of magi-
by cracking the egg into a glass-it's real! through the centuries has worked once again. I studied all the classic
There is a reason why this is still the classic version, the one that routines, from Odin to Slydini, from Farelli to Vernon, and they all end with
has survived through the centuries, outlasting the other early version as the chain undone, with the rings separated, with the dreamed freedom. We
I )

presented by Fawkes and others, in which many eggs, then a hen, were like to feel that the chains are broken. In Slydini's wonderful routine, the
produced from a large bag. In that version, there was only the symbol- unlinked rings are thrown into the air and fall to roll loose and haphaz-
ism of creation, and the number of eggs became more important than ardly around the stage. Can there be a better, more artistic way to show the
the symbolism. From the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries this destruction of a chain, the beautiful sensation of total liberation?17
. '
vers10n was often presented at rural fairs. In those more agrarian times, 17. "Down with chains!" has always being the quintessential exclamation of freedom.

In the Coin Assembly we have the reunion of four coins placed int practice is to use four and only four coins, which is what the
four comers of an imaginary square. Why four? Assemblies have alwa and artistic attitude of magicians through the centuries have
been done with four elements: four Aces (of course, since there are ed. Once again, my analysis consisted of recognizing the path
four!), but also four sugar cubes, four little cones, four coins. Not five. N traveling it, to reach the same point that the intuition of artistic
three. Does it have anything to do with the universal metaphysical SYmb
s had long known. I

of the reunion of the four elements? Four elements, four cardinal points companying these ·examples, I had a disquieting /sensation when
the four winds, the four ages of man .... 18
ht of certain magical effects that had been veryrpopular but are
But after further thought I wondered if this eagerness to look :'beyonctn' g ' .
seen in today's repertoires, such as the Miser's Dream or the magi-
is merely midnight fantasizing. Does it really point to a deeper truth? iconic production of a rabbit from a hat.
Let's check: If we did a Coin Assembly with five coins, laid out in the That continuous and inexhaustible production of coins from the air or
form of a pentagon or in a square with the fifth coin in the center, the spectators' ears was enormously popular, having T. Nelson Downs
effect would not have the same charm. Why? What if it were done with its supreme exponent-until the 1950s. Obviously the production of
three coins, in a "divine" triangle? No! The effect would be too brief- for y from the air, caught at the fingertips, fulfills a desire in a great num-
looking past symbolism, there is a reason of dramatic structure that' dic-' of men and women. To watch someone who has that power satisfies
tates the use of four coins. Although four coins are brought together, there and evokes admiration.
are only three magical translocations, and we know how a structure of Frakson's idea of depositing the coins in a champagne bucket to amplify
three is so attuned to life (pim, pam, pum) and to art (toe, toc ... tocotoc). noise of their arrival made the effect more dramatic, although it may be
So it may be that the insistence on four coins is only to exercise the reso- t the older use of the magician's hat (with a plate inside to dramatize the
nance of coins magically traveling three times, and has nothing to do with und of the coins as they fell) contributed a more personal touch.
the four elements or any other symbols.
That aside, I gradually began to understand-or to believe I did-that
We can keep the number at three by using only three coins and leaving gold coin, in past centuries, was worth a considerable amount, 20 maybe
the fourth comer of our imaginary square empty, to serve as the place a month's salary. Therefore, the production of dozens of such coins could
where the three coins assemble. But once again, the effect is weakened. make you rich. But with the increasing use of paper currency and the
Try it for yourself. In this case, there is no reunion of four elements and ;continuous devaluation of money, coins are now regarded only as "loose
the symbolism is evidently lost.
change". Today, producing dozens of coins seems important only to chil-
Let's remember Empedocles's observation that the reunion of the four dren, to whom they are like bags of candy. So, despite its inherent meaning,
elements is equivalent to the sensation of cosmic union (love), and their the'\effect has become noticeably diminished, and the trick has gradually
later and cyclical separation to that of a break-up (hatred). 19 Therefore, lost its capacity to excite. It has been humbled to a demonstration of mag-
18. Luis Garcia first suggested to me the idea of the metaphoric value of the ical skill, always surprising but lacking symbolic power, appealing to the
effect of the reunion of four objects (the four Aces) implying the reunion of coins or Aces-has so little magical strength. It barely affects the spectators,
the four elements.
and it is often presented as a mere embellishment of a direct assembly or,
19. This explains, too, why the Reverse Assembly-the separation of the four when performing for magicians, as something novel.
coins that have gathered, the separation of the four elements, whether they be 20. The symbol here is the evidence.
desires only of children (note that Flosso used ~.....,u,_,,_,,.__,..._. as particip\ ant beliefs and feelings of mine convince me that tricks become
does Jeff McBride) and of the very poor and unfortunate. Yet the symbou and remain classics due to the factors I outlined earlier but also
value of inexhaustible creation from nothing remains. of their symbolic and metaphoric power. And remember here
. On the other hand, the production of a rabbit out of a hat, when Pre · trinsic pa:rt of the symbol is its ability to be polyvalent: It can
m ,
sented at country fairs and in times of hunger, represented food for on es have several meanings, even contradictory onys. This can be
even several, days. Whoever had the gift of making rabbits appear from any mythology. Hermes-Mercury is the god of my~tery and at the
hat had his daily nourishment assured. time of commerce. The night can symbolize poetry, but also death
Once magic entered theaters and parlors, middle-class audiences felt· sun), etc.
the lack of certain things in their lives, but their basic needs were satis- This means tha,t a single magical effect can symbolize different things.
fied. Hunger was not a problem. The decline of the Rabbit from Hat thus must bear that in mind. We are not practicing an exact science.
becomes comprehensible. Nowadays, the little rabbit produces maternal A new question .arises now: Do the magician and the audience need to
instincts and tenderness, especially in children, for whom it continues to conscious of the implicit symbol in the effect to feel and enjoy the magic?
be a wonderful and fascinating trick 21 I don't think an audience needs to be consciously aware of the symbol
The examples above raise certain considerations: Magic is an art that bodied in the magical effect; we are talking about art, not philosophy.
fulfills the impossible wishes of human beings within an artistic reality. more than enough if spectators perceive the symbol, feel it, through
Those impossible wishes may change with time or circumstance. What, ir artistic sensitivity, subconsciously. That will of course depend largely
for instance, would be the effect of the Okito Floating Ball done in an each spectator's sensitivity and intuition. But this is true of all the arts.
orbiting space craft? (I am writing this in 2015.) thout a sensitivity for painting, we could perceive a painted image as
A reduced metaphoric or evident value, and a direct devaluation of cold and simple representation of a landscape, a situation or a person,
symbolic value, are both felt by the magician and his audience as a loss in 'thout it moving us or touching us. In magic, I believe that, aside from
his magical power. Consequently, his fascination decreases, leaving only e playful capacity in spectators, related in some way to their attitude
the residual value of the impossible and the surprising (which is not neg- ,;toward wonder, we should add the facility, or lack thereof, to let their
ligible but is also not great). ''inner child" emerge and live, the capacity of their well-structured rea-
If the magical effect more robustly expresses the power of the symbol son, their anxiety or taste for mystery, their eagerness for adventure; and
metaphorically, it produces a better emotional experience and a greater · we must not forget their intuition for capturing the deep and polyvalent
degree of fascination in the spectators; and it is also felt intuitively by ·• Significance of the symbol or symbols that fulfill, subconsciously, their
magical artist himself. impossible wishes, the dreamed wishes of mankind.
As far as the magician is concerned, I don't think it does any harm
21. On the other hand, in the origin of the trick, said to be based on the popularity
for him to be conscious of the symbolism of his magic, since feeling it
of the story of Mary Tofts, who in 1726 claimed to give birth to several live rab-
bits, the trick possessed a sense of the creation of life, which I believe it hasn't internally can make his interpretation more sensitive, more suggestive.
entirely lost. See Edwin A. Dawes's exhaustive analysis of the Tofts story in Suggestion and sensitivity are virtues of any art. We'll leave "demon-
A Rich Cabinet of Magical Curiosities, Parts 1 and 2, 2010, Peter Scarlett stration" to science, "profundity" to philosophy and "transformation of
Magic, pp. 646-54. knowledge" to pedagogy.
Awareness of implicit symbolism can also help the magician to av ese lists as an intellectual game. Complete them and transform
spoiling it or fighting it. If I know that the symbolism of the Egg Bag ·king Or you can ignore them, even close this book, and con-
~m l1 . . .
the creation of life-or perhaps rebirth, when the egg reappears after true artistic enjoyment that includes thinking about, rehearsmg, n
disappearance ( death)-why exchange the egg for a lemon, a lead ball experiencing and then bringing others to experience, through
a light bulb, even though those are more visual, heavy, fragile, dangero ances and presentations, the beautiful, impossiblr, dreamed and
or difficult to conceal than the egg? ing effects that constitute our wonderful art of m<\1,gic.
Does the fact that the effect has been done for centuries with an e
mean that magicians have been aware of its symbolism, which is why th
haven't changed it for another object? I don't think so. Rather, I believ
that the artistic intuition of magicians has led them to esteem the effec
more highly when it is done with an egg, due perhaps to a subconscious
sense of its symbolism. There is also a factor of Darwinian development
an evolution common to all arts and to cultures. Magicians have tried per-
forming the effect with a lemon, with a crystal cup, a Ping-Pong ball. I
have seen their attempts. But all those versions faded away, because they
weren't as successful as the original version with the egg, which transmits
the beautiful symbol of the creation and re-creation of life.
Magic is an art that deals with reason and intuition. After all, the afore-
mentioned sensitivity to the wonderful depends to a high degree on the
undefined intuition that symbolically makes us feel the dreamed wish.
The true beauty of magic doesn't lie, or perhaps just lie, in graceful
execution; or in staging; or in the aesthetics of decoration, lighting and
costumes; or in the comedy or poetry of the patter. It is rather a com~
bination of the logical impossibility of the effect with the fascination it
produces. Above all, it grants and fulfills the experience of an impossible
dreamed wish, making it feel possible. And that sensation often comes to
us in metaphoric form, through implicit symbolism.
Should it be of interest, suffering and friendly reader, in Appendices 2
and 3 you will :firtd a detailed history of my comprehension of the value
of the symbolic way, as well as some lists, more or less subjective and
more or less complete, sketches really, of the desires of mankind and of
some symbols that might be contained in some of the most frequently per-
formed tricks and effects, among which are most of the classics. Please

The Magic of the Spheres

Written and published in 1984 in the Circular of the Escuela
Magica de Madrid, the following mini-essay is an attempt to
apply the knowledge of the symbolic value of magic to a spe-
cific case: the Multiplying Balls. Playing with freeing the mind,
I begin with ideas and down-to-earth "advice" iforgive the arro-
.gance) that I chose not to censor, to later elevate myself in an
aerostatic trip (in a spherical globe, of course) to the region of
metaphor and symbol. I hereby transcribe:
I remember the beautiful multiplying-balls routine, done with white balls,
presented by the superb Pepe Carrol as part of his act "The Four Seasons".
He began it by picking up some snow and kneading it into a ball that mate-
rialized in his hands. Then the one multiplied to thirteen snowballs, as the
music of Vivaldi ( of course!) played.
I did a multiplying-ball routine myself when I started in magic. The balls
always attracted me in a special way: their shape (the beautiful sphere),

the life they acquire as they rotate through the fingers, and undoubte until the routine happens by itself, but avoid over-practice, the
their symbolism.
oint at which you don't feel what you're doing: You do it because
p .
Here are some ideas drawn from the experience of those years you can, but it becomes boring.
from ~dvice r~ceived, both spoken and written. I'll begin with some Pure And then perform it as if you were doing it for tl\e first time. Be
practical details, and then interlace them with other ideas and . surprised by the color change, or seem doubtful a9out the produc-
. cons1de
at10ns, some logical, some crazy, in a sort of personal brainstorm. I'll te tion, or anxious about the vanish, or feel fear at t~e inexhaustible
them to you and to myself (I am aware that some are obvious). multiplication, or enjoy the effect achieved with the risky flourish
1. Use hand cream for dry hands. that succeeded, etc. 22
2. Wherever it is permitted, use a cigarette and smoke it for mi·sd· The Theory of the Little Monkeys (p. 365): Talk to the balls, get to
. irec-
tion, naturalness of the hand when palming something, and use of know them individually, paint them yourself to make them more
the smoke to make productions more magical, etc. personal: the playful ball, the serious one, the restless one that
3. Combine sequences with and without a shell (thanks, Buatier de always slips away, the lazy ball that no one can move, the bashful
Kolta!). Very deceptive. Consider using a double shell-one fits one that blushes when you talk to it (Thank you, Frakson!). Talk
inside the other and pivots to close into a complete ball, thanks to to them during rehearsal and in performance. Communicate with
gravity-an excellent gimmick, almost forgotten today. Two shells them mentally, ask them for help, get upset with them, thank them
properly handled and cleverly used are a deadly weapon. for their collaboration.
4. ~truc~e a routine with a single accumulative effect (multiplication), 10. Don't overdo one single flourish (the ball roll) unless you master
rncluding details to escape monotony. In another routine ( or part of it to a high degree and can do it with an attractive excellence or
the same one), look for diversity of effects: color changes, increases in speed. Instead, sprinkle the routine with varied flourishes: slipping
size, ball to silk, endless production from mouth or silk, ball through over the fingers, throwing and catching between fingers in front of
silk, etc. Create variety in effect without losing u:n:ifonnity. you and behind your back, rolling between the forefingers, making
5. Combine balls and other props in this second type ( or phase) of two balls rise from the palms to the fingertips, etc.
routine: silk, hat, wand, rope, ribbons, cards ... 11. Also add some semi-magical flourishes here and there: balancing
6. Regarding color changes with the balls, you can find my thoughts a ball on the brim of your hat, or on a rope, or over the edge of a
in my book Magicolor discussing contrast, misdirection, visual silk, or floating a ball, propelling a ball (by a hidden rubber band),
quality, aesthetics, psychology, etc. or spinning one on a fingertip or while balanced on another ball ...
7. Practice with somewhat larger balls than those you are going to "'12. Front loads. Remember the wonderful teaching of Frakson. Watch
use. And practice without hand cream. The real performances Kaps, Frakson and Calvert over and over on video. Aim for an inde-
will then be easier. Do the riskiest and most difficult moves in tectable, safe, automatic, unsuspected technique; don't stop until
rehearsal. Practice at a faster pace. Execute the routine while you achieve perfect technique (which will never happen, except
talking to someone or watching TV. Go through the motions only, for Ascanio).
without props. Rehearse mentally in the subway, on the beach, in 22. Study the beauty of this kind of approach to ball manipulation in the lyrical
bed. Practice to make all gestures and movements second nature writings of Jacques Delord, especially his books.
13. Topit!
wish? Play with the sphere? Do balls represent planets? Magic of
14. Pull!
the spheres? Symbol of creation: the appearance and multiplica-
15. Jack Miller's Holdout.
tion of planets and stars? Sphere = ball = world? Sphere: infinite
16. Blu Tack.
and one? Creation of life, reproduction of cells, ?f the primitive
17. Threads!
egg? Multiplicity _in the unit (pre-Socratic)? Sp/here = whole?
18. And the ten assistants!!!
Man in paradise, androgynous and spherical (Pl~to and the ban-
_19. Above all, on top of everything else, your head (as round as the quet), because "the sphere is the image of totalitJ" and perfection"
balls and, let's hope, not m~de of wood). (Cirlot's Dictionary of Symbols). The eroticism of spherical and
20. Angles. Practice with friends, with critics, with video. A good round shapes? Breasts, buttocks, balls, the sensuality of curves?
example is the routine described in Mosaico Magico by the great Perhaps the geometrical perfection and undeniable beauty of the
Roden from Argentina, which is streamlined for special conditions sphere are attractive in and of themselves? Evocation of nature
like parlor and stage.
(most fruits are spherical)? Micro- and macrocosms; atoms and
21. Outs: Shoe with Blu Tack in the arch of the sole to pick up dropped suns? The alchemic egg, the alchemist's rotundus?
balls. Extra balls to load when balls are dropped. Elegant kick 24. Look for presentations that suggest, are connected to or involve
(with the heel?). Cane production and using it to hit a ball on the two or more of the ideas mentioned above (billiards, planets,
floor as with a golf club, and sneak it into a top hat conveniently alchemy, geometry, geomancy, sensuality... ). Be aware of the huge
placed on the floor. Cane with Blu Tack, etc. Think · meditate magical power (the naturally inherent power) of these extremely
imagine, foresee, mentally improvise, express horror (comically
beautiful, mysterious and unique objects, the spheres.
exaggerated), charisma. Pick up the ball from the floor with sur- 25. Experiment with different materials. Combine them. Or choose
reptitious actions, as if trying to avoid being seen (looking in the the one that is best adapted to the techniques and symbolic sub-
wings first, then winking at the audience in complicity). Think, ject: wood, marble, rubber, crystal, sponge, cloth, plastic, celluloid,
think, think, trick, trick, trick Relaxed and loose: attempting to cork, leather, soap bubbles, lead, steel. ... Do the same regarding
achieve mastery.
color, brilliance, touch, size, etc. Opaque, with sequins, black in
22. Study or at least get acquainted with what the minds of other cre- front of a white handkerchief and suit (demoniac), w:hite in front
ators have achieved, the history of ball manipulation: Buatier de of a black suit and handkerchief (purity), of fire like the sun, of
Kolta, David Devant, Clement de Lyon, Roden, Martinez Muro, rubber like balloons, of Blu Tack, with colored wedges, balls as
Adrio, Gamar, Hausson, Ron MacMillan, Geoffrey Buckingham, little world globes, bright as stars, silvery like the magic, green
Edward Victor, Richard Ross, Peter Marvey, Peter Gloviczki, or red as fruit, soft, rough, flat, fragile, light, heavy, with drawings
Norbert Ferre ....
of faces, of planets, with numbers on them, with small letters,
23. Search, think, imagine, reason and figure out why magic with medium, large, huge or tiny....
balls has been done and is done. Beginnings of flourishes and 26. Role of the manipulator and of the balls: Do we control the balls?
small manipulations with billiard balls in English billiard rooms. Do they rule us? Are they magical? Are they annoying? Do they
(David Devant and others before him.) Do they respond to some revel? Do they obey us? Are they aggressive? Do they escape, slip
90 91

away or want to go? Why do they turn? When do they tum? Whe :n) A Ping-Pong ball to golf ball, to billiard ball, to petanque ball, to
do they change color, shape, size, material or relative positions · bowling ball, to soccer ball ....
the hands? And why? What do these changes make the manipula ) A crazy ball that makes strange rotations on the palm or on a
tor feel? Is he a magician? Does he master his magic? transparent table. Its path is mentally controll~d by the magi-
27. New ideas, new effects: cian with verbal commands: Stop! Turn! Continpe!
a) Elastic ball. p) Ohl-a surprise· in the routine. '
b) Eyeballs. Iris changes color: Hazel eyes turn green, then black q) A bomb ball: final explosion of one, of all, a chain reaction.
then blue (but never surpass the beauty of those of the author' r) A ball transforms into smoke of the same color.
of this book). s) Balls on a board decorated as a music stave. Each ball is a
c) Fireballs. musical note that makes the appropriate sound. To finish, the
d) Broken; disintegrated and restored. magician plays a melody by touching the balls.
e) Fusion of two into one, of several into one, at once or gradu- t) A weightless ball that suddenly becomes heavy and falls on a
ally; of two colors into a bi-colored ball, a lemon plus a tomato spectator's hand.
equals a tangerine or a small orange; separation of the colors in · u) A black hole that engulfs everything and makes it disappear.
a mixed color (blue and yellow from green). v) A lead ball to feather ball. It elevates-a balloon-disappears.
f) Rainbow: A white ball multiplies, or seven colors emerge from w) "Magnetic" crystal balls. They stick to the hands, to the face.
it. Every one turns into a fruit of that color: plum, apple, lime, x) Sexiballogy. Wow!
lemon, orange ... and all meld into a white egg. y) Buatier de Kolta's "Expanding Die" done with a ball: from little
g) Ball to storm of little balls. ball to huge ball with the production of a person inside. Extreme:
h) Ball to cane knob, comes and goes (this effect has been done). to a ball the size of the world and we all come out of it.
i) Gas or smoke condensed into a solid ball. Ball to water foun- z) Zzzzz! Don't fall asleep, man! Wake up, woman! Let's think,
tain or transformed into a liquid ( cherry wine, for example), it think, think, have fun, enjoy and obtain the maximum pleasure
flows to fill a small glass. Cheers! with these ideas and with others that occur to you, old and new,
j) Impossible balancing of two or three balls to form a little spinning from the wonderful magic of the balls, the magic of ~he spheres.
tower, all rotating in the same direction or in opposite directions.
k) A fortune-telling ball that speaks, or answers questions with
little bounces, turns or movements.
1) A ball that goes up a ramp, or goes up and down, up a cane,
down a cane. A ball that falls to the floor, and then climbs up
your leg to your hand, or rises inside your sleeve.
m) A ball that spins around another ball on a crystal table or, bet-
ter, in the air. Planetary: a sun ball that is luminous, a moon ball
that waxes from new moon to full moon.
A Study of a Truly Magical Effect: ''El Cochecito" . ts • That's as close as it gets to creation. Creating something
obJeC . ,,
. d·
thing, goo , and then giving it life and soul! And "El Cochecito
"Can you do the trick with the little car.
ouble amma tion ' one that reaches
- us visually and tactilely, .and
"Did you bring the little car.
that reaches· us intellectually and conceptually. We see the little
1 , •

I have heard those questions, and other similar ones, hundreds of tim and, in the best of cases, we tactilely feel that wf cant make it
over the past forty years. When, in 1971, Albert Charra excited emotions farther, no m atter how
· hard we push with our finger. On the other

me as I watched a red, wooden, toy car stop when someone tried to pus · i·ntelligent· No matter who pushes it, it stops
the car is · exactly over
it farther, I felt the urge to try pushing it myself-and when I did, what front of the Chosen card' no matter how· much we shuffle. the deck,
incredible sensation! The wise little car refused to continue, indicatin er how muCh W e change the location of the selectmn on the table
to me where the chosen card rested. What true wonder that memory sti ong the other cards, even with their faces hidden. It knows what
produces in me. Infinite thanks to Dick Koomwinder, its creator! selecte d card is and always knows where it is. It knows more than the
That's the sensation I've attempted to transmit ever since with this tators themselves , who chose it but don't know its location (the cards
trick Year after year I've added psychological subtleties, details in pre- 6huffled face down during the last phase of the trick). It knows more
sentation, applied the Method of False Solutions and The Magic Way, the magician,
· · who doesn't know its location either-or its identity!
sometimes combining these with Morlas's transparent car. little car, now alive, is more than intelligent. It's wise. It's psychic!
But let's analyze: What does this trick have to make it one of the most So the effect is one of animation and the creation of intelligent life~
fascinating, one of the most memorable (ask any professional), one of the re than intelligent. A little toy car with a life of its own, wise and psychic!
most magical? Koomwinder's little car also complies, needless to say, with the con-

To begin with, there is an extremely clever secret, of course! If the Cavern ons we discussed earlier that must be met for an effect to be good or a
of the Secret had an easy entrance, that would prevent us from continuing sic: The effect is clear, direct and easily described (the car stops at the
cted card). It's a strong effect (the car recognizes the card and refuses
along The Magic Way. After the first effect, the spectator could think of magnets
move). It's repetitive (the car stops over and over at the card). The secret
or stooges. But there are no magnets or stooges! The attitude and reactions of
very clever and indetectable, and is strengthened by a good card control
the various people who push the car stop the false solution of stooges. And
of the selection. And the effect possesses symbolic value ( childhood recov-
even on Tv, even for TV viewers, the possibility of examining the table or of
;red, animation of objects); it's mythical, beautiful and very po':"erful.
using a transparent tabletop stops the false solution of magnets. Further, is
Aside from that, consider how fascinating the object itself is! A little
there anything on the card, filings or something? No, because he handed me
wooden car, an authentic toy that returns us to childhood, that clearly makes
the deck and asked me to remove any card-and the car stops when passing
us fe~l the innocent, imaginative, playful child that still lives within us. 23
near or far or on top of the card-I'll continue along The Magic Way.
So there are nb magnets, no threads, no stooges. The spectator can go See "Magic Is Only for Children" (p. 43). This is why I prefer doing the trick with
the wooden car rather than a transparent one. The latter is more of an object,
directly to the effect: The Magic Way leads him and he enters and-what
modem, ornamental. I did use the transparent car a long time ago, in certain
does he find? The effect, The Rainbow.
circumstances only: as a complementary resource in the middle phase of the
We can see that the effect produced is one of the strongest in magic:
trick, or when the wooden one suffered a mechanical failure. That's how I used
animation; giving a soul, giving life, to objects that don't possess it, to it on the live-broadcast French TV show, Le plus grand cabaret du monde.

The effect is full of fascination. It's equally amusing and puzzling. Th no .,_._.._,._,~~--., "I abandoned such an artistic mistake (and an

. al . switching the car served no purpose). Now, at the end of

car seems to rebel against us. We want it to move and it refuses. It's Wi nc one.
and knows more than we do. It's an effect that allows us to actually play. " . e hand out my beloved Koornwindered car so that people can,
tlll ' . . k' ·t
Cochecito" prolongs our excitement during the good seven minutes that go wish, look at it, talk to it, ask it something, touch 1t,. 1ss 1 •
by during the various repetitions. It has a perfect dramatic structure, like ,,,_~..-..-..
r 1v up: It is an authentic, artistic, magical, vital jpy!
detective story. The car locates the card by narrowing the field of possibili.::
ties more and more until one card is isolated and proved to be the selection.
The revelation happens exactly when the dramatic tension is at its peak:
Will it be it or won't it? This is totally memorable, because it has lasted a
sufficiently long time, because it has touched us and almost broken our logi-
cal core (it's impossible!), because it's emotional (suggesting the creation of
life) and because it's fascinating (recovering childhood with a toy).
It doesn't contain any complex moves; only a very good control or
glimpse of a very freely selected card, and careful, subtle handling of the
car in its preparation and the measurement of distances each time the effect
is repeated. But the trick needs to be presented by one of us, a magician-
illusionist-prestidigitator, to make the spectators feel the magic and not
simply to leave them searching for a solution to gimmicked apparatus. We
need to love the trick, to feel it ourselves as well, to enjoy and play with the
car, to fascinate and be fascinated by this beautiful and exciting magic trick. 24
By the way, this is a trick I prefer to do in the second half of a session,
when the minds of the spectators don't feel overwhelmed by the questions
of "how" regarding the logical solution, and when they have surrendered
completely to the magical and marvelous solution-when the logical part
of the brain surrenders (tired, defeated, asleep?) to the imaginative part.
For a time, at the end of the trick, I used to switch the "Koornwindered"
car for an ungimmicked duplicate I had made. I then handed this out for
examinati<;m. What a silly mistake! They took the car and touched
looked at it or kiss~d it, but they didn't search, even slightly, for trickery or
gimmickry. They wanted to continue enjoying the marvelous. Sometimes
I felt like asking them, "Make the car roll, look at it, check it out carefully.

24. For more comments on the emotions in this trick, see my DVD, Lessons in
Magic, Volume 2: "El Cochecito".

The Fascinating Effect

ere I will discuss, in the form of a temporary summation, thoughts com-
nted on in the previous pages, but in more detail and occasionally with
~omewhat different approaches that enrich them and lead us to other
approaches that will be commented on later. This is, then, another relaxed
attempt to analyze the conditions that make an effect fascinating.
And let's remember that the effect is the only thing that. reaches the
audience. It's the effect it has on them. If the method is ingenious and sub-
tle, new and technically perfect, but the effect it produces is that of a clever

puzzle with a difficult solution, the whole is clearly incomplete, made so

by its base, its essence; because everything-psychology, misdirection,
synchronicity, opportunity, digital and body techniques, ultimately the
whole Magic Way-exists because of and for the effect, because of and
for The Rainbow.
Let's now look at some of the conditions that, in my opinion, help
achieve that magical fascination.
N 98 99
~ Impossible Miracle scinating Miracle
~ Obviously, the first thing needed is a miraculous appearance. If this was ping in mind the previous poin_t, without forgetting it even for a
~ not limited to appearance, if it were a true miracle (if such a thing existed), ment, without losing sight of it .. .is there anything else? Yes, a lot more, 0
~ we wouldn't be in the domain of art but in that of religion and mysticism. elieve:
In other words, we require the Impossible. This is what we are try- Fascinating emotion-:-The effect should touch me. It should not only

ing to achieve, with the help of all the elements n:i-entioned earlier. That's address my ability to reason but also my feelings. It should awaken or stir
what is specific to our art. An effect is magical because of its impossibility. ;in me feelings through, always through, that logical impossibility. That
Therein lies the beginning of the authentic beauty of a magical effect: It which makes me momentarily push aside the Bull of Logic and sets the
should be impossible, and the more impossible it is, the more beautiful <Horse of Imagination free, to feel alive, joyful, happy to fly. And those
the more artistic, the more magical it will be. '
feelings, those emotions of the Winged Horse, should allow me to experi-
It should be astonishingly impossible. Its impossibility should trans- ence the beauty of the illogical impossibility, by now a logical possibility,
port us to another dimension. It should be so strong, so powerful, that it magical emotion, which is to say: fascination. 25
tears your logical structure apart, at least during the moment you receive But how is this emotion achieved? How do you feed the Winged Horse
the magical impact, and perhaps also throughout the session and while its to give him the strength and the drive to fly? I can identify some elements
echo lasts, inviting you to suspend your disbelief and dive into the magical which, expressed succinctly, would be:
bubble-The Rainbow.
1) Fascinating patter-Well balanced, with the power of charm, vari-
I think one can never insist enough on this point. The power of the
ety in tone and expression. Improvisation. A connecting thread.
logical impossibility, I repeat, is the unique quality of our art. Without
Voice technique.
it, without that requisite, we are not, I feel, in the domain of magic but
2) Spoken presentation-Begin with a foreword, a promise of the
in those of other arts (whether they be mime, drama or dance). They
effect (magic-catalog style) that arouses interest, whether it con-
are as respectable, as desirable, as beautiful, but still they are not ours.
cerns the situation presented, the difficulty or the impossibility of
The logically impossible is as essential to our magic as music is to
the goal, or some other element.
opera. If the words are beautiful, if the script is dramatic, if the decora-
3) Interesting props-The objects used in the effect could contribute
tion, lighting, costumes and performances are magnificent, none of this
interest in themselves: surrealistic, gifted with power, outrageous,
matters if the music, the musical quality and its interpretation through
beautiful. ..
voice, choirs and orchestra are mediocre. As a potential receiver of the
4') Creation of atmosphere-Tone of voice, words, spells, added ele-
beauty of the opera, I can't ignore the music to admire and enjoy the
ments, lighting, space. created through pantomime, a magic bubble,
other qualities. Only if the music is beautiful, and only then, can I take
etc. Dreamy atmosphere, unreal. Physically and psychologically joy-
another step and ~njoy the other qualities that, put at the service of
ful. The atmosphere that would surround the realization of a miracle.
the music, have enhanced its beauty. So I stubbornly insist and repeat
5) Suspension of disbelief-But not from the beginning, as in the the-
again: The logical impossibility, the power of the impossible, is the
ater or movies. It should occur after the first stage, during which
primary thing, the prior condition, for an effect to be magical. It's the
quintessence of our art. 25. In The Magic Way I explain this more clearly and thoroughly.
the of Logic has attempted to comprehend and eventually b) Communication. Techniques. (The Five Points in Magic)
gives up. It is an anti-logical, pro-fascination battle. c) Truth and authenticity. Adapt these to the magic and the magi-
6) Opportunism-Performing the effect when it is really desired or cian. Patter is better when seasoned with facts and authentic
when it doesn't "bother" the spectators. Being announced, hav- stories.
ing sessions requested, avoiding breaking up a party to show our d) Depth and richness of the inner world. The performer.
tricks. Duration: always a little shorter than desired . e) Love. Love yourself. Love the spectators. Love what you do:
. 7) Challenge, Conflict-Careful handling of the elements of the chal- magic. The session as an act of love.
lenge, conflict between the security afforded to the spectator by his We will be looking at these thoughts and points in more depth in the
logical grid and our proposal. Be his guide in the insecure, slippery chapters to come.
but fascinating world of the magical. Help him in that time that he
can't control. Transform a chaotic lack of control into a voluntary
and joyful lack of control (in the style of a sexual orgasm).
8) Rhythm-Cadence, rhythmical structures, downbeats and upbeats,
changes of pace, crescendos, tempo, beat, pauses!
9) Dramagic structures-Curves of interest. The dramagic conflict: its
presentation and development. The dramagic climax. Tricks, rou-
tines, sessions, their structure.
I will enumerate three additional points that help make the effect
10) Beauty
a) Gestural, manipulative, body language and pantomime.
b) Visual.
c) Literary.
d) Musical.
e) Humor, irony, comedic situations, intellect.
11) The Search for Innocence-Childhood Recovered
a) Games and toys.
b) Playful things.
c) The pre-logical.
d) Magic paraphernalia.
e) Game situations. Roles.
12) The Magician-The Person
a) Energy. Emission and physical transmission. The solar plexus.
102 103

The Effect and the Secret Method (A Love Story) r Distancings

es it can be just an excessive ~implicity in executing the method, a
Presentation and Approach
. al simplicity26 that prevents the sensitive interpreter from acquir-
Se,cret method and effect, a couple in the magical triangle ( completed by e t te of grace wherein his spirit vibrates and makes the spirit of
thats a •
the personality of the magician-but that's another story).
spectators experiencing the miracle resonate.
The beauty of the method affects the effect ( or its perception by the It will lack the fire, the trembling beauty of myste,ry, the necessary
spectators) through the emotion the interpreter, the magician, feels and • Oh , that terrible and deceptive simplicity!
If the secret method is elegant, beautiful, clever, intelligent, and if t~e
interpreter knows it and feels it in that way, he can recreate himself in it- e are, occasionally, other dangers, not the least of which is an exces-
his intimate knowledge, his personal secret-and communicate, transmit e self-complacency of the interpreter with the method, a method not
not the secret but the emotion of its beauty. equately balanced with the effect perceived, with the beauty and impact
The inner happiness, the pleasure of the interpreter who knows and the effect: good effect, poor method.
loves how the miracle is being accomplished, will let itself be perceived; The spectators, confused, can't really understand such complacency
and the spectators, without really knowing why, will feel immersed in that the interpreter. They are outside and left cold, no longer wishing to
contagious joy, an inner joy. The trick may be sad or dramatic, unsettling or ~company the interpreter-guide any further along The Magic Way that
distressing; it makes no difference. It is all within the realm of art. The joy is will lead them to such plain and discolored semi-mystery, a gray substi-
part of life and therefore part of reality-or of that thing we call reality-the tute for The Rainbow. 27
joy that emanates beauty. The effect is thus perceived as more beautiful. It is, then, appropriate to continue rendering maximum worship to His
Majesty, the Effect, but to have it served by good vassals (methods).
May it not be said, either, of the method what an anonymous poet sang
Simplistic methods, excessive trickery, flat ingeniousness, a clumsy or in memorable verses of The Poem of the Cid: "God! What a good vassal, if
sloppy structure lacking elegance; these things don't satisfy the interpre- •· he only had a good master!"
tive artist.
What can he transmit? Encounter, Harmony, Symbiosis
Yes, I know: Perhaps he's the only one who knows the flatness of the Frqm lines and between the lines it begins to emerge (I hope, I wish):
method (marked cards, stooges, others). the possible, although hard to achieve, coordinated dance between subtle
Just him? effect and method-king and vassal, in a democratically cheek-to-cheek
If he's a good interpreter, a good communicator of emotions and pirouette, tracing in an air of artistic representation the immense beauty
experiences, if he is really an artist, how could he not transmit the dis-
26. I am referring here to all techniques: of the hands, the body and psychology.
comfort caused by the use of simplistic methods and ungainly tools to 27. The opposite case-average effect, good method-is very different when
achieve the effect? included in a lecture or a demonstration for fellow magicians. But that, if it
And if he's a bad interpreter-what else matters? were art, would be another art.

of ~ystery, to the tempo of astonishment, with an air of impossibi)ity, th Variety in Effects

music of dreams and desires and words of cleverness inte111·ge
. ' , nee au
elegant, excited beauty-magic. "Please, t}Ot just card tricks. That's boring."
And Ole!
heard this and similar phrases said with the best of intentions by
. Written while flying over the equator, magicians. Advice from good friends regarding a future close-up
now in magical transition from autumn to s:pring, c session, or a future television show or series: "Not ~11 cards."
on the 10th ( and here already 11th) of October 1997 Variety-that seems to be the magic word, the final objective of such
during hours repeated or lengthened' ·ce and comments, based on a laudable wish that the audience not
while traveling from east to west- me bored.
thus in a magical time. Variety-and in its name a manipulator is followed by a stage-illusion
then by a comedy magician, etc.
Variety-and in its name a card trick, two coin tricks, one trick with
·ves and three with ropes.
Variety-and in its name two vanishes, one color change and a multi-
cation to conclude .
.Although not totally opposed to this idea, I'll express my thoughts,

Variety, yes-but a variety of emotions.

Variety, yes-but uniform. Not inconsistent. Not a mosaic.
Variety, yes-but within the essential in every work of art. Within the unit.
I'll explain. There is no variety, for me, in a session only because it
begins with cards, continues with coins and ends with ropes. Because, if
the card trick is a color-changing deck, the silver coins change to copper,
andthe ropes are magically dyed, the sensation for the audience will be
of monotony.
The same happens in certain manipulation acts in which the magician
makes a ball become two balls and continues to produce eight; he then
makes a thimble tum into two thimbles, progressing to ten; and then pro-
duces some cards, which he multiplies at his fingertips.
True variety, I insist, lies in the types of emotions you convey, rather
than in the props, as long as the requirement of a stylistic unity is fulfilled.
For example-and here I will exaggerate greatly to make my point-
let's say a session begins with the production of a deck of cards and

continues with one or two routines in which spectators participate ental effects, astonishment· and charm induced by others, shared
e and laughs while playing and feeling part of a group in the egg-
the cards traveling from one person to another or assembling in some~
one's hands; then comes a Rising Cards effect, after which the cards are er gag and in its final "choir". - (')
transformed several times at the fingertips ( color changes); then some We should strive carefully for such variety, yet maintain an orderly
· n of emotions and avoid jumping haphazardly from one emo-
flourishes are performed, including card spreads, fans and fancy cuts With gress10 . ! . .

r Such erratic changes would create a of confus10n m

multiple packets; then a little car, pushed by a spectator's finger, stops nto anothe ·
repeatedly at a chosen card; then two cards are predicted, followed by the spectators. I believe a spectator should know, consfiously or subcon-
the nature of what he is watching and the emotion he is sharing
divination of cards in packets held by three spectators; and the set closes 1
with a gag divination involving thought projection using an eggbeater and 'th the rest of the audience.
the whole audience yelling the name of the card to the astonished person It wouldn't make sense to open with a mental effect, follow it with a
who chose it, he unaware that it is being shown to everyone behind his ual one, go back to mind reading, then do a comic effect, then a visual
back. This session (one of many the huge variety of effects with cards e, followed by a demonstration of skill, another mental effect, a visual

makes possible) will be infinitely more varied than the ones we just men- e, etc. Spectators would feel they are being swung from one emotion
tioned, consisting of only productions and multiplications. another, back and forth, jumping from here to there, without having a
Needless to say, this variety of effects produces a variety of emotions chance to settle into a particular mood. They will end up totally absent,
that, without a doubt, would better be integrated into a unity: a harmony emotionally and even physically. They will feel tired, even bored, by such
of props and an accordance of style governed by the personality of the ,Jnisarranged variety.
magician. It doesn't matter if Rene Lavand does the card transformations Therefore, in my judgment, the emotions transmitted by every trick
of his "Pygmalion" routine or continues with the travels of "Perhaps, a session should be carefully sequenced. In the varied card session
Some Day"; there will always be the unity of that extremely beautiful and previously outlined, we begin with laughter and move into more magical
impressive style that Rene imparts to his effects. and powerful effects, sprinkled with little gags in the spectator-participa-
And that unity of style and personality should always be carefully tion routines (Cards Across). The cards continue to move, now visually,
respected, even if you choose to open the session with a gag. After the in the Rising Cards. A sort of intermission is produced as the spectators

humorous introduction, you can continue with impossible translocations, r,elax while watching skillful juggling and flourishes. The s~cond portion
then visual effects, demonstrations of skill (card juggling and flourishes) of the session moves into the area of mental effects, beginning with "El
and finish with mental effects, wrapping them up with a comic end- Cochecito" (laughs, tenderness and divination by an "animated" object),

ing, the humor relating in its emotion to that in the introductory effect. th;n progressing to predictions and the divination of groups of cards. The
Respecting unity here consists of maintaining the personality (the stron- style of the presentation has evolved without sudden transitions, from the

ger the personality, the easier this is) and preserving the style (we can do lighthearted first portion of the performance to a more dramatic second

a comedy effect, a mental effect and a visual effect without altering or half, with the magician becoming progressively more serious. Everything
losing the style). is summed up in a final mental effect with a strong element of comedy, the

Naturally, that variety of effects will produce a variety of emotions in eggbeater. This ends with laughs, the joy of living and fun shared with the
the spectators: amazement at the skillful flourishes, mystery invoked by whole audience. It reprises all the emotional elements presented, and it
relieves the tension that the mental effects demand. The result is an apo- Effect, in Effect, with Affection
theosis of magic, humor, joy and pleasure.
The steps from the first part of the performance to the second have (In Memory of Jose Frakson:·a Magical Effect in Himself)
been made smoothly, with intermediate effects (flourishes) and tran- etimes I still think_;continue to think-about method; in other
sitional effects ("El Cochecito", which begins as a joke but btcomes an rds, about how to con~eal the secret of a trick. And I forget about the
extremely mysterious and magical divination). st important thing: His Majesty, the Effect. 28 AB an e~ample, let's con-
. Another marvelous effect for achieving this type of transition is the er the King of Card Effects: the Rising Cards. For this trick, I search for
"Invisible Deck". It is funny and poetic in its first half, then becomes grad- method to make the cards rise in a way the spectators, cannot discover.
ually more serious and dramatic in the second, resolving in an experience en I realize, by myself or with help, that the most important thing is that,
of poetically impossible magic. long as the secret-how the cards are made to rise-is concealed, the
So you see, we must exercise variety with unity. For that you need ect is in itself attractive. Even I feel it is fascinating, charming. When
a harmony of personality, requiring a style, possibly with evolution in e see the card rise by itself, both magician and spectators enjoy that
the style while avoiding sudden transitions. Stay away from inconsistent -...,-..m.c.... during which the card, with a soul of its own, moves by itself; it

jumps in style and don't be concerned with a variety of props; instead, and rises and rises, and thereby becomes free from the prison of the
look for an essential variety of effects and the emotions they transmit. It rises slowly, without hurry, and stops at request, or by its own will,
I am leaving my opinion here, just in case it should be of use to anyone; pleasure, obedience or revelry, as the case may be. It then continues
or at least to encourage reflection on the subject, since such reflection is rise, rise; rising, standing out, individualizing itself in a beautiful, slow,
by no means less important. rhythmical, unhurried, almost majestic ascension (to the heavens?). It's a
small rise, almost spiritual, as it escapes earthly ties, almost smiling as it
overcomes the severe, serious and heavy Universal Law of Gravity.
And that's what we· should feel, we magicians; and we should know
how to be touched by it and transmit that emotion, helping the spectators
to be fascinated and blinded as well. And let's not forget that it's the card
that ·was freely selected by, and represents, the spectators. The power is in
the word, when the magician or the spectator names the card; in its will,
whe,p. it rises when called, when asked; and in the magic of the magician,
when the magical passes of his open hand seem to attract the card, help-
ing it to emerge from the others and stand out, unique, alive. Better still,
it is the magician who brings the card to life. And it is the card, animated
by the magician, that responds to the call of the spectator and appears,
exhibits itself, ascends.

28. I use the words Majesty and King without their political-monarchical conno-
tations, which I repudiate.

Animation. Its own life. Liberation. Individualism. Improvement. f this is not a subtle and complex, fascinating and poetic, exciting and
Ascension: a Glorious Ascension. ,werful, playful and beautiful art, "Yhat is?
Can anyone offer more? If this is not magic ... 0
. And who will think now about how the card moves? Who wants to What is?
break the doll to see its viscera of wheels and gears? Especially after hav-
ing seen the proof that there is nothing to move it.
Of course, merging joy and pleasure, we are saturated in amazement
mystery and astonishment, the specific keys of our art.
Here then is a possible itinerary of our thoughts and emotions:
Surprise (It moves!). Amazement (It rises!). Astonishment (It is the card
named!). Mystery (It's impossible!). Acceptance (It really does rise!).
Pleasure (What beauty!). Charm and fascination (It's got a life of its own!).
And inside, subconsciously, there is the joy and happiness of seeing and
attending to the liberation and ascension of the named playing cards, or
of ourselves, represented by them. Is it, perhaps, the liberation and ascen-
sion of our own souls, our own spirit?
All that, and we haven't yet mentioned the suspense felt when waiting
for the rising of the second, third, fourth ... cards. Let's not forget that the
beautiful phenomenon of the ascension is repeated over and over, with dif-
ferent cards, under different conditions: isolated, in the spectator's hands,
inside the card case or in a glass, or with the deck covered by a handker-
chief that is pushed up by the card in its unstoppable ascension. Nor have
we mentioned the challenge we feel in the repetition of the impossible. And
we mustn't take for granted the tricks played by the disobedient card, the
playful card that rises when we're not looking, the King that rises only when
we bow and give him the royal treatment, the shy card, the aggressive card,
the deaf card to which we must yell its name, the card that only rises when it
hears its song, the card that rises back outward and magically turns over....

If this is not drama and magic, a dream lived in reality, with playfulness
and beauty, the impossible made possible, wishes granted, myths come
true, symbols transmitted subconsciously, and all of that experienced in a
group, guided by the magician, yet participating directly in the rite-if this
is not magic, what is?

ALMOST all the magnificent writings that deal with the psychology of
magic-by Robert-Houdin, Maskelyne, Fitzkee, Vernon, Ascanio, Ortiz
and so many others-have addressed important aspects of our art: the
rhythm, the grammar, etc. But their overriding focus has been on one
thing: misdirection, the art of diverting, weakening or eliminating the
spectators' attention toward some point or aspect of a trick
But there are other ways to produce illusions in the minds of specta-
tors, such as producing failures in their senses (visual, tact~le, auditory,
etc.) and in their memories (visual, auditory, conceptual, etc.).
Laws of perception and the failures caused by certain optical, aural

and tactile illusions have been applied in magic and explained in its litera-
ture. A few examples are the Phantom Tube, Coin on Forehead, the Click
Pass with coins, the Ball Shell. But my task here will be an in-depth study
of errors produced in the memory, a subject of maximum interest, yet in
our analysis of it virginal (may this unpretentious essay act as a meta-
phoric, but not painful, deflowering). Please forgive some of the pedantic
aspects I may not have managed to disguise.
psychologists maintain various.hypotheses about the nature of mem-
The Memory. Generalities
Some are compatible, some contr?'dicto:ry. I will not get into that here

The function of memory is to evoke something that belongs to the past l)ut will refer those who are interested to texts on the subject (see my 0

such as facts, sensations, ideas. But to remember something from the

' micro-bibliography below). For my part, I will apply those ~pects that are
past, it must have been encoded in our memory when that thing was in useful in each hypothesis ,for causing weaknesses, errors, or mistakes in
the present. In addition, during the entire time el~psed, that thing must the memory of a witness of a magic trick. If you are a stu~ent of psychol-

remain in the memory. Encoding, storage and retrieval of the memory are ogy, please don't rend the garments I've woven at the unorthodox loom
the three necessary phases for what we call remembering. of hypotheses taken from Bergson, Luria, Schacter and others (some of
Memory relies on a very complex system. We know there are different which, by the way, are still evolving).
Throughout this study we will examine the possibilities of weakening
types of memory: memory for skills, memory for habits, memory used
for recognizing everyday objects, memory for names, semantic memory, memories or even preventing the recording of a fact, idea or sensation in
memory. We will then study techniques that can weaken the permanence
conceptual memory, memory for specific events, short-term memory,
of a memory. Later we will deal with techniques that weaken or prevent
long-term memory, etc. Each of these is located in a different area of the
brain. What I will use here is a practical scheme that is as simple as possi- the recollection of a fact from memory; partial or total oblivion of the
fact. Finally, we will study in depth how to acquire techniques that can
ble, yet sufficient for our intention of using memory, its evocative capacity
and its science, to create better illusions both during a trick and after make the recalled memories partially inaccurate or totally false-or even

it. Minutes, months, years later, spectators will remember having expe- create a memory of something that never happened. In other words, we

rienced the magic, and in the experience of remembering, the magic will will study how to erase, blur and "rewrite" memories of events, and how

grow better and better, more beautiful, more mesmerizing. In total, we to create new "memories" of events that never took place.
All this will be presented in the context of its use in magic and from an
will learn how to ensure that the magical effect doesn't end (die) when
the trick is over, but remains alive and growing for a long time, until the essentially practical standpoint. I'll express it in a way I hope is pleasingly

moment it is evoked with augmented, luminous joy and fascination. clear and welcoming to other opinions, observations, criticism and, above

I should point out that several techniques and principles I'll dis- all collaborations intended to revise and complete it.
' The great interest this subject holds for us is evident, as is the huge
cuss come not from analysis or reflection but from artistic intuition- not
' promise it offers for our knowledge of techniques capable of causing fail-
only mine, of course, but from many magician-artists who came before
ur~ in memory. Such techniques are seldom used by magicians, despite
us. Ernst Gombrich already said it in his wonderful Art and Illusion:
Psychologists should ask prestidigitators, who have centuries of experi- the fact-and it's interesting to explore this-that memory is one of the
weakest and most fallible of human functions. In this regard I should men-
ence in these matters. Daniel Schacter wrote something similar: Artists
tion that all the practical studies (propositions, tests, surveys, testimony
precede scientists in knowledge. And a similar idea was captured before
these two men by the ingenious philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer. This is of experiences, etc.) agree at least on one thing: The objectivity and verac-

why I will analyze, explain and systematize (with humility) the knowledge ity of any memory is the exception, not the rule.
By the way, as Daniel Schacter rightly points out, the great flaws or
of psychologists and the intuitions of artist-magicians, past and present,
mistakes-which he calls "sins"-of human memory (forgetfulness,
along with a little intuition of my own.

et memoire, Henri Bergson, 1968, Presses Universitaires de

recording only what is important, etc.) are not really negative. They are
necessary for living, the positive products of the evolution of the species. .'France: Paris.
And, I will add, they are wonderful for our objective of producing illusions
La Memoire, Jean-C. Filloux, 1969, Presses Universitaires de France: n
(our magic). Paris.
La merrwire collective, Maurice Halbwachs, 1950, Presses Universitaires
I believe something even more interesting needs to be stressed: Even

though what we remember can be wrong, often very wrong, we still do not de France: Paris.
The Natural History of the Mind (second part; "Consciousness:
doubt or distrust our memory. We magicians know the truth of this all too
Theories of Mind and Brain"), Gordon Rattray Taylor, 1979, E. P.
well! How many wonderful effects, never performed, do our spectators
remember having seen! And the best part is that they remember them with Dutton: New York.
La psychologie sociale (Chapter 8: "La memoire"), J. Stoetzel, 1963,
"total and absolute certainty"!
We then will use the weakness of the memory to make those fantastic Fiammarion: Paris.
Searching for Memory, Daniel L. Schacter, 1996, Basic Books: New
effects the ones our spectators always remember. And those memories
may be evoked after months, weeks, days, or at the end of the perfor- York.
The Seven Sins ofMemory, Daniel L. Schacter, 2001, Houghton Mifflin:
mance, even during the effect, by inducing false memories of facts and
circumstances that occurred during phases prior to the climax. New York.
Le souvenir, A. Bridoux, 1956, Presses Universitaires de France: Paris.
In all, an ample array of possibilities is presented to us. Let's use them
» The Working Brain, Alexander Luria (Basil Haigh, trans.), 1973, Basic
to our advantage!
Books: New York. Originally published as OcH0BbI Hei'iporrrnxononu1
But not without stressing something very important: All the theories
' by Mezhdunarodnaia Kniga: Moscow.
long established or new, that I am about to present have been proven and
tested in practice, for the public and for magicians of the most diverse
countries and cultures. I've been trying to get to the bottom of this sub-
ject for about forty years and, above all, to find its practical applications.
I have extracted many of the ideas, both on my own and with the help of
others, from practice. I believe this is an almost essential requirement for
any theory that aspires to more than being beautiful, profound and solid,
though in reality far from the truth.
For the sake of the simple explanation I promised, we will now exam-
ine a trick that will serve as a practical model, since it utilizes some of
these possibilities, even though in an elementary form.

» Art and Illusion, E. H. Gombrich, 1969, Princeton University Press:
New Jersey.
Order preparation can be easily carried out at any moment, even in
f the spectators during a prior effect.
(A Practical Example) 0 -

This is one of those effects that truly impresses spectators. However, it

apparent simplicity and the absence of manipulation make it one of those e deck next to its case on the table. If you are sitting, scoot as far

tricks usually neglected by magicians, especially the "technicians" or from the deck as you can. If you are standing, move }t few steps away.
"experts" in card magic. Ask someone to name a number between five and ten ( don't ask him
I learned it, adapted it and polished it over forty years ago, and have noose). This is how I ask: In a loud voice I say, "Pleas:e give me a num-
been performing it regularly ever since. It's one of the few tricks I often quickly.. . " I pause briefly and then continue in a softer voice, almost
include in any type of session. talking only to him and barely audible to the rest: "... between.five and
for example." It doesn't matter if any of the others hear it. It will go
oticed. (This is by no means a case of an impromptu stooge.)
Someone freely selects a number and another person names any of the
Let's assume the spectator says seven. Halfway through the word
four card suits. Without the magician ever touching the deck, which li~s
en"-as soon as you are sure the number is being named-continue
on the table, the selected card is revealed in an incomprehensible way
·ng, raising your voice to call the group's attention to the conditions:
that has been previously announced.
J It's important to observe that I never touch the deck; that I stay well
Secret ay and don't get anywhere near it!"
All magicians know that, when you ask a layperson for a number between Immediately address the spectator again, as if you hadn't heard his
five and ten, ninety percent of the time seven will be chosen. For the swer because you were talking: "Say a number, any number. " He will
remaining ten percent, I have devised various solutions, which I will peat, "Seven." Observe that this second time you don't say: "between
explain after the main description. e and ten." This is one of the ways I use what I call the "Deaf Man's
The central idea is to set the four Sevens at certain positions in the deck chnique", which I developed years ago and use all the time.
You then make the Seven of the chosen suit appear in a specific place and in "Seven? Are you sure?" Look the spectator intently in the eyes and
a specific way, giving the impression that you have made the "freely" selected serve his pupils. If they are fixed on you and he holds your gaze, you
card appear in the precise way specified from the start. In other words, it's a A variation is to pretend not to hear what the spectator says and make him
trick with various possible outcomes, something Vernon was fond of. repeat it. This gains you time while performing a secret maneuver. Yet another
Since psychology plays such an important role, after describing the "variation is to misinterpret what the spectator says as you repeat it, which
causes him to correct you, thus gaining more time. It also creates a slight
positioning of the four Sevens, I will go into a detailed study of the trick,
momentary confusion in the minds of those who heard the spectator the first
pointing out the psychological subtleties of gestures, words, etc. time and your response (Did he get it wrong?). This confusion creates a sub-
Preparation sequent mental-blurring effect and decreases attention on your actions.
The pretended mistake you make when repeating what the spectator said
Put the Seven of Hearts on top of the deck. Insert the Seven of Clubs face can be made immediately after hearing what was said or after an interval,
up in the center. Set the Seven of Diamonds on the bottom and leave the when you remember his answer. There are other ways to use the Deaf Man's
Seven of Spades inside the card case, which may be on the table. Technique that are more complex but no less effective.

can be certain he will not change the number. In this case, you'll obsel'\t: ber, as if you announced the effect earlier. No one can com-
that his face is free of tension. He might even nod slightly. Now you c t even mentally, because your statement may be taken as an
no .
insist, "Don't you like nine better? Nine is such a beautiful number!" ative, equivalent to "Don't forget" or "Remember it."
he continues to meet your gaze, not moving his eyes in doubt or as if seek ntinue: "The deck was shuffled, away from me, 1 never got any-
ing another number, you continue while always looking at him intently near it during the trick, right? And the nam;e of a card was
"What about six? Or ten? Nothing? Okay, seven then." You now turn to .tructed by two people. One selected the clubs suit; it could have been
l.ook at a second person. or diamonds or spades. And the other selected,,'.a number that he
On the other hand, when you ask him, "Seven? Are you sure?" if he 't want to change. It could have been another suit rind another num-
moves his eyes and his gaze becomes restless, doubtful, don't wait for him and the card could have turned out to be the Eight of Hearts or the
to answer. Instead, tum your attention to a second person and talk to him· of Spades or the Ten of Diamonds-but they selected and formed

preventing the first spectator from answering you or changing his number. Six of Clubs .... "
(The father of magic theory and psychology, the master, Robert-Houdin, in They will not let you finish. They will object, "Not the Six, the Seven."
his marvelous compendium Secrets of Magic and Conjuring, explains all have instilled several false ideas in the spectators' minds that they will
the theories of magic psychology that have since been repeated, including r remember as true. One is that the deck was shuffled (it's not very
his theory of the gaze, which he compared to fencing.) portant, but it enhances the effect). By the way, it is good if in prior
Tell the second spectator, ''Now choose any suit of the deck: spades, ks you or, better yet, the spectators shuffle the deck several times.
clubs, hearts or diamonds. Choose any one, with complete and total free- en the spectators later remember the trick, they will be confused and
dom. "Let's say he chooses clubs. lieve the shuffles were made by one of them during this trick Imagine
Say, ''Are you sure?" Pause briefly, but don't look at him intently. strength of that.
''Don't you like another one? You don't want to change, do you? Don't Another false fact: that the first spectator could have named the number
you prefer hearts-or spades. You don't?" Normally he will not change, ur (false!), implying that he chose a number between one and ten. Finally, it
but since you are taking it for granted that he will not, and since you are ;appears as if he had chosen a number and didn't want to change it. (You didn't
not looking him in the eye, there is a chance, though it's unlikely, that give him a chance to!) Your verbal "error" ("Six" instead of "Seven") focuses
he will change his mind. If that happens, it will enhance the effect if you spectators' attention. They correct you and let the rest of your statement
take advantage of it. Say, ''So you're changing to hearts?!" Pretend to be unquestioned. The facts and concepts in it are already in their minds.
surprised, even puzzled. Pause. This usually gets a laugh. Without altering After they correct you, you appear a little confused: "Seven, are you
your attitude, say, "Well then ... okay, hearts. " sure?" They are. Pause. Display slight doubt. (Careful, don't overdo it!)
No matter how the suit is decided on, tum back to the first spectator: Mumble. "The Seven of Clubs should turn over?" You seem a bit puzzled.
"It's very important to observe that, up to the last moment ... " Continue Without much conviction, say, "Well, in theory any card, whether it is the
talking, but now address everyone, without looking at anyone in partic- Ace of Spades, the Jack of Hearts or the Ten of Diamonds, should obey
ular. "... you had the chance to change, but you didn't want to. Okay, the magical laws. Why not the Seven of Clubs?"
remember that his card must turn face up in the deck." (Or rise to the You get brave, more assertive. "I'll try but ... I need to get closer... only
top, or go to the face-as the suit dictates.) Observe that you are saying this much. " Extend your arm to bring your hand about a foot above the

deck and point at it with your forefinger. From this point on, keep Yo bs, you pick up the deck in position for the Glide (you haven't yet
eyes focused on the deck. But don't touch it. Get no closer than six inch d you won't touch it) and begin to slide cards from the bottom, deal-
Keep the tension, being serious. "Look, the card slowly leaves the dee thehl without turning them over. When you reach the named Six (in 0
It turns face up-and goes back into it. All the way in. Done." Pau case of the club, fifth from the bottom), do the Glide and say, "But
e ,
Maximum tension. Silence. Stay serious and undisturbed. Feel the effe say stop whenever you want!"When the spectator palls, "Stop," you
yourself. Move your hand away. It is done. Don't look away from the dee out the selection, the Six of Clubs. It's not a great trick, but when
Instruct the spectator, "Spread the cards."· with confidence and assertiveness it's quite ef~ective. Believe in
"Face up: the Seven of Clubs!" Live and let the effect live. Climax. and in the wonderful Glide, which is nowadays absurdly neglected.
effect of }'Card to Order" is so strong, the next time you meet any
Notes they select seven: of the spectators, they will surely ask you to repeat it. If you antici-
» In some cases, though very seldom, the spectator will name a number pate that happening, be prepared with an Invisible Deck A memorized
other than seven. Immediately, as if it were planned, say, "You may deck or Card Indexes can also come in very handy. I wish you success!
change the number once, but only once. What number are you chang., Let this trick be only an introduction to the subject of memory and
ing to?" You ask the question with a tone of authority and immediately ic. We will look at many more possibilities.
follow up with: "Say ... " as you look intently into the spectator's eyes.
If he changes to seven, which is the most likely option, continue the
trick as described above.
In the less likely case that he doesn't want to change, or he changes
to a number other than seven, it is not a disaster. Keep in mind that
the spectators don't know what effect you are going to do. If the final
number is, for example, eight, simply ask the spectator to take the
eighth card from the top or from the bottom of the deck. Then do any
trick from your repertoire with it.
» If you don't present this as an impromptu trick, you can have the four
Eights of the deck inside the card case and the Seven of Spades seventh
from the top of the deck (TOP-7, in my notation) or in your pocket
Should the number eight be chosen, you make the four Eights travel
from the deck to the card case, without touching anything. It's a differ-
ent trick but_:_what a trick!
» And, although I don't think it's necessary, you could have the Six of
Spades third from the face (BOT-3), the Six of Hearts fourth from the
face (BOT-4), the Six of Clubs above it (BOT-5) and the Six of Diamonds
sixth from the face (BOT-6). If six is named, and then a suit, for example

now get into the analysis and study of the psychology of memory.
I will adopt an ancient but very useful differentiation in the three
es of the process followed by memory: encoding, storing and retriev-
what is remembered. We will refer to these phases, when convenient,
the less technical terms of.fixing, maintaining and evoking.
It is evident that we remember anything better that was strongly
coded in our memory when we perceived it. But we should bear in
'nd that the existence of encoding (as well as storing) can be proved
ly through retrieval. In other words, we can be sure something has been
coded in our memory only when we are able to retrieve it. If we don't
·"' .
trieve it, we can't possibly know if it has been encoded.
It is therefore difficult to clearly and neatly separate the study of
ncoding from that of retrieval. For the sake of analysis, though, we will
ake a clear distinction between the three phases that is perhaps conven-
onal but useful. Let's begin with the phase of encoding and its elements.
I will base these thoughts on the work of Jean-C. Filloux-following
very closely and quoting at times-and also on that of Daniel Schacter.
I should note that the continuing advance of science will often \render • case, misdirection was not used to prevent my actions of taking
names, and sometimes the thoughts repeated here, obsolete. Therefor g the deck from being seen, but to weaken the encoding of these
will try when possible to refer more to psychological concepts rather in the spectator's memory.
to physiological and neurobiological ones. I am aware that any such atte
will inevitably fail, so I ask the reader to ignore any out-of-date infonnation

might find. I believe, in tum, that the applications to magic (because they that are objectively' of little importance will be strdngly encoded in
,based on experience) will continue to be useful from an artistic standpo· emories if their perception is accompanied by embtional elements
· ectly affect us and therefore make them subjectively important.
The Degree
during a conversation someone laughs and makes fun of me when
There is an immediate memory, which is, according to Henri Bergson, wh a small verbal mistake, the mistake, objectively unimportant, will
automatically encodes memories of everything it perceives, just like t ly encoded in my memory, as it has become subjectively important.
shadow accompanies the body. After a brief time, a few seconds, the me person had simply corrected me without embarrassing me, I could
ories obtained in this way vanish without a trace. Then there is long-te easily forgotten what happened.
memory, which encodes any facts considered important. These are stor an effect occurs within an emotional situation, it will be more strongly
for longer periods, sometimes forever. All short-term memories-every ded in the memory, since the degree of emotion and the intensity of feel-
thing we do and pay attention to without our brain considering it importan will help in the encoding. In such cases, we can appreciate in a particular
enough to store long-term-fade away and vanish after a few seconds. an application of "stressing the initial situation", a concept wonderfully
I will later explain how to keep what is observed a short-term memory, ribed by Ascanio in his magnificent book on the theory of magic. 30
not allowing it to pass into long-term memory, so that it is forgotten (the Examples of tricks that intrinsically contain emotion and are therefore
creation of a memory draft). y encoded are large illusions like Sawing a Woman in Half and the
An immediate memory is affected by the degree of attention with which et Catch, and smaller effects like the Cut and Restored Handkerchief,
it is perceived. If you ask someone to retrieve immediate memories-such
as "What did I just say?"-the more attention he has been paying, the eas-
eneral Framing of the Mind
ier it will be for him. We magicians know too well that when we cause the
attention of our spectators to diminish at a given moment (misdirection), at falls within the general framing of our mind is more easily fixed in
we are also weakening the encoding of what is perceived, and that For example, everything related to or concerning our profession, our
ening can be practically total: oblivion for that memory. Shies or our worries is easily encoded in our memory.
For example, a spectator is holding the deck, and I need to take it in order If I perform for an audience of tailors on the day of their annual trade
to double cut two cards from the top to the bottom. If, after taking the deck , and ask one of them to cut a handkerchief with scissors, the fact
for a justified and natural reason, I create good misdirection to weaken the at one of them cut it as a prelude to the effect of the Cut and Restored
spectator's attention to my cutting the deck and setting it on the table, by andkenfaef will be more strongly encoded in their memories than it
end of the effect he might forget that I had the deck in my hands for a few •The Magic of Ascanio: The Structural Conception of Card Magic, Jesus
seconds, and this lapse in memory makes the effect that much cleaner. Etcheverry, 2005, Paginas: Madrid.
would be for another type of audience. It's a fact that is within the gen simple and symmetrical geometrical shape is encoded more
framing of their minds (cutting cloth with scissors). The same would a than a group of random curves and straight lines.
if I performed a manipulation routine with thimbles, the Gypsy Thread
1 show three cards having a clear structure-for example, a red 0
the Needle Trick.
Six and Eight: Seven of Diamonds, Six of Hearts and Eight of
nds-and after a few intervening events I shm,y another group
Connected Facts-Group of Facts
ee cards with the same structure but different dbtails-Seven of
.Facts holding a low importance are unlikely to be encoded in the me Six of Diamonds and. Eight of Hearts-I can pa~'.s them off as the
ory if they take place by themselves. They are more easily encoded 'oup displayed. The reason is because the simple ~tructure is easily
they are part of a chain, connected for some reason to other facts bered-red Seven, Six and Eight-but the details are not encoded
greater importance. herefore are forgotten. Sometimes a slight disruption of order-
If I want spectators to remember that one of them has shuffled t n-Six-Eight rather than Six-Seven-Eight-increases the confusion.
deck before the trick begins, I can ask him to raise the deck above hl the structure were the Ace, Too and Three of Hearts, it would be
head and shuffle it there, as if it were a workout. The unusual and som to pass them off as the Ace, Too and Three of Diamonds, because it's
what grotesque posture will be strongly encoded in everyone's mind. J simple structure (A-2-3), and hearts is part of it, while our previous
after many intervening events, we make the spectators retrieve that ele ple used mixed red suits.
ment of the action-hands over the head-they will also remember th On the other hand, if the three cards feature no recognizable struc-
element associated with this posture, which is our objective: shuffling th e-for example, the Three of Hearts, Queen of Spades and Seven of
cards. They will have no doubt that one of them shuffled the cards. onds-and three similar but different cards are later shown-Three
As every student or practitioner of mnemonics knows, the stranger, Diamonds, Queen of Clubs, Seven of Hearts-two things happen: First,
weirder, more absurd the image of an object is, or the crazier, more gro- difficult for the spectator to remember the three cards with any accu-
tesque the relationship between two objects is, the easier it is to encode y. Second, the spectator is conscious of the difficulty of certainty in the
it in the memory. emory and therefore won't be sure that the second three cards are the
Naturally, if I want an event to be very weakly encoded in spectators1 ~•e as those in the initial triplet. His suspicion that the cards may not be
minds, I should try to keep it isolated from facts of greater importance; e same negates the magical effect. Alternatively, to avoid f9rgetting the
isolated in the sense that those more important facts are not associated ee cards, he looks more attentively at one or more of them and later
or linked to it.
11 perceive that the second group of three is different.

As we can see, simple structures help us remember with ease and

ccuracy something more complex, but only in reference to that structure
According to the "Psychology of Form", facts and events with a structure d not to the external details of it, which we erroneously believe we are
more logical, simpler, more rhythmic and more organized, are fixed more
strongly in the memory. Conversely, a lack of structure or an excessively detailed structure
A poem is more firmly encoded in our mind than a piece of prose. The prevents us from handling or manipulating memories of it. The balance,
melody of a song is encoded better than a sequence of random musical always in art and in life, is delicate and subtle.
:t's the reason why several simple effects may be routined, bound
In a group of elements, those that have a special attribute that ma r, constituting the parts of a whole, the premise of which is easily
them stand out from the rest will be better encoded: a small handkerc bered, not only for the performing magician but also for the spec-
•among larger ones, a red card among black cards .... a2 Needless to say, if we desire that a trick not be well encoded in

If all the elements have the same set of features , th.e wh o1e group emories of our spectators, we should complicate/ its structure and
elements may be en~oded, but not the isolate_d elements. A group of eig sure it lacks a simple premise. This occurs with cJrtain "automatic"
. cards, all of them picture cards, is better remembered than a packet ;thematical principles. A good magical application iof such principles
random cards; but it's difficult to remember the individual cards i •t es that they be camouflaged by adding moves, ph~es and operations,
n I.
all the stunts of a trapeze artist are done to a drumroll, they will be bett ent in themselves but employed to make backtracking and remember-
encoded in memory than if they were all done to background music· b e actions and operations carried out more difficult. I applied this idea
~t ~ill be ~ifficult to remember each of them individually. That is w~y uously, and I hope successfully, in all the tricks of Verbal Magic. 33
1s mterestmg to apply different ways of underlining effects in a sessio
or show: underlining at times with emotions, sometimes visually, or Wit
sound, with rhythm, etc. If our trapeze artist did only her last stunt to etition is an obvious factor for contributing to the encoding of facts in
drumroll, has another stunt seem nearly to fail, has a second trapeze artis ory, but that makes it no less important. This holds not only for the
participate in only the third stunt, etc., all will be remembered as a whol al mechanical memory (used to remember things like text, even text
as well as individually. If the climaxes of all of a magician's large illusio don't understand) but also for specific memory (used to remember
are accompanied by similar sound and lighting effects, they will be bet- crete facts and immediate sensory experiences) and for memories of
ter encoded in memory than they would be without that accompaniment· as. Repetition creates favorable conditions for the organization of the
but one climax with a sudden and dramatic silence, another with sensu~ ory, the linking of the elements a memory consists of, and the cre-
choreography and another done in a delicately lyrical mood (avoiding the n of structures and schemes. If an effect is repeated several times, it
bathetic) will individually encode each of them and make them stand out l be remembered better by the spectators, not only because it has been
in the spectators' memories. n more than once, but because each time it will be better defined within
e structure in the spectators' minds, helping them to encode it better.
Premises A simple premise and its repetition is an essential combination in
A premise is remembered first, and then the details that complete ·cks that are easily remembered and that persist in the memory for a
Therefore, tricks with effects based on a simple premise persist longest in ng time: Six-Card Repeat, Ambitious Card, Linking Rings, Coins through
the spectators' remories, which is equivalent to saying that their effects able, etc.
last longer. "A card lost in the deck rises to the top" or "the solid metal Repetition is a factor that can and, I think, should be used by the
rings link and unlink" are simple premises, and therefore are easy to agician when he wants something to be strongly encoded in spectators'
remember and more powerful, memorable, in the long run. 31 . Ascanio pointed this out in the foreword of my first bookMonedas, monedas ...
(y monedas), 1969, Editorial Cymys: Barcelona.
31. This also enhances the power of the implicit symbols in the effects.
3. Verbal Magic, Juan Tamariz and Gema Navarro, 2008, Hermetic Press: Seattle.
mem~r!es. If I want people to remember that cards have been s way to leave a memory is by making all types of memory contrib-
fled, 1t 1s bett~r to shuffle them several times and, if possible, at differ that all are directed toward t1:te same end. That's the idea behind
moments dunng the trick, including those in which shuflli · tiple-methods system for memorizing a deck Achieving this task
. . ~IB~
irrelevant. For example, Harry Lorayne's magnificent trick "Out of hours with certainty would be otherwise unirqaginable. 34 The
Universe" is greatly enhanced by the repetition of shuffles, some of Whi senses involved in the memory (sight, hearing, touih, smell ... ) and
I feel, should be carried out when the last three packets have been se e methods used for encoding ( conceptual, rhyth~ic, muscular... ),
rated. Shuffling the cards of each of these packets separately doesn't al points there will be for encoding and the strong~r the probability
the result, but it's three more shuffles. The repetition factor makes it t for better encoding.
. e
1er to remember that everything happened even though the deck has bee t's the interesting thing about special sounds when they accompany
well shuffled. You can also have several people shuffle in succession ct: noises made with the mouth, by clapping, slapping, finger snap-
a single point in the trick The fact that the cards were shuffled is mo etc. Visual aids also help encoding: something red to mark the position
memorable than if only one person had shuffled. Here, however, we mu red cards, and something black for the black cards in a transposition
be careful not to overdo it, altering and slowing down the development t; or the geometrical representation of a woman's body on the front
the trick, and making it monotonous or boring (a deadly sin in art). Zig-Zag Illusion. Music and fragrances (sandalwood, incense, etc.) can
Gestures such as those of showing the hands empty throughout a rou~ 'bute so much to effects in addition to helping create a more magical
tine-clapping your hands or letting them be seen empty-as Frakson di sphere. These elements help to make sure the effect is better captured,
in his cigarette production or Ascanio in "Cards up the Sleeve", give the r encoded, better remembered-is more memorable.
trick, when it is remembered, a characteristic cleanness. By the way, the We all know that as we grow older, the capacity for encoding
s~und of a hand clap, so often used by Frakson, contributes to the impres~ reases. But we should also bear in mind that the physiological con-
s10n of empty hands and fairness both during the routine and when it is ·ons of the moment may have a clear influence on that capacity. An
remembered later. essive consumption of alcohol, certain drugs, great increases in alti-
I must stress that an abuse of repetition can produce a response of · de where oxygen is less plentiful, as on a high mountain or during a
bore_dom or distrust or, in some cases, the phenomenon of hyper-encoding, ane flight; such things can impair or prevent the encoding process. On
makmg excessive repetition counterproductive and contrary to the princi- e other hand, stimulants such as coffee and tea can aid encqding. These
ple of economy, so valuable to good art. actors should be kept in mind when performing for certain audiences
hose capacity for encoding is likely to be hampered or boosted.

Collaboration of the Various 'lypes of Memory We might also look into the possible influence on encoding of collec-
As I mentioned e~rlier, we can talk about visual memory, auditory memory, ·ve states of suggestion, in varying degrees. For instance, how reliable are
the memory of ideas, conceptual memory, etc. Sometimes, though, they e memories of participants in spirit seances, performed in darkness and
don't exist discretely, isolated in reality. They are instead parts of a whole. likely to arouse intense group emotional states including fear and anxiety,
But for the purpose of analysis it is useful to treat them separately. Present sometimes verging on hysteria? There can be no doubt that, in addition
studies of the brain and memory (like those on implicit memory) are in to such factors as the deficiencies in perception of what really happened,
constant evolution, but for us as magicians, it's enough to understand that .34. See Mnemonica, 2004, Hermetic Press: Seattle.

believe that sometimes, if the group is mixed in terms of age

serious difficulties are created for encoding and the eventual ace
y ·ultures etc it is quite possible that emotion "through
retrieval of memories concerning what was perceived. tastes, c ' ., -
These are issues of great interest that need separate studies.
will not be produced, at least in the same desirable sense pro- n
homogeneous audiences.
Social Conditions of Encoding
The memory of a group can be, in certain respects, superior to that of
isolated individual in the ease of encoding, perhaps because the retri ant a perceived fact or event to be strongly encoded in the specta-
and a certain suggestive disposition help to fix the memories. This is so ds, we should strive for the perception ...
thing to keep in mind when performing. Are you working for one or take place during a time of maximum attention.
isolated spectators, or for a group? Are the members of the group m· be accompanied by emotional elements.
or homogeneous? Experience teaches us the enormous difficulties d the perceived facts and events should ...
differences that exist regarding effect, comprehension, response, attitu within the general framing of the minds of the spectators.
~ be

etc., when performing tricks for a single spectator, for a small group or f •.. be linked within a logical (or anti-logical) chain along with other
a large audience. Aside from other factors, perhaps the different capaciti
for encoding possessed by these different audiences exert an influen ,.. have a simple and organized structure .
It is also helpful to consider the interaction between spectators d · .have a special feature that makes them stand out from the rest of
and after your performance, before they return to their everyday lives . .As elements .
spectator perceives the gestures of amazement and admiration made by oth ...adjust to simple premises, easily deductible from the complex devel-
spectators, or their reactions of joy, happiness, discomfort or fear evoke ent of a trick.
by an apparent mistake or accident, the repetition of those emotions in ... bear repetition (same effect, different methods).
group increases the emotional reaction in the spectator-generally in th ... be encodable in memory through different ways and types of mem-
same direction as that perceived, resonating with what is felt and expressed : visual, auditory, conceptual, etc.
by the group-and fixes emotional, physical and psychological hooks that And the physical, physiological and circumstantial conditions (com-
allow him to better encode, store and retrieve what was perceived. rt, noise, temperature, fatigue, tiredness, oxygen, size and expressiveness
Obviously the first effect produced, the increasing intensity of the group, etc.), as well as other positive social conditions, should be
tions, also contributes to a more lasting memory of the performance.
This resonance of the spectator with other spectators is added to
his resonance with the magician, and with the attitude and emotions the
magician transmits: joy, satisfaction, pleasure, even surprise and astonish~
ment, which may not be simulated but actually felt as real. 35

35. In Chapter 5, I discuss how such emotions can be felt in a real and authentic
way by the magician; see "The Attitude of the Magician during Pauses for
Drama and Assimilation", p. 321.

A Preliminary Digression
elieve that, in the mind of the spectator, a magical effect goes through
least three phases. These correspond to three tenses: the present (It's
possible!), the simple past (Was it impossible?) and the present perfect
has been impossible and wonderful!). In more detail, these would arise:
When the spectator is experiencing the effect, in the present, and
astonishment caused by the impossible is produced.
When, immediately after seeing the effect, during the paus~ in which it
is assimilated, the spectator recalls it, sometimes trying to find a solu-
tion to the logical conflict, and other (many) times trying to confirm for
himself the impossibility of the effect (Was this impossible?) so as to
savor the wonder and fascination of the experience (present perfect).
And later, he encounters a fourth and very long tense: the future. If the
effect in fact impressed and astonished him, and once the impossible
had been accepted and enjoyed, in the future (minutes, days or years
later) he will remember it, evoke it, either for himself or by comment-
ing on it with others who witnessed it too, or to acquaintances who
N 140
~ didn't. In doing so, he brings the effect back to life and makes ot
ck to reality. I'm again, dear reader. I can continue,

~ enjoy it, feeling the emotion of the marvelous, of the magic. and happier. .
the three objectives, the corresponding mental comments
~ It is my belief that in artistic magic ... •ther mentally or verbally, come together: It w~ and it is impos-
;j ~ I

~ >> A strong magical impression, both intellectual and emotional, must 1t,as been wonderful and fascinating!-and will c?ntinue to be.
produced in the spectator as he watches the trick what I believe a good magical effect should ~m for: a strong
» Those steps of the trick that interest us should be easily remember ~motion in the present and recent past, and what I call a Comet
but not the ones that we are trying to conceal or that we wish to Very bright light followed by a long, white, growing, brilliant tail.
unnoticed. This way the spectator doesn't perceive or discover here are elements that can modify the memories while they are
solution, and he believes he remembers clearly and certainly what Let's look at them.
happened, that he is in possession of all the facts. The collision horoughly convinced that, among the many applications to magic a study
reason is thus stronger and the effect more incomprehensible, mo psychology of memory can afford us, achieving these Comet Effects is
mysterious, more impossible! And now that he is calm, he is ready of the greatest. We will discuss this later and at more length.
enter a state of enjoyment and wonder.
» The effects are memorable in the long run, not just in the sense th
they can be remembered, but also in that they are worth rememberi
that people want to remember the magical experience and perha
tell others about it-and that such a desire remains with the spectato
for the longest time possible.

During the :first days of May of 1956, I had the experience of watching th
great Fu Manchu make an obedient twelve-inch golden ball float in a wonde
ful way. It rotated around him and flew quickly several feet from him befo
it majestically returned and ceremoniously entered a wooden box held by an
assistant. I was not only amazed after I recalled the impossible conditio
(the ball, in its magical flight, passed several times through a solid metal
hoop), but was also fascinated by the poetry of the deception, of the impos-
sible, mythical and beautiful effect. Because of this, that effect was clearly
engraved in my ~emory and I've evoked it many times since (for myself and
for others). I have relived the joy and emotion I felt. And I may possibly, prob-
ably, have enhanced its already huge magical power, its impossibility and its
exciting beauty. Even todaY, over half a century after having watched it, as I
write these lines a pleasant chill goes down my spine, then up the steps of my
vertebrae to settle nicely at the nape of my neck, producing such pleasure..
Altered Permanence •·(mayb e subconsciously) everything that is necessary to make it
Let's remember the statement made near the beginning of this chap hensible. • .

The objectivity and veracity of any memory is the exception, not t the nee .
d to lean on logic is a double-edged sword . for the .magi- n
Onth eone hand it can help us boost the conflict between logic and
~ rule. Furthermore, the subjective sensation of certainty ("I'm snre") by ' •
that we present to t~e spectator. On the other hand,; it can be harm-
means guarantees the objective value ("That's how it was") of the eve
e spectator, eager to find a logical explanation, mig~t make up steps
Curiously, the sensation of certainty has no relationship with the ti
didn't happen and believe he is remembering them. 1;his is one of the
elapsed between the storage of the event and its retrieval, although tes
monies about a recent occurrence tend to be more accurate. est problems of performing magic for children.
ere are multiple ways to fight this danger in magic: flawless execu-
We'll begin with the fact that memories are altered although we mig
clarity of action, strong encoding of the conditions (the ones we want
often be convinced they are accurate ("I remember perfectly, as if I wer
mbered, not the others), making the right things easy to remember,
watching it right now"). As Jules Lemaitre puts it: "We never remembe
g the impression that there couldn't have been anything more than
things exactly." Our observations, the events, the sensations we expert,,.
is remembered, and good (concise!) recaps before and after the event.
enced-we believe we know them, but we inevitably invent them.
Although we are aware that many of the alterations of memories ma
.eferences and Tendencies
happen because they were not well observed or encoded, very often
have seen how general tendencies in our thinking and preferences can
memory of something is altered even though it was well encoded, because
r the encoding of events. Also, their storage is affected by those fac-
it wasn't properly stored. This can happen for the following reasons.
ts, transforming the events to fit our interests and preferences. .
Elapsed Time We have the tendency to forget what is unpleasant and to make up
emories that are suitable to our wishes. Here, once again, The Comet
The more time that elapses between perception-storage and retrieval,
fect comes into play. 38
the more confusing and fragmentary the retrieval will be; and we will
In magic, it is very common that someone who is strongly impressed
see, when we study the evocation of memories, that we always try to
a trick and enjoys it, when describing it to another person, will embel-
fill in gaps in the memory, making up whatever is needed and then
sh ·the effect, improving it to an impossible level. After all, if he was
believing with certainty what we have invented. This is why Proust
oled-or rather, amazed-it is because the cause of the effect was com-
said that remembering is not only searching for memories, but also
tely indetectable and the effect itself was full of charm. He will then
"creating" them. The time elapsed increases the number of gaps and
ecount it to others in a manner that causes his listeners to perceive it in
their size, facilitating the involuntary and at times subconscious cre-
the same way. From that point on, that's how the narrator believes the trick
ativity of the memory.
87. This behavior can also be part of the retrieval of memories, because it is when
The Desire of Logic evoking memories that the desire arises to impart logic to the story. We'll
study retrieval more deeply in the next section, "Evoking Memories".
We want everything we experience to be comprehensible, logical
Although this subject is specifically addressed below, in the study of the evok-
and coherent. If something isn't, we try to adjust it, even if we must ing of memories, I am previewing some of the ideas here.
happened-just as he has told it. If the listener, in turn, tells it to some forms with very simple and regular forms, as well as highlight-
else, he will improve it even more; and, if the impression he received u significant. details." Thus, memories tend to become schematic in
hearing it was vivid, in time he will begin to repeat the effect as a li of simpler formal structures, toward "forms of balance". n
, experience and will even come to believe he was a witness to the effect ause of this process, a complex routine of card productions, van-
read it in a newspaper, etc. The capacity for self-deception (self-illusi color changes, translocations, etc. will probably pe remembered as
is enormous, and I believe the magician should bear it in mind and use uous production of cards, which, even if it dir/ninishes the effect
to improve his art. (It has long been used for·advertising, commercial ain way, makes it easier to remember. It is more memorable and
political, with objectives very different from ours.) ore a better effect in regard to the Comet's Tail.
But the phenomenon described above-and this is very important- example: Jose Florences Gill's and Frakson's creation (production)
be produced only if the impression of the first person was favorable. If dreds of lit cigarettes is memorable, if we remember correctly. With
impression of the trick or the magician was unfavorable, the phenomena n there are also effects of the creation of smoke, vanishes, the incom-
will work in the opposite direction. Thus, a spectator will be able to descri ility of a handkerchief, etc. It is, though, the single, repetitive and simple
a trick he watched as miraculous if, and only if, aside from having felt a stro pt of continuous cigarette production that remains in the memory.
magical effect, he found the personality of the magician pleasant; if there w
chemistry and sympathy between performer and spectator; or if the pe
former is a loved one: a son, friend, girlfriend .... On the contrary, the spectat er factor of great interest for the magician is the phenomenon of
will diminish the quality of the effect, filling it with augmented imperfectio densation, through which facts and images remembered and several
if he finds the magician unpleasant, if he didn't like him, if the performer's s retrieved are merged, giving birth to compound, condensed images,
selfish or pretentious attitude made him feel attacked, if he is an enemy or details of which are doubtful in their accuracy.
competitor in some field, etc. Also, if the spectator feels negative emotions This knowledge provides a magnificent weapon for the magician.
(frustration, insecurity... ), the quality of the effect will be diminished in his example, in the construction of routines in which the same effect
telling of it to others: It was just skill, it was slow, he put it up his sleeve, etc. repeated, we can and should change the underlying method, so that a
Therein lies the importance, above all, of the Comet's Tail (remem- ment that was less clear in the first version can become entirely clear
brances of the trick); of empathy with the magician's personality, as well the second, and vice versa. The memory of the specta~or condenses
as his capacity for communication, and his charm, his honesty, his atti- th versions and, given our tendency to believe that the same effect
tude and his humanity. been produced by the same cause, he will remember an effect that
For me, the best effects I have ever seen were undoubtedly those per- extremely clear in all its phases, in all its moments-a totally magical
formed by my daughters Ana and Alicia, and that's how I describe them, to ect. Hofzinser and Dai Vernon are undisputed masters of this type of
whoever wishes ( or doesn't wish, it makes no difference) to listen. plication to the structure of their routines. (Let's remember the great
ofzinser's "Everywhere and Nowhere" and the equally great Vernon's
The Normal Factors-The Gestalt utine for the Ambitious Card.)
Gestalt psychology has reached the conclusion that "the processes of And with that we reach the third phase of the process: the· evoking of
deformation of memories consist, in general, of replacing the more

The Comet Effect

the previous section I've commented on what I call The Comet Effect,
uality I believe a good magical effect needs. There is a bright point, the
feet as perceived by the spectator in the first place, followed by a long
that increasingly grows in size and brilliance, which is the effect as it's
ing felt and remembered by the spectator, and which is then perhaps
ld to others, during its life in the memory, with the passing of time.
We mustn't forget that the magical effect is not what the magician pres-
nts. It's not a factual impossibility, but rather what the spectator believes
sees. If I, the magician, divine a card selected by a spectator, but I say,
'The card you saw was ... the Two of Diamonds, " the real effect is not
tlfut a physically selected card was divined, but that a card just seen-or
maybe only thought of-was divined.
And here is where the growing and luminous tail of the comet appears:
lf you can make the spectator, in his memory (a few hours, days or years
later), believe that what you divined, a card he saw, was a card he thought
of, without his seeing it or touching it, the effect, augmented in his mem-
ory, is better, more powerful, and the magic more wonderful.
We magicians have the everyday experience, after our performance Is The 'IL.../V ........ ...,.., ~•:::!:~~~-::; .,..,.,,~r'1rLIL'-''--•'UI.
of noting how enhanced memory is the general rule rather than the e:xce
tion. How often are we asked to repeat that trick in which the coi k that, above all, The Come~ Effect is produced by the desire of
·tor to revive or transmit the sensation of miracle, of wonder.
magically travel from one of the spectator's hands to the other, witho spect a . . . .
nishment and fascination of the senses produce a Joy that mvolves him
the magician being near or touching the coins-and we find ourselv
unable to repeat it under the marvelous conditions remembered. sUIVI·ves in some comer
. of his astonished brain andjpyful
, soul. And he
s to tell others about it, to share it. Often, when he.tells it to a friend,
In such situations, I confirm the fantasy· narrated by the spectator.
better transmit to him the impossibility and the joyfql sensation experi-
Keep in mind, if that is what he remembers, that is his truth and the effect
he is experiencing at the moment. In my early days as a magician, it felt a ed, he exaggerates almost subconsciously (and we ,will later see what
"almost" is about). He exaggerates the final effect and the conditions:
little awkward accepting and confirming such memories. I felt I was being
ens of cigarettes appeared! (Frakson was introduced as "The Magician
unfaithful to the truth. I later realized that if people had told me the exter-
the Thousand Cigarettes"; yet, in his longest routine, he produced-nine!)
nal truth they had perceived-"! freely selected a card and you named it; it
The almost in the previous paragraph refers to the fact that this exagger-
was incredible!"-! would have confirmed it without the slightest qualm.
. g of the effect is not totally conscious or voluntary. It's not that we, as
But this version of the trick is as far from reality as the improved one
ctators, are lying when we recount what we saw-we are trying to transmit
because the card was not freely selected; it was forced; and of. course I'
hat we felt, the magical emotion, mystery and wonder. So we augment and
didn't divine anything at all.
hellish the narration, because we can't accurately remember the details.
That's how I came to understand that the enhanced version is just We relive the experience as we narrate it. In other words, we feel
as truthful as the one adhering more closely to reality. When a spectator "-what we narrate. It's not a cold scientific description. We relive the aston-
narrates the magical effect he experienced, both he and those of us lis- ishment, the joy, the sensation of wonder. And this experiencing of the
tening know that we aren't talking about the actual reality but about the enhanced trick is, from now on, the true reality for us. The next time we
artistic reality within the scope of art. And yes, right then, at that precise remember it, we will begin from this improved version and build from
moment, what is narrated is actually true, because it is what the spectator there. We will remember a further enhanced variation, and this process of
feels, built on what he felt and then improved on while evoking it. All that augmentation continues with each retrieval.
is lacking is to thank him for his invaluable cooperation in co-authoring I think we are now in possession of the facts needed to reconstruct the
the trick. Isn't that beautiful? sequence that forms The Comet Effect for the spectator:
What I'm trying to analyze here are the causes of this enhanced mem-
» The magical emotion was wonderful.
ory of the effect and how it is possible for the magician to influence its
» It wasn't told to him, he experienced it. He infused himself with that
formation and boost it. Doing so will increase the magical effect in the
experience. His physiological sensations (nerves, anxiety, holding
long run as mu~h or more than a good manipulative, physical or psycho- his breath accelerated heartbeat, etc.) were recorded in his sensory
logical technique. '
memory and make him, or allow him to, remember and repeat the
Or it could be that technique, dramatization and presentation, in addi- experiences when he evokes the effect.
tion to the elements our analysis might discover, will be the causes and » He wants to recreate or transmit the emotion of the magic he experi-
the enhancers of the tail of The Comet Effect. Let's see. enced, to share it.
» He doesn't remember the details perfectly, but believes he does. s
» He feels a positive effect and an empathy with the magician's person · ormous and Positive
» His verbalization of an improved version of the trick becomes t
. the essential factor of the magician's personality appears. If a
starting point for future remembrances, perhaps further enhanced.
am, athizes with the person who is the magician and with what
Let's look at some everyday examples: orsymP . :
·t from his inner world if the spectator hk~.'S that person or,
snn s . ' :
The beautiful play of the center-forward of our team is often reme . charmed or fascinated by him, the battle is w?n. The spectator
bered and then told, considerably improved. •If, on top of that, the pl 'IS • . . 1· h
e and tend to evoke the person who charmed ,rhlm with de 1g t,
·was the final goal that won the Cup against the eternal rival of our te . tend to improve the effect he saw. If he tells others, relatives and
and we were in the stadium to experience it, among our team's fans, w ds, about that effect, he will act like a mother talking about how well
will probably remember it as an epic event in which the forward dribble
.son sings.
past three players, made an outrageous heel shot and, barely having an have experienced, in myself and with people very close to me, the
angle, slipped the ball past the hands of the rival goalkeeper, thanks to the 1
t to which the perception of the magician and the memory of his per-
subtle spin he put on it.
ality are influential in a positive way, and occasionally in a negative on~.
The review of the play on TV the next month can show us the reality:
remember attending with my partner-a woman well versed m
He dribbled past only one opponent, he had a reasonably good angle to
c-the performance of a good magician who presented a series of
make the shot, it wasn't done with his heel but with his instep and the ball
ng effects, well executed in every way. I liked it, but when I asked her,
ricocheted off one of the defensive players.
A classic example in the study of memory that displays its low reli- at did you think?" she answered, "Well, it was so-so."
ability notes the different versions given to police by witnesses of a gun Me: "But didn't you see how impossible it was when the cards traveled
assault that affected them profoundly: the envelope and when the ring appeared on the rope? Did you see any
-There were two tall, dark-skinned men with machine guns. t of how he did it?"
-There were three men. Two were short and one of average height, She: "Well, he must have put it in there at some point ... or the rope was
and they had guns. roken ... I don't know."
The truth is that there were two short men, one with a gun, the other I insisted: "Didn't you see that he gave the rope away at the end?"
with a sawed-off shotgun. And if these men put us through a nightmare, it's · And she cut me off: "Yeah but, come on, I don't care. I didn't like it. I
logical that we feel an aversion, almost a hatred, which may cause us to 'dn't like him. Period."
remember them as having unpleasant faces, selfish manners, twisted I should point out here that there are certain exceptions: certain
things that might not be true. With the passage of time, it's possible we will niuses of magic who have not perhaps been simpatico, yet have pos-
remember details we didn't see-things we were told and facts altered by essed a very strong personality, enormously interesting, at times
other witnesses~ perhaps even spiced up with details from an old movie. ,f:ascinating, and they've transmitted a rich and attractive inner world, per-
Now we can answer that interesting question: How do we make the fectly conveyed through an artistic path of magic.

spectator improve the effect in his mind when recalling it hours or days
after having seen it? Of course, they are blessed with that gift, so mysterious and, for me, indefin-
I think certain factors need to be maximized. We will call them: able that we call charisma or duende or charm or aura or appeal or ...
152 153
The Power of the Magical Effect ire of Recreating the Wonderful Experience
To be remembered, the effect should be truly powerful That's one ebrating It
the factors (we'll discuss others later) that make the spectator want ;· g experienced during a trick (or session or show) has been pos-
. remember and evoke the effect. He will do so if he has experienced of joy and pleasure, of amazement, impossibility and fascination;
as totally "impossible" and "fascinating", the two key· words in our roent is felt for the power and wonder in what ~as been seen; if a
And the astonishment felt when perceiving the impossible should be j atmosphere, a bubble of illusion, has been created; if everything has
that: authentic a-s-t-o-n-i-s-h-m-e-n-t. Like fascination, it should cont e a beautiful and incredible dream shared by the group, the audience,
charm, dream, poetry.... · g relatives, friends and those who came to the se~sion with us; if the
Also, the more powerful the effect, the better the chances that t here of the theater, hall, pub or private home where everything took
spectator will want to evoke it repeatedly in the future. And as we ha helped us feel the experience was unique and unrepeatable; there is no
seen, in each evocation and narration to others, the effect will improv that the desire of recreating it, telling it, sharing it and celebrating it will
e and on certain occasions be almost irresistible.
though this boosting of the desire and pleasure of sharing with
After a gambling demonstration, every time any of the spectators play ones the joy we felt, the beautiful artistic experience, is common
watches or refers to a card game (especially if it's the same game), h e other arts, it is in our magic that the experience of astonishment is
will want to recall the effect presented, because he would like to hav tained by unresolved logical, rational conflict that notably urges us to
the magician's power. In this case, the conscious, explicit meaning of th e recreate and augment the artistic effect we felt.
effect is what encourages the wish. Most classic effects have the power 0 '
evocation in themselves, either in their conscious significance or in the·
subconscious symbolism, which is metaphorically expressed: letting g re are still other circumstances that encourage us to recall and tell 0th-
or becoming free of the ties of life (metaphoric but felt as real), healin what we have seen. One of them is that we were there and actively
wounds (curative), having power over objects, mastering time (knowing 'cipated. Our participation in a trick-which, as we all know, increases
the future, abbreviating the wait, going back to the past), producing meta- effect for us as well as for our friends, and even for those sitting next to
morphoses between objects and people, multiplying wealth, etc. 40 m-awards us, when we tell it to others who weren't present, a certain
Therein lies the enormous importance, in the most artistic kind of portance, because we were in the spotlight, as direct and active partic-
magic, of having a strong and fascinating symbol implicit in the trick: An ts in a secular miracle: "I thought of the city myself, and the magician
impossible wish, sometimes not a conscious one, fulfilled by the magical n named it. And I made it difficult for him because I thought of Istanbul
effect within the artistic reality, is latent or expressed in good tricks. 41
how they do them-presuming they don't butcher them-will produce a great
40. See more on the subject of symbolism under the heading of "Emotions" in the effect (Linking Rings, the Invisible Deck, Ambitious Card, Levitation, Cut and
next chapter (p. 187) and in the earlier chapter dedicated to classic effects and Restored Rope, Egg Bag, etc.); and there are others that are confusing, with
symbolism in magic (p. 71). weak effects, without an implicit symbol: little technical trifles that not even
41. Which, by the way, do exist. There are good and bad tricks. Very good and very the likes of Frakson could make live and transmit magical emotion. Selecting
bad. Don't doubt it. There are some tricks that, no matter who does them and tricks with good judgment is, I think, the first step for a good magician.

rnent of effect rely on making the effect embody multiple and

and not Paris or Madrid or London." "I lmow the guy who checked the kn
.ed units, such as a continuous production of cards from the air
He works in my company." "I had those rings that linked and unlinked in
hands, and they were absolutely solid and unbroken."
d-manipulation act, while disregarding other effects such as disap- n
The pleasure of this astonishment is multiplied if the magic has h Cesor translocations of the cards. I

it is evident that such simplicity or, rather, non-complica-

pened in our own hands: "I was holding the copper coin very tightly in any c ase , i
the effect and its development facilitates its e~ocation, narration
fist, and it changed to silver." "The sponge ball multiplied in my hand."
. had any four cards between my palms and the four Aces gathered ther nhancement.
"I and other people guessed the color, red or black, of each and every c
in the deck." "I checked the whole process from less than a foot aw
ncourage the spectator's repeated wish to evoke the effect, the magi-
Everything happened in front of my very eyes. "42
can create what I call evoking hooks: objects, actions, music, phrases,
Facility Evoking the Effect which the spectator "hangs" his memories and then, when
s, etc ., On
Improving It upon Its Evocation e hooks appear in his everyday life, they bring back the memory of

The effect, to begin with, must comply with the conditions of the so-calle magical experience.
The strongest kind of evoking hooks are objects given as souvenirs
Carlyle Criteria: 43 It must have maximum clarity and power; the simple
one or several spectators who have taken part in the effect: the card
the more repeatable, the more direct, the better. It can be described as
ed by both the spectator and magician that magically traveled, the
single idea in a few words (the Gypsy Thread, Multiplying Balls, a divi""
tored rope, an origami figure, the envelope in which a ring appeared,
nation of a thought-of card, etc.). Complicated procedures and complex
fruit that appeared under the cup, etc. It's not easy to exaggerate the
sequences in its development are avoided.
ormous potential of objects that play an essential role in the trick; a pup-
We should point out that these criteria do not conflict with the con-
t, balls, a safety pin, coins or banknotes-perhaps foreign ones of low
structivist style (Hofzinser, Vernon, the Madrid School. .. ) in which the
ue. When the spectators see them and show them to others, they will
effects are routined, combined and even made more complex. It's the
11 them the story and improve the effect. Furthermore, the aroused curi-
task of the interpreter of this style to make the spectator experience each
;sity in the listeners, as well as their active examinations _of the objects,
effect, one by one, even though they take place at almost the same time.
· l make them feel more intensely the magic of what they've been told,
The pauses for dramatization and assimilation are measured; the complex
~ost as if they had experienced it and not just heard about it. Thus, The
effect is given a clear reading. See, as a paradigmatic example, Hofzinser's
Comet Effect, with time, not only increases its light and brilliance for the
"Omnipotence of Women". 44 Sometimes the facility of evocation and the
spectator who saw the effect, it also illuminates, wraps and immerses the
42. The continum;is and active participation of most of the group is just one of the ;~rowing number of his blessed listeners in its magic.
specific, marvelous features in the powerful art of close-up magic. Evoking hooks can also be non-material-mime, sound, words, actions-
43. Francis Carlyle, a magnificent American magician, known as the creator of that may be left with spectators. For example, a magical curiosity that
"The Homing Card", a masterpiece of card magic. is shown to them during the trick and that they can repeat and present to
44. Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser: Non Plus Ultra, Vol. 2, Magic Christian, 2013.
their friends: folding a bank note to make it look like two, an easy :flourish
Hermetic Press, Inc./Conjuring Arts Research Center: New York, p. 133.
with. cards or coins, the puzzle with two corks. There are all kinds 0 f games ffered a shot in a restaurant, he will probably remember your magic
and ideas, as ~ell as words, phrases and magical spells, that are memorable tell those around him about it, surely improving the magical effect,
because of their sound (Sim Sala Bim' Abracadabra, etc ·) and are repeated maybe the whole session.
thro~~lwut the session. When they encourage spectators to remember the
magician, they also help them evoke the effects he presented. mporary Summation
Certain repeated lines are also useful for this evoking function: "What e effect must be a bright spot, but its magical strength can grow when
night!" (Pepe Carrol), "It's amazing!" (Frakson) and other phases that mi ha membered by the spectators (the brilliant tail of The Cbmet Effect).
. h gt
occur mt e spectators' everyday lives, as they hear acquaintances say them For that:
or when it seems appropriate to say them themselves. But they are effective The spectator should want to remember with pleasure or admiration
only when they are not repeated excessively during the session, when they or interest the person who was the magician, the person who has fas-
have ~t, duende or charm, and when they naturally suit the style and per-
cinated him with his persona and artistic style.
sonality of the magician. In other words, they should never feel forced or The magical effect should have been truly powerful, logically impossi-
artificial but are heartfelt and genuinely grow from the personality.
ble, brilliant, exciting and mesmerizing.
It is well known that the music, lyrics or the odors (incense and scents) » The effect should carry the implicit or explicit symbol of an impossi-
that accompany a trick are wonderful evoking hooks for a whole session
ble, fascinating, magically fulfilled wish.
or a particular trick. The magician should strive to make the spectator want to evoke (for
A third kind of evoking hook consists of memorable images. For exam- himself and for others) the extraordinary experience he lived.
ple, you produce a giant coin and leave it in view throughout the session The wish to share should increase. That occurs if there is solid, active
referring to it from time to time: "This is Gulliver's coin. If I pay with it' participation from the spectators in the process of the trick: They
they give me five-foot sandwiches and double portions of everything.:, think, examine, choose, touch, take, keep, respond, help, witness ....
Then, only at the end of the session, you pick it up and comment on its The more involvement there is, whether of one person, several or
size, the difficulty of putting it into your pocket, its weight. Then you add the whole group, and especially if the effect happens in their hands
something like ''But it's worth it. What a dinner I've got coming!" .or with their possessions, the more eager they will be to relate their
In tricks that don't carry an implicit evocative power, try to devise
. . ' experience to others.
imagme and search for some emotional hook. For example, in a card rou- The effect should be easy to recall. Remember Carlyle's Criteria: sim-
tine, I introduce a small Moorish tea glass on which are colored drawings.
"~ple, strong, direct, impressive and easy to describe.
These drawings have the power to produce my magical effects-trans- » Evoking hooks should be incorporated without difficulty: objects,
forming cards, g~thering the Aces and Kings for a poker hand, even
phrases, music, odors ....
materializing coins and banknotes-when the tea glass is set on top· of the
deck. After the routine, there are always spectators who jokingly offer to We will later discuss another magnificent technique that boosts The
buy the wonderful glass. A good answer to this is: "Actually, some small Comet Effect: "The Work of the Magician after the Session" (p. 182).
glasses have this power. You can check for yourselves when you use one But for now, let's continue to study other factors that improve what is
of them. " When, a few days later, a spectator has a glass of wine or tea, or evoked.
Other Factors Improve Memories inside. "45 The same idea may be used for stressing that a card was
thought of, rather than taken or seen: "Would someone please cover
There are some precise techniques, in addition to those already mentioned
that can help improve the memory of the effect seen. For the morrient, w: the eyes of our friend with your hand, so that he can concentrate
and think of a card-but don't fall asleep. Have you thought of one
will set three objectives for ourselves:
already? Imagine it. You may uncover his eyes. Can you see any-
1. Reinforcing the positive conditions. thing now, other than· little colored stars?"
We wish to cause all the positive conditions that made the effect But I must stress here that the verbal exaggeration and absurdity
seem magical and impossible to be remembered clearly ("The should be in balance with the importance of the action for the magical
cards were shuffled by the spectators", "He showed the bo:x: effect. Simply telling someone to shuffle the cards should suffice if the
empty" ... ) and even to augment those conditions. effect will be a transposition or a divination in which the initial shuffle
2. Forgetting the negative conditions. isn't essential. We must be careful not to exaggerate our exaggeration.
We wish to cause all the negative conditions to be forgotten ("At The Overview Prior to the Effect
the end, the magician touched the deck", "He put his hand into his This is a technique the old masters, especially Robert-Houdin, used
pocket" at a time when it is suspicious ... ). exquisitely. It consists of making, if possible, a verbal overview of the
3. Remembering what never happened. actions we want remembered: "One of you-you-shuffled the deck
We wish to form memories of positive conditions that never existed over your head," or "You thought of a card with your eyes tightly
("The spectator thought of the card" when he actually looked at it closed and blindfolded. You didn't take it or see it, you only imag-
"Everything had been examined" when this isn't the case). ' ined it. "However, we must be careful not to make these summations
too long or to repeat them too often. A single, clear overview given
Now let's look at some techniques that help us achieve these three
objectives. prior to the realization of the effect is enough, and then only in certain
cases, when it is really necessary. It's a magical tool that should not
First Objective: Reinforcing the Positive Conditions be abused, but it is enormously effective when used properly. It also
heightens the drama prior to the effect and has positive consequences
I use three specific techniques:
for the pause for.assimilation after the effect. 46
» The Absurd or Exaggeration
» Reinforcing with Gestures or with Whispers after the Effect
We add these features during the action we want remembered. We'll Our idea here is to sum up the effect with gestures during the pause
illustrate this with an example used earlier: I ask a spectator to shuffle for assimilation, while the audience applauds. We can whisper, or even
the deck while holding his hands above his head, so that everyone can state in a normal voice (it will not be heard because of the applause),
see. The image is funny and memorable.
and mime the conditions of the trick, but only those that we want to
Or, to convey that a card case is empty, I tell the spectator fix in the memories of the spectators. An example will make this clear:
to feel inside it and to be careful, because I sometimes forget
45. I use many examples from card magic because it is my beloved specialty, so I
my mousetrap in there. Sometimes I use an old verbal gag, still
know them well. You can adapt these ideas to your specialty.
perfectly effective: "There is nothing and, above all, no one 46. See "The Beloved Art of the Pause", p. 310.

The tric~ i~ over, the spectators applaud, and the magician promptly tt;going into mid-term or long-term memory-fading away after a few
says, pomtmg to the participant, "This is the card you thought of. onds and becoming irretrievable, as if they had never existed, erased
without looking at it. " The magician covers his own ey 2 s. Then'
m our memory. n
pointing to the spectator who shuffled, he says, "This is the deck yo: In other words, we don't want these facts to be encoded, or we don't
shuffled at the beginning. "The magician holds his hands over his 0 t them to pass into mid-term or long-term memory.
. WU
head, miming the action of shuffling. He doesn't have to pronounce To prevent encoding, we should avoid or eliminate circumstances that
the words. He can just think them or whisper them to himself.
elp the encoding of facts, as commented on earlier. Precisely how to
With all this-and always without exaggerating the gestures-we hieve this lac~ of attention by dividing or physically and mentally misdi-
greatly help the spectators to recall quickly and easily the positive con- cting attention is what magicians have studied the most thoroughly and
ditions of the procedure, so that they can immediately go on to enjoy the is usually the objective of manipulative technique, of the various types of
magical effect, its beauty and its symbolism. They will have the whole pro- ·sdirection, and the whole psychology of deception, from false solutions
cedure of the trick clear and fresh in their minds, feeling its impossibility, in-transit actions, from the parenthesis of forgetfulness to controlling
and they surrender and enjoy it.47 the gaze, from the secret technique for relaxation to conditioned natural-
ness. Therefore, I believe it's useless to go further into the subject here.
Second Objective: Forgetting the Negative Conditions I refer the reader to the works of the magical giant, Robert-Houdin (that
Luckily for us magicians, the most constant function of our minds is not contain the essence of all psychological theories), and to those of Vernon,
the task of remembering but that of forgetting. We forget almost every- Slydini, Hugard, Keith Clark, Ramsay, Darwin Ortiz, Burger, Kurtz and, of
thing we see, feel or do. We retain only what our minds consider very, course, Maestro Ascanio, as well as· many others, among them, perhaps,
very, very important. We encode it, retain it, remember it. And only such some of my own works.
things go into long-term memory. The rest is forgotten. 4s And that's what But we should observe here that, to prevent negative conditions from
concerns us here: that the circumstances that work against our objective passing to mid-term or long-term memory, we must not refer to those con-
of creating illusion are forgotten. Logically, we want to prevent them from ditions verbally. We should forget them ourselves, ignoring them in our
being noticed, from being seen; or we want them perceived with a very overviews and recaps before and after the effect, and we should maintain
divided attention; or we want them to stay only in short-term memOI}\ an attitude in accordance with their nonexistence: the powerful weapon of
disarming looseness applied to this subject. A few pages down (page 173,
47. I have been employing this technique effectively for many years. Curiously, I
to be precise) I will describe the technique of "emotional erasers" that can
began using it in a completely intuitive way. Only years later, when my dear
be used to prevent elements, circumstances and negative conditions in
brother in magic Gaetan Bloom pointed out, after seeing me use it, how pow-
short-term memory from passing into long-term memory.

erful he considered this technique to be, did I become conscious of it and

begin to use it methodically. It very often happens this way: The artist figures
out something intuitively; then he or others analyze it and make it available to
Third Objective: Remembering What Never Happened
other artists-and the art is enriched. This is something, in my judgment, of the greatest interest, because it
48. It can't be any other way. Read "Funes the Memorious" by Borges to see the notably increases the impossibility of the effect produced and the ampli-
maddening consequences that remembering everything could have. tude of wonder.
Using precise techniques, we will attempt to make the spectato at was your card?" The spectator names it and the magician reacts
remember some positive conditions within the procedure of the tri th joy: "Yes!" The spectators, vyho have followed the procedure of
conditions that never really existed. I am not referring here to those · k deep down confirm the impossibility that the card thought
etnc ,
can simulate by using a manipulative technique, such as back-palming has been found by· the magician without his touching the deck
coin to make the hand appear empty, but to actions that never took Plac d thanks to the repµtation earned by the magician during previous
' .
in the trick, yet are nonetheless "remembered" by the spectators. Let's tricks, the spectators are amazed by the miracle, ev~n before seemg
look at these techniques: · . card. If the magician said he would not touch th~ deck and he is
·SO happy when he hears the name of the card, that's ·an unmistakable
» Temporary Confusion signal that the miracle has occurred. The spectators relax, the magi-
If I have the deck shuffled by the spectators in a trick and then shuffled cian relaxes and, without making it seem important, he picks up the
again in the next trick, but not in the third (in which I might be using deck and shows the card on top (after a Pass, a Palm, the addition of
a stack), I could state during the overview of the prior effect, "Now
the card on top, whatever).
I'll leave the deck with the person who shujfied it. It was you, right?" The spectators will confuse, in their memory, what they actually saw
The spectators, unaware of what the next effect will be and there- (the magician did touch the cards) with what they heard, believed and
fore of the importance of having the deck shuffled by a spectator internalized (he will do it without touching the deck). Not out of van-
easily accept my comment, which is confirmed by the spectator who ity, but to support the concept with the opinions of great experts, I
receives the deck When, after the effect, they remember the condi- must tell you that this technique has flown by magicians of the caliber
tions, they will include something that never happened. It actually did of Vernon, Jennings and Lorayne. After I later revealed the principle
happen but not during that trick They are confused by the when, not to them, one, amazed, told me he was sure that what I'd promised had
by the what. In my recap following the effect, I can also include the
been fulfilled.
spectator's shuffle that didn't take place.
Opening a Parenthesis: Persistent Memories Carried Over
» Impossible Promises
Before the start of the trick, the magician makes assertive statements Regarding this subject I will allow myself a momentary parenthesis: I will
that will not be totally fulfilled or, rather, will not be fulfilled exactly as comment on a curious personal experience that I believe is applicable to
stated, but with slight, though essential, differences. everyone, and through this I will attempt to approach the explanation of
Yet, the fact that these things are stated openly and confidently how this phenomenon of confusion through false promises works.
the magician produces a confirmation in the minds of the spectators I have several times observed in myself a type of experience that
of the circums~ances just as they have heard them. Later, if the dif- perplexes me because I don't know its mechanism and haven't been able
ference between what was promised and what really happened isn't to find an explanation in the modern psychological literature I've con-
noticeable, it is more than likely that what was heard as a promise sulted. This isn't surprising given that I'm not a psychologist, the body
remains as an experienced reality in the minds of the spectators. of psychological information is huge and always growing and, as the
Here is an example (in card magic again, sorry): "Now name a card. experts on the subject observe, we are very far from knowing everything
I'll leave the deck there on the table. I will not touch the cards again. about memory.

-inthe emotions and procedure of the effect. But in their

Here is an example of the phenomenon. Someone tells me, "Did y: ersed .u.•
will probably not modify all the imagined consequences of
know that Federico was in a car accident and broke his hip?" Federico zytcyh .
a magician friend, and immediately I feel truly sorry about his accident;
•tiallY promised event: The magiG seen was not based on manipula- n
then think of the consequences: "He won't be able to perform in the sho
the magicians performance was extraordinarily clean, etc. .
don't really know why this happens, but with mor;e than a httle
on Thursday. I'm going to have to look for someone to fill in for him.
rity, 1 will jump to a possible explanation: I propose t~at several con-
I internalize this idea and others, similar and divergent, but all of the
ons among neurons are formed, and neural networks are created.
are consequences of Federico's accident. My brain relates the event Wit
e produce sensations and ideas, so that later, when th•e initial event is
many things and circumstances: "His girlfriend will be upset. Perhaps h
cted, not all the chains of connections are modified, allowing those
was a careless driver. If he ends up lame, it will be difficult for him to pe
cted consequences of the initial event to remain in the memory. In
form stage illusions ... " And there are other things that don't go through
case, I believe the important thing for us is that, applying it to magic,
my conscious mind.
Hours later I learn the truth. He wasn't the driver when he had the orks like a charm.
I Close the Parenthesis.)
accident, and he suffered only a light bruising to one leg. Naturally, I feel
relieved, and I realize my friend will be able to perform on Thursday, so I turning to our subject of impossible promises, I think great care should
don't need to find a substitute, his girlfriend will be fine, he won't be lame taken in maintaining the proper balance between what is promised and
etc. So far, everything is logical. But a day later, strangely, I catch myself at is finally achieved. It's quite clear that, if it's easy to remember what
starting to look for the telephone number of someone to replace Federico, promised and to perceive the differences from what was achieved,
or I say to a friend, "Poor Federico, always driving so carelessly." stration and a lack of trust will arise, which our spectators may even
In other words, even ifl erase or correct the essential fact that Federico neralize, applying these feelings to other moments or statements by the
did not break his hip when he was driving, it's hard to correct all the gician that were, or will be, truthful.
implications that grew out of the fact, especially those further along in a Any citizen nowadays is aware of the cynical abuse-at times blatant,
logical chain and recorded in my memory at a less conscious level. t others subtler-of this technique. It occurs to a large extent in per-
This has happened to me on many occasions and, through conversa- sonal and party politics and in the promised political programs. Note how,
tions and observation, I've discovered that it happens to others as well. despite their repetition and manifest falseness, we keep fall~ng-some-
I call them Persistent Memories, immune to the erasure of the fact that times, many times-into the same trap. A certain sort of advertising, the
caused them. super-sales and the evening televised talent-contests are other examples
I believe that the mechanism producing this anomaly of memory is the we all know well. Luckily, our application has better ethical objectives:
same one at work in unfulfilled promises. When we announce that sorm.:- playful, artistic; we are producers of illusion and happiness.
thing will happen in a certain way-/ will not touch the deck-we do 49. See Chapter 5 on "Dramaturgy" and especially the section on "Emotions"
fumly and convincingly, and the spectators begin to construct direct, indi- (p. 187), where I analyze the use ( dramaturgic, in this case) of impossible
rect, conscious and less conscious consequences. Later, as events develop, promises and divide them into categories of fulfilled and unfulfilled (totally or
they may be able to correct the circumstance-He grabbed the deck-if partially). In those promises I intend to be forgotten, they are verbalized, not
they consider it an important point, although this is very unlikely, as they mentioned again and therefore are forgotten.
n of impossibility produced by the method and the circumstances
I believe that one of the secondary effects of our magic lies\ ·
. . mge e it seem impossible. I am referring to the sensation produced by
ating a healthy wanness by proving we are not as immune to deceptio
t performed under the promised circumstances, since the spec-
we tend to believe. If we can be fooled by things we see with our own
should forget, not perceive nor fix in their memories, the actual
while alert, after having been warned of their admittedly false nature, we
stances that are encountered later, during the tripk. The promise
To continue our examination of factors that improve what is evok
d be made with certainty and assertiveness, taking for granted that
from memory, I will now describe and comment on a technique prorms
be fulfilled. This makes the spectators feel the pqwer and fascina-
some paragraphs ago. It is a precise and versatile one that can be used
f the effect even before they have witnessed it. T~at sensation will
achieving our three objectives: the reinforcement of positive conditio
corded almost as an experience in their sensory memory (the neural
the erasure of negative conditions and the creation of memories of 80
ork?). And, except where there is strong evidence to the contrary
thing that never happened. It's a technique I have fine-tuned for the p
obvious failure to fulfill the promise, it will enhance what actually
thirty years and constantly use with magnificent results. I call it:
ens, the events later seen, amounting to a more impossible and fas-
·ng final sensation: adding what was promised and believed to what
The Mnemosyne Staircase
witnessed and perceived. Let's look at an example (From card magic?
In homage to the goddess of memory, daughter of heaven and :rrect!). But please read it as if you are a total layman regarding magic.
earth, Uranus and Gea, and mother of the Muses, no less! "I'm going to show you evidence of an incredible sympathy of thought.
u will shuffle the deck as much as you wish. One of you will then think
This technique, as I've just mentioned, is used to reinforce positive mem-
a card, and another will think of a number-and, without me touching
ories, make people forget negative ones and create positive memories of
deck, you yourselves will.find that at the number thought of by one of
actions or events that did not occur.
u is none other than the card thought of by the other."
Its application begins before the start of the trick, by studying, con-
I suppose that you, dear reader, have noticed the sensation this prom-
ceiving and creating a structure for the trick that makes it possible and
produces just reading it, especially if you have managed to forget your
desirable to use this Mnemosyne Staircase. The effect should be strong,
owledge of tricks and moves .
powerful, desirable, fascinating; the method unthinkable, unfathomable
.The point now is not to disappoint or frustrate, which is to say not to
within the conditions it will develop, and its structure capable of resisting
produce disillusion, because several parts of what has been promised will
logical analysis, keeping in mind refined and precise technique as
as the psychology of perception (misdirection, timing, etc.). In short, remain unfulfilled:

construction of this Staircase must be worth our time and effort. Two decks are openly used.
Let's then begin to climb the Staircase. One of them will be shuffled (falsely) by the magician, not by the spec-

On the first step we find the impossible promises that, as has been tators, although they will remember having shuffled the cards.
» The card will be selected and removed from the other deck, not just
mentioned, could be totally or partially unfulfilled. Our objective is that
this breach in fulfillment avoids producing frustration or disappointment, thought of
>> The magician does touch one of the decks to false shuffle it. And he
thanks to the unfulfillment going unperceived, or part of the promise being
forgotten by the spectators. The effect will be remembered as will the touches the other one for the selection of a card.
the other hand, there are parts of the promise that are true or Will ocket and removes it from the case. The magician approaches to take
p . di
seem so: e deck-but he suddenly stops and steps back dramatically, remm ng
ecyone that he promised not to touch it. The spectator then counts the
» One of the spectators will freely think of a number. ds himself, one by one, until he reaches fifteen, while holding the deck
» · From the moment he thinks of the number and names it, the magician e down or face up, as the magician has suggested, and as is convenient
doesn't touch the deck from which the number will be counted. the success of the effect. When he reaches the fifteenth card-or the
>> The selection of the card will seem totally free. ifourteenth, if he's counting face up-he is instructed 'to stop the count
For those who don't remember the method (devised by Louis Gombert yVithout looking at or showing the card at number fifte~n. Always remain-
and Al Baker, and I believe somewhat enhanced by yours truly), I'll .ing well away from the cards, the magician sums up, concisely but clearly,
describe it briefly. We'll get into its details later. what has been done so far (a prior overview of the effect). He then asks
Two decks are used. One is handed out for shuffling. The other, set up the person to show the face of the card at the fifteenth position: it is the
in Mnemonica order or in any other memorized sequence, is false shuffled exact card thought of!
As we can see in this example, we have made a fantastic and impos-
by the magician. 50 The deck shuffled by the magician is handed to someone.
This person puts it into its case and keeps it in a pocket. Someone else sible promise that is only partly fulfilled. Yet, going up the Mnemosyne
freely thinks of and names any number from one to fifty-two. The magician Staircase step by step, we attempt to make the final sensation correspond
takes the deck the spectator has shuffled and, as he shows it well mixed, to the secular miracle (the wonderful effect), just as it was promised. Let's

he secretly searches for two cards. These match the cards at the chosen take a look:
number in the stacked deck in the spectator's pocket, counting from the top as described)
The Foot of the Staircase: The rn1m,uu~
or bottom (my contribution). In other words, if fifteen is named,. he finds
the cards corresponding to Positions 15 and 38 in the stack, 38 being the Then come the three steps of the Staircase:
complement of 15, obtained by subtracting 15 from 53. If fifteen cards are
First Step: True or False? (Ambiguity)
counted from the bottom, we would arrive at Card 38 in the stack.
These two cards are forced on a fourth spectator. It is announced that Here we will attempt to refer to the false facts in an ambiguous way. Say
he will freely think of one of them and that that card will be found magi- something like this to the first spectator: "You shuffle this deck. Shuffle it
cally positioned at the number thought of in the deck the first spectator is a lot. We'll shuffle this one." You false shuffle the second deck, then hand
guarding, which is inside the card case and in his pocket. it to the second spectator while you ask the first: "Did you shuffle well
The person thinks of one of the two cards and names it. He is emphat- and thoroughly? Yes? Please cut the cards and complete the cut." Then,
ically given a chance to change his mind and think of the other card. Once to the second spectator: "Shuffling is not enough. Cut and complete the
he has freely settled on a card, the guardian of the other deck takes it from cut as well. "He complies.
You can see that all these statements are true-ambiguously true. You
50. I have and perlonn other, more sophisticated versions of this trick in which
' say that he shuffles or he cuts when the spectator actually does it; and
the spectators appear to shuffle both decks, thanks to a subtle deck-switch.
you say we shuffle when you do it. No one will object, even mentally, to
One of them is described in Mnemonica (p. 207), but for this example we will
have one of the decks shuffled by the magician. these statements.

Second Step: False with True (Stating Something spectator, the "guardian", he should support your "right?" by a verbal
False and Linking It to Something True) ation or by nodding. If all this is achieved, you will have continued
This step on the Staircase is wide and long, almost a landing. You make he second step, again binding something false to something true. In
link between false and true like this: "And now exchange decks ... like tlta tion, you will have made a false statement and the spectator will have
very good. And each of you please cut the deck shu.ffted by the other." The edit-that he shuffled that deck-bringing everyone to the third
do. "Perfect. Let's put one of them into the case. "You take the stacked dee Artistically, however, ambitious as we are, we want even more:
the one now held by the first spectator, and cut the first card of the stack to
the top (glimpse and cut or pass). Tell him: "You'd better put the shuffled ird Step: Only False (False Statements
deck into the case yourself. And put everything into your pocket. The first e Made an~ Confirmed)
spectator, the one who really shuffled a deck (the unstacked one), puts the stead of looking at the first spectator for affirmation, you direct your
deck he now holds (the stacked one, false shuffled by you) into its case. estion, as if by mistake, to another spectator, a neighbor of the one who
You have already stated something that is not true: that both decks uffled. When you see his gesture of puzzlement or disagreement, you
were shuffled by the spectators. They only shuffled one; you false shuffled to him: "Oh, I'm sorry. It wasn't you who shujfied ... " Normally the
the other. t spectator, the one who did shuffle, will interrupt with something like:
You ask the second spectator to thoroughly shuffle the deck he is twas me who shuffled." How wonderful!
holding. While he shuffles, really shuffles, his deck; you have a third per- In any case, you now give your pre-effect overview, restating every-
son think of a number: ''Please think of a number from one to fifty-two. ing: ''He shujfied thoroughly [you point to the "guardian" who has just
Why from one to fifty-two? Because the deck you shuffled thoroughly · ounted to the fifteenth card], cut, kept the deck in his possession, and
[you point to the first spectator], and cut, and have in your possession, didn't even get near. Have I touched it?" You point to the cards from
contains fifty-two cards." ·.a distance, leaning back and extending both palms wide open in front of
You have said, "you shu.ffted thoroughly, and cut, and have in your you. The answer is always, "No."
possession" while pointing at the first spectator. But the "you" is only partly In this way, you have established the "truth" of progressively less true
true. "Cut, and have in your possession" is true, but "shu.ffted" is not. statements. You have even achieved verbal confirmation from the specta-
You continue: "By the way, you [here uniting the first and second tors. It has been established with total certainty that the dee~ in which the
spectators] shujfied thoroughly, right?" They confirm, poor them! card and number match was shuffled by the spectator and not touched
Still on the same broad step of the Staircase, you continue: A new afterward by you. The effect of a freely selected card-which included
(fourth) person freely selects two cards (which you freely force on him) the option of changing it-turning up at a freely thought-of number thus
and, while he chooses one of them (this time, really freely), you say: "Now becomes, I believe, an authentic miracle.
think of one of these two cards, and the card you think of [precisely the
card he chooses mentally] should be, or will position itself, at the chosen A Few Additional Comments
number in the deck that he [you point at the first spectator] shujfied, cut This same Staircase procedure can be used to establish that the card was
and kept in his possession, and which I've never been near, right?" If thought of, which is true regarding the selection between the last two
the last phrase, "which I've never been near'; is said while looking at the
cards, although those were selected physically.

Furthermore, as I mentioned earlier, at the end of the trick, during • warning applies to the overview before the effect, often con-
applause, I make a recap with gestures in which I include, among ot in the disastrous anti-contrasting parenthesis, as Ascanio called it
things, the action of shuffling cards in the hands while I look at the magnificent and precise termiriology.
spectator (the "guardian"). I also rub my open palms together and e:xte
them outward again while I shake my head, signaling that "I didn't tou
them". This reaffirms the most important of the false facts and helps t have just learned how the following three proposed objectives are
spectators, during the pause for assimilation, to "remember" them. Qmplished: (1) Reinforce the memory of positive conditions (with
With that, you will have established as true three false condition r overviews and after-effect recaps), (2) Cause negative conditions to
while at the same time having reinforced through steps memories of th forgotten and {3) Cause what never existed to be remembered (impos-
true and important facts. We needn't refer to those facts having little or n promises, Mnemosyne Staircase). All these are also enhancers, along
importance, as we wish to keep things simple and interesting. others from The Comet Effect. We come now to two techniques that
To the technique (false shuffle, force of the two cards), the advanc plement those already discussed. One is the promised Emotional
preparation (the stack) and the mental activities of the magician (know ers, the other is The Work of the Magician after the Session. Let's
ing the stack, mental subtraction of the named number from 53), we hav katthem.
added the Mnemosyne Staircase, which rewrites the process of the tric
making people remember things that didn't occur and altering some 0
e Emotional Erasers: an Encoder and Eraser of
those that did to our advantage, in favor of the magic. ort-Term and Long-Term Memory
y years ago, I learned something that clarified for me a certain phe-
Summing up:
menon I had been observing in my. magical experiences: There were
The Mnemosyne Staircase begins (though not always) with the
emories that, although well fixed, were forgotten by the spectators as
impossible promise and ascends by three steps: ambiguous statements,
ell as by me.
verbalization of false and true facts together, then false statements by
Here are some examples:
During my performances, it happens, as I suppose it happens to
Now that we've gone up the three steps, culminating the Ascension, magicians, that I think of something interesting for: the session;
we have reached the Open Heavens. It's a triumph of imagination over
ometimes a detail for misdirection, other times a funny line or a clever
reality to let us into The Rainbow. There it is. Should we go?
~ .
. By the way, I would like to emphasize here that the danger of excessive com-
A Warning plication, of adding confusion and boredom, is amplified when using, without
I proper care or method, my system of The Magic Way, explained in my book
The danger I believe we should avoid like the plague is to transfonn the of the same name. The Magic Way is extensively applicable to only very good
trick into a reiterative, complex quackery that creates confusion in the complex tricks, the secrets of which are probably already concealed. Balance
effect. ("Confusion is not magic," Vernon used to say.) The use of this mar- is the concept underlying the Greek classics. It can also be the solution for
velous escalator of magic, the Mnemosyne Staircase, should be strictly The Magic Way and for the application of the Mnemosyne Staircase-and for
limited to special cases and essential facts. all other techniques and theories in this book. .. and perhaps for life.

phrase that adds drama or poetic fascination. I emphasize that t ing techniques with the hands or body or executing other secret
are things that come to me during performance. And here I ope creating moments of tension and relaxation, including secret
parenthesis: ' '

during the relaxation, etc. · n

~ I consider the greater part of my session to be "improvised" as far ·zing this,·I decided then that, when I improvised something I felt
as patter, dramatic lines and comedic ones are concerned. I never od, I would pause briefly, if the trick allowed it, and fix the improvi-
set out to think of or write these things do:wn. Instead, I gradually in my mind by mentally repeating the line or mumbling it to myself.

add those lines and ideas that I improvise in every performance suit was a persistent failure in evoking the memory. At the end of
and that have worked well. So it progresses, until I've formed a sion, I managed to remember that there was so~'ething to remem-
complete body of effective gags and dramatic lines. It could be t not what it was or how the improvisation had occurred.
truthfully said that almost all the jokes and patter are "improvised" e same thing happened when, in a particular trick, I tried to remem-
in the sense that they grow or have grown out of improvisation. cards I had glimpsed a couple of minutes earlier. More times than
My objective in developing a presentation through improvisation d, I missed one of the cards. Either I couldn't remember it or I mis-
rather than reason is to achieve and maintain the freshness that bered it.
suits my persona and my performance style. End of parenthesis. he same thing happens occasionally, as we all know, to spectators. At
most important moment of the trick, when you ask them for the name
For years and years, I audiotaped my sessions so that I could recov e card they saw, they have forgotten it.
the good improvisations later. Sometimes I used video recordings, Thinking it over, I saw that the problem was not in momentary
that I could watch myself to critique my performances and learn. Late ding. It was that what I was trying to remember was recorded, as is
many years later (that's the good thing about being in magic for over rything we see or perceive, in short-term memory, and when I went
years; there is time for a lot of things), I grew to prefer asking whoev 'th other actions or events that demanded my undivided attention
came with me to the sessions (my girlfriend, a helper), and was famili that raised certain emotions in me (such as doing the Classic Force or
with each of my tricks, to remember the ad libs I made, whether word ching, not without difficulty, for an appropriate spectator to help in
or actions, and remind me of them afterward. This method is extreme 'ck), I was preventing the event from passing into long-term memory,
fruitful, at least for my style. Sometimes, though, when I perform, I don' ich, as we know, is the tool that fixes the facts in the memory. Despite
have a knowledgeable companion there to help. The first few times attempting to encode the facts strongly through mentai repetition, I
happened, I thought I'd try to remember the successful improvisation• d I wasn't able to evoke them a minute later (as with, for example,
myself. But at the end of the show, not only had I forgotten them, qui psed cards) or at the end of a session (the improvisations of the day).
often 1 didn't even remember I had to remember something. I thought i I found a very practical remedy for remembering glimpsed cards. I
was due to a lack of attention or divided attention during the . ~~.-.r,TTI '
y something aloud that will later remind me of what I have encoded
sation: I thought of something and said it or did it, but at the same time impsed). For example, if the glimpsed cards are 19 and 8 in my
I was alert to the regular development of the trick Magic demands, a emonica stack, I say: "Look at the cards. You should remember your
we know, great concentration from the performer: watching and seein rds for a short time, no more than eight years and nineteen days. "
how the spectators react, feeling their amazement and astonishmen en I pause for several seconds while the spectators laugh at this. The
ator (there was no video in the 1970s). Puchol filmed while I atten-
storage in long-term memory is guaranteed, thanks to the pause an
atched the act. On two occasions, little accidents occurred: At one
auditory and muscle memory (the loud verbalization). 52
e manipulator flashed a load uf coins, and at another some back-
Everything is fixed in immediate memory and only goes into long-t
cards. I mumbled an "Uh!" at each slip. Puchol, who had his eye
memory if the brain decides it's important. But here we must be c
ful, because this process can be derailed if an emotion or strong dem to the camera, could not notice these flaws throug~ the viewfinder.
of attention to. something more important occurs immediately after heard my almost inaudible "uhs". The act conclud~d. Puchol asked
fact you need to remember. By "immediately" I mean within twenty Why did you go 'uh' a couple of times?" "Me?" I answered, surprised.
thirty seconds, which is about as long as short-term memory holds t absolutely." "I can't remember." :
facts before passing them to long-term memory. A new or sudden emoti took a week to have the film developed. When we received it, we
during those seconds will interrupt the process of moving the fact fr hed the footage together. On reaching the two flashes, I again said
the one form of memory to the other. " and Puchol jumped. "Ah! The same 'uhs' as when we saw it in the
This "discovery" has served me very well in magic, because it provid ter." My "uhs" had undoubtedly occurred during those same flashes
a "sketchpad for memories". I can sometimes allow something strange . Yes-I realized-of course. That's how it must have been! Why
unusual (but useful for the method or the magical effect) to be observ d I have forgotten those mistakes by the end of the live performance
if I immediately produce a strong emotion, an unexpected surprise, e manipulation act?
astonishing magical effect, an intentional accident, something frighteni Since then, I have verified the phenomenon while watching other per-
or very funny. Any of those emotions can erase the negative memory ances, specifically manipulation acts, including my own routines, such
not allowing it to pass into long-term memory. For example, let's say that the Paris Act. These acts consist of many specific effects, and many of
a spectator doesn't take the card I've hoped to force. First, I give him m flow quickly from one to the next: Something appears, disappears,
the chance to change it for the next card (the force card), but he doesn't ges, then comes a new surprise with something different, etc.
accept the offer. I then take his card from him and bury it in the deck Here is my analysis. I perceived the flashes or mistakes (the coin load,
without letting him see it, saying, "Don'tforget the card .... Oh, you didn't eback-palmed cards), but a new unexpected magical effect immediately
look at it? Well, take another." But before he can do so, I yell, startling lowed-and in a well-constructed manipulation act, that immediate
him, and excuse this with some silly or funny motivation. This little scare ect will not be the one produced by the secret load, the one that was
causes him to forget my mistake, even if it wasn't perceived as one. We etingly exposed by mistake-and the emotional impact of that effect
are not only employing misdirection, divided attention and uperb! How wonderful!) prevented me from passing the memory of
cover, but a new tool: erasing certain facts, as needed, from the e perceived little flaw to long-term memory. Because the flash is not
tors' minds. onnected to any effect immediately perceived, the brain judges it unim-
To confirm and elaborate on the above, let me tell you something I rtant, and the emotional surprise erases the mistake in memory. I didn't
experienced that is related: i'Ven remember having mumbled, "Uh."
I went to a magic festival with the late, great Pepe Puchol (my true This happens in many cases in those acts that I call "sparkly", in which
mentor and magic father). While there we filmed the act of a magnificent ere are many effects and surprises in succession, and therefore different
otions are produced. And this forgetfulness doesn't happen just to me:
52. I even mentally repeat, during the pause, "Eight, nineteen, eight, nineteen."

After watching a manipulation act, I have asked magicians and lay fri e future (improved) recollection. All of that, I believe, is equally
in the audience about their memories of the act, and they recall few or ble to the pause for assimilation after the effect and the pauses
of the mistakes and unnatural actions that they almost surely percei n tricks. We will deal with this matter in detail in the section titled
Those mistakes were erased or lost before they could be passed from Beloved Art of the Pause" (p. 310).
term memory to long-term memory. When I watch the same act a secon t's now look at the promised experiment ...
third time, I'm not affected by the smprises, since I now expect them
.see and remember the flaws and suspicious, urinatural gestures. ' ■ 11'111.. T""-"""'ill..,._•.... ~....... '"' Experiment
This mustn't be considered an excuse to leave our routines unpolis now tell you about one of the experiments I have carried out dozens
and unperfected. We should not say to ourselves, "It doesn't matter if•· es during the past few years, using laymen and very knowledgeable
seen. I'll erase it later." Rather, this knowledge gives us an extremely po ians as my subjects. Its purpose is to test the strength of memory
erful weapon that brings us some peace of mind in case of an accident g. I will be with a group of people (no matter how many). Without
little human error (we only play at being gods, while we are human) t g attention to what I am about to do, and having used the cards in
allows the spectators to see something they shouldn't. If the trick allo ·or trick, I take one face down between the tips of my right ring and
it, we should follow up immediately, through actions or words, to creat fingers as I continue to talk about something. I then ask, ''Have you
surprise or provoke some emotion, one different from that of the mista iced the strange reflection in my glasses?" I raise my right hand, with
I will give an example of this in a few paragraphs, when we come to " palm turned toward the spectators, to grasp the right temple of my
Almost Incredible Experiment". ses. I move the hand and glasses together while I point with my other
There might seem to be a problem when applying emotional erase d to the left lens. Due to the position of the right hand, the face of the
The magical effect will produce, we hope, a strong emotion, and we c d it holds is exposed to the spectators. I wiggle my glasses again and
tainly don't want that emotion to erase anything from the desired effe eat the phrase, varying the wording: "Don't you see the reflection of
But this isn't a problem if it's an emotion that doesn't fight against wh window?" or "of that unusual lamp?" I do this another time or two.
was seen, the magical effect. As we have discussed, the complement ring this, the face of the card is visible to the audience for ten to fifteen
emotion actually helps to fix the effect in the memory. The emotion conds, in the center of their frame of attention, a couple of inches from
be an "eraser" only if it is contrary to or very different from the sense an lens being observed. I even use the card as a pointer, touching its cor-
nature of the memory we want to erase. r to the lens of the glasses, always keeping the right hand and card in
The reverse is also true. If we want certain conditions within otion. I continue to talk and move, showing some amazement at the fact
development of a trick, as well as the magical effect they produce, to b ey can't see the special reflection.
left in long-term memory, we should be very careful not to erase the I then lower my right _hand with the card. Barely looking at it and
not to prevent them from passing to long-term memory. We should ma "thout giving it any importance, I leave it face down on the table. I imme-
the necessary pauses (without other emotions, without actions or words tely feign an accident: I have left a glass holding a little water on the
right after what we want fixed and kept in the memories of the spectator le. I nudge it "accidentally" with my hand and catch it in the air, allow-
We should leave the magical emotion alone, without interference, soth g the water to spill, as I yell, "Careful!" This creates fear and sometimes,
it immerses the spectator and allows him the enjoyment, the permanenc hen people see the accident isn't serious, laughs. If I don't have a glass
handy, I move foiward to hand my glasses to someone and I bump explain to them that I not only showed the card, but I held it in
something. I drop my glasses onto the table, or the floor if there is tural position, between my ring and little fingers, that I moved
pet, and I almost step on the spectator's foot: "Careful! Oh, I'm sorry that would normally attract attention and that it was facing
I hurt you?" I pick up the glasses. No harm done.
almost fifteen seconds within the area to which I constantly
I let a few seconds pass as I refer to the little accident. Then eir attention: my glasses. In other words, all thf conditions were
pausing, I say, ''By the way, looking only at the back of a card [I po·' favorable for ·them to notice the card. '
the deck], we can't know what the card is: Logical. If I don't show :e secret of the experiment lies, as you may hdve deduced, in the
face, we don't know. " Now I look the nodding spectators straight in ' eraser, which is the spilled glass of water, my ~ost stepping on
eyes and address one of them who has shown his agreement with wh
tator's foot or my dropping my glasses. Those unexpected events
said: "You, for example, if I show you the face of that card [I point to
the passing of the memory of the card into long-term memory. The
card on the table], you would know what it is. But I haven't shown i
fades completely away. It is as if it had never existed, as if the spec-
you yet, right? No, of course not."
had never seen the card. Isn't that incredible as well as marvelous!
Then I ask the whole group the same question. Incredible as it
:understand the difficulty you will probably have in believing the
seem, most of them will not remember the identity of the card-an
I am reporting for this experiment. If I imagine reading a trick
addition, they can't even remember having seen the card at all. They c
on the fact that, after having shown a card for almost fifteen sec-
firm that they are sure I have never shown its face and that I didn't e
(fifteen seconds!), held in such an awkward grip, the spectators
have the card in my hand!
d not remember it, I would think it was a mistake: The card facing
Sometimes there are one or two who do remember having seen t
dience? Fifteen seconds? Must have been with its back to the spec-
card and even remember what it was. It largely depends on how observ
ts-or the author must be pulling my leg!
they are and if, by their nature, they were not seriously startled by
So I ask you, dear reader, to try the experiment for yourself. If you
pretended accident.
w the instructions, you will be surprised at the result and, best
Location can also affect things. If spectators are behind me or at
n, you will absorb the knowledge of this powerful magic weapon.
extreme side-angle, where they can't clearly see the lenses of my glass
will also be able to verify for yourself that, when you ask for the
there's a good chance they will note the card. When this happens, it·
, perhaps one or more spectators will close their ey~s or look up
excellent for the experiment. It often happens that, since most of t
recover its image, which persists in their immediate memory, and
group does not remember having seen the card, they become u,1.r'", o,. .,..,".,t-.,..
1 ',.,'-""'
respond with the name of the card or will at least partially identify
or incredulous when I tell them I did show its face. Still not having
f'Let me think. ..It was black, wasn't it? A high card, I think. . .! really
it, I ask, ''Did anyone notice the card?" If one or two people say
n't watching carefully." The rarity of people who remember seeing
I have them name it and I show it. That proves to the other people in th
card, let alone correctly recalling its identity, will prove to you the
audience that their skepticism is unfounded, and that I'm being trut
wer of emotion to erase a memory.
even if they can't remember it. It therefore seems incredible to them.
could see the skepticism in their faces when I revealed the truth. Luckily, one
53. One of the first times I carried out the experiment, during a lecture for abo of the group was videotaping the lecture. We rewound the tape, so that every-
a hundred British magicians, no one remembered having seen the card, and one could verify what had happened.
I have been doing this experiment for years in my seminars anct I ask one of them, letting everyone hear me, "Which trick did you
tures for magicians. I get the result described every time, and it cont· t? The one with the phone? How about you? The Spirit Cabinet?
to astonish me. Best of all, I often apply the principle in my magic sessi That gives me invaluable feedback on the four to six tricks that
and it works! For example, after quietly ditching a palmed card in my b sed them the most. But here I employ the technique. we could call
pants pocket, I briskly raise my hand with the palm toward the specta session chat", in which I drop comments in a voice f1,Udible to every-
and yell, "Oh! I know!" startling the spectators a little. "Yes, I think t such as: "Good heavens! The cards are never exhau~ted [and I mime
.signed card left the deck [I point to the deck] ·and should be-perhaps stures of Six-Card Repeat but with my palms to~ard the specta-
in my pocket. Please look for yourself. I don't want to bring my ha ... The other day, the knife changed color five times'in the hands of a
anywhere near the pocket. Is there a card there? Please take it out-Yo in the audi~nce, without me even getting near it, cind then it turned
signed card!" The fact that I brought my hand to my pocket is tota a giant knife, and the woman was so scared ... And how did you
erased from the spectators' memories. age to get the deck in order? I never touched it myself, but maybe
wanted to help me, but to tell you the truth, I didn't see you do it.
End: The the Magician after Session 're so fast. Thank you ... You guys have such incredible power to be
As we have seen, it is good to add the elements we've just studied to an: to think of a card and make it rise out of the deck! Yesterday-no,
worthwhile trick, since they increase the quality, length and brilliance it was the day before yesterday, it was on Thursday-I walked
The Comet Effect. But we mustn't forget that there is another magnifice
my dressing room and there it was: the last card thought of in the
technique for enhancing The Comet Effect. Once the session is over, th sion was very slowly rising from the deck. "
magician can add certain comments, as if verbally recalling some part 0 Intelligent readers (all of you, so don't be offended) will clearly under-
what happened in it: "I still can't understand how you could figure out d that in this way we can achieve a huge reinforcement in the clarity
that the Six of Spades would be in the fifteenth position, and after you the effects and lasting memories of them, and of the impossibility of
had shuffied .... " method, an impossibility never referred to or directly evoked, but
It's a technique of immense magical power, and I apply it time after ggested, remembered in passing. Thus we rewrite some aspects of the
time with magnificent results. This is the work of the magician once the sion, improving details of some effects, making others legendary. 54 All
trick or the session is over. is is, I believe, of the greatest artistic interest because, let's not forget,
If it's a session of close-up or parlor magic after which direct com- e important thing is the magical sensation, what the spectators feel and
ments from the magician to the spectators are possible, it is very erience; in other words, The Rainbow. Nor should we forget that, to
and effective to employ such comments to influence the positive facts in
the trick procedures and to stress the resultant effects. I always try to talk 4. The incredible Jimmy Grippo was a master of this technique. With it he man-
aged to transform himself and his narrated effects into truly legendary ones.
with the spectators and comment on the effects at the end of my sessions.
In 1982, I experienced it myself, body and grateful soul. Ascanio, Juan Anton,
Even in theaters, I come down at the end of the show, in front of the stage,
Pepe Carrol and Anton Lopez were my joyful companions on a trip to Las
to greet fans waiting there, sign autographs and have pictures taken with
Vegas, during which we found we were not immune to the power of the magic
them (a gift of happy moments for them and for me, with hardly any effort or to the fascination of the verb "magish" and that magnificent ·"magisher"
on my part. Isn't this profession wonderful!). Between the autographs and who was the great Grippo.
reach The Rainbow, they will need a guide to dreams, the magici
lead them there, along The Magic Way (without False Solutions, L
. Solutions or Illogical Solutions). The Bull of Logic should have go
sleep (temporarily), letting the Winged Horse of Imagination so
which we, aU of us, rode and enjoyed the illusion, the enchantmen
the marvelous fascination of magic, now ( during the trick) and al
( after evoking it) and forever and ever. Amen.

Chapter Summation
Aside from manual, corporeal and psychological techniques (mis
tion, parentheses of forgetfulness, The Magic Way, etc.), we have elem
that are "boosters of positive memories" (persona, effect, symbol, evo
hooks: The Comet Effect, including the prior overview, summation
post-session chat), some "creators of inaccurate or totally false me
ries" (impossible promises, the Mnemosyne Staircase) and a draft cop
unwanted memories ( emotional erasers).
Will we be able to create true secular and magical miracles in this w
It's your turn.

Kind of an Introduction
R many years I have studied, applied, practiced and reflected on emo-
ns in magic, which is to say its dramatic side, its emotional incarnation.
.am referring not only to the magical emotion, which I've addressed
ly in this book, but also to the different emotions felt by the specta-
rs (doubt, surprise, amazement, anxiety, joy, fear of failure, etc.) that
e part of the magical effects and are caused by them. I am disregarding
e external emotions such as laughter, lyricism, drama, that arise and
othe the trick from outside its development; those that the magician
dd~ and that are not produced by the structure of the trick or the nature
f the effect.
As I began to study the intrinsic emotions, I found that the two most
haracteristic ones, regarded as companions to the revelation of a magi-
al effect, were surprise and suspense. I later went on to study others that
:a;re very powerful and that leave a mark on the spectators, such as hallu-
:cination and the body of sparkling, magical effects, small and brief, that
roduces a sensation of an ongoing rain of magical arrows.
, t· "What is cinema?" the great film director
Little by little, I studied and rehearsed practical applications of Godard s ques 10n,
"It's emotion in motion." The very clever Alex
knowledge of other possible intrinsic emotions. Among these were Fuller respond e d , - .
·ct "Not a moment without interest" (emotional mterest, of
ating apparent errors that unleash a momentary anxiety, followed by • sa1 , . . • l"
. And the very profound Vernon said, "Magic m~st be emotiona .
.pleasure and a rush of maternal instinct; and situations in effects t
). haps dear reader you are asking, like me,! "But why? What
build to excitement and frenzy. I also tried to ascertain how an effect .t per , · ' . _·. .
. f ? Isn't it enough to end with the 1mpos.s1ble and fascma-
be structured to produce these emotions, to provide an emotional van ot1ons or. • .
t . of 'It can't be but it is! And it's wonderful, like
. that maintains and builds dramatic interest in a sometimes lengthy de with the sensa ion ··· - .

opment of a trick but that, I repeat, uses emotions that arise from Wit
the trick; they are not added Gokes, rhyming patter, storytelling) or p
duced by stagecraft (lighting, music, visual elements).
I eventually arrived at twenty-five types of situations that boo
different emotions, all produced by the effect of the trick and its deve
opment, as well as by the emotions the interpreter (the magician) fee
and by his inner world. I later added emotions related to the hidde
method (for example, when a spectator appears to discover the secret)
the persona, the personality and character of the magician, and his rel
tionship to the audience and with the assisting spectators; these asid
from emotions of different types, always related to the inner elements o
the structure of the trick or session.
I eventually arrived at 165 different types of possible emotions that
can be caused by a trick, or by several tricks or a routine or a session.
I then tried to tame such an overwhelming storm of emotions into some
kind of order. I sorted them and organized them. I grouped and synthesized
them, through painstaking analysis. I tried it out in practice (so important!),
added, removed, cropped, merged, selected and summed it all up. And
I am now, full of "emotion" and writing and telling you about what I
Obviously, some of the features I discovered are quite evident, but there are
also many less apparent concepts that can make things clearer to us.
There is admittedly some subjectivity in all this, but I have attempted
to be rigorous in my analysis. There might be conclusions of little use,
most have proved, at least in my own repertoire, that by clarifying
stressing the emotional elements of an effect, an increase in the_ artistic
quality is very noticeable, even outstanding.

ted to such a being with a body of Venus or Apollo and the head
A Analogy
We need an appealing, gracious face, and eyes that are
e1zebub · -
Please allow me a parenthesis in the form of an analogy. 55 al, sweet or bottomless.
Suppose they ask us to cast the actors and actresses for a movie. o agic is the same. A trick must have a secret skeleton, a method that
of the characters is a woman who must be stunning. She is a charac •sible and unfathomable. This is the solid foundation of the effect. A
that, at first glance, should make all the other characters and the audien od mustn't fall apart and must be well proportion~d; I am talking of
feel an irresistible attraction. Obviously, the analogy would be equa structure of the method.
valid if we had to select a very handsome actor. (I would not apply, to gi Then come its components: technique (manual, corporeal, verbal and
others a chance.) chological), the false solutions, the in-transit actions, the convincers
The audition begins: A woman walks in. What is most attractive abo ·ch I think of as "false witnesses"), crossing the gaze, the downbeats
her? (Please take for granted that the same would apply to him.) H upbeats and a very long et cetera, all of which Vernon, Slydini, Robert-
body? Her face? In general, even if we are not aware of it, what mo udin, Ascanio, Hofzinser, Ramsay, Frakson, Hugard, Fitzkee, Maskelyne
attracts us about her ( or him) at first glance is-her skeleton! If she has many others (maybe even me) have tried to analyze and synthesize,
magnificent, rounded, sensual figure, a beautiful face, but two extreme} n integrate and apply to the structure of the secret method of the trick,
long arms that hang below her knees, she will seem, to begin with, no skeleton.
very attractive. (I want to make it completely clear that in this analo And what about His Majesty, the Effect? And symbolism? In this anal-
I am referring to her physical appearance, without mentioning her inne the effect and its symbolism are the face of the woman, her beauty
beauty, which could be endless.) d' all that shines in her gaze, everything her words reveal about her
So, the first thing is the skeleton, without deformities, flaws, defects king, her inner world and her spiritual self (no less).
or excesses. Proportionate, solid. And hidden! Because if the skeleton is But we continue to complete: Method-the skeleton, proportionate
perfect, but we see it naked, without the flesh ... How scary! Oh, my God, d solid. Effect-the face, gaze and voice, enriching and beautiful. And?
how frightening! What would the body be? What would be its role in the analogy?
So it is hidden, then. But hidden by a body that is also proportionate Because the skeleton is cold, even terrifying, it needs an attractive and
and adequate to the skeleton. The smaller the skeleton, the less flesh. A teresting covering of flesh. The flesh serves two purposes . The first is to
body not too skinny, not too fat, sensual, attractive, exciting. (I'm getting nceal the skeleton, not allowing it to be seen or even thought of. When
a little agitated.) see a striking person, do you think of her or his skeleton? Are you even
Enough of that? Well, no, maybe not yet. onscious of its existence? Does it arouse you? (In that case, don't reread
What happens if we see that this beautiful body, with its good inner ;Freud; you have invented a new sexual pathology.)
structure, the ~keleton, supports a head with a horrible face: hairy The second role of the flesh in our analogy is to attract us to the
warts, a misshapen mouth, pointed ears and a diabolical gaze? I apolo- uman being.
gize, but not even in the times of my greatest need would I be physically So, there are two roles: concealment and attraction.
We are talking of that harmonious and sensual body that helps to
55. Remember that an analogy is only an analogy is only an analogy is only an
conceal, and even prevent us from thinking of, the skeleton, the secret

method. At the same time, it is an interesting body in all its parts, many e mystical merge with the corporal, almost carnal, where mys-
them attractive and, as a whole, appealing. That's the emotional body. . t .56
d joy coex1s
emotions touch us during the development of the trick, and the magici et's look at a practical example. A magician, performing in a tele-
' his magic and persona, makes us feel them and allows us to s show, says, "Count your cards. There must be about thirty." The
and experience, without distractions, the fascinating mystery of the rn tor awkwardly, slowly, nervously counts: "One, t\.'V;O, three, four, five
ical effect (the.face, the eyes, the spiritual self).
-e are now already five thousand spectators who ehanged channels
And the presentation? If it is understood to be all that which tends
e~:pthe movie has started or the game has ended], twelve, thirteen,

·enhance the effect, clearly there would be elements of it integrated int

een... twenty [142 ,000 s:pectators have stayed tuned
, to the contest
the emotional body. But that is usually not the meaning given to the te the attractive game host, another 200,000 have headed to the bath-
"presentation". The common understanding of "presentation", fit into ' half a million check their phones], twenty-nine, thirty, thirty-one
analogy, would be the external embellishments of a woman to her per two remaining spectators snore peacefully; one is the magicians
sona: her clothing, make-up, hairstyle, jewelry... all those things she c ther, the other his father].
put on or take off, that she can easily change and therefore are the leas Solutions? Create emotions and interest at these moments, at every
personal. Obviously, such external elements can sometimes be used to ent: "If there are fewer than thirty cards, I will have failed and I will
cover a flaw of the body or face, to highlight beautiful eyes, to insinuate ave my head completely, right here and right now." Pulling out a barber's
certain curves (that slit in the skirt, ahh!). But, important as they are in ding razor, the magician opens it dramatically and brings it close to his
the analogy, these elements would be less important than the others dis- p. Or: "I will prevent you from counting correctly. I'll make faces-ha,
cussed earlier. In magic, these elements of the trick would be external to " Here the magician tries to fluster the spectator while he's counting
it: music, costume, jokes, gags, stories, etc. Yes, they have a certain impor- cards aloud. There are even better ideas, easily devised, that your cre-
tance, but they are the least important ( or the least very important things, ·ty can dictate.
but that's another discussion).
There is a danger that these added external emotions could be dis-
Summing up:
acting and break the magical atmosphere. They will be artistically valid
The skeleton (secret method): proportionate and solid, but concealed .. . tly if there aren't any internal emotions that can serve the same function.
Concealed by the flesh of an exciting, interesting and moving body.. . or example, in the effect of Weighing the Cards, the counti~g of the cards
That allows us to see a beautiful face (magical effect) that conveys, an interesting proof of the magician's successful estimation or of his dis-
through eyes and voice, an enriching and fascinating spiritual world ... pointing failure. That emotional proof is intrinsic to the trick There is
And is memorable, like the tail of a comet.
•~ need, then, to do anything. The procedure of the trick itself takes care
But, let's continue. All said, when the magic-the impossible, f interest and the magical emotion.
wished and dreamed, lived with fascination in reality, in the artistic
reality-is complete, it will eventually infuse the spectators' experi- If the spectators are magicians, they might pay attention, as magical anato-
mists to the skeletal secret method and be excited by it, although it offers
ence. They, on the other hand, will be coauthors, spect-authors and '
only a head for which tht body doesn't exist. But that, obviously, is not magic
spect-actors of that magic. The natural climax of a session would be an
but amusement for magicians, or a forensic study. This is nonetheless very
almost collective near-orgasm, a magical ecstasy, where the spiritual
important for the development of our art.
The point is, while the spectator's necessary slow counting ta parent failure in the revelation of a selected card, or the sensation
place, everyone should feel interest, curiosity, fun, suspense, joy, ch · • g a vision when a metal ball fl.oats in midair, or the fear produced
admiration, even frustration, fear, sadness, challenge, risk or.... Our unminent release of the guill0tine's blade that could sever the head
,goal, the only final artistic objective of all this is to make the spectat pectator.
join us, willingly, eagerly, excitedly, on our journey to The Magic Rainbo think the most thorough and rigorous analysis possible of these emo-
to the magical effect, the fascinating mystery, a trip through drama can help us to make them stand out, to communicate them better
.emotions to the final emotion of magic, turning the interesting and attra to structure them in the development of our tricks S? that they convey
tive into mystery. ety, interest and poetic charm. As always with art, there are no dog-
What we try to achieve through emotions is to make people e:xpe . Everything is debatable and variable. But I believe such an analysis
ence the feelings of: Oh! Is that possible? He won't be able to do it. Ho be useful as well as provocative.
is he going to do it? Oh, he missed! Oh, wait, he .fixed it ... but I saw t The study of this subject has brought me to formulate it in a style that
trick. Wow! He fooled me, he toyed with me. It wasn't that. Come on! a scholarly semblance, with headings and subheadings. It may appear
much! So scary! He's not going to fool me! He's not pulling it off! Po rious and dull. It is not. Despite its methodical, pedantic format, it is
magician! Outrageous! That's dangerous! I'm amazed! How beautiful. assionate attempt to transmit the accumulated experience of my many
How poetic! Am I dreaming? s of considering, analyzing, testing, studying, commenting on, cor-
And end up feeling: Impossible! It can't be! It's incredible! But I saw ting and applying these ideas, and observing the fantastic results they
it! How wonderful! TVhat a beautiful andfascinating experience! re made possible in my own magic-stage, parlor and close-up-for
Which is to say, astonishment and fascination are experienced now gicians and, above all, for the public. This happens not just on special
and remembered tomorrow, always, the emotions felt and magnified. And casions, but many times, in varying circumstances, for different audi-
all of it deep inside. ces, while I am in various moods. 57
But also-and deeper-there is the joy and pleasure of the fulfilled This knowledge of what our spectators feel is not superfluous; it is
wish, of the dream come true, even though it is in a recognized artistic extreme importance. Let's remember that it's not about what we do or
reality, which is to say the fascinating experience of myth through symbol- w we do it, but about what the spectators perceive and what they feel,
ism. No more ... and no less! d what we magicians also feel with an almost magical resonance.
Let me comment further to better clarify the above. I realize that much of what I will explain has always been practiced by
When I earlier referred to the dramatic body, I should have ,:xrreiTT..:n, od magicians, based on their artistic intuition or on their own analysis.
dramagic body. We are dealing with emotions, dramatic emotions, othis you can add the change (positive, I believe) that has taken place in
grow out of, or come directly from, the trick, the magic. In other words,
we are not dealing with emotions added externally to dramatize· the trick . In this labor of analysis arid refinement of ideas and concepts, I have counted
on the infinite patience of my friends and magic colleagues: from Manuel
but rather those that are incorporated in its magical procedure. I say
Cuesta, Aurelio Paviato, Pepe Dominguez, Antonio Malakatin, Ramon Riob6o,
again, it's not about adding a romantic story or a joke or a dramatic pre-
Alan Marchese, Manuel Llaser, Luis Trueba, Vicente Canuto, Pepe Puchol and
sentation to the trick; rather, it is the (dreamed of?) emotion of a surprise others, all of whose enthusiasm for the subject encouraged me so much. My
caused by such effects as the appearance of a hen's egg in an empty bag, deepest heartfelt Thank you! to yotl all.
my own magic throughout all these years, measurable by the spontaneo Analysis of the Emotions in Magic
reactions and comments of spectators and by my own sensations.
otions ·(or the situations that cause them) can be related to the effect,
is due largely to the live, non-analytical application, and the sincere, b
method, the magician or other circumstances: audience, helpers, cohe-
anced and (I hope) artistic handling of these dramagical emotions.
of the group, venue, music, previous atmosphere, etc. I will start with
I hope these ideas are not just illusions of mine but realities that c
emotions that arise from the type of effect and the way they are trans-
to some extent be transferred to your experience.
d by the magician.
I'll divide them into those that are produced before the realization of
magical effect, those that take place during the magical effect and
that arise after the magical effect.

The Emotions ( and Situations That Cause Them)

in Relation to the Effect

efore and During the Effect

How Does the Effect Arrive?
eludes: Hope. Anxiety. Doubt. Mental tension. Waiting. Impatience .... And

It can be Emotions ( expressed or felt)

Announced 58 Can he pull it off?
Hinted at, foreseen 59 Don't tell me that ... that ...
Wished for 60 I hope so!
Feared 61 I hope not!
Doubtfully believed Really? How is he going to do it?
Rejected as impossible62 No, I'll shave off my moustache if he ...
I'd commit suicide.
Delayed63 Come on! Let see! Let's see! ...
58. Card at Number (Gombert-Al Baker-Tamariz).
59. First moments of the final slow spread in "Triumph" (Vernon).
60. Final coin in Nest of Boxes .
.fil. Sawing a Woman in Half (Blackstone, Goldin).
62. Vanishing Birdcage (Buatier de Kolta). Blackstone's version with children's hands
touching the cage on all sides, and the forthcoming disappearance is announced.
63. Voluntary delay in revealing the face of the card at the end of a trick

.a.-v-1n1-r,a«;;;t,;:,Pl'1 or
2. SURPRISE It can be
;_I thought it was ajoke. 73 What ajoke!
Includes: Shock. Sudden pleasure. Unexpected joy. Horror. Tension-
relaxation. Visual impact. Momentary doubt about the reliability of the Visual74
senses. Laughter or absurdity.
How an Effect is Presented
It can be Emotions ( expressed or felt)
a) Totally unexpected Wow! CHALLENGE
b) Different than expected: · eludes: Tension. Competitiveness. A certain aggressiveness. Self-assertion.
-Contrary to expected65 Look at that! Pride. State of alert. Drama and great interest.
-Different in time Emotions ( expressed and felt)
It can be due to
-Before expected66 Ooh! (with a shock) What!
The impact of the effect. 75
-After expected67 Ooh! (with a shock) The Magician's expression (verbal attitude)
-Different in space (not here but there) 68 Come on! Look! and promise when announcing the effect. 76 Let's see if it's true!
-Different in quality (I didn't expect that) 69 Come on! Oh! Like that? No way!
Strict conditions. 77
-Different in quantity ( a larger or smaller 78 Again?!
Repetition (of the trick).
number of objects than expected) I'm going to win.
A bet (wagering money or prestige). 79
-Stronger, bigger 70 Oh, ho, ho! He's not going to fool me!
Mental attitude of the spectator.
-Smaller71 Little laughs: tee-hee
c) Hesitantly expected: Warning! If the threat is excessive, either in strength or in duration,
-I didn't think it would work (bluff) 72 Give me a break! there may be some memory of the experience left in the spectator's
64. Instantaneous dove production (the throw). mind-an unpleasant or very tense recollection of the challenge-that
65. Coins through Table: They came up! (instead of going down). will later be very difficult or nearly impossible to erase.
66. In the Rising Cards: A card rises unexpectedly, before you say anything. A card is
divined and named while the assisting spectator is still showing it to the audience. 4. IMPOSSIBLE PROMISE
67. In the Rising Cards: A card rises after the magician gives up, following several Includes: Doubt. Distrust. Expectation. Incredulity. And if not fulfilled:
failed attempts. Laughter. Self-assertiveness. Disillusion and frustration. If· it's fulfilled:
68. Cards to Pocket: They travel to an unexpected pocket. Surprise and admiration.
69. Different from what was expected. For example: you announce the transfor-
mation of a coin and-poof! It disappears. 73. Vernon's Brainwave Deck, when presented tongue in cheek as an invisible
70. In the Rising Cards: They rise all together in a fountain (Buatier de Kolta). deck
Large ball produotion for the climax of the Cups and Balls. 74. Cane to Silk
71. Dai Vernon's "Climax for a Dice Routine": tiny die. 75. Buatier de Kolta's "Vanishing Lady" (Richiardi, Jr.).
72. Snake Basket ("Margarita the Snake"). I announce, "And now Margarita the 76. "This ring will link to the one you're holding, through the exact spot you indicate."
Snake will search and find the selected card. She will emerge with the card in 77. The Egg Bag with spectators holding the magician's hands.
her mouth, show it to one side, then to the other side, and then go away." Her 78. Rene Lavand's "It Can't Be Done Any Slower". The Ambitious Card.
little head suddenly appears with the card in her mouth. 79. Three-Card Monte.
It can be Emotions ( expressed and fel can be Emotions ( expressed or felt)
a) Fulfilled
pparent failure:
-Not believed (beforehand) 80
I don't believe i Later proved a ploy86 He missed. Oh, no! He fooled me. 0
What a scare! What ajoker!
-Totally fulfilled 81
I don't know.. .Incredibl Actual failure:
-Partially fulfilled 82 I don't know... Come 0 ...;.Failure resolved 87 Ole!
b) Unfulfilled
-Partially corrected 88 Well ...
-Solved with a gag 83 89
-Replaced (improved) Better!
-Solved with another magical surprise 84
-Forgiven (gag, out, drama) 90 Never mind.
-Forgotten (memory erased) 85
--Caused to be forgotten 91
The Magical Effect Is Preceded by -Made to be perceived as an
apparent failure 92 I don't think he really missed.
Warning: great danger! If the emotion caused by the failure ( even if
Includes: Tension. Fear. Slight awkwardness. Maybe anxiety. Doubt (Will it be
a simulated failure) lasts more than is dramatically necessary and goes
true?). Maternal instinct. Perhaps perverse joy. Patronization. Compassion.
long-term memory, the experience is strong and it may be difficult or
Disillusion. Feeling duped. Expectation. And then: Contempt and Relaxation.
ossible to erase the sensation that something went wrong, that there
But if the spectator didn't want the effect to succeed: Slight frustration (Hey,
there are people for everything!). . Vernon's "Matching the Cards", "The Partagas Sell".
. "The Three of Hearts? No? Seven of Diamonds? [Search and Top Change.] I
80. "He'll make a lady from the audience fly" (Copperfield). blow on it and it changes into-the Seven of Diamonds."
81. "I will cut my assistant in half," said in a tone that raises doubt. .. "Three of Hearts? No? Seven of Diamonds? But the two cards on top are a
82. "I will know just by looking at your eyes," followed by verbal fishing through Seven and a Diamond."
questions and answers.
. "Three ofHearts? It isn't? Then I don't need any cards. The deck disappears."
83. "I will eat a live spectator." The magician tries, but the spectator complains . You fail to divine the first of three cards. Without overly stressing this failure,
because the magician bites him. The spectator runs away. "If no one is willing you divine the next two cards with increasing emphasis on drama and magical
to be eaten, I can't do it."
effect. You then continue with the next trick. You could also, on the first div-
84. The magician takes a card from the deck, saying, "This card will be the card ination, throw the failed card into the air and tell the spectator who chose it:
you name. " Someone freely names a card and the prediction is shown-a "You missed! That's okay. I forgive you!" (Laughs) Just smile and continue.
Joker. ''Jokers are wild" (gag and unfulfilled promise). With a Top Change, 'By the way, let's remember that in the circus it is quite common to miss a stunt
the Joker is then switched for the named card, which the magician has found on purpose in order to, when it is repeated successfully, achieve a greater dra-
using a stack or any other method. The card has transformed ( a magical sur- matic reaction, seasoned by sympathy felt toward the artist and that causes
prise different from the promised effect). See "Prediction; E. A Stage Version: the failure to be forgotten or forgiven.
'The Joker"' in Mnemonica, p. 94, for a handling of this. l. "The Three of Hearts? No? Well, wait, look at this trick-and this one ... "
85. "I will do the whole trick without touching the cards." No further reference is . You greatly exaggerate, overacting: "Oh, it's a pity I missed!" (Pause. Search
made to that promise. A while later, the magician deals the cards himself, but and Top Change.) "But seriously, look: I blow and-poof!" You make it look as
the effect of the promise remains in the memory. (See proposals by politicians if there has been no mistake; you've done everything on purpose, been in con-
in their campaigns.)
trol and feigned having missed. You don't allow the emotion of failure to be felt.

was a mistake, even if it is later proved that this wasn't the case or that aoout the attitude of the helpers, a"?out an error, about noticeable nerves
it was corrected. I think it is prudent to attempt to make the "failure" a of the magician. 98 Oh ... oh ... oh ...
weak and brief emotion, then immediately to make it feel false (simulated
and desired by the magician) or cause it be forgotten or forgiven. See the Warning: If done excessively, this will obstruct qu~et contemplation
study on the techniques for outs in magic in Chapter 10 (p. 495). and a pleasant experien·ce of the marvelous effect and ~ts fascination.

Includes: Shock. Fear. Anxiety. Solidarity. Compassion. Doubt. Maternal
Throughout the, session, and especially at delicate moments: due to diffi-
instinct. Expectation. And then: Joy, or frustration if it isn't fixed.
cult conditions, and due to the objects being used; and for the helpers or
It can be Emotions ( expressed or felt) for the way the spectator is and feels. 99 Uh ... uh ... uh ...
a) Apparent:
-Proved apparent93 And now? ... Youjoker.
The Emotions That Follow the Effect, Caused by It
-Overcome 94 Oops! And now? ... That's great!
b) Real: First reactions: at the moment immediately after the effect is produced,
-Overcome. Fixed 95
Oops! And now? ... That's great! deliberately by the magician, or spontaneously felt by the spectators.
-Apparently fixed 96 Anyway.... Phew!
-Shared (without fixing) 97 Well, never mind. 9. AsTONISHMENT, AWE
At the mental shock of the impossible.10° . .. !!!
The Procedure of the Trick Is Accompanied by Includes: Great surprise. So stunned, people forget to react. Breathless.
Silence and amazement. Exclamations. Incredulity. Admiration. Rubbing
their eyes. Mouths open. Looking at the others. Shaking their heads in
Throughout the session, at difficult moments that arouse concern: for the
denial. Eyes open wide.
magician, about the great difficulty of the effect, about the circumstances,
93. All the cards fall to the floor-but an envelope arrives "in the mail" with thP Produced by effects of this type Emotions ( expressed or felt)
exact solution. The three selected cards are inside. a) Normal (specific) ?!
94. A handkerchief is tom by a spectator and restored.
95. A spectator drops the deck on the floor. The magician brings out another deck
bf Mental wallop (knocked senseless) 101 Dong!
c) Visual blow102 I see stars ....
(stacked or Brainwave) and ends the trick successfully. A billiard ball falls to
the floor and rolls far away. The magician produces another and continues
with the manipulation. 98. Sympathetic spectators, including fell ow magicians who see us struggle, or
96. The Rising Cards houlette breaks. The trick is continued with the deck in hands. relatives or our mate.
97. For example, with a gag: ''J always drop the cards, it's part of the show." 99. The magician's mother is watching the Head Chopper. The spectator's girl-
Continue with another trick The attitude of the magician is essential in the han- friend is to be "chopped".
dling of this emotion caused by an accident. Another way of dealing with it is 100. Disappearance of the airplane (Copperfield). The Spirit Slates.
by being sincere with the audience: "Well, I'm human, too, but you are going to 101. "Out of This World" (Paul Curry).
see this other wonderful trick." This is valid for "Accident" but not for "Failure". 102. "Metamorphosis", Pendragons style.

Produced by effects of this type Emotions ( expressed or fel CITEMENT (EXALTATION)

d) Sparkling (several short effects in succession) 103 Oh! Oh! o · eludes Caused by Secondary reactions, during
e) In a cascade (in crescendo) 104 Oh! Oh! Oo the assimilation of the effect
f) Rhythmical (at regular intervals) 105 Oh! Oh! o etoscream. Experiencing No! No way! ... Ah!
g) Held throughout its duration 106 00000000 0
aroations. the unique, the Hee-hee! No, no!
h) In a frenzy (rhythm and excitement) 107 Oooh! Oooh! Oooh es. Little laughs. extraordinary,
i) Accumulative (in a sequence, but at irregular intervals) ding up. An the exceptional,
-Routined108 ost Dionysian plea- the impossible,
-Repeated identically109 . greason
inputtin the outrageous. 112
-Repeated under increasingly impossible conditions mentarilY aside.
and/or with somewhat different results 110 ,SENSATION OF .MYSTERY
udes: The spell of its atmosphere. Sensing and feeling its fluttering.
10. INTELLECTUAL CHALLENGE e unavoidable attraction of mystery.
Upon feeling excited logicm Let's see: how did it happen? Caused by: Adventure in search of the unknown (within the safety of
He must have ... ·stic fiction), the ignored, the elusive, the incomprehensible, the irratio-
Noway! the secret, the occult, the magical.
How did he do it? It will obviously depend on the style of the presentation, on what the
gician feels (Luis Garcia in one style, Finn Jon in another, Max Maven
yet another) .


Warning: If this emotion is excessive and not resolved, it might cause
eludes: Pleasure. Joy. Delight. Feeling the fantastic and the poetic. The
frustration. This depends on the magician's attitude.
nsation of finding oneself in glory. Heaven. Paradise. The Magic Rainbow.
103. Card manipulation (act or routine).
Accompanied by Emotions ( expressed or felt)
104. The Kaps Chinese Coin Routine (Fred Kaps): the production of progressively
Poetic beauty113 Ah! What beauty! Such poetry!
larger coins.
105. Six-Card Repeat (Tommy Tucker).
Sensation of a joyful trance Wonderful!
106. The Okito Floating Ball. Or a rhythmic, fast-paced production of silks from
Surrealism (in objects) 114 ?!
a Phantom Tube. Or a vanish of a single object, without its immediate reap- 12. The endings of knife routines (Kaps with handkerchief, Ascanio with minia-
pearance); the effect of the vanish remains.
ture knives).
107. Ending of "Total Coincidence" (Little Tamariz).
13. Vernon's "Brainwave".
108. Rope routine, Cups and Balls.
14. The talking head of "The Sphinx" (Tobin), objects pulled from a movie screen
109. Dove production. Kangaroo Coins.
(Goldin) and a very long etc. A great many magical effects produce surreal
110. The Linking Rings.
objects; for instance, Currency or Card in Bottle, decks that cut themselves,
111. "Zig-Zag Girl" (Robert Harbin).
cards that move by themselves.

·s also takes place at a subconscious level.
Includes: Sensations similar to those produced by hallucinatory substanc
States of sleep deprivation or hunger. Mirages. Hypnosis. Mystical tran m-eful: There is. a danger of bec~ming corny.

Reaching the degree of Emotions ( expressed or fel ugh fulfilled impossible wishes and dreams lived in rtistic reality.
a) Mirages, optical or tactile illusions. 115 It makes me see or feel Includes: Satisfaction. Deep joy. Wholeness.
b) Suggestion. 116
I see visio They can be r
c) Hypnosis.
He hypnotized m Conscious wishes (money, food, health, love, luck , h appmess .120
i • )

d) Delusion (a loss of the sense of reality,

Subconsciou~ wishes (through symbols): ·
with unreal images taken as real).
-Dreams and fantasies (not acknowledged).
-By continuing or repeating the magic
effect, making it beautiful, very -Wishes of the collective subconscious (myths): flying, invulnerability,
powerful and absolutely impossible. 117 resurrection, knowing the future, impossible liberation, metamorphosis,
-Through the rhythm, in the almost ubiquity, control of time (going back in time), telepathic communica-
obsessive repetition of the effect. 118 tion, cosmic unity, the origin of chaos, creation, animation of objects,
I see it and I don't believe it...
miraculous healing, X-ray vision, penetration through solids, powers
over nature (rapid germination, control of natural forces), etc. From
Includes: Sensations of paradise regained. The Wise Men and Santa Claus.
Icarus to Orpheus, from Minerva to Zeus, from Thor to Siegfried, from
Fairies. Warlocks. Gnomes. Genii. Spells. From Aladdin to Merlin. From
Eros to Chronos, from Dionysus to the Indian Gods of Liberation. 121
Melchior to the Wizard of Oz. Back to the pre-logical age. 119
Immediately after the assimilation of the effect.
Through Emotions ( expressed or felt)
a) Something plausible although 7. CALM, RELAXATION, ACCEPTANCE, SURRENDER
non-existent and unnecessary. ncludes: Release of tension. Enjoyment. Peace (devotion and surrender
Oh! I feel like a kid.
b) Play. Fun.
It's so much fun to play! 0 the magic sensation). State of grace. Joyful acceptance. This is magic!
c) Fantasy.
It's fantastic!
d) Free and competent imagination. 120: A ten-dollar bill to a hundred-dollar bill. Miser's Dream. Production of a leg of
I am free to dream!
Iberico ham. Winning the lottery. "The Good Fortune Routine" (Mnemonica).
115. The Color-Changing Knives, the Hot or Cold Ball.
Gambling demonstrations.
116. The General Card: One card appears to be four chosen cards.
12[ Cut and Restored Rope (resurrection). The Egg Bag (creation of life). The
117. Slydini's One-Coin Routine. The Rainbow Knives, with three knives vertig- Linking Rings (release from bondage). Rabbit from Hat (formerly: food, fertil-
inously changing colors (I mean my own-and you guys just pretend you ity). Dove Production (creation, purity, innocence). Everywhere and Nowhere
don't know it).
(ubiquity, disappearance). Going back in time and predictions (control of
118. Four blue-backed cards that change and change (Oliver MacKenzie's
time). Coin assembles and Chink-a-Chink (gathering of the four elements).
Drink Trick").
Triumph (order over chaos). Ambitious Card (rise, liberation, power). Rising
119. The Koomwinder Kar (Dick Koomwinder). Productions of fruit, candy, col-
Cards (animation, ascension). Inexhaustibility (the Hom of Plenty), etc. See
ored silks, serpentines, rabbits, ducks ....
Chapter 3 and the appendices on classic effects, symbols and myths.
Other diverse emotions ( according to the type of effect)
Tension (impossible) without ·
relaxation (exclamat10n _ Uh! Hee-hee.
For a short time, upon feeling or believing for a moment that what ~ A comic situation in the procedure of the trick
seen is a real phenomenon (telepathy) or a great coincidence, or that it -A magical effect is apparently ignored by the magician.
beyond artistic fiction. 122 Is that true? I') Although the spectators
. are aware t h at 1't 1s
· a pret ense. 129 Irony.
ii) The spectators believe that the magician
is truly unaware. 130 He has no idea.
(Sometimes horror is raised by the subject of death or similar topics.) -The effect is apparently not intended by the magician.
Includes: Sadness. Fear. Danger. Superstition. Anxiety. Horror vacm. i) The spectators are aware t h at 1"t 1s
· a pret ense. 131 How ironic!
Anguish. And then, occasionally: Joy. Relaxation. Glory.
ii) The spectators believe that it is truly intended. 132
The effect presented as
Emotions ( expressed and felt) Warning: Misplaced and disproportionate comedy might hamper, destroy
a) Apparent death 123
Uh! r almost destroy the magic. (Again see "Magic and Comedy".)
b) Real death ( animals) 124
That's horrible!
c) Symbolic death (not always a conscious concem) 125 1. FEAR, HORROR
d) Gore magic (blood, amputations) 126 Fear of the paranormal, esoteric magic, black magic, sorcery, voodoo,
witchcraft ....
Warning: Danger of an unintended sadism perpetrated on the spectators.
Includes: Apprehension. Courage. Cowardice. Credulity. Doubt. Mystery.
20. LAUGHTER (SOMETIMES SMILES) Return to the infancy of the species (arcane fears). Sometimes: Dread. Terror.
This refers to the laughs or smiles produced by the magical effect itself. Horror. But also: Peace of mind from the safety of living in an artistic fiction,
Includes: Joy. Relaxation. Communication. Closeness of the group. and being able to escape the fiction at will.
Revitalizing energy. (See "Magic and Comedy", p. 407.) 'fype Emotions
Caused by a) Spiritism (the dead, spirits, the world beyond). Uh!
Emotions ( expressed or felt)
a) The absurdity of the effect. 127
Come on! 128. A coin vanishes from the hand.
129. Lewis Ganson's Color-Changing Knives routine (Ganson's Routined Manip-
122. The Center Tear (telepathy). Bending spoons by mind power.
ulation, Part II, p. 19), in which the magician doesn't seem to be aware that
123. Sawing a Woman in Half with a circular saw (Goldin).
the knives change color.
124. A bird is genuinely decapitated when its shadow is cut (various eighteenth-
century magicians). 13;. The Rising Cards: A card rises while the deck is behind the magician's back.
131. Seemingly unexpected appearances of card fans by a tipsy Cardini. Zombie
125. The disappearc\',nce of the deck, without its reappearance. The Gut and
Restored Rope using scissors. Ball that escapes (as performed by Juan Anton).
132. In an apparent accident, an envelope containing the spectator's money is burned.
126. The Knife through Arm, with blood. Richiardi, Jr. 's Sawing a Woman in Half,
The inexhaustible salt pours out of Fred Kaps's fist (music stops and restarts). A
with the close-up display of blood and cut organs to the spectators.
spectator accidentally, or through a misunderstanding, tears a handkerchief.
127. The eggbeater in Clayton Rawson's "Little Wonder Thought Projector". The
133. Seances, perhaps making people aware of the artistic :fictional nature of what
Long Card (ten pips in a long row).
is presented.
b) IJ-'-••u.,... ,c::i ... u and animal magnetism. 134 Mmm ... Super-psychological abilities 139 ·
c) The maleficent, the diabolical, witchcraft, black magic. 135 How scary! Super-calculation140
d) Bizarre magic (the occult). 136 Yuk!
.Warning: There is a danger of overdoing it. A danger that the power Super-digestion142
of the emotion overrides the magic. A danger of falling into the theatrical Super-communication143
rather than into the magically artistic. Super-resistance to pain144
22 ..AMUSEMENT, FuN, ENTERTAINMENT Super-mastery of hazard 145
Learned animals 146
Different emotions, apparently light but of great human value and there-
fore enormously positive. They bring happiness, a restfrom the everyday Warning: There is a danger that the magician believes or feels that the
struggle, a break from personal problems. They bring joy and therefore effects, not being totally impossible and being more or less explainable,
encouragement for better facing everyday life (which is sometimes hard) don't have a magical impact. This needn't be the case if you play within
with more strength and energy. They happen by themselves or when the the zone between the possible and impossible. Most of the time there is
artist-magician seeks them, whether this is his only goal-not believing in, doubt about the genuineness of the phenomena, although it is colored with
feeling or wishing for other possibilities-or just one of his goals. Magic admiration. In any case, these effects are a formidable resource for enhanc-
as a show. We are here to have fun! That is also wonderful! ing the personality of the magician, and they offer a powerful complement
to magic, producing credibility, amazement and a certain dose of mystery.
Almost magical effects: Heroic magic (lying between the divine and the 24. SENSATION OF SEMI-MAGIC
human). Produced by allied arts.
Includes: Admiration. Incredulity. A wish for imitation and sharing those Includes: Amazement. A mild sensation of magic. Sometimes doubt.
powers. Glorification of the hero-magician. A sensation of the "almost Sometimes charm.
almost" impossible. ' Among them Emotions ( expressed or felt)
There are several types of these powers. They span magic and the Automata that are gimmicked to
sideshow and extraordinary phenomena. Let's look at some of them. make them seem intelligent. Seems alive? Is it?
Type 139. Prediction of one among five ("He made us choose it"). Musel~ reading.
a) Super-memoryl37 Amazing! Almost incredible! (for all cases) 140. The Magic Square.
b) Super-physical skill 138 141. Tearing a phonebook or deck of cards in half.
142.Eating stones (stone-eaters of the eighteenth century). Regurgitation of flu-
134. Hypno~ic rigidity over two chairs. Animal magnetism (presented in the style
ids, frogs and fish ....
of Lulu Hurst). 1
143. Second sight, when presented as a dialog between two mindreaders (an
135. Voodoo done with people.
effect at the limits of the magical).
136. A simulated ritual of black magic.
144. Fakirism, being pierced by needles, impervious to fire.
137. The Thirty-Word Memory Test. Knowing the day of the week in any year.
145. Predictions that are not strong once, but when repeated (heads, tails, tails,
Memorizing a deck. Sometimes Book Tests.
heads ... ).
138. Gambling demonstrations. Escapology. Dice stacking. Flourishes with cards.
146. Munito the Learned Dog, psychic birds, calculating horses, learned pigs.
b) Ventriloquism (especially if there are
Envy (loneliness) upon proving the brilliance
inexplicable moments)_ 147
Does it taI and social success of the magician (usually
c) Pickpocketing.
Don't they notic among groups of friends and colleagues). What about me?
d) False balancing. 14s
Seems incredibl overload, fatigue upon experiencing the
e) Physical Science. Experiments that work
excessive mental tension that magic demands. That's enough, okay.
in a way spectators don't understand and
Boredom after watching long, confusing,
that seem to defy known physical laws.
How can that be. messy, badly presented tricks or Enough! When will this end?
excessively long sessions. What a drag.


(and that will linger if not neutralized by the magician and his attitude) and after the Magic Session)
a) Frustration and impotence upon
Some wishes.
feeling his logic destroyed.
I can't understand.
b) Insecurity upon feeling his logic worthless. . ILLUSION OF POWER
I wonder if logic counts.
c) Personal failure due to feeling inferior eludes: The sensation of the possibility of achieving in the future, in real-
to the magician. ' the same effects just presented in the artistic session. Hope. Power.
How clever you are!
d) Discouragement, upset at finding oleness. Feeling like gods (Wanna play God?). All of that is due to feel-
himself ignorant of the secret. g the impossible as possible, even if only in the scope of artistic reality.
How on earth does that work?
e) Apprehension, instability upon metimes this illusion/sensation of power is subconscious.
finding that his senses are not The power is felt as Emotions ( expressed or felt)
reliable and competent. I see it and-it's not true! Only the magician's. So powerful!
f) Low self-esteem, tribulation upon Shared with the magician, as part
considering himself not very intelligent, of humanity (and the spect-actors). Me too!
or feeling clumsy or stupid. Everyone's in the future. Why not sometime?
Am I stupid?
g) Offense, feeling ridiculous and cheated
' Warning: Beware of self-deception.
fooled, even swindled. He's pulling my
h) Anger, upset at imagining himself as not worthy WISH OF BEING THE ARTIST, OF BEING THE MAGICIAN

of the confidence of the magician Includes: Emulation. Wish to imitate. Amaze. Have power. Have the skills
(friends, rel~tives ... ). mid the beautiful artistic talent of the magician. Be admired. Enchant.
He doesn't explain it to me.
i) Bad feelings, knowing that the magician Play. Be the center of attention? If I could .. .I would like ...
knows the secret but doesn't reveal it. Why doesn't he explain it? By the way, I, and all of you who are reading this, have felt this at some
147. A live dog that opens and closes its mouth when talking (Marc Metral). point. This was what brought you to the hobby or profession of magic. For
148. A ball (attached to an unseen thread) spinning on an umbrella. some of us, it changed our lives. Now we are magicians and nothing less!

eludes: Return to reality. Knowledge that everything is explainable by rea-
Includes: augmentation and glorification of the thing experienced and 3_ n, even if we don't know how to do it for lack of information; but there
curious improvement of the conditions of the effect-as long as spec.;
someone, the magician, who does know. Peace of mind. Security. Belief
tators have liked and sympathized with the magician, as a person or an ain in reason and logic, tempered with humility and a healthy skepticism
artist. Sometimes this is accompanied by thoughts about the impossibility manipulated logic and ·our capacity for analysis (we can be deceived, we
of the existence of any natural cause for the effect. This boosts and mul- e human after all), at the limited reliability of our senses (I saw it, I heard
tiplies its charm.
it, I felt it ... but it wasn't true) and of our attention and memory. Triumphant
Upon feeling ( expressed or felt) reason along with the immense pleasure, perhaps forgotten, of feeling the
Excitement about what was poetic perfume of mystery and dreams, of imagination coexisting with
experienced. It was incredible and wonderful! lucidity. A sensation of feeling enriched by the experience of the magical,
and the safety derived from the power of reason. Wholeness, a sense of hav-
Warning: This emotion is usually linked to the next.
ing gone through pre-logical childhood (fantasy), childhood (playfulness),
29. WISH To SHARE THE EXPERIENCE OF THE IMPOSSIBLE WITH OTHERS adolescence (adventure), youth (emotional, poetic) and maturity (logic,
AND NARRATE IT defeated at first, eventually triumphant).
Includes: the elements of the previous emotion (remembrance), but with Upon feeling Emotions ( expressed or felt)
more power regarding the augmentation and improvement of the effect The humbleness of knowing we can
experienced, because of the need to transmit and spread the sensation of be deceived, illusioned. I was totally enchanted!
the impossible and miraculous. People wish to convert it into something The lucidity of recognizing our mistakes in
legendary. Vanity, a feeling of having been a selected one. Subconscious perception and the limitations of memory. I thought I was watching
co-authorship felt by the spectator, especially if the spectator-narrator and I didn't see anything.
was an active participant in the trick, routine or session. Sometimes, if The healthy skepticism at the limited
the spectator is in a group, this is preceded by comments on the natural ability of our senses. I saw it, I heard it,
causes (secret) of the effects witnessed. But the conclusion, in general, but it wasn't true.
will be one of wonder and pleasure. d) The safety and peace of mind in
Upon feeling Emotions ( expressed or knowing that reason triumphs. I know there must be a reason,
a) The insufficiency of lonesome pleasure. I have to tell you! Believe and thanks to it I was able
to enjoy the marvelous.
me, it was impossible
e) Personal glory and enrichment
and marvelous!
b) Having contributed to the miracle. and wholeness due to the artistic, What beauty! How artistic!
And I chose it myself!
magical experience (although How fascinating! How
In my own hands!
artistic, not real). impossible! It's magic,
The circle closes.
but artistic (not real).
The Emotions Situations That Provoke Them) nanger: If the I-Saw-the-Secret Phase lasts too long, it will pass into
in Relation to theSecret Method term. memory ~nd will stay with the spectator. If the experience is
. no one will be able to e'rase it. People might even remember
orable ,
Warning! I feel the emotions included in this heading should be minimize they "spotted the secret" even when the magician h~s clearly shown
by the magician and be used only to stop restless logic during the first p that it wasn't the true secret. It's similar to the ertjotional situation
of a session or a routine and any logic still awake later. mistake. Curiously,· in manipulation routines, with effects that fol-
closely, one upon another, this negative effect is r~duced or entirely
• ated, since the emotion produced by the trick that follows the
Includes: Satisfied curiosity. Pity. Possible feeling of guilt. Disillusion.
-the-Secret Episode erases or, rather, prevents the passing of that
Compassion. Self-complacency. Maternal instinct. Doubt. Self-assertiveness.
t into long-term memory. As a result, the negative emotion is com-
Pride for one's own intelligence and cleverness. And, of course, if the move
tely forgotten. (See more on this subject and its applications to magic
supposedly discovered turns out not to be the real one: Joy. Sometimes
Chapter 4, "Magic and Memory", p. 113.)
frustration. A playful feeling. Admiration. Humbleness.
When people believe they saw the secret, there are some variations: . PSEUDO-EXPLANATION
a) When there is certainty of having seen the secret. 149 I know it! ·cks in which you pretend to explain the secret, or really do explain it,
b) When there is merely a doubt. 150 Uh! I think that. .. d then prove it was a false explanation; or the explanation is overridden
c) When there is fear that the magician might a more powerful and unexpected effect.
be exposing the secret. 151 Uh! Maybe they saw. Includes: Curiosity. Doubt. Distrust. Interest. Fear of Disillusionment.
d) When it is proved that the secret d then, once the false explanation is demonstrated: Surprise. Joy.
was revealed. 152 He was right! What a pity! ontempt. Playful feelings. Admiration. Refreshed amazement.

Then, when their suspicion is proved to be erroneous, not the true Contains temporary phases Emotions ( expressed or felt)
solution: When the explanation is announced. Good. Let's see. I don't think ...
153 When the secret is explained. Ah! Of course!
a) If it's known to be caused by the magician. He was kidding!
When it is shown that the Ah.! I thought so!
b) If it was the spectator's mistake. 154 I was wrong!
explanation was false. 157 ( Or sometimes:) To hell with logic.

149. The palmed ball is partially exposed and noticed. Let's just enjoy it!
150. The magician pretends to hide four Aces, or an egg, under his arm. When the explanation is really shown but
151. Wheh other magicians or friends of the performer see that some spectators is later overridden by a better effect. 158 Oh! Come on!
are whispering and commenting on possible solutions to others who want to
feel the magic. 155. "The Backstage Illusion".
152. He brings from his pocket the card that was seen palmed in the same hand. 156. Silk to Egg.
153. The arm pit is shown empty and the Aces are found on the table or the egg 157. The Chinese Sticks.
in the bag. <158. The "What's Next!" jumbo card with a changing number of spots; changes
154. He thought he saw the coin in the sleeve, but it is still in the hand. from a one to three, then to six, then to eight!

And according to quality and the cleverness of the solution: y reasoning or guesswork, sometimes the spectator finds a false
a) Ingenious, admirable. 159 . that, unfortunately' seems like a real solution to him. This can
How elev ion
b) Coarse trickery. 160
Oh! That's what it w 'bly result in partial disappointment. Making the false solutions dis- n
c) Obviously false. 161
Come on! What ajok ar or, rather, preventing them from appearing, is the true objective of
d) Apparently false (but true ). 162 Yes? I don't know.. .I don't thinks method of The Magic Way.

33. CURIOSITY IN DISCOVERING THE METHOD 1 repeat: The danger that lurks in the emotions relat ed to the secret

od is that too much emphasis may be placed on ~hat non-magical

Includes: Interest. Curiosity. Challenge. Tension: Search for rest and rel
of the trick that constitutes the secret. This could hamper the magi-
ation after resolving the logical conflict. Wish for self-acknowledgme
emotion. It also depends, however, on the part of the session we find
Search for safety. Fear of not trusting reason or the senses.
selves in. If it;s at the beginning of the session, when the Logical Bull
Emotion n't yet been soothed to sleep, there can be positive effects in bringing
discover the secret ( expressed or felt) the foreground what the spectator already feels is attacking him: that
a) Frustration.
I can't! re is trickery, that there is a secret reason, that it isn't that way, that it
b) Wish of setting logic aside. I don't need to know~: esn't exist. In my judgment, this helps the spectator to send his logical
c) Eagerness of entering the realm of the illusion.
e to sleep, so that later in the session, he can enjoy the magical effect
magical emotion completely.
Includes: Disappointment. Admiration for the cleverness, dexterity, psy-
The Emotions ( and Situations That Provoke Them)
chological skill or creativity. Amazement and surprise at not having seen
in Relation to Others: the Magician,
or thought of the secret, or for remembering the facts incorrectly. Safety.
Helpers, Assistants, Spectators
Rest. Relaxation. Emulation. And if the secret has been shared: pride of
belonging to the initiated. Secretiveness. 5. ADMIRATION FOR THE MAGICIAN. SYMPATHY

It can be ncludes: Admiration for his personal qualities, his power, his magic.
Emotions ( expressed or felt)
a) Leaming the secret accidentally, or ometimes accompanied by: Emulation. Healthy envy. Caring. There can
because it is suspected, or it is in a so be an emotion of sympathy with the magician if he s~ows himself
book, or it is told to them. Ah! That's what it o be sure, happy, joyful, as opposed to "doing a job", nervous, sluggish.
b) Leaming it voluntarily because the magician here is also sympathy for the positive emotions the magician feels for the

told them or they found it on the Internet. Now I know it, too! magical effect, if they are genuine and not stiff or obviously acted.

159. Ajumbo card with moving pips; used as an explanation of the optical illusion. 36. CONTRARY ATTITUDE TOWARD THE MAGICIAN
160. Marked cards. Stooges. Animosity toward the magician or his personality (unpleasant, conflict-
161. "Inside the little wooden car there is a little man who drives it." mg) because of his attitude (arrogant, challenging), insecurity, unhealthy
162. ''I move it with a thread that is attached to the card." (Vernon's Rising envy, frustration.
Includes: Reticence. Distancing. Threat. Intellectual and personal conflict.
37. TOWARD THE MAGICIAN'S HIRED ASSISTANTS, ONSTAGE AND ELSEWJ:IE is a of the highest importance, especially for those who
Although to a minor or a lesser extent, these assistants can produce emoti borate. The collaborator will enormously influence the audience's
similar to those described regarding the magician (favorable or negative). eption of the trick, the rest of the session and, of course, the attitude
emotions toward the magician with whom he collaborates.
Includes: Joy. Shyness. Nervousness, sometimes great. Fear of spoil-
They can also elicit emotions, sometimes very strong ones, in the rest
the trick Sometimes eagerness to get the magician into trouble. Fear
the audience.
feeling ridiculous. Feeling observed. Joy in having been selected. Fun
Includes: Curiosity. Interest in the assisting persons and their attitud getting picked. Delight in sharing the power, the gi,fts. Insecurity. Joy
Sympathy toward them and their situations. Criticism. Positive identi:fi helping and ,collaborating in the playfulness, the feast, the illusion.
tion, if they are well-treated by the magician and they seem relaxed, safe piness derived in verifying the successful result of the trick Happiness
and happy. Pain and compassion if they are mistreated (harsh jokes, etc.), being more amazed than in other circumstances. Huge admiration and
Different possibilities lasting impression upon witnessing the magic under his control and its
a) Desire to participate and collaborate in order to experience the magic,' ess (in his hand, in his mind, etc.).
especially felt by children, but also by adults and gatherings of friends .,..,...,."" nu deD4~ncts on the role assigned him by the magician:
or family. Largely depends on the culture, circumstances and countries.
b) Desire to be called on to participate in order to help the magician and Subject of the experience ("Think, name, choose ... ").
the success of the session, gathering or party. Suffering involuntary victim.
c) Desire to attend and collaborate because of: Narcissism. Exhibitionism. Voluntary and playful victim (Paper Balls over the Head).
Wanting to be the star or center of attention. Showing off before a Involuntary apparent heckler, through accident or error.
group of friends. Desire to feel like the leader. Eagerness for notoriety. Magician for a moment or magician-magician (see Verbal Magic).
d) Desire to participate for negative reasons: to heckle, win a presumed Witness, control, "notary".
battle of egos, spoil the trick or reveal it to the others, and to demon- Impromptu stooge.
strate that "I can't be fooled." Obviously, each role carries different and complex emotions. And the
e) Desire to participate in order to search for the secret to find out to more people who ·collaborate during the session, the mor_e emotionally
discover. ' '
involved the rest of the audience will be.
f) Fear, horror and anxiety of the magician calling on us to help when Incredibly strong feelings and emotions are of maximum importance
don't want to, in fear of making a mistake, of creating a bad impres- When the magic happens to the assisting spectator (say, when his mind
sion or of being the victim of an unkind joke. is read), when it happens in his own hands (the coin changes from silver
copper) or on his person ( cards appear in his pocket, or ashes on his
hand). It's impossible to exaggerate the power of the magical emotion felt
When someone collaborates with a magician, either voluntarily or the spectator when experiencing this.
through his election, especially if it is in an essential role or on stage, in It is the task of the magician to transmit this emotion to the rest
front of the audience.
of the audience by selecting a good assisting spectator-someone
222 ?
The Emotional Scheme
expressive and playful-and then to amplify his or her emotion (amaz
ment, surprise) by radiating or expressing it through sound and gestur G")

The magician focuses and concentrates his attention and everyone else (')
ore and during the effect:
on the emotional reactions of the assisting spectator. Remember, i
1. Suspense. ~
example, the great sympathy produced when a child participates in
2. Surprise.
show or session for adults: his reactions, his words, his gestures, his ve 0
How it is presented 3. Challenge.
expressive emotions. ~
4. Impossible promise.
Preceded by"
Includes: Belonging to a group. Resonance of emotions. Synergy with the. 6. Accident.
group. Softening of the possible negative conflicts and emotions, like feel- During the trick 7. Fear of failure.
ing stupid or fooled. 8. Fear of accidents.
Since the audiences of magic performances are often active, express-
ing opinions about the possible method through words and gestures, some er the effect:
spectators might feel negative and critical emotions toward such spec-
tators, in defense of the magician. Alternatively, they might share their First reactions 9. Astonishment.
fellow spectators' opinions and, therefore, the emotions that arise from 10. Intellectual challenge.

that information. Or if fellow members of the audience feel positively 11. Excitement.
about the effect, the other spectators could resonate with them, since the Second reactions 12. Mystery.
strongest and most powerful emotion an audience can feel is the joy of a 13. Wonder and fascination.

shared experience of the impossible and fascinating: the magical emotion. 14. Hallucination.
15. Recovery of childhood, playfulness.
One further comment
With this knowledge and analysis of these forty groups of emotions (which At a subconscious level 16. Pleasure and joy.
I suspect is incomplete), I believe we have an extremely useful tool (one 17. Peace of mind, acceptance ..
more) to help us achieve the real objective of our beautiful art: the joyful
and emotional experience of our most desired and most impossible dreams. Other emotions: 18. Confusion, doubt (Is it true?).
19. Discomfort (death).
20. Laughter.
21. Fear, horror (spiritism, hypnosis,
suggestion, etc.).
22. Amusement, entertainment.
23. Amazement at Superpowers:
-skill About the Variety of Emotions: An Example
-strength variety of emotions can be achieved not only through different tricks in
-digestion session but also in the development of a single trick or routine. The won-
-communication constructions of Dai Vernon and Hofzinser can serve as examples.
-resistance to pain
-control of chance e Ambitious Card
-wise animals e average Ambitious Card routine usually consists of a sequence of ris-
24. Semi-magic. The allied arts. gs of the chosen card to the top. That is an improvement, regarding the
(automata, ventriloquism, ·ety of emotion, to the effect of the card rising only once. When the
pickpocketing, etc.) ect is repeated several times, the emotions the spectators come to feel

To avoid
uld be expressed like this (here I am considering only the emotions that
25. Negative.
1within the scope of amazement and joy):
During and after 26. Power, conscious wishes.
the session The first time the card rises: Oh! (surprise)
27. Imitation, emulation, inspiration,
The second time the card rises: It's not possible!
wish to be the artist.
( amazement and doubt)
28. Remembrance, Comet Effect, evocation.
When the third rise is announced: I'll watch carefully
29. Wish to share.
(interest and attention)
The circle closes 30. Lucidity, enrichment, wholeness. Incredible!
When the third rise then occurs:
When the fourth rise is announced: And it will rise again ...
31. I caught it. I saw what he did.
(surrender to the effect)
32. Pseudo-explanation.
. When the fourth rise happens: What beauty!
33. Curiosity.
34. Knowledge of the secret.
When the fifth rise is announced: What a pleasure to see it rise again!
IN RELATION TO OTHER PEOPLE ( enjoying the effect)
When the fifth rise occurs: Miracle!
35. Admiration for the magician.
36. Against the magician.
37. Toward the magician's hired assistants. The scheme varies, depending on the spectators, the routine, the
38. Toward assisting spectators. sequence of moves, the active participation of a spectator (he taps the
39. As an active participant. card and turns it over himself, which eliminates the easy solution of a
40. Toward the rest of the audience. ~uplicate), the manipulative clarity, etc.
In other words, through the mere repetition of the effect of this wonde gidan-artist, richness of his inner world, his capacity to convey it
ful trick-one of the best in all of card magic, without a doubt-spectato • g the performance, and the attr~ction he radiates to make us share with
can experience a whole scale of emotions, taking them from surpri~e the unique experience of the true and artistic magical emotion. 0
~mazement to mystery to surrender to fascination and, finally, to magic, But let's go back to our analysis of the Ambitious Card. 164
Magic, let's remember, is a group of emotions that contains all the preced-
ing ones mentioned plus the absolute sensation of the impossible, and the
experience of a beautiful dream wherein some of our more deeply rooted he first thing to point out is that the description in that monument to
wishes come true in a subconscious form following a symbolic pathway. agic that is Stars ofMagic is just the bare bones of an explanation. It tells
In this routine, the spectator's card, signed by him, representing him without elaboration what we must do, describing the stark actions of
becomes a hero. Once lost in the middle of the deck, the crowd, it stands out
' how", "put", "cut", "take two cards together", etc., without guiding adjec-
rising from anonymity and overcoming the pressure of those above, pene- tives. Its laconic style allows about forty tricks, most employing complex
trating them. It escapes from the prison of the hand and the deck to arrive 'sleights, to be compressed into the pages of a book Yet all of them, all, are
on top (liberation), above all the others (power), in contact with the air, indi- ~bsolutely marvelous, many touch mg or pure genms.
· 165

vidualized, visible, free. And it does this by rising (glorious ascension) time This succinct explanation of the tricks encourages various interpre-
and again, defying all physical laws, under impossible conditions, without ,tations of the whys of certain actions and the ways of presenting the
effort, in a state of grace, against all logic, apparently outside reality; but 'tricks. 166 Therefore, I have allowed myself to interpret Vernon's Ambitious
within reality. Freedom, individualization, penetration of solid through solid, Card routine according to my criteria, while remaining faithful to the text.
power, ascension: a mighty combination that makes us experience our hero. The routine has nine phases, no more and no less. Not five, not
Needless to say, to truly feel those emotions, to live those magical seven-nine! And not only does it escape being boring, but it doesn't feel
adventures, consciously or symbolically, it is necessary that the path, the repetitive and it arouses emotions at all times.
way, doesn't allow us to become distracted in our search for "the trick of
164. By the way, the title seems inadequate to me. It has limitations, at least in
the illusion", whether it be the true method or any other possible solution.
conveying ambition as a desire for power, for being on top, elitism. And it is
And all this is achieved with the irreplaceable guidance of the magician. 163 deceptive regarding its ability to arouse other emotions, such as liberation
The Bull of Logic should let himself be led by the Wmged Horse of Illusion, and ascension. It could instead be "The Liberated Card" or •'The Card That
Fantasy and Imagination, but not without having fought and battle9- for a logi- Rises" because, if we defined our hero as simply ambitious, without further
cal hold. He must be felled by the magician's manual and corporeal technique, attributes, feeling sympathy toward him would become notably more diffi-
the cleverness of the solution and its psychology (the control of spectators' cult. The title is used only as a general classification for this effect among
attention, perception and memories). Only then should the Wmged Horse magicians and should never reach our audiences.
165. It is in fact a collection of the best tricks of the best magicians of the best
be the one the spectators ride, conquered by a mesmerizing presentation; of
period of close-up and card magic.
patter with charm, of gestural grace, of rhythm, harmony, the pace of perfor-
166. In one of my chats with Ascanio in The Magic of Ascanio: The Structural
mance, power, fascination and, lastly, of the persona and personality of the
Conception of Card Magic (see "Arturo and Juan Chat Again", p. 143), we
163. See the opening chapter of The Magic Way, in which I expose my general wondered about the virtues and drawbacks of long, detailed descriptions of
thoughts on the spectator's emotions in his journey through The Magic Way. tricks versus concise ones like those in Stars of Magic. I refer you there.
228 229

First Phase ough solid and an autonomous and magical movement of an object. We
The performer asks for the name of a card that is easy to remember an uld add animation to the symbolic elements discussed earlier.
he removes that card from the deck. The spectator personalizes the car
Second Phase
with·his signature. The fact that the card is freely thought of and named
e double card is turned face down on the deck, and ther;t the top card
makes it less necessary to have it signed, but doing so helps to associate
buried in the center. There should be extreme clarity a~d neatness in
it with the person who chose it; and he is now, in a certain way, repre..,
e insertion of the supposed selection into the center. A _magic gesture
senting the rest of the audience. Having the card'signed also eliminates
d the card is on top-and it is a single card this time. ';rhe procedure
any suspicions of duplicates. 167
d effect are exceptionally distinct. Emotions are those, of amazement
The card is clearly lost among the others in the center of the deck and
' d mystery. The combination of using the Pass in the first phase and the
with a Pass or Double Undercut, it is secretly brought second from the
ouble Turnover in the second cancels many possible solutions, true and
top. Since the effect hasn't been announced, attention will be less intense.
se, in the minds of the spectators. They won't consider them again.
We seem to be in the phase of introducing the elements, which is a good
time to do the Pass, while relaxing after saying, "Hopelessly lost. Can you Third Phase
remember it?" Since we are going to use a Pass or Double Undercut, the e spectators think the effect is over, and that is the case: The card has
chosen card is single (not a double) as you insert it clearly into the center sen to the top twice, escaping from the center of the deck The spectators
of the deck. This will not be the case later, since you will bring it second e now beginning to ask themselves (to better savor the beautiful moment
from the top. erienced): "But how was that possible? He put the card into the cen-
The Pass is better here, because the cards don't appear to move; a r. Let me remember... " At this moment, when the spectators' attention
clear example of how useful the Pass can be. Any substitute in this case n the card relaxes and their minds are busy with processing the "logical
will not be nearly as direct and magical. In short, the initial situation is uestions", you perform a Top Change-the best technique for changing a
presented with great clarity. ard, done during a pause for relaxation. The spectators are unaware of the
With a Double Turnover, the card is shown to have risen to the top. tention of the magician to repeat the effect, and the magician has already
This evokes magical surprise, an emotion usually experienced with inten- one what is needed for that repetition. He is way ahead of them.
sity, which makes it memorable and beautiful. It is a non-intellectual The card is again clearly lost in the center of the deck The spectators,
emotion, more sensitive, more immediate, which sends a chill down your erhaps with their logic still actively engaged, think, "He did bury it in the
spine. It probably creates a mild and pleasant shock that might induce enter...and he doesn't do anything to pull it out and put it on top. Let's
us to make a little exclamation of surprise, expressing and releasing the e ... " (Suspense)
sudden increase of tension. The magician makes his magic gesture. This is essential: It is the ritual
The effect is two-fold: The card moves by itself and rises, penetrat- lement that gives credibility to the illusion. It also raises the tension of
ing all the cards above it. In other words, there is a penetration of solid xpectation and the desire to see if the effect is achieved.
The card is shown to have arrived on top again! The surprise has given
167. The question of whether or not to have the card signed lends itself to diverse
opinions. I prefer to have it signed. This greatly helps The Comet Effect of ay to suspense and stronger amazement: "How is that possible? It can't
this trick e!" The impossible, the specific component of our art.
Fourth ck and visibly palms the selected card protruding from along with all
Now for one of the typical constructional elements of Vernon (which hi those that are under it. He does this by using his left forefinger to push
master Hofzinser often employed): pretending to do a Top Change without ese cards inward to an injogged position and then clips them in the fork
changing the card, in a surreptitious but detectable way. The spectators the right thumb. He brings the palmed cards over the rest and adds them
jump: "Ah! I caught it! I know! Of course!" The Logical Bull bellows With top as he squares the deck The spectators see the p~ming action and
joy. And the masterstroke that levels and temporarily tames him is then e replacement and believe they understand. The Logical Little Donkey
delivered by the magician who, after inserting the card into the center · aces and brays: "Ah, that's what it was. Now I see!" ,
of the pack, notices the reactions in the audience. "Oh no!" he exclaims The magician says, ''But if I repeat it at speed you can't see it." And
innocently and na'ively. ''Another card is on top. Yours is here in the cen-' e does it again, faster, but this time he steals only the cards under the
ter. "And he shows it. 168 election, leaving it under the deck, aligned with it. 170 The left forefinger
The spectators get the joke. They laugh to relax and they understand as pushed back only the cards below the ,selection, and the right fingers
the scolding of the magician-guide, accepting the fall of the Logical Little ave pushed in and squared the selection.
Donkey (a bull when attacking, a kind little donkey when surrendering). ''Did you see anything?" The spectators nod: We saw it. The magician
This phase has brought to life the emotions of I know! and Oh, he was doesn't notice this. Innocently and na'ively, he says, "Oh, no! It's not on
playing with me! Here the skill and personality of the magician are essen- op. This time it went down. " He shows the top card. It is not the selec-
tial to avoid feelings of challenge and frustration. They in tum generate ion. He then shows it on the bottom of the deck (another emotion: I made
those of joy and playfulness. rnistake. It's playing games with me again.). This time the effect is
But the spectators now feel helpless. The magician immediately comes accomplished in a magical way and while kidding around. Our hero-card
to their rescue: "I'm going to explain it. "169 not only escapes from the deck but also from all logic! Once again we have
Some spectators believe the magician is really going to explain the :the surprise, the pepper, the spice, the emotion of surprise, the seasoning
secret. They feel curiosity and interest. Others don't believe it and think it's of the magic banquet. The salt was the previous joke and perhaps also the
another joke: Magicians never explain. But yes, the magician does begin to kidding component of this new one: You thought you knew it, you trusted
explain the method. ''I did this." He slowly brings his right hand over the logic, but it's not that way. This is a game of fantasy. The spectator under-
stands this and feels the surprise, the joke, the amazement: "Now what?
168. In this Machiavellian fashion, Vernon cancels the possible notion that he
This is incredible. I should put my logic aside. Little Rationa~ Donkey, you
is trying to switch the card for another before inserting it into the deck
However, that is exactly what he did earlier and what he will do ~gain, late1:
The spectators end up knowing the true secret but believing it is impossible 17~. This action does belong to Vernon's original routine. I've now returned to it.
to do deceptively and that it was never used by the magician. Was Vernon, 171. It's remarkable that, in this phase, Vernon has actually used the palming of
perhaps, the ;devil incarnate? Some are tempted to believe it. I'll join them. the cards to bring the hero-card to the bottom, but in letting the palming
169. Please allow me, dearest reader, poetic license here. The phase of announc- be seen and recognized by the spectators, they are surprised that the card
ing an explanation, which I will next describe, is not in Vernon's original didn't go up as expected, but down, and they are amazed once again! In other
routine. I made it up or it was taught to me (I can't remember) when I began words, the technique that produces the effect is exposed, and yet the effect is
performing the routine, but I do think it fits Vernon's style. Feel free to skip successful. The spectators don't understand anything anymore, unless they
it, if you think that's better. are in the realm of surrealism and art.
squares the card into the deck, gets a break two cards
To really clinch the sensation of the impossible, the magician appears · he has mastere d t h at s l e1g
ove the selection and executes a Pass, 1f . ht .172
take the bottom card. He actually takes the second card from the botto The magician turns over the top card (after the ritual gesture) and- (')
with a direct technique that is appropriate for the moment. It's a kind orrors •' He made a mistake. It is not our expected hero-card. The spectators
Downs Change that substitutes the second card from the bottom for th el the mistake, which evokes new emotions: deception, maybe sadness,
bottom card. He inserts this card into the center of the deck and, after the erest of course, upon ·thinking, "How will he get out of this?" They iden-
ritualistic magical gesture, he shows that it w·ent down again! The spec.. with the magician.
tators are already living the adventures of this escapist and libertarian Needless to say, there can also be a component of playful revenge. The
hero, sympathizing with him. The emotion of the illusion, of its artistic ectators may feel a certain satisfaction at seeing the magician's mistake.
beauty, is already present. The Horse of Fantasy neighs and prepares for ut the more they are involved in the trick, the more they surrender, the
the journey. ore enchanted they become and the more they admire and feel the artis-
.c beauty of their hero-card and their magician-guide whom the mistake
Sixth Phase
renders human, the more any satisfaction at his error will be mitigated and
And in case there is anything left stirring in the Bull, the magician,
ejected. Feelings of protection and maternal instinct toward the helpless
inspired by the diabolical Vernon, begins to do the Glide, letting the spec-
magician are even possible, likely and, I believe, desirable.
tators see him slide the bottom card back. Doubt attacks the spectators.
The magician plays with this situation for the necessary and appro-
The Logical Donkey looks up from the floor and stretches his ears-but
riate amount of time, although briefly, to prevent the disappointment of
the magician promptly shows once again (for the final time) that the card
the mistake from being recorded in the spectators' long-term memories. It
placed in the center and still protruding is indeed the hero. He actually
must be erased and forgotten, so a couple of second s are enough .173
took the bottom card!
"Ah, I know!" says the magician-guide. "Since it is face up, it doesn't
Once again, his strategy is that of explaining a strategy done earlier-
come to the top. It rises secondfrom the top. The top card [he shows and
taking the second card from the bottom as if it were the bottom card-and
names the card, and sets it face down again on top of the deck] is there
"proves" it was false: a sure termination of this solution, which was a gen-
to cover the rising. " After the magical gesture, he lifts two cards as one,
uine one. The Logical Donkey, exhausted, loses his senses, faints and slips
exposing the shining face of the hero-card. Surprise (more seasoning),
into sleep. We are ready to continue. The spectators surrender. The Magic
magical admiration (more flesh, more magical substance), joy and rest.
Way has brought us, by way of the magician-guide's hand and mind, to the
doorway of The Rainbow. 17~. Or a Double Undercut, if he hasn't. In either case, it is good to create a period
Then clarity increases: The magician turns over the card and clearly of tension-the magic rite, the tap followed by ''It's done!"-then a relax-
inserts it again 'into the center, but this time face up. This positively ation in gestures and attitude. It is at this moment that the Pass is performed.
Many were the times I saw Vernon slap his hands noisily and unexpectedly
rivets the idea in everyone's eyes and mind: The card that goes into
over the deck and then, in the relaxation that followed, do the Pass.
the center is always the hero-card and not another. The psychological
173. In the extremely concise description given in Stars of Magic, it isn't quite
strategy of the construction reaches its peak here in quality and struc- explicit that showing the top card is meant to display a mistake made, but I
tural beauty. think one can safely give it this interpretation.
234 235

And the Horse of Fantasy is already grazing as it trots along the valley of the hero-card (he sets the double card over the indifferent card, then
The Rainbow. repi.oves the top card to expose the selection). The trick, the illusion and
the magic continue; the Horse of the Imagination and the dream go wild.
Seventh Phase
Magic is possible!
The magician explains again: "So the top card covers the rising of our
card." With these words he uses the double card to tum the next one-the Ninth and Final ~hase
face-up hero-card-face down. He leaves the double on top of it, then The previous phase has left two cards face up, which i~ to say that every-
removes the top card and takes the next one (supposedly the hero-card). thing is prepared for an unsuspected and direct :final Double Turnover.
He puts it into the center of the deck and squares all the cards. After a rit- Isn't it an absolutely wonderful stmcture!
ual gesture without drama (we are already in the land of magic), he takes . Up to now the magician has been the only one who officiated in the
the top card and uses it to tum over the next one: it is the hero-card once magic. The spectators watched and admired. Now, for the climax and
again (accepted surprise; the magician and spectators take this rise as grand magical ending, the assisting spectator will achieve the effect him-
natural). The Winged Horse starts to gallop, his mane blowing in the wind self. "You try it. "174 The magician loses the cover card (the top card). He
as he carries us off. We all feel the magical emotion. turns over the two face-up cards now on top as one. Then he takes the top
card into his hand. All are convinced it is the hero-card just seen. He holds
Eighth Phase
out his hand with the deck and asks the spectator to cut it himself. The
The magician again shows the face of the top card, the one that covers the
magician puts the card into the center175 and asks the spectator to replace
hero's rise, pointing out that it is always the same, a demonstration that
the cut-off portion, burying the card, and to square up everything himself.
the portions of the deck are not moved, for The Comet Effect. There is no
He is then asked to hold the deck tightly between his palms.
Pass, no cut, nothing.
The spectator is now instructed to make a magical gesture himself (or
The magician, through gestures or words, asks, ''Again? Of course!"
in partnership with the magician)-and to turn over the top card himself
to which the delighted spectators agree, wanting to enjoy themselves
to see that he has achieved the magical effect. He has become a bit of
(they're not trying to :find out anymore) and make this sensation last lon-
a magician and, as he is the representative of the audience, everyone is
ger. And now, here, there come new surprises, new emotions. After losing
riding the Winged Horse, which has taken flight. The spectators are all
the cover card in the deck, the magician inserts.the "ambitious card" face
feeling the delicate weightlessness and vertigo of the impossible, the fas-
up into the center (forming a break above the card above it and ex_ecuting
cination of the wonderful-the art of magic.
a Pass or Double Undercut).
The magician takes the top card-actually two cards as one: the top l 7Ll. Once again, I'll allow myself some small poetic license in presenting this :final
indifferent card, face down, and the next one, the face-up hero-card- phase as a transference of power to the spectator, or a collaboration in exer-
cising it.
and with the double, he turns up the next card, which-is not the one
175. Here I will take a chance, handing the card to the spectator and asking him
expected! But there is no more disappointment. The spectators tmst the
to insert it into the center.
magician. He is confident in his magical power and in the fact that, in
this land of colors, everything is possible. He makes his ritual gesture
(perhaps he forgot it earlier), and the wrong card visually changes into

Sees the Knowledge. I saw it.
1. List , But the card went down: Big surprise. Logic is worthless. It was not the
A Pass, which proves that the card really goes into the center. real explanation. More joking. More playing.
· A Double Turnover, which proves there has been no Pass or any other It goes down again: This begins to feel like magic. Incredible! Impossible!
moves after the card was placed in the center-even though a Pass But it happened.
has been done. Sees the Glide: Altho.ugh perhaps ... I think ...
A Top Change, which proves that the card ·is single before and after Still in place: No, how silly of me. I'll set aside logic and get into the
inserting it. magic. I surrender.
A feigned Top Change, which proves that the Top Change is not the Face up and.".. it didn't rise: Disappointment. It will rise .... Oh! It failed.
solution, even though, in the preceding phase, it was. Rises to second from the top: Joy. Oh! The magician is my guide, I'll
A Palm, which proves a Palm is not the solution earlier, since the card trust him.
doesn't rise, it goes down; but the Palm is indeed the solution to Rises to second from the top again: It always rises and it will always
making the card go down! rise. That's what magic is. Great!
A kind of Downs Change done on the face of the deck New rise but .. .it's the wrong card! Security. Confidence. What hap-
A feigned Glide, which proves that the Glide is not the solution. pened? It doesn't matter. Everything is possible here.
The card is inserted face up into the center and controlled by a Double Visual change: Visual surprise. What beauty! It changed infront ofmy
Undercut, which proves the card can even rise when face up. eyes.
A Double Lift of cards that are not the "ambitious" one. Invitation for the spectator to participate. Rises in his hands: Do I do it
Flipping the ambitious card face down with the double card. all? (If asked to do it himself: Will I be able to?)
Double Lift of a face-down card with a face-up card beneath it. Rises in his hands: Miracle! This is magic!
A color change made by unloading the bottom card of a double. (If he participated in the rite: I did it. We shared the power. I have
A final Double Turnover prepared by the previous phase, which has left experienced-we have experienced-the magic.)
two cards as one face up on top of the deck 3. Excited Comments
Yes, Vernon is the demon, the devil, Satan, Beelzebub, Mephistopheles! -Can there be more variety, more quantity and more quality of emotions?
2. List of Emotions and Sensations Felt the Spectators Can there be a better magical adventure with a single and simple effect?
First rise: Magical surprise. Clarity of the initial situation. Can there be a better dramatic construction?
Second rise: Amazement. It isn't possible. Can there be a better magical construction?
Third rise: Su~pense: maximum tension and attention. Seems impossible! Can there be a better use of card sleights: Pass, Double Turnover, Top
False Top Change: Triumph of logic. I know. I caught it. Change, Downs-type Change, Glide?
It was still there: Joke. Deception, kind leg-pulling. Distrust of logic. Can there be more magic?
Laughs. Playfulness. There was a reason, Vernon, why we all called you, we all call you,
Fourth rise: Fake explanation. Excited curiosity. Doubt. Is he really endearingly, with love, Professor.
going to explain it? Oh, yes!

The Curves of Interest: Notions to Remember

We all know that in the classic scheme of any development of a dramatic
structure, whether it is for a novel, a play or a film, there is a clear divi-
$ion of stages that makes this development precisely that: dramatic. The
structure captures the attention of the spectator or the reader, keeps that
attention, gradually increases interest and takes it to a high point of conflict;
then the situation, the conflict, is resolved. That's how a dramatic structure
ends, with the decrease and final cessation of attention, in relaxation.
This is, of course, a generalization, completely valid for most scripts,
with exceptions that certain artistic movements have established during
certain periods. But the fundamental structure is still valid, and the trilogy
of dramatic elements-exposition, conflict, resolution-still exists.
In the exposition, the elements are presented to the spectators, intro-
duced by the story. The more interesting the elements, the bigger and
stronger the personalities (if they are people in, say, a movie script), the
more the story will interest the spectators.

Then comes dramatic conflict, a problematic situation in which the

characters are involved. Something is wrong, and we begin to become
interested in how the conflict and dramatic situation will be resolved. That
is the marrow, the essence of the dramatic interest of the story: Romeo
and Juliet are passionately in love but find their love impossible because
of hatred between their families. The more intense the initial situation is
and the stronger the conflict that prevents or ~inders the normal devel-
opment and successful outcome of the initial situation, the stronger the
tension and the drama will be: If R and J had loved each other only a little The classic curve of dramatic conflict
bit, there would be no drama.
But that situation of conflict is just that: a situation, something static.
If it continues at the same level, the interest it has generated will grad-
ually weaken and the situation will eventually grow boring. It needs to
evolve, either because the characters evolve-some malefactor appears
and plots against the lovers, and as a result one of them feels betrayed
(this is my script now, not Shakespeare's)-or because the circum-
stances get worse-J's brother is killed by a relative of R. In both cases,
the static situation is transformed into dynamic action and the interest
is sustained or builds. The stronger the conflict, the higher the interest
and dramatic strength.
Finally we reach the resolution of the conflict, which is usually rela-
tively quick and is accompanied by wit, laughter, logic, coherence or-as
with the case of Romeo and Juliet-by the hand of the messenger of the
Grim Reaper, that great and stanch resolver of conflict. It has long been
recognized that conflict is the most important component of the dramatic
pyramid, and this should always be kept in mind. It is the essence of
drama, the interest and the emotion.
The !graphic representation of dramatic development is a curve of
interest in emotions. This is determined by the highs and lows of dramatic
tension throughout the temporal development of the script or, in the case
of magic, the trick or routine.
We all know that the curve of interest shown in the following diagram
is a good one:
242 243

Magic: Two Conflicts e Symbolic-Metaphoric Conflict of the Impossible Wish

better understand these questions and answer them, we will exam-

The Logical-Rational Conjlict-Climax without Resolution
something I firmly believe in: that aside from logical-rational conflict, n
Bµt is this true for magic? Elsewhere I have mentioned that in magic there ·ch is external, magic .has another form of conflict, an internal one.
is no resolution to the conflict that is created. 176 cause it happens inside, sometimes it is hinted at and sometimes it isn't;
t it is perceived, although not always at a conscious level. It's a sym-
CLIMAX lic-metaphoric conflict that recognizes and evokes in us an impossible
'sh, which is resolved when the magical effect proves it possible. So
e of the facto;rs that prevents frustration when How is the impossible
ossible? is left unanswered is the pleasure produced by the existence
f a solution, in the realm of artistic magic, to the parallel conflict, the
amatic (emotional) conflict between the existence of a wish and the
Time ossibility of achieving it. Then comes, as I've said, the magical effect,
The curve of logical-rational conflict in magic ich makes us experience the impossible made possible!
I am clearly referring here to the logical-rational conflict, to the con-
flict of: "What I'm seeing is logically impossible and yet I'm experiencing WISH
it as possible. How can it be? The lack of resolution makes magic spe-
cial among the performing arts. This feature, by the way, is not free of
problems. It's as if a movie were interrupted, its projection stopped at the
highest point of the conflict, which would be left unresolved. The sensa-
tion of dissatisfaction, of coitus interruptus, would be enormous.
The unresolved logical conflict could arouse curiosity, the desire to Time
know the secret cause of the apparently impossible effect. It could. In 'fhe curve of the coriflict of the impossible wish (symbolic-metaphoric)
fact, curiosity usually does appear to a greater or lesser degree. Is magic . Let me digress briefly to remind you that, for me, the art of magic is
then only or mainly a mere puzzle, a riddle, a pastime? the art of showing the impossible and the wished for-which is to say, of
In a better light, is magic a show? A brilliant and entertaining per- the impossible and the fascinating-as possible. It deals with presenting
formance that produces amazement at the skill, dexterous speed or s6mething similar to a secular miracle; something wished but impossible
cleverness of the trickery? Or in the worst case, is it simply deception, a that is shown as possible and made possible in artistic reality, and that fas-
mockery of the senses? Does it leave us unsatisfied, restless, even frus- Jnates us, charms us, astounds us. It's something we long for, although it is
trated, because we can't discover the solution? impossible to achieve, because it is prevented by the laws of nature and of
176. See my little book Aprenda Ud. magia (1973, Editorial Cymys: Barcelona), hysics: levitation, resurrection, learning the future, changing the past, etc.
later expanded with more tricks in Secretos de magia potagia (1988. Editorial It is precisely that conflict between the wished for and the impossi-
Frakson: Madrid). ility of experiencing it that is solved through magic. The magical effect
makes the granting of the wish possible by breaking and overcoming t f'Solution" to
laws of nature; and in a certain way, as we will see, it solves the logic Fascination of the Granted Wish
rational conflict, providing a greater sense to magic · It's a secular m·1rac1
artistic magic, there is the conflict of the symbolic-metaphoric wish,
Religion, Esoteric Magic and Artistic Magic it is resolved. The impossible wish is satisfied by the magical effect,
·ch fulfills the impossible wish by making it possible. This produces
But what is a secular miracle? To attempt to understand it better.,~ 1
great intellectual, emotional and vital pleasure in usi; an artistic plea-
look at the similarities and differences betwee:r;i a miracle produced in th
e, sometimes felt only in a subconscious form; and that pleasure (along
realm of religion or of the supernatural and a magical effect, which is t
'th other factors we will discuss later) weakens or prevents the possible
say a miraculous effect, produced within the realm of artistic magic.
stration of the unresolved logical conflict, allowing us to release accu-
A miracle presents a logical-rational conflict because a miracle is
ulated mental tension, as well as the related physiological tension (refer
impossible. It contradicts logic and the laws of nature. In turn, it carries
the diagram on p. 248). How is it possible? It can't be gives way to How
symbolic-metaphoric conflict: fulfilling an impossible wish (resurrecti
. ~ vnderful! My wish is fulfilled. What a beautiful art!
ascension to heaven, fulfilled prophecy... ). This second conflict is resolved by
the miracle making the impossible wish possible. And the logical-irrational
possibility and Fascination-
conflict-the How is it possible?-is solved by faith, by belief in a god or
he Two Factors of the Art of Magic
gods with supernatural powers who, because of their control of the laws of
nature, allow the violation of those laws, thereby resolving the conflict. In have now arrived at what I believe to be the essence of artistic magic,
supernatural magic, belief lies in the existence of other laws, magical laws hich I introduced two pages back: that the art of magic has two essential
(the laws of sympathy; of similarity, of an intimate connection between the omponents, the impossible and the fascinating. Any proposed magical
whole and the parts, an interconnected structure of the universe, etc.), which feet should be impossible and also wished for. When that effect is ful-
explain the whys and hows of magic, thus solving the logical-rational conflict. Jilled, when it reaches its climax, when it grants the impossible wish, when
In the fields of religion and the supernatural then, there isn't any problem ;it appears, breathes and lives, it becomes fascinating.
or frustration felt with a lack of resolution to the logical-rational conflict. I think the two factors, impossibility and fascination, are necessary in
But in artistic magic-which does not depend on the existence of faith the art of magic. If magic did not offer the impossible, it might be beau-
( other than a faith in reason) and does not lie in the realm of rational and tiful, harmonious, surprising, lyrical, but it would be theater, poetry or
logical reality-the logical-rational conflict presented by the existence of dance. It would be art, but another art. It would not be magic.
the magical artistic effect, of the secular miracle, remains unresol~ed: For example, if a dancer makes a high, beautiful leap with a graceful
is the impossible possible? This can produce various forms of frustration: and charming turn, it might be amazing and beautiful, but it is dance, not
unsatisfied curiosity, the desire that everything fits within the structures magic. It would be magic if the dancer remained suspended in the air in a
of logic and reason, a sensation of having lost an assumed battle of wits totally impossible way, without support, without cables, nothing!
with the magician-artist, a feeling of having been fooled, discomfort at Magic must also be fascinating. It is certainly true that defying physical
experiencing the limitations of our senses (I saw it, but it's not true), laws is in and of itself a feat, a demonstration of superpowers. This is par-
our logic, of our reason, of our attention and of our memory. tially fascinating. But I believe that for magic to be art it has to be Fascinating
End of digression. With a capital F. Since we, as spectators, know that there is a natural secret,
a .......\. .. U.'L•-'-' cause, that produces the miracle, making it impossible\ only • ical effects, especially in those that we consider classics; and
appearance, the fascination of the impossible can become a simple enigm ting enormous power this offers to the magical and artistic value.
or puzzle, perhaps amazing or interesting, but outside the realm of art. Here are some examples of the syrµbolic-metaphoric conflict: We would
. To give a very exaggerated example of a trick that is not fascinating, to create something from nothing, to read other people's thoughts, to
suppose a magician, at a distance and without touching someone, were invulnerable, to escape in a :flash from restraints and troubles, etc.-but
able to break that person's arm. It would be impossible, we would be can't. It is impossible through natural means to achieve these desired
astonished, but it wouldn't be fascinating (I hop~). It would not be art. ams, archetypal to all humanity (Jung made us see tpis). Then along
· Besides the fascination that produces the impossible experienced as es artistic magic-poof!-allowing us to .live our dreams as possible;
possible (and our fascination with the demonstration of the magician's d that fascinates us and charms us. At this point, yes, magic is art.
power), I think the feeling caused by fascination can be accompanied by The magician· makes us live our dreams in reality. He invites us in, he
other complementary elements: beauty in the magician's gestures, poetic troduces us to the realm of dreams, where everything is possible, where
patter, humor, joy, lighting, music, etc. can live out our wishes of immortality, creative power, unlimited
alth, ability to animate objects, ascension, transformation of people
The Fascination: the Symbol etamorphosis), the gift of ubiquity, etc. Is this not fascinating?
And as we have seen, this symbolic-metaphoric conflict has a solution:
At the risk of becoming repetitive, let's look in greater detail at the nature
e magical effect itself, which makes the impossible wish possible.
of the type of fascination that is specific to the art of magic: a dream wished
Here lies, in some way, I believe, the difference between the good effects
and never fulfilled; something that escapes normal, natural, everyday
f artistic magic and those that are simply puzzles. Good magic always
powers (the usual ones of seeing, hearing, eating, perceiving the present,
olves the impossibility of something. strongly desired by everyone. (I will
remembering the past ... ); an impossible wish made possible only through
eturn shortly to the discussion of the quality of a magical effect.)
extraordinary, superhuman, semi-divine powers; a wish we would like
to achieve, possess and enjoy, such as :flying, resurrection, knowing the
ymbiosis of Conflicts: the Magic Conflict
future, making inexhaustible wealth.
Such desires are sometimes granted in a direct and explicit way in So ...
the effect of the trick: levitation, Sawing a Woman in Half, paper trans- .The logical-rational conflict is not resolved (How is the impossible
formed into bank notes. But other times, as we've seen earlier, the desires possible?).
are implied by the effect, given in symbolic-metaphoric forms. Sometimes The conflict of the symbolic wish is resolved through the magical
these are hidden and transmitted subconsciously. Let's remember the effect that brings it to life.
examples of the Cut and Restored Rope (resurrection), the Egg Bag (cre- Compensation for the unresolved logical conflict is taken care of in
ation of life), the Ambitious Card (power, ascension, liberation ... ). In the some way by the fascination produced by the experience of the impos-
section on symbolism in magic (p. 71 ), I analyze in more detail the chronol- sible wish granted. This produces in us a sense of pleasure and joy that
ogy and nature of the "facts" and "proofs" that have gradually appeared minimizes and almost makes us forget the possible anxiety or curiosity-
along my path and have made me understand (or believe I understand) sometimes frustration-of the unresolved logical conflict. Not only does
the existence and truth of the explicit and non explicit symbols in many it not matter to us, but we are even.grateful that it is not resolved. We are
248 249
grateful not to know how it was possible, because that would take us out
of the beautiful dream, it would wake us and prevent us from enjoying it ~
We can then say that the symbolic conflict (Is it possible that my wish .....
which I know to be impossible, is fulfilled?) is resolved by the magical effect' r-
(It is possible. Let's live it.). At the same time, the logical conflict (How was
it possible?) is resolved in a poetic fashion by the art of magic. The possible :::r L'.
frustration is forgotten, because of the fascination of t~e experience: The wish
..,co cd
was ·granted and accompanied by various pleasures. Who wants to interrupt
and awaken from such a beautiful dream, full of joy, pleasure and happiness? Relaxation by laughter at the illogical
We are, then, dealing with a kind of symbiosis of the two conflicts: the
herefore, of illusion. It only seems like a miracle. So the How is it possi-
logical-rational and the impossible wish (symbolic). Due to this symbio-
e? It can't be! can also be answered with the inner sensation of I don't
sis, from this point on I will refer to the two as one: the magical conflict
now the exact reason for its apparent impossibility, but I know one
(symbolic), which is an artistically resolved conflict that doesn't leave ·
ists. Logic remains completely valid.
frustration and that produces great fascination.
If that knowledge didn't exist-which is to say, if we believed that
ogic is worthless, that reason fails, and if we do not rely on the tranquil-
ing solution provided by faith (religious or supematural)-we would
e on the verge of some kind of senselessness, of logical discrepancy, of
adness. It would unsettle us by breaking our logical structures in a per-
manent way. This is not the same as feeling that momentary emotion of a
temporary liberation from logical ties, which would be joyful.
And that's how another factor has already presented itself to us, with-
Magical conflict (symbiosis of both conflicts) out asking permission: pleasure.
The symbolic conflict is resolved by the magical effect (the desired impos- Let's begin with aesthetic joy and pleasure, the pleasure of art. We
sible has been made possible). The fascination produced diminishes and feel it from the harmony of the plot of the trick, its dramatic structure,
likely makes the tension of the unresolved logical-rational conflict disappear. the rhythm and the pauses; but, above all, from the sheer beauty of
As a side note, I'll mention that in cases where the symbol of the wish the magical effect: to levitate, to make inanimate objects acquire a life
fulfilled does not resolve the conflict, spontaneous laughter at the absurd, of tMir own, to divine what we don't know (the little car). We receive
at the illogical, at the physiological tension felt, could be what helps spec- pleasure too from the emotions of surprise, suspense, astonishment,
tators relax their psychological tension. the final crescendo of effects growing progressively stronger and more
But there are, as I mentioned, other factors that help dissolve the frus- magical, the experience of liberated fantasy, of artistic creativity made
tration and "solve" the logical conflict. evident in the effect or hinted at in the method. We can almost hear the
The first is the spectators' knowledge (and the magician's) that the echo of the Muses whispering into the attentive and sensitive ear of the
secular miracle is not a true miracle, that we are in the realm of art and,
On yet another level (magic is complex and multifaceted), what c sciously or subconsciously through symbolism. All these factors, I
we say of the playful, festive pleasure we get from participating in a magic eat, constitute the magical emotion: feeling and living the wonderful.
session? We are, after all, Homo ludens. There is a reason magic tricks are We don't hear, we don't listen, we don't even want to listen now, to the
called magic games (juegos de magia) in Spanish. ice of astonished logic, as delighted as we are in enjoying the flight on the
We also feel that festive, almost Dionysian, emotion through living the ck of the Winged Horse of Fantasy and Imagination, traveling through
experience of childhood regained ( a return to paradise?), the sensation oms full of marvels and granted the dreams of The Magic Rainbow.
of returning to innocence, to that state of grace of the pre-logical age. It
is in this way, as a game, teasing and making fun, calling to the essence ·
of Homo ludens and the pre-logical child, that we experience seeing our ~other factor that helps in the eradication of frustration is the attitude
dreams, visions, desires and longings. What a joy!
>of the magician.
And do not forget the innate pleasure of imitation when we play at Let's dig a little deeper into this. We have seen that after the impact
imitating the gods. This pleasure leads to diminishing the gravity and seri- ;0f amazement and astonishment on our logic and reason-in which we
ousness that remains in imperious, unsatisfied curiosity, and therefore ;believe and love, and which helps us so very much to live-reason (espe-
reduces all possible frustration.
cially in the first part of a magic session, with logic rearing up, and before
Another pleasure that magic produces, one on which our art is in large we feel the poetic fascination) might give us its How is it possible! And
part founded, is the pleasure of experiencing mystery, of having an adven- after not getting an answer, we might feel, as spectators, restless and dis-
ture on the edge of the unknown, of exploring (in the joyful company of appointed in a way, or even somehow frustrated (this is more likely in
all the surrealists who have ever been) the borders of the possible and the people whose inner balance doesn't enjoy sufficient self-assurance).
impossible, of reality and illusion, of wakefulness and dream-a dream That frustration could be directedat the artist "who knows and doesn't
lived in reality, the artistic reality. tell us" or at the spectator himself: "Am I stupid? Did I get fooled? Are
Even more, there is the pleasure of feeling that we are experiencing a my·senses reliable?" The resolution of this frustration can be aided by
unique moment, a special event, unusual, sometimes highly so, and almost the attitude of the magician. That attitude must not be arrogant, challeng-
always memorable. How many times have our spectators told us, "I still ing, condescending, but must share in the experience, accompanying the
remember when, many years ago, a magician told me what I was think- imaginative half of the spectator's brain so that, between them, magician
ing," and "I saw a magician link and unlink some metal rings. I had them and imaginative half, they overcome and leave the logical half of the brain
in my own hands. They were completely solid! I remember it as if I were temporarily defeated. This is something the magician can transmit and the
holding them now."
spectator feel, to avoid or nip in the bud possible frustration or a negative
All these factors-liberation from logic (but only in artistic reality), attitude toward the magician. And that transformation, expressed nonver-
aesthetic pleasuie (beauty, harmony, creativity, emotions ... ), the plea.5ure bally, is effected by the attitude of the artist.
of play (''juegos de magia", "imitating the gods"), the pleasure of the party,
the pleasure of experiencing mystery, the adventure of the unknown, the The Realm of Art-Safety
pleasure of the "unique moment" and the supreme pleasure of the impos- A.s an interesting sidelight, we know deep inside that, as spectators, we are
sible wish granted, finally experienced as possible, directly or indirectly, not fully in reality but in an artistic reality, that we are living a dream, and
252 253

that the magician doesn't really have supernatural powers. But also, we der all circumstances, such as the exact and certain knowledge of the
would quite possibly realize that only after the astonishment we "suffered" ture.
and perhaps after having lived through the impact of symbolic fascination. Let's look at yet other nuances. Tr~sforming a blue piece of paper into
Furthermore, the knowledge that we are in the realm of art helps us in red piece of paper will not have the same magical strength as transforming
some cases to feel safe and in a way secure. Just as in a horror movie we white piece of paper into a multicolored flower or into ~ bank note. The
experience a pleasurable and safe form of horror ("It's a movie. There is t effect is close to a puz.zle, the others fulfill an aesthetic pr material wish.
no danger."), as magic spectators we might feel f~ar when learning there Moreover, given that art is the domain of suggesti~n rather than of
are "powers" that seem benign to us but are undesirable, even fearsome emonstration or of evidence, a trick that fulfills the desfre for liberty in a
if others really possessed them. Wouldn't it be terrible if we believed there ,metaphoric-poetic way (a chain of rings that free themselves and become
were a person who could read our thoughts? I would be frightened to ~eparate) will have a greater quality or artistic value than the more direct
death to find that this last stronghold of freedom and intimacy is no longer one of fulfilling the wish for wealth (producing a bank note). The latter
inviolable, and I would probably shout to the world, "Stop, I'm getting off!" may elicit more expressive reactions or reach more spectators (the wish
Of course, let's not forget that art can sometimes have other objectives for money is rather widespread), making it more "commercial", but per-
than providing us with a feeling of safety. It might make us feel restless or haps the symbolic suggestion ofliberty connects and enchants at a deeper,
pose unanswerable questions about life, pain, death .... Art is free. more poetic and artistic level, even if the symbol is not consciously per-
Thus, in magic, when a full deck of cards disappears and doesn't come ceived by the spectators-they don't need to perceive it!
back, if done in a convincingly magical way-in full view, in the magician's To put my views another way, although the circumstantial effect of "I
hands, with two spectators holding his wrists-it always produces a cer- want a glass of water and the magician makes it appear" would have an
tain discomfort and at times an intense and lasting restlessness (I can tell undeniable magical effect, the universal wish-of everyone, any place and
you from experience!). It's the experience of fear of the void, of the defin- always-for immortality, fulfilled in the symbolic-metaphoric way of the
itive disappearance, the symbol of death. Cut and Restored Rope, possesses a poetic quality, suggested and felt on
We can find magic effects in our literature that search to make the spec- a subconscious level, and awards the effect great refinement and exqui-
tator feel alive or to question himself on those not so innocuous subjects. 177 site artistic quality. History, the incorruptible judgment of time, seems
to agree. Over four centuries of the Cut and Restored Rope-presented
The Quality of the Effect-The Quality of the Symbol
always and everywhere, by all amateur and professional magicians-tells
We have seen that there is an element that can provide artistic power us something about its artistic strength.
to a trick It's the quality of the wish later fulfilled. If the impossible ~.. But as is the case with everything or almost everything in art, it can't
is circumstantial, being impossible only because of the moment or the be achieved through absolute rules, but through attempts to approach the
place-I wanted a. glass of water and didn't have one, so the magician significance of magic as an art.

made a glass of water appear to quench my thirst-the quality of the mag- Magic doesn't imitate reality. Magic invites us to dream. It imitates the
ical effect will be inferior to one involving something that is impossible gods. That's why magic is self-sufficient. Its beauty resides in making us
177. See Life, Death & Other Card Tricks by the always interesting Robert E. live the desired impossible. It is, thus, an authentic art of enchantment (as
Neale (2000, Hermetic Press, Inc.: Seattle). Also see his theoretical books. Father Barc6n so rightly called it).
The Magic Conflict and Its Dramatization The corresponding curve would bersomething like this:
Until now we have concerned ourselves with the moment in which the >

magical effect is produced. But what happens during the previous deve_ . n
opment of the necessary actions that lead to it? What happens if the ~

procedure, sometimes necessarily long, is also unnecessarily tedious L'.

slow or boring? Quite possibly, some of the spectators, or all of them, Wi~ 0
arrive at the moment of the climax of the effect without being prepared ~
to appreciate it, either because, by then, they are tired or uninterested, or
because they have lost some of the important details that make the effect
appear impossible. In any case the beautiful magical sensation will not be
experienced as it deserves to be.
Because of that-and taking into account what was said about dra- In other words, as a dramatic curve it is-a total disaster!
matic curves at the beginning of this section-let's now examine in detail Let's analyze it. When the magician takes out the deck, he begins
how to achieve a good curve of interest, that curve concerning the magical mething, and that arouses a certain interest: He's going to perform a

conflict, for the development of the proposition of living the impossible. ·ck When the person in the first row shuffles and shuffles, interest is
For a clear understanding, I will apply it to an exaggerated, almost mewhat reduced, since no one can see his face and what he is doing.
paradoxical example. The magician takes a deck of cards from its case his causes a period of silence, of waiting, which becomes long and bor-
and shuffles it thoroughly. He then hands it to someone seated in the g. The magician then has the person select a card and look at it without
first row, who also gives it a good shuffle, taking his time. The magician owing it to anyone else. This creates a certain frustration. If, added to
retrieves the deck and has a card selected. The spectator looks at the card hat, the magician doesn't talk, or talks only to the assisting spectator, the
and returns it to the deck without showing it to the rest of the audience. rest of the audience doesn't hear it or is not sure what's going on: "I think
The magician again shuffles the cards thoroughly. He then brings his hand he asked him to take a card ... I think. .. I don't know."
to the front pocket of his trousers and removes a card from there which Interest increases somewhat when the spectator looks at the card and
he shows to the spectator. The spectator nods; it is the same card. The :returns it to the deck, and the magician shuffles. "He must be losing it."
magician begins another trick But since he shuffles and shuffles and shuffles and cuts, the whole thing
Let's assume that the control and the palming of the card were· exe- begins to become long and boring. Then the magician takes a card from his
cuted with good manual and corporeal technique, and were therefore pock@t; interest increases: "Is that the same card?" The solution doesn't
invisible. The method, then, has remained secret. arrive clearly, because the magician shows the spectator and he seems to
But what about the spectators' experience of the magical effect? What nod his head, although neither the card nor the spectator is clearly seen.
did they feel? Maybe people think: "It must be the same one." And with no further clari-
Probably, at most, a cold, faint curiosity about how the card made it fication, the magician begins a new effect.
into the pocket. They have been given an unresolved brainteaser or puz- As you can see, the curve is generally flat, with important dips-the
zle, but it lacks interest. spectator in the first row shuffles, his face isn't seen, he is probably clumsy,
and the shuffling takes him some time-and with certain deficiencies i The second process consists of improving the dramatization through
the information received-the chosen card isn't seen, and people can
intrinsic emotions of the trick; not the external ones that are added,
be sure that the card that came from the pocket is the same one. If t
th'e ones that are built into the pro~edure of the trick Let's look at our
procedure is not clearly followed, interest in the rest is likely to decrease n
ple effect again. We will attempt to make every moment of it inter-
and the trick may get boring. When the climax arrives, the potentially
ting, especially those that pull down the dramatic curve. ,'
wonderful effect of the card traveling to the magician's pocket cannot be
We start by assessing whether it is possible to remove, ,ito trim, super-
appreciated and its impossibility can't be felt. Neit~er can the symbolism
uous actions that hold little interest. For example: What's;the purpose of
that would theoretically produce fascination. All this is an example of bad
aving a spectator shuffle the cards at the beginning of the trick? The effect
communication, nonexistent dramatization, lack of clarity and terrible
handling of emotions. •is a "miraculous trip", and having the deck shuffled before a card is selected
makes no difference to that journey. It's a purposeless, unnecessary action.
External Presentation We can then try to make the beginning of the trick interesting. This can

To correct all this, one might tend to search for what people have come to be done even before the trick starts, through an impossible promise. For
call "a good presentation": perhaps a few comments that arouse emotions example, you point to a spectator: "Now I will make you travel through
maybe a couple of jokes or comedic moments, possibly more elegance' space and take you inside my pocket!" There is no doubt that this prom-
through gesture and attitude, etc. All these would undoubtedly "dress" ise, being absurd, magical, incredible and amusing, introduces the trick
the trick better. People may laugh at the jokes and humor or be touched with an extra measure of interest. If the curve of the trick normally begins
by the dramatic remarks and grace, but the magic, the impossibility of the at an interest level of zero, the same curve will now start at a higher point;
effect and the fascination of its symbolism, would hardly improve. and when the climax arrives, it will reach a higher level of interest as well.
It would be embellished or become more "commercial" or "entertain- It will undoubtedly have a much more dramatic and interesting climax.
ing", but magically speaking it would still be weak If, before asking the spectator to choose a card, you ask him to stand up,
his face is now visible to everyone and communicates to the general audi-
Clarifying the Effect and Improving the Dramatization
ence his incredulity or amused surprise or other emotions. This provides the
Another option, much better in my judgment, consists of two processes. moment with feeling and interest. A question such as ''Are you willing to do
The first is to improve the communication of the proceedings to the this?" would probably elicit an answer from him revealing something surpris-
nonparticipating spectators, through gestures, words, etc.: "Take any ing and interesting. You could then say, "Please select a card with complete
card you like. That one? You can change your mind; there are lots, there freedom; search and research. Show it clearly to everyone and, for it to
are fifty-two. Show it to everyone. Put it back wherever you want. I will acquire some of your identity, sign it. "As he proceeds, you address the rest
shuffle tho11oughly to make sure the card is totally and hopelessly lost of the audience: ''Since the trip is very dangerous ... "You pause and look at
among the others. Now, a magic pass-and it's done! Yes! Look, here in the spectator. "... would you prefer me to make just your identity, repre-
my pocket there is a card, only one card. Which one did you take? The sented by your signed card, travel, instead of you?"
Three of Clubs? Well, this card is, precisely, the Three of Clubs!"
The spectator usually nods and gladly accepts this option. (If he pre-
In this way, throughout the trick you clarify the details of the proce-
fers to make the trip in person, go ahead-and let me know how you did
dure, the nature of the effect and how impossible it is.
it.) "Put the card back wherever you want. We will lose it completely
with a very shuffle. " Mix the cards while watching your hands, gaze. You gesture with your right as if catching something
As you do this, everyone must be convinced the card is hopelessly lost. the air, which you then throw toward your right pocket, your right
The element of conflict is growing. (Normally it would be better to adhere ' always turned toward the spectators. Pause while you show satis-
to the classical sequence of having the card returned to the center of the tion. The spectators perhaps feel: "Well, so what? Is he still playing?"
deck, doing a Pass, then a Palm, handing the deck to the spectator for u get a little closer to them, where everyone can clearly see you. You
shuffling, then retrieving it and secretly adding the palmed card to the slowly place your empty right hand into the right pqcket. This time,
en ,
top. That's clearly superior to controlling the selection through cutting fol- s, you seem to find something there. Bring the card only half way out of
lowed by an overhand shuffle, a procedure used so frequently nowadays; e pocket, its back turned to the audience. Carefully, with some anxiety,
but that's another story. In this case, it would be enough to do the Pass and at the face of the card, bowing it slightly while keeping the other
Palm, and then let the spectator shuffle and keep the deck. However, we half inside the p~cket. Name a card; not the one you see, but one very
intend to adopt a more nuanced procedure.) iunilar: "Is your card the Two of Clubs?" The audience says, "No." Your
We continue: You make a gesture of throwing something from the smile freezes. "What was your card?" They tell you it was the Three of
deck into the air. Follow the invisible card with your eyes, all the way Clubs. The spectators' tension grows and they again feel an emotion, that
to your left trousers pocket. This visual acting out of the effect and the f failure. This, by the way, should be sustained for only a brief moment,
magical gesture that produces the illusion are essential, inescapable. prevent it from becoming fixed in memory without the possibility of
Expectation mounts while you hold the deck in right-hand end grip, with asing the sensation that the magician truly failed. This is a danger this
its back toward you and your empty right palm facing the audience. Bring emotion carries.
your left hand to your left pocket and touch it .... You feel nothing there! Without further pauses, you look again at the protruding half card and
Surprise. You have failed. openly smile. "Glad to hear it, because this card is-in fact-the Three
The spectators now experience complex sensations from a combination Clubs!" You pull the whole card from your pocket and display it high
of emotions. "Poor magician! I knew it was impossible. What is he going to the air, turning it to make sure everyone can see it. "And with your
do now? ... It was a joke." Some people will be feeling something more like: signature, of course!" Hand it to the spectator who signed it, who nods in
"Well, I'm almost happy. He wanted us to believe he is a superman, but he agreement. Then say, ''Magic!"
isn't." With this, interest builds and builds. Meanwhile, during the relaxation Smile and look at the spectators while they enjoy the miracle. You enjoy
following your apparent failure, you have executed a one-handed palm of it too, in sympathy with them. After the pause for assimilation has been
the top card (the signed selection, which has been controlled to the, top) fulfilled, and only after that, begin the next trick.
into your right hand. You transfer the deck to you left hand, look at your "'As you can see, the effect and its method are unchanged, but the
right trousers pocket and then at the spectators, crossing your gaze with expository clarity, as well as communication with the spectators and
motion of your rightihand, which goes to the right pocket. The hand briefly their emotional involvement have been improved enormously, making the
enters the pocket, leaving the palmed card and comes out empty. At the procedure more interesting and the effect clearer, more powerful, mem-
same time, perplexed, you mumble to yourself, "Not there either?" orable and poetic. In other words, the effect hasn't been simply dressed
More tension. You let your right hand be seen empty while you look up up and embellished with external elements-something not entirely neg-
into the air and smile. You seem to visualize something and follow it with ative, but not truly necessary-it has also been clarified, communicated,
dramatized, and its magical quality increased through the intrinsic erno--:
New Conflict: the Dramatic Plot
tions (an impossible promise, apparent mistakes, suspense, challenge ... )
we have seen, magic is self-sufficient, but that doesn't mean it can't
and the handling of the pauses: a dramatic one before the climax, the
pause for assimilation afterward, and others after proposing the challenge
metimes be accompanied by a story or plot that adds to the fascina- n
n of the whole and brings its own dramatic conflict and subsequent
of the magical translocation, etc.
solution-or perhaps no resolution. Here we find ours/elves in a sim-
The curve of the trick is now something like this:
situation, though not identical, to adding comedy (tbkes, gags and
CLIMAX morous bits) that is external to the magic, and which produces healthy
ughter but can also, sometimes, weaken or castrate the rhagical effect. 178
en Assimilation
But here I wish to deal with the addition of a story or plot of a specific
More ~ type. Let's explore.
mistakes? w
The first thing to say is that a story can have a strong positive compo-
nent, like that already mentioned: adding fascination to the trick-if the
story and plot possess that attribute.
They may also help to avoid possible frustration felt if the logical part
of the logical-magical conflict isn't resolved.
But stories and plots also present dangers-dangers to avoid. (As
always, there is the difficult balance, walking the tightrope specific to art.)
We find then that there is a tug-of-war between the logical-magical conflict
and a dramatic conflict with a plot.

i5 (J)
·- en
cn E There is, in fact, a particular problem to solve: The danger that the story or plot
Ea. can blur, divert, even eliminate the sensation of the impossible made possible,
which is to say the quintessential quality in our art. By the early twentieth cen-
tury,. John Nevil Maskelyne stated with certainty in Our Magic 179 (and not, in
I repeat that the option just described is not incompatible with embel-
my belief, without foundation) that if magic and drama coexist (understand-
lishment through the external presentation of the trick and its procedure
1 ing drama as a plot, sometimes theatricc1Jized), drama will always win, and
as long as the greatest care is taken not to interrupt or spoil the emotional
magic will always lose. Maskelyne experienced this first hand, along with his
development of the effect's magical impact. So, yes, if aside from being
family. Recall the fiasco of the Maskelynes near the end of their very success-
powerful and emotibnal, the trick is also, magically speaking, deliciously ful career when, with all their vast experience, they opened in London with
dressed up and embellished for a joyful party, so much the better! a theater play containing their best and most successful illusions, thousands
But there is a third possibility, one not incompatible with the two
178. See "Magic and Comedy" in Chapter 8, p. 407.
we've just discussed: adding a fictional plot to the trick that provides its
179. Our Magic, Nevil Maskelyne and David Devant, George Routledge & Sons:
own curve and dramatic conflict.
London, 1911.
of times enjoyed and applauded. The opening was a huge failure with aud}
ns1·ty, the logical impossibility of the experience they are having. If the
ences and critics, and an enormous disappointment to the followers of t and its development are very interesting to them, they will not be able,
Maskelynes' magic, which until then had been direct, pure and powerful. the same time, to properly register the details of the circumstances that
They invited the participation of the great David Devant, a long contrib.: e the effect impossible, that make it miraculous, that make it magical.
utor to the company, but Devant refused (intuition?) to join this magical Let's remember that magic requires or, more precisely, !demands from
theatrical venture. They redesigned the show, using the same effects but
ctators an almost totai concentration in everything that is happen-
presented without a plot. The magic was direct, moving, symbolic and
with no loss of details, so that later, when the magical effect arrives,
powerful, and their artistic success was now fulfilled. 180 '
ey can experience it as being totally impossible. They nptice the empty
I believe, in general, that the problem is this: If there are dramatized
ands of the magician, or that he doesn't touch or get near the slates; they
effects, with a plot-and moreover, if they are acted out rather than nar-
emember the name of the card or the number chosen, how many coins
rated-magic, in its aspects of the impossible, becomes weaker. I have
in each hand at every moment, the color and size of the balls held
qualified this with "in general" because, as in every art, there are excep-
tween the fingers, the emptiness of each part of the box shown, etc.
tions. Hofzinser, Slydini, Rene Lavand, Dai Vernon and Fu Manchu, among
In other words, magic is extremely demanding on the memories and
others, achieved a certain balance, difficult but possible, between drama,
ttention of the spectators. If they get distracted for a second, if they miss
plot, narration and powerful magic. We will later discuss in detail how
single detail, if they don't remember a certain circumstance at the end,
they did it. But first let's analyze the dangers of and reasons for this seri-
hey will lose the impact and the sensation of impossibility!
ous difficulty of a coexistence between drama and magic. 181
From this it can be seen that adding elements and situations demand-
Destruction and Excessive Demands :ing thought, emotion and memory, that asking spectators to follow a new
dramatic conflict in the plot, can often be too great, too taxing or utterly
The smallest of these difficulties is the distraction the dramatic plot can
exhausting. In the worst of cases, it creates confusion and the impossibil-
cause, weakening or preventing the fixation of details of the magical pro-
ity of appreciating the impossible. Only when the procedure of the magical
ceedings that later, upon the arrival of the effect, need to be clear in the
effect is very simple and direct, and contains few elements to memorize
minds and memories of the spectators for them to appreciate, in all its
and follow, can a dramatic plot avoid being distracting or hampering,
180. In my already long and abundant experience as a spectator and a performer thereby producing confusion. ("Confusion is not magic," ~ Professor
of magic, I have seen in the work of others and my own many of the mistakes, Vernon used to say.) Even then, the plot should be simple and direct.
problems and difficulties in attempting to bring drama and magic together. Now let's look at other elements that I believe can cause such conflict.
Most of these attempts were quite disappointing, though not all.
181. The Brazilian magician Ricardo Godoy Harada, whom I believe has a back 1\vo Levels of Reality: Presentation and Representation
ground in theater, presented as his doctoral thesis at the Universidad Estadual
de Campinas (UNICAMP), in Brazil, a thoroughly documented work on the The actions we carry out in everyday life take place, by definition, in real-
different approaches to this subject, including his own. I highly recommend ity. If we speak, move or interact to show something to others, we are
it. By the way, Harada presents a beautiful act of theatrical magic, styled presenting that something (ideas, situations, actions, attitudes ... ). And
after Magritte, with the imagery and atmosphere of the great and magical we are being ourselves, ourselves as people ( of a certain age, gender and
surrealistic painter.
personal experience) who do these things.
On the actions we carry out in a dramatic or theatrical aracter within reality (a on a second level), it is not surprising
context, or within a scripted narration (a story), take place on a second the impact in this second case is considerably weaker. 182 This partly
level of reality, a fictional reality that is inside ( or behind?) the truer reality. lains the virtually nonexistent m~gical effect in illusions that (being
Therefore, whatever impossible things happen in it, they have a connota- •Jllagnificent in their technique and perfectly embedded in the plot) are
tion of fiction, of not being real. No matter how much we are impressed or resented (re-presented) to us in a theater play (in music~ls, for example)
moved by the death of a character in a piece of fiction, it will never have actors who play the roJes of fictional characters. 183 ;
the same emotional impact on us as the death of s9meone in our reality. When we perform and present magic, I feel we are ourselves (age, gen-
It is quite clear that, when presenting a magical effect, even though it personal circumstances). We are the same person. We are not playing
takes place in reality, the spectators are aware they are playing; they are the role of another person. We only add the ability of doing something
pretending that the miracle, the impossible, is not truly and really impos- impossible (logically impossible). We are in the domain of play, but the
sible, especially once they've recovered from the astonishment produced trick is produced in reality, not in fiction. The chess player, the child who
by the shock of the apparently impossible. With that we face a miracle runs to catch another child before he strays into the lion's den, the poker
that is first felt in reality, even though later it is understood to be an artistic player; they are themselves "playing" in reality. They are not playing the
reality. In other words, we have a miracle that is experienced as such, but role of someone else; of a king or a beggar, of an older man, of a prostitute
that is later known not to be one, and is thus transformed into a work of or a serial killer. They are themselves acting out the circumstances of play:
art, a beautiful magic trick The card player might pretend to have a very bad hand and to be annoyed
Aside from that, if the first reality is not the true reality but an imagined, by it, but we don't call him an actor playing the part of a card player.
invented, recreated, scripted reality of the second degree, it is evident that We play roles in everyday life. The driver whom a traffic cop catches
the impact, the sensation of a miracle, of impossibility, will be weakened: crossing a solid line on the highway will feign innocence or absentmind-
We haven't presented a miracle-we have represented it. And we have edness. "I didn't see the line." But we don't call him an actor playing the
represented it in a world of fiction in which the impossible is weakened part of a driver caught breaking the law.
and is less impossible or doesn't exist at all because it feels possible. Its So, magicians are people, not fictional characters, who present some-
existence is "natural" within the fictional situation proposed by the magi- thing apparently impossible and pretend to have supernatural powers.
cian and that the spectators have agreed to feel. (Understand that "fiction" Regarding the subject of person, personality, and character, 184 I have
here is unreality, which is different from the concept of fictional magic to add that, in my opinion, when we present magic, we choose that part of
proposed by my esteemed friend, Gabi Pareras.) our personality we wish perceived: our more dynamic, elegant or cheerful

18:1. The same happens with the extreme weakness of magic in film (in a fictional
Person, Personality and Character
movie, not in a documentary) or in a dream, a realm in which it is not possi-
This weakening effect is dramatically increased in those cases where the ble for something impossible to exist.
magician represents-or more precisely, re-presents, rather than plays 183. It seems appropriate to advance here what I will discuss in the description
the part of-the role of a sorcerer, a superhuman or a goddess. · of the Magic Pyramid, in Chapter 7: my disagreement with the phrase of my
highly admired Robert-Houdin that "The magician is an actor who plays the
This means that, if instead of witnessing an impossibility presented
part of a sorcerer."
by a person in reality, we witness an impossibility presented by a fictional
184. More on this subject in Chapter 7, p. 375.
side. no different than when we have a 1 n-i:-c,r,;nc,,,xr or are trying to ·sis something a theatrical actor does need to ~~,,,.,r,.TTr>• lHLI,v.u.,u•• Hitler
woo a lover. We display those features we think most attractive to the "le having the convictions of a pacifist. One could argue that a magician
person we wish to impress: for the job interview, seriousness, leadership, ho is an agnostic ot atheist could be playing God when presenting a
a passion for work; for a lover, cheerfulness, charm, sensitivity, beauty, JUiracle; or a logical and rational magician might pretend to be a believer
elegance, intelligence (Why am I describing myself?). Assuming that we in the supernatural. But here we are once more in the reflm of play, of
don't lie or pretend to have these virtues, we could say that in those cases wake-believe, where there are powers, hazards, destinies, S:omething that,
we have composed a character, which brings us close to theater or fiction. n0 matter how rational we are, will never, in my opinion,
. be excluded
We could say that, but I won't be the one to say it. I think it is rather a from our overall conception of life and the universe.
selection on our part, as authentic-although often improved by a dose of If you allow me to give a personal example, I feel I am more my own
exaggeration-as any other version of ourselves. self when performing magic than I am in many other circumstances of
Therefore, in magic, I don't believe much in the "creation of a char- life, where my shyness prevents me from expressing myself as freely as I
acter" for performing and representing, but rather in the selection of would like.
authentic components of our personality, not invented ones, to showcase Returning to our general subject and summing it up, we can conclude
our persona as we like or wish to convey and express it through the art that the realm of magic is not an entirely real place, but neither is it imag-
of magic: the selection of tricks and effects, of gestures and attitudes, of inary or being represented. It's the world and the realm of play, which
words and their intonation, of the relationship with our assistants or with belongs for the most part to a reality of the first degree, to the perfor-
the assisting spectators, etc. mance, to the person. I think this makes it quite clear how difficult it is
This doesn't mean you must limit yourself to the aspects of your to present magic in an evident realm of fiction or theater. The magic and
personality generally considered positive. One may want to show an its effect (the impact of the impossible it carries with it) will be all the
aggressive, melancholic, cynical or disappointed side of one's personality, stronger the closer or more within reality it is and the further it is from the
but it should be expressed through the artistic magical language. There theatrical, the world of fiction.
is nothing wrong with that, as long as it is carried out within the ample Sometimes, however, the addition of an external conflict provided by
domain of art. 185 a dramatic plot can help tricks and effects that are not very powerful; or
To give an example that clarifies my opinion, I think we would unques- that don't require much attention, being visual, fast, etc., but are some-
tionably fall, in this case, into a theatrical fiction even into nontruth if what cold in themselves; or ones that have a lengthy procedure before the
' ' arrival of the magical effect.
we were pessimists who felt life a tragic affair, in pure Unamunian style,
but we pretended to be a vibrant example of optimism, glowing with R plot, patter and dramatic situation can make the procedure more
the joy of existence, and we expressed this, or tried to express it, or we interesting. They can propose a situation, establish a frame in which the
believed we were expressing it, through the vehicle of a magic session. trick is developed and make of it all something special within the whole
session (an appreciation of how strange, poetic, surreal or imaginative
185. In London I once saw a magician whose aggressiveness toward everything,
the dramatic situation is). It can even help bring several isolated effects
including the furniture, and even toward the spectators whose assistance he
together in a routine, thanks to a connecting thread of plot. But in those
required, resulted in his audience gradually leaving the theater during the
show, until he was left alone. cases I think it's convenient to have certain ideas in mind to help us make
268 269
the coexistence of magic and a dramatic plot positive, so that magi~ a anywhere near them until the end. He pulled the comer of one of them
plot-that is, magic and evident fiction-don't fight between themselv · ou,t doing anything special and yes! The handkerchief that disappeared
This is to say, the conflict of conflicts should be weakened as much lier was there. Everything was very clear-It was a miracle!"
possible. We will later see some examples of this. So, as you can see, the drama draws our interest forward and the
But we have yet to approach a third feature to explain the reason for ·c draws our interest backward. The former asks us What will hap-
the difficult coexistence between magic and drama: ? and the latter leads us to How did it happen?
Therefore, if we watch magic that is within a dramatic plot, when the magi-
Forward and Backward
effect anives, we face a dilemma: The drama asks us to pay attention to the
The dramatic interest contained in a plot of a story, novel, movie or play is tinuation of the action, of the plot, to learn the resolution of the dramatic
based, as we know, on a dramatic conflict inserted into a static situation ·ct. However, magic, to be truly enjoyed, demands that we backtrack,
that evolves into action that moves the plot forward and generates more if only for a moment, to remember the experience. But it also requires a
interest within the spectators; interest for knowing how the conflict Will ment to feel the astonishment, and a longer one to enjoy and be pleased by
develop (future) and how it will end. As a result, this interest pulls us, as e beautiful sensation of a miracle, to delight ourselves, savoring it.
spectators, forward into the future. So the stronger the conflict is, dramat- What do we do?
ically speaking, the more interesting it will be and the more it will pull us The dramatic conflict calls to us, "Go on! Don't miss what's coming.
forward toward the resolution. u'll see how the dramatic conflict is resolved." Magic holds us back:
In magic, on the other hand, when the impossible magical effect ait, go back to the past, so that you can see how clear the conditions
arrives, which is to say when the logical-rational conflict is presented to re and, therefore, that you have experienced the impossible, the won-
us, after the moment of astonishment, the How was that possible? (was: erful and magical; and take your time to.enjoy it."
the past) shows up. Whether we are trying to discover that how and calm The normal thing would be: "I'll go on to see how this interesting dra-
our logic, or whether we are confirming the circumstances that produced atic conflict is resolved, and later I'll come back to see what happened
in us the sensation of having witnessed (past) something truly impossible and enjoy it."
and marvelous, we think back briefly to what happened before the arrival But later is too late. When the drama is over, we relax and are no
of the magical effect: liVhat was the initial situation and which circum- the mood to go back to that moment during which the magical
stances were (always past) present in the procedure of the trick? Once effect occurred and start remembering. On top of that, we would proba-
we satisfy our desire to ensure the wonder, we move on to pleasure and ,bly not remember all the details well, since some of them didn't go from
delight, to the enjoyment of the secular miracle. immediate memory into long-term memory. We have missed the remem-
Let's take the 1\ventieth-Century Silks as an example. The spectator ties brance phase and, therefore, we haven't experienced the enjoyment
the ends of two loose handkerchiefs together. They are balled up and set phase. Drama has won and magic has lost.
aside. The magician makes another handkerchief of a different color dis- Thus, as you have seen, the better and more powerful the dramatic
appear. When he pulls out the first two handkerchiefs, the vanished one tonflict of the plot is, the more interested we will be in knowing what will
appears tied between them. The spectator thinks back quickly, "The hand- happen (future) and the less we'll be able to enjoy the magic, if we enjoy it
kerchiefs were loose and separated. I tied them together. The magician didn't nt all. So I repeat, magic wants us to go back to the past, to reminisce, and

it also requires a time, a pause, to let us enjoy the effect. And that' tirn When? In my judgment, when the effect is not that powerful, direct
that pause, is not provided by the drama in the action, with its imperati fascinating, or when the method is not well concealed. I don't mean
Go on! Continue! Continue! ~he secret is seen, but that it is susceptible to being suspected through
'tion or analysis. In these two cases, a dramatic plot can add charm
~ A Solution: Magic
fascination to a weak effect or cover to an endang ere~ method. (Note
A logical (and drastic) solution would be: Let's leave magic alone; leave it parallels in these situations and those I comment on in "Magic and
plain and pure! Keep the magic that astonishes us through an unresolved medy", p. 407, where laughs, also dangerous for magic, can help to
conflict of the rationally impossible made possible, since this touches ost a somewhat weak magical effect, if well measured and positioned
us and fascinates us by resolving (either explicitly or through symbols the right times.)
metaphor) the conflict of desire, a resolution possible only in dreams but' Needless to say, to prevent the drama from weakening the magic, or
which we live while awake in the artistic reality. ·ng it disappear altogether, I believe certain conditions of balance
I believe this is the wisest road to follow when the magic is good st be met between the magic and the dramatic plot. Let's examine them.
magic, when the effect is powerful, direct and seems impossible, when it
responds to a wish that is only possible in dreams, when it escapes from onditions of Balance
being a riddle, an enigma, a puzzle, and enters the category of a miracle, the drama, the plot and its conflict are presented and resolved before
a secular miracle. Then, I believe, the additional drama in a plot or story trick itself begins, naturally they will not negatively affect the magic.
that rules in theater, novels, movies and any other form of the narrative ey would serve as an introduction or a situational frame in which the
arts is unnecessary. ect will develop.
Thus, Hofzinser, even before he began to take out the deck, tells us of
A Parenthesis (Not of Forgetfulness)
friend who loved two women and was anxious because he didn't know
Attempting to keep both myself and these meditations on the most prac- ich to marry and which to forget. Some days later his friend informed
tical plane possible, while avoiding the discussion of technique, I mustn't ·m that he had decided. Before he could tell him his decision, Hofzinser
forget to point out that everything that has been discussed is, of course, laimed that he possessed a gift of magically divining it. He named one of
subject to all sorts of alterations. These are schemes that seek only to illu- he women, and the friend, amazed, agreed that he was right. Hofzinser
minate for us, to a certain extent, the whys of our art, in order to be able ,then proposed to demonstrate his gift to the audience. Each of three spec-
to put this knowledge into practice. It is nothing but an attempt, then, t~tors selected a pair of cards. They remembered one of the two and forgot
place theory in service to practice, extracting the theory first from prac- e ()ther. Hofzinser, with unfailing accuracy, divined all three cards that
tice, then applying the theory to the improvement of practice. ere remembered. Finally, he visibly transformed the three remembered
ds into the three that were forgotten.
Other Solutions: Balance
It's a wonderful effect with an ending full of metaphoric power: the
It is true that in a few cases magic and dramatic plot can be combined. ecovery of what was forgotten, leading to a metamorphosis of memories.
And why not? There are no dogmas. Art is free. But this must be done with During the procedure of the trick, Hofzinser hardly referred to the
great care, without reducing the impact of the magic. ory of his friend. He presented the demonstration of his gift in the
present, and not as a reenactment of a past event. the trick \v atic situation, which doesn't generate any interest toward the future
over, he closed the subject with the following phrase: "Are these the for.; ofzinser already told us he got it right) and not dynamic action. 186
gotten cards? They are? And how do you know that? What you forget But, as we have already discussed, the more dramatic interest a plot-
you don't know anymore." I say the subject, because the little dramatic' story generates, the more problems the arrival of the magical feeling
conflict of the introductory story had been resolved long before the trick have. This generates a paradox in which we would have tr° manage the
started. Hofzinser and his friend knew which lady had been chosen and ion and patter for a dramatic story to make its dramatic tnterest weak
that Hofzinser possessed the gift of divination. In other words, the trick is her than strong. Little do we care where the serpent hid ,6r which lady
presented as a verification of the magical part in the story (the magician's fzinser's friend chose. What truly interests us (and touches us) is how
gift); a story and a plot that, by the way, is not presented as fiction but as meone could have the gift of knowing which card was remembered and
something that happened to the magician. is telling us an episode from w a handkerchief could possibly travel invisibly and wonderfully inside
his life, not an imagined story. distant and wrapped apple. And this is not only because the more-or-less
The same thing happens in the poetic scripts of Slydini. An example is tional story is of little interest in itself, but also because sometimes it
"Adam's Apple", his presentation of Gene Elmo's "Silk in Apple". In Slydint's mains a static situation and isn't developed to produce dynamic action.
presentation (which has remained unpublished, although an enigmatic A second consideration is that the less we are involved in the story
and, to my understanding, somewhat incoherent version has appeared in d the more we stay in the present, in the here and now, the better it will
Spanish), he tells how Adam ate the apple offered him by Eve, following for the feeling of impossibility delivered by the magical effect.
a serpent's suggestion to her; a serpent Adam didn't see anywhere and Slydini's story does create an interest in the future: Where did the
believed was merely imagined by Eve. But Slydini offers to reveal to the rpent hide? But the conflict is resolved by the magical effect: the appear-
audience where the serpent hid. Music begins, and Slydini, without speak- ce of the handkerchief inside the apple.
ing, shows and cores an apple, which he then wraps in a napkin and hands So, through the examples of these two bona fide geniuses of magic, we
to a spectator. He next shows a small handkerchief that he waves like a ser- can see some of the features that suggest possible solutions to the conflict
pent. He puts the handkerchief into his fist, makes it disappear, then shows
it hidden inside the apple. Pause. The music stops and Slydini concludes: » The story tells us something of the real life of the magician ( or of man-
"And that's the secret of the serpent and Adam's apple." kind), something that happened to him. It is a story represented as
As you can see, the story (more or less fictional, depending on beliefs) nonfictional.
doesn't get in the way of the magic. It is simply a presentational fram~ for >> There is no dynamic action in the story. Everything remains in a static
the effect that, done without words, barely references the story. It's a trick sit\lation.
with a handkerchief that disappears and reappears inside a cored apple ~ The dramatic conflict of the story is resolved either before the start
previously shown empty. The spectators experience it in the present. Only of the trick (Hofzinser had already divined the result of his friend's
later, after the pause for assimilation, do they return to the parallels of dilemma) or at the climax of the effect, when the effect itself provides
magic-plot and reality-fiction. the resolution (the serpent hid inside the apple).
We have thus seen two approaches to solving the "conflict of conflicts". 186. See "Forward and Backward", p. 268, for the concepts of static situation and

In the Hofzinser example, the story, presented as nonfictional, involves dynamic dramatic action.
274 275

Other Solutions }Jeautiful synchronicity with the end of the poem: ''And my shadow
But let's see how other great masters of magic solved this conflict: ws me.
The conflict of conflicts is not rais.ed here at any time, since there is no
Pseudo-fiction emal dramatic conflict or fictional story. Rene narrated in the present
Rene Lavand usually proposed questions or conditions that directl at was happening. Plain and simple. And the magical sm;prise of the final
boosted the conflict between logic and magic and at the same tim:y pearance was so powerful, after the three bread balls/ had gathered so
increased the drama. In his celebrated rendition of Oil and Water With, y times, that the metaphor of the ending worked as a qelicate invitation
three red cards and three black cards, done with one hand (the left, his a poetic universe that didn't pose any kind of conflict. ,The slight fiction
only and magical hand), he repeated, time and again, in a progressively oposed (bread balls as the moon, the poet and his shadow) was experi-
clearer w~y, the phrase: "It can't be done any slower-or perhaps it can, ced after feeling the disappearance as music in words and poetic images.
perhaps it can be done slower." Every time he recited this, there was
True Story Brought to the Present
increased interest to see if he could truly do it slower, which is to say,
· e we are talking of geniuses, Dai Vernon, the Professor, had clear
more clearly, more impossibly, more magically.
inions on the subject under discussion (as he did on other magical and
Let's also remember his masterpiece: "Three Bread Crumbs", a clas-
e non-magical subjects, such as his rare and admirable lack of con-
sic effect. Rene tossed two bread balls into an empty coffee cup and put
m for money matters in real life).
a third into his pocket. That last bread ball then traveled magically to
One of his masterpieces is "Triumph", one of the best, if not the best,
the cup to join the other two. The effect attained its maximum magical
d tricks of all time, due to its beauty, its apparent simplicity, the direct-
potential as it was repeated time and again, even when the bread ball
s of its effect(s), the wonderful cleverness of its method (a multiple
was flicked far away, into the audience. A single phrase was repeated
nger!) and, above all, its enormous symbolic power: harmony from
each time: ''And I always have three crumbs!" Interest accumulated
aos, individualization, triumph and glory.
with the "always", with the fulfilled promise of repeating the effect again
In it, Vernon told us (like his idol, Hofzinser) about something he appar-
and again to our amazement, which turned into genuine astonishment at
ently experienced days before. After having shuffled a selected card into the
the incessant miracle. 187
deck, a drunken man had mixed the cards face up and face down. ''How could
There is no story or fiction here, and no drama other than the authen-
ffind the selected card, lost among the others, in that chaos of the deck?"
tic magical conflict of I am witnessing something that cannot possibly
Since Vernon was illustrating a past event through matching actions in the
exist, but it does exist. Only when the trick was almost finished did Rene
})resent, the conflict of the story in the past became a conflict of the actions in
recite a poem by Li Po, which gave the three bread balls a metaphoric
the,present. How could he find the card in the current mess and chaos? And
significance-the moon, the poet and his shadow-capping things off
Yemon solved it-with magic! All the cards magically turned face down and
with the magical disappearance of the three bread balls from the cup
among the backs appeared a single, triumphant, face-up card, the selection.
187. By the way, it could be understood that this trick changes its magical effect The magic had then acted in the present. Although the story was narrated as
halfway through its performance, given that it starts as a translocation of a having happened in the past, as something experienced by the magician, he
bread ball and ends as an inexhaustible appearance of new ones since the
' ;:epeated it in front of the spectators in the present.
balls that are flicked into the audience remain there. At the end, the three balls
disappear. But were there ever any balls? A poetic dream? A fading reality? 188. See Magic from the Soul, 1993, Magic Words: Pasadena, p. 216.
It is my opinion that this trick can have the same impact (or more recommended that you never even consider presenting this effect
magically speaking, if the story is omitted, because of the enormo out the story, because nothing would be left.
symbolic power of the effect, which takes it to the peak of an artisf on·Magical Objective
Olympus: triumph over chaos. The dramatically lost card represents th ethlng different occurs in Clayton Rawson's version of a 1divination by
spectator who selected it, who in tum acts as a representative for t spectators, when they shout out in unison the name of a/card selected

group. It clearly symbolizes the possibility of our triumph over chaos, no one of them that has not been shown to anyone. I am referring to his
matter how lost we are, or how confusing, dramatic and impossible it ma elous, surrealistic presentation using an eggbeater as a nransmitter of
. r
be to overcome the situation, or life itself. Isn't that a joyous sensation epathic-mental waves". The magician secretly shows a jumbo card to the
that fills us with true delight and a marvelous, vital energy? dience. It has the same identity as a card selected by an assisting spectator.
Weak Magic, Strong Fiction en everyone shouts the name of the selected card in unison, the surprise,
But Professor Vernon showed us once again the other side of the prob- nfusion and puzzlement of the spectator produce great laughs and joy in
lem, with his "Cutting the Aces". Here a fictional one-armed gambler offers e audience. The objective here is not the magical effect. No one wonders
to show the magician his ability to cut the deck with one hand, finding w the magician discovered the identity of the chosen card. Rather, the
an Ace with each cut, after the magician has lost the Aces in the deck al is the comic effect of the spectator's perplexity, who has been kindly
Again, the narration involves something that happened between the magi- ·eked by the magician, in collusion with the rest of the spectators who are
cian and an antagonist. But in this case the story contains strong dramatic ansformed into "psychic magicians". Aside from the enormous entertain-
conflict (a challenge) and the static situation changes to dynamic action. ent value of the situation, there is the shared fun of returning to childhood,
The magician gradually increases the difficulty for the gambler to find the oup bonding, the union of audience and magician (playing on the same
Aces, and the gambler seems to fail to cut to the fourth Ace; but this is not team" in the joke), collective catharsis and endless joy.
really a failure, because the gambler shows that he has executed an even It's a case of voluntarily choosing a sought-after sensation Goy), even
more difficult control of the Ace. A new conflict arises when the magician ough the sensation of magic diminishes. I present it toward the end of
attempts to win the bet by sneakily switching the Ace for another card and my show, without caring about the loss, since the spectators have already
hiding the Ace under his palm on the table. The gambler pulls out a knife experienced some powerful and wonderful magic (I hope).
and stabs its point between the magician's fingers, pinning the palmed .Another example: When I added a story of centaurs and sirens to a pow-
Ace to the table. The gambler's final statement is magnificent: "I palmed erful card routine I was doing, even going so far as to use drawings on the

a card once too often, and I wasn't as lucky as you-I didn't have· my cards instead of playing cards, I realized the impossibility of the magic was
fingers separated. That's how I lost my arm." Somewhat lessened, but the trick gained in poetic fascination and in the
Here the story does pull us forward continuously. But the magical expression of my lyrical side, an aspect of my personality not usually shown in
my repertoire. If I had to do just one trick in a session, I wouldn't choose "Los
effect of this marvelous trick is almost negligible! Vernon knew this and 189
expressed it on various occasions. Since the magician himself loses sev- Centauros"; but as an expressive complement, it serves me wonderfully.
eral cards in the deck and later cuts to them, this is simply a demonstration 189. By the way, the comments the spectators make to me after this trick are
of skill, not of something impossible. That's why it doesn't matter here along the lines of "How beautiful," while the ones they used to make after the
if the drama overrides the magic, because the magic is minimal. Vernon original version with regular playing cards were more like "How incredible!"
Two new elements for our analysis appear here. effect is weak or But in this (I'll repeat) masterpiece of Fu Manchu we observe certain
if impossibility is not the primary objective of the trick, the dramatic plot a,i:acteristics, some already commented on, that allow the magic to pro-
can and should be intense, powerful and fascinating. ce its full impact. One is that the story is not utter fiction. It's something
Bal(lnce t happens in the experienced development of the show, something only
But we still must deal with what I believe to be the most difficult thing: utwardly real, something the attitudes of the participant~ and the tone of
achieving balance between drama and magic when both are interesting. e dialogue make us see ·and feel as a playful joke, never expected to be
Luc.kily, we have two more geniuses left: Fu Mahchu (David Bamberg) lieved. In other words, the story of the police enquiries.into the crime is
and Cardini. Let's begin with Fu Manchu, the greatest stage magician I ot narrated but is lived in the present by the spectators: "totally" real-
have ever seen. (Vernon shared that opinion.) ut not quite! It's ,a theatrical presentation played within a context of the
Fu Manchu displayed an exquisite ability to achieve the desired bal- audience's reality. We will return to this point with other examples from
ance. Let's look in some detail at one of his masterpieces: "The Death Fu's repertoire and those of other magicians.
Chair". In the middle of the development of this theatrical show, a great Second, note that the actors, except those in the roles of policemen,
success with audiences and critics, there is a terrible accident. The lights play themselves. Fu plays Fu; his assistants play themselves; even the
go out in the theater, leaving everyone in darkness, there is a gunshot audience plays itself, as spectators of the show. Fu wisely talks to them at
and a scream, the lights come on again and a spectator in the second row some point, recognizing their presence and making it evident; there is no
stands up. Staggering a bit, he leaves the room. fourth wall.
Before the frightened spectators can begin to leave, a police detective A third aspect to note: The tricks presented during the development
bursts into the theater with some of his officers. He commands everyone of the plot (of the "joke") are just that; magic tricks performed by Fu .
to stay in their seats and summons Fu Manchu to reproduce the circum- .And the policeman and Fu always refer to them as tricks from Fu's show.
stances under which the crime occurred. The detective discloses that the Pure reality.
spectator has died in the theater lobby. The audience immediately under- What happens, then, to the general conflict of the dramatic plot: Who
stands that the whole thing is a fiction, a sort of joke. killed the spectator and why? Fu dealt with the subject in the style of
The last tricks performed are reviewed. Among them is the appear- what Hitchcock called a McGuffin: a plotted theme of no true importance,
ance in the dark of two fluorescent skeletons thatfly over the heads of the but solved at the end of the joke with very clever surprises related to
spectators. The script requires some new tricks to be performed. These the tricks performed. The interest in knowing the who and the what was
are intertwined with some very amusing verbal exchanges betwe~n the continuously dissolved in the enormous number of amusing lines and
detective, Fu Manchu and his assistants. There is a Lota Bowl routine feigned situations. With all this, Fu managed to make the spectators take
(inexhaustible water from a jar), the disappearance of two ducks that everything as it really was: a joke used to motivate the development of
have been bothering the detective, an escape by Fu Manchu when he is magical effects presented (not re-presented) by people playing characters
handcuffed by the police, a death trap Fu Manchu is forced to enter, but (themselves) in a real situation that was recognized from the beginning
the detective instead ends up caught in it. Once the murder mystery is as a joke. In fact, when the spectators entered the theater, they saw an
solved, the sequence ends with the production of a live duck from the armchair in the lobby, identical to those in the theater, in which slumped
detective's jacket. bloody mannequin dressed identically to the spectator who would later

be "murdered". Despite all this, they still felt a momentary shock dun 1 ~:1~,fd·-n,..,... ...,.,......J ironic). The magician invents a character who, in a way
the blackout, the scream and the shot. 190 ent to the spectators, is playfully pretending, without believing it,
But let's look in more detail into the aspect of the solution commente out expecting the.spectators to believe it, with continuous winks and
on earlier, attitude (something, by the way, essential in every magic ping out of character at times. Cardini proposed a clear example of a
presentation). atrical situation: a tipsy gentleman who watches how objects play with
I am referring to the attitude assumed by the magician during the (cards, cigarettes, balls), arousing his repeated surprise. There is no
development of the trick, especially when he chooses to play a character elopment of the situation, it doesn't enter into dynamic action and,
or dramatize a situation, producing dramatic action. If the conflict of the ause of that, it doesn't lose interest. No one asks, "What will happen?
dramatic plot is powerful or interesting in itself, we will be watching a bat- w will it end?" On top of that, we all know that the magician is responsi-
tle waged against the magical effect, with the drama having an advantage. for the appearances of the objects, but he's playing at pretending to be
But if our attitude while we play at "representing" is one of stepping out rised himself. In this way, the conflict of the dramatic plot becomes
of character by making comments addressed directly to the spectators weak, almost nonexistent, and gives free rein to the enjoyment of
(breaking the fourth wall), winking in complicity as if telling them Don't e astonishment caused by the impossible and continuous production of
believe this, I'm just playing, the spectators will lose sight of the repre- bjects, in the extremely beautiful and artistic presence of magic.
sentation, becoming conscious of their situation as spectators, and the Fu, in "The Chinese Bazaar", another of his masterpieces, utilized the
drama loses impact. Dramatic interest is reduced and the fight among the chnique of a theatrical situation full of finely tuned surrealistic humor
conflicts is balanced or even falls on the side of magic. Thus, magic ends 'th a repeated breaking of character. Fu is the owner of the bazaar. A client
up winning. It is not easy to achieve this balance, to soften the conflict of ·ves and asks, "Do you have those handkerchiefs that change from red to
the dramatic plot without making it a little silly (better to eliminate it) or een?" as he performs just that with a handkerchief. Fu answers, "No, we
into a childish story (which is not the same as a beautiful story for chil- y have a handkerchief that changes from green to yellow," and he demon-
dren). How to get that balance is, as always, a question of artistic intuition atrates. "I like that one," says the client. Fu says, "Well, we don't have it."
and sensitivity, of experience and testing in front of audiences. The whole dialog proceeds like this, with a variety of magical effects inter-
But digging deeper into the subject, let's look at more possibilities. .laced with magical running gags (such as the production of bottles from
Another way to prevent the magic from becoming weaker is by creat- the client's hat), and non-magical gags ("Remove your foot from the stool":
ing a weak dramatic situation, in this case a theatrical one, character the client has absentmindedly put his foot repeatedly on a newly painted
and all, and keep it frozen, static, without altering the circumstances of stool in the bazaar). The routine ends with the client making a telepathic
the conflict or making it moribund. Some ironic humor can also be used divirnltion of cards while he's sitting on a chair in the middle of the stage
covered by a cloth. When the doth is removed the client has disappeared
190. I experienced it firsthand. I attended a different show by Fu in Madrid. I was
de Kolta Chair), and Fu asks himself, "How could he know the cards I
only thirteen, but I preseive it clearly in my memory. I vividly remember how
scared I was when, in the middle of a magic show, a spectator in a box in the showing?" Now sitting in the audience, the client yells, "Because I have
second balcony was heard having a heated argument. Then we heard a scream sitting here the whole time and I saw everything."
and a woman fell into the void, actually onto us poor spectators. However, the I experienced the absolute magic of this sketch in May 1956,. when I
collective horror quickly turned into laughs. The woman was a cloth dummy. only thirteen. I watched it on two consecutive days. What more could

one hope to achieve as a magician? I know how or why I continue aking, and therefore dangerous for the magic." And we almost always
to live. eed not to use it (not without tremendous regret for Pepe-and me).
Overcoming modesty, which always produces a certain awkward- 1~11 dose this discussion with a re_cap of the solutions we have seen:
ness in me, I will cite myself as an example. In "Tahuromagia", a series of
mation of Solutions to the Conflict of Conflicts
twelve sketches or short, scripted dramas that I presented with the
belovedI I

admired and departed Pepe Carrol, there were plots with a certain dramatic Very powerful and wonderful magic presented witho111t an external
interest: wagers on a game of poker between us, cut to winning cards plot or story. Sheer, pure magic. A triumph of the magi<;al art.
and other challenges. We also played characters: Pepe as a serious, distant, A weak dramatic plot, real, in the present,Hved by the magician. No
elegant and very skillful gambler; me as a sloppy, somewhat ludicrous gam- strong fiction is proposed. A real situation that develops in the pres-
bler and a bit of a joker. But the key was that I was acting as myself. That's ent, in the her~ and now, with the magician in the main role or as a
how I am in life, especially in a situation of intimacy and familiarity that witness (Hofzinser: "Remember and Forget").
overcomes my shyness. Pepe's personality also closely resembled his per- The dramatic conflict, weak or strong, is resolved before the trick
forming character. We built two characters that simply exaggerated and begins (again, Hofzinser's "Remember and Forget"). This variation
caricatured our true personalities. We also maintained a direct and continu- consists of the magician demonstrating or illustrating a gift in the
ous relationship with the spectators that is common in close-up magic. We present, as a consequence of the story narrated and finished.
talked to them, they took part in the effects, etc. The dramatic conflict is resolved with and by the magic. In other
Another key was that the scripted, static situations became dynamic words, the magical climax, the magical effect, solves the conflict of
ones, but the actions occurred in the present; two gamblers who inter- the dramatic situation. In some cases, the dramatic situation, narrated
acted for a real audience, and an audience that became involved in the as something having happened in the past, is repeated with actions
action. There was little fiction. The final key was that we constantly (Slydini: "Adam's Apple"; Vernon: "Triumph"). In other cases, a dra-
escaped the scripted situation and our characters (devaluating and min- matic situation is simulated in the present (the Tom and Restored
imizing almost to zero the "re" of representation) through asides to the Handkerchief, tom by accident and eventually restored-the res-
audience and comments between us ("This was not in the script, Pepe." toration, the magical effect, doesn't solve the dramatic conflict by
Laughter and winks between us). All in all, it was a pretense of Pepe and representing it but by presenting it as real).
Juan playing at being gamblers. Practice showed us, I want to believe, that The dramatic conflict is virtually nonexistent. It is a self-imposed
the magic didn't lose any of its impact. (With a magician of Pepe's quality, challenge or a rhetorical question about the conditions of the mag-
this was easy.) iC'al effect (Rene Lavand: "It can't be done any slower") or about its
I'll tell you a secret: When I conceived the scripts for these gambling causes (Rene Lavand again: "Why do the colors alternate?"), or it is a
sketches, I took great care that the dramatic situation was as weak as pos- simple reiteration of the effect (always Rene: "And I always have three
sible, without falling into scripted silliness. But at times, while rehearsing breadcrumbs!").
with Pepe, his wit produced a good idea for the plot, an idea that was The final objective is not impossible magic-the story is allowed to win
forceful, timely and dramatically powerful. My comment was often: (Dai Vernon: "Cutting the Aces"); or there are comedy or other artistic
"Magnificent idea, Pepe. But in my judgment, it's too good, dramatically objectives (Clayton Rawson: "The Little Wonder Thought Projector").
7. o:aJlanc:e: a with very weak drama or a McGuffin (
Manchu: "The Death Chair") or a more or less powerful dramatic co
flict weakened by attitude, good humor and irony (Cardini's act.
."The Chinese Bazaar". Tamariz and Carrol: "Tahuromagia").
Of course, there must be other ways to achieve this balance, which th
artistic intuition and
creativity of magicians have shown us and will ShO
us in the future of this, our inexhaustible art of magic.
·May it be so!



·me: Some Generalities and a Definition

hythm is usually defined as "order and proportion in time". Its founda-

·on is possibly biological. Vital acts and processes are subject to an inner,
ythmical process: the rhythm of breathing, of the heartbeat (from the
fetus that hears the rhythm of the maternal heart), laughter (ha, ha, ha; it's
impossible to laugh with a continuous sound), etc. And there are the nat-
ural rhythms, the rhythms of nature: the four seasons, day and night, the
· lunar cycles, the tide .... In a certain sense, it could be said that rhythm is
life. Without rhythm, one would be a lifeless being, a flat encephalogram.
Rhythm can be objective or subjective.

Objective Rhythm and Subjective Rhythm

Objective rhythm: subject to mathematical rules. It is physically measur-
able; for example, by clapping the hands every two seconds.
Subjective rhythm: the one we experience internally. Its perception
varies. It is psychological. This subjective psychological rhythm is the

most important for us as artists, because the perception of artistic e:xpr ssion, ways of understanding the art of magic and, quite possibly,
sion depends on it.
nt world-views. Let's look at some examples of magicians, past and
Control of the spectators' sense of the rhythm of a performance, wh ~t, with very different rhythmic styles.
possible, enables us to attempt to achieve the appropriate and desire
expression of our magic.
d rhythm, broken at times, with long and dramatic P<}Uses that end
Rhythm and Artistic Expression a sudden acceleration of the final rhythm, interrupted in turn by
Rhythm is different from time and timing. It is also different from speed. dden cut: climax and full pause. There were alternated moments
However, I will sometimes refer to a fast or a slow rhythm. nsion and relaxation that kept the spectators alert and ended with
Rhythm provides relief. It marks the expression of the action. At the al blow of the impossible-impossible-impossible. His actions and
same time, rhythm in itself is expressive. A slow rhythm produces a sensa'" tures had a great musicality. In his patter, the last syllable in phrases
tion of seriousness, poise and weightiness. A fast rhythm gives a feeling of eat downbeats (moments of tension in the body, eyes and attitude).
joy, liveliness and lightness. An increasingly fast rhythm, in crescendo, pro- otal relaxation followed immediately (upbeat), which was used for
duces excitement. And an increasingly slow rhythm produces a sensation cuting the trickery (loading, lapping or any other secret technique).
of rest and peace. en came a culminating downbeat to underline the effect. A highly dra-
tic style.
Strong Beats and Weak Beats (a Prelude)
As we all know, rhythm is based on the periodic repetition of downbeats
nervous and very lively rhythm. Continuous unexpected things that
and upbeats, highs and lows. These downbeats and upbeats have a spe-
rise even him, the magician, who turns his head toward the wings
cific and an utmost importance in magic.
if confused, seeking help. Fast hand movements. Joy. Dynamism. Few
The great master Slydini based all his marvelous and powerful meth-
auses. Short tricks. A style of great liveliness.
ods on the study and management of these downbeats and upbeats. This
is a superb method, which I strongly recommend studying, even if it's
tiresome and by no means easy. (Luckily, easy tends to be the opposite oised and calm rhythm. Relaxed pauses. Tranquil pace. Natural and
of art.) It is incredibly practical for all types of magic: close-up, stage, tnooth gestures. Cadence held almost without variation; harmony,
manipulation, etc. But we will defer the study and analysis of the subject beauty, coordination. A ballet of the hands that made playing, cards float
of downbeats and upbeats in magic for a little while. Md almost dance to a waltz rhythm. Tricks or routines with several effects
t;tatu¥tlly linked. Expository clarity. A style to enjoy.
Rhythm in an Artistic Performance
The voice, the pacing of words, the silences and the cadence of hand and ery slow and calm. Movements almost in slow motion. Creation of a very
finger movements, of gestures, are some of the elements that shape the mysterious and magical atmosphere. It feels as if a certain power or magic
rhythm of a trick or session.
:fluid emanates from his hands. That's why he moves them so slowly. Magical
Different styles of magic correspond to different ways of understand- ~fleets that are sustained in time: floating a ball, a tie that is transformed
ing rhythm and to different personalities, performance styles, manners of mto a cobra, soap bubbles that materialize, etc. A poetic style.

d or to exchange a person covered with a cloth (as in the Asrah

' .
There is a broad variety of other rhythmic styles: from the rampant Ott ion, in which someone lying on a couch is switched for a wire-form
Wessely-moving quickly, almost running, constantly around the sta my). The Top Change with cards_ is another case. A certain speed is
without stopping, from side to side, forward and backward, producing essal'Y to cover the secret manual technique.
sensation of near madness-to the theatrical Rene Lavand, using long and Sometimes you need to reduce speed for the executio~ of certain false
dramatic pauses; from the lively Gustavo Lorgia and his sister Consuelo- ts that require a complex digital technique; the ted/mical difficulty
• I

whose rhythm is full of little sprints and sudden st9ps, almost like a dance es us slow down a certain action. For example, in the) Elmsley Count,
that produce joy and a Latin American mood-to the forceful Shimada-' hing over the second card is actually a double push-off. This can make
who combines static and very expressive poses with brisk, unexpected slow the rhythm of the count without our being aware of it, after which
motions to go from one pose to another, much in a martial-arts style; recover the initial pace. As a result, the four cards are counted with a
from the classic, dancing, Astairean movements of James Dimmare to the ange and possibly suspicious change in pace. We will later analyze this
slow and elegant actions of Salvano; from the apparently confused and ample further.
arrhythmical Lennart Green-whose magic emerges as wonderful and It can be easily seen that, if such changes in rhythm occur from time
very visual-to the precise and intellectual Max Maven-whose rhythm is time, the performance will not have an established rhythm. There will
broken and composed of exact, ascetic movements accompanied by brief a sensation of unwanted arrhythmia, a lack of the necessary artistic
and articulate phrases, punctuated by short pauses. ony. 192 So it is helpful to study technical requirements and adapt the
The correct rhythm, the rhythmic style that better suits a trick and neral rhythm to them. Let's look at some resources to help us maintain
its performer, is an essential element in the spectators' perception of the constant rhythm during a trick or even a whole session of magic.
magician. It is not just the way he moves and gestures, or the speed of The music that accompanies a stage magic act helps maintain the
those gestures. It is also the expression of his personality through rhythm. vhythm or a sensation of continuing rhythm. The music gives outward
I think this is what it's all about. 191 tnotivation to certain gestural variations, actions that are slightly faster
or slower at given moments, wrapping them into its general rhythm. It
The Rhythm in Magic
also helps the performer to avoid getting carried away by fluctuations in
Rhythm has some specific characteristics when it is applied to the art of his present mood-unless he prefers exactly that: to communicate and
magic. There are certain secret techniques that require a faster or slower express himself through his passing mood. And it helps to. recover the
speed for us to execute them successfully. For example, sometimes we rhythm when unforeseen circumstances disrupt it (a handkerchief falls to
need slower gestures and movements to provide enough time to execute the,tl.oor, the rabbit refuses to curl tightly and get into the box, etc.). The
music carries the magician on its rhythmic wings, forcing him to follow
191. A good way to learn to manage timing and pauses is by studying the fine come-
the rhythm, or to recover it; for the benefit of the harmony of the whole
dians of film and television, from Keaton and Chaplin onward. For Spanish
performance. Because of all this, stage magic performed to music is more
speakers, the great Gila is imperative to see and listen to. (Adapt the exam-
ples, dear reader, to your own time and country.) Keep in mind that laughter 192. But let's look at yet another example, to illustrate there are exceptions to every
is sometimes produced by simply generating tension, followed by a sudden rule in art: Ascanio had a version of the Hamman Count in which he used cer-
relaxation. See the section on "Magic and Comedy" in Chapter 8, p. 407. tain precise changes of rhythm to cover the secret action. And it also works!
290 291
easily executed to an established rhythm, and is therefore perceived as, by all the artists who need a rhythmic aid: the metronome, which
more harmonic, agreeable and pleasant. se days can be obtained in its classic mechanical form or as a smart-
But what happens with spoken parlor magic and, above all, With one app. 0
close-up magic, in which interaction with the spectators and their unfore- I started using a metronome in the 1970s, in rehearsals (not in perfor-
seen reactions-sometimes in the form of interruptions-are part of the ces, of ~ourse) of my close-up tricks, and found it t? be a good aid.
"sauce" of this specific and wonderful artistic form? To respond to that, I e explained it in several lectures for magicians and, sin~e it might be of
first need to explain what is, in my judgment, the essence of this art: the e to you, I'll describe it here.
extremely powerful magical emotion produced by close-up magic. The first instance where it proved itself very useful was in solving
For me, close-up magic, generally speaking, is an eruption of art into e problem I mentioned earlier regarding the Elmsley Count: keeping a
life, of the magical, the impossible wish, into everyday life. It's not so ady rhythm. L~t's explore that problem in greater detail. The Elmsley
much a show (though partly it is, of course) as it is a unique experience. unt (invented by Alex Elmsley, the great creative genius) begins by
That's why most of the time it is performed-and I think it should be- nsferring one of four cards from the left hand to the right hand. Then
with everyday objects, objects the spect-actors are familiar with or have 0 cards are transferred to the right hand as if they were one, while the
in their homes, such as playing cards, coins, banknotes, cigarettes, safety d previously transferred is secretly returned to the left hand, under the
pins, thread, dice (sometimes these items are even borrowed from the d that remains there. This is the secret technical moment that creates a
spectators). Use of such mundane objects produces a maximum magical rtain difficulty in coordination, since both hands perform secret actions
effect. Decorated boxes, fancy chips, etc. diminish artistic credibility and the same time: The left thumb pushes two cards over together, the right
weaken the sensation of attending a demonstration of the power of magic gers take them while simultaneously unloading the card they are hold-
in everyday life (an artistic demonstration, not a fraudulent one). g, putting it under the one remaining in the left hand, which must take
Keeping that in mind, we can return to the subject of rhythm. In every- lt without betraying motion. Then, after this difficult part is done, the last
day life, there is usually no preconceived or studied rhythm. Consequently, two cards are transferred singly from the left hand into the right hand.
there is no need for a strict rhythm in a magic session as a whole, but there Because of all this, there is a general tendency to transfer the first
is within individual effects. There, the magician can and should control card (a regular action without anything concealed) at a certain speed, and
the rhythm of his speech and actions. That control is more difficult than it then to slow down when counting the next one (a double), since we need
is in a stage performance, since the situation includes the unplanned but more time to perform all the secret actions just mentioned. Then the pace
desirable comments made by spectators (part of the greatness of this type is picked up while transferring the third card and the fourth normally.
of magic). That interaction increases the difficulty of keeping the rhythm The,,result is usually: one ... twoooooo ... three, four. This arrhythmia could
in control, during the procedure of the trick. You also lack an external arouse suspicion and call unwanted attention to the transfer of the second
rhythmic aid to ke('.?p you on track, such as music provides in stage magic. card. Nothing is further from the objective of the magician, who doesn't
want people to observe that moment or to pay much attention to it.
An Aid for Rhythm and Magic: the Metronome
When I set the metronome at a slow speed and practiced the count, I
It was quite a few years ago that I discovered something that, at least for gradually began to see and feel the appropriate speed at which the count
me, was a good aid to keeping rhythm. It's the most obvious tool, the one :flowed with a regular rhythm, one during which I didn't need to slow down

on second card; a comfortable rhythm that also made it easy for me is process is repeated to cause the fourth coin to pass, except that,
execute the secret techniques. I internalized the rhythm-that tick, to picking up the fourth coin, the right fingers propel it into the lap and
tick, tock-and when I performed, I felt it, and the Elmsley Count bee
right hand forms an empty fist. Four coins then fall from the left hand n
clearer, more rhythmic and relaxed. The same happened when I app}i
the right hand is shown empty. Note that the right hand opens first
the metronome technique to the Hamman Count and the Buckle Coun
time, followed by the left. ,
I then started using the metronome for complete tricks and this pr But we could decide to perform this trick in different fvays by altering
vided several welcome surprises. But let's not go too fast. The first thin
y the rhythm. Let's begin with a slow rhythm. For tha~ we set the met-
to· do is to decide what rhythm or speed seems appropriate for the tric
me to sixty beats per minute. ,
and its actions. Let's say we are dealing with a trick that isn't comple
We put the coins into our pocket or a coin purse, and we activate the
meaning that it doesn't consist of several effects or phases; it's a trick Wit
ronome: tick, tock, tick, tock. We now start trying to match the pat-
a direct and simple effect.
to the slow speed. If you have just performed a faster trick, you can,
Three Practical Examples: ·ng the pause for assimilation in that trick, begin to talk and move grad-
First Example
y more slowly, until you reach the speed marked by the metronome. I
I will start with a classic version of Coins Across, because it was when I k it's important for the whole trick to have that harmony rather than
studied and practiced this trick with a metronome that I got the interest- ing the trick at a high speed and then switching a slower
ing surprise I mentioned above.
,thm. I believe it's important to change the rhythm during the transition
I will first describe the version of the trick I was doing. Three coins m one trick to the next. By doing so, we begin the trick while trying to
are laid in a row near the table edge closest to the magician and toward ep that speed, that rhythm, and adapting everything to it: patter, ges-
the right. Another coin is also near the edge, but on the left. An extra es, actions .... Thus we will find a rhythm and speed that give the trick
coin is palmed in the left hand. The left hand picks up the coin on the nsiderable artistic uniformity and harmony, and this will probably be
left and closes (with two coins inside). The right hand picks up the three predated by the spectators.
remaining coins, one by one, and likewise closes. Following a magical We will internalize that rhythm and speed every time we rehearse it
gesture, both hands are opened palm down, dropping their coins onto the Mth a metronome. When we then perform the trick in front of an audi-
table-except for one, which is retained in right-hand classic palm. The ence, we will not need to think of the rhythm. It will come aut~matically to
coins drop to their corresponding sides, two coins on the left and two on 11s. We will have it in us, associated with the trick; and the patter, gestures
the right.
and attitudes will fall into place naturally. Even if the possible comments
The right hand now moves to the left side of the table and with its pf the spectators-whether required by the magician or spontaneous-
fingers draws the two coins on that side, one by one, over the table
break the rhythm, we will be able, almost without trying, to recover it by
and into the waiting left hand. Upon drawing the second coin into the left
following our interiorized tick-tock-tick-tock and can finish the trick at
hand, though, the right hand also drops its palmed coin, so that there are
the proper rhythm (or with an accelerated or delayed ending, as taste dic-
now three coins in the left hand, which closes into a fist. After a magical
tates). In any case, the trick will gain beauty, harmony and magical quality.
gesture, both hands are opened. Three coins fall from the left hand and
But what if we feel the trick is not suited to a slow rhythm? Then we
one from the right (the other one remains palmed).
can set the metronome to a faster speed while we rehearse, and then try
again with another speed and another until we feel we can dance, to b such a change or variation of the rhythm, of course, perceived in different
the dancing partner of that trick, to the rhythm of fascinating magic. because of the change in speed and rhythm of the performance alone,
But also-it's coming, it's already here ... 'ens in very few tricks. What does J:i.appen often, especially in repetitive
A fascinating surprise: I found that, rehearsing the same trick at ave · that the change of rhythm in execution also produces a change in
ts, IS
different speed (going, for example, from sixty to 140 beats, much faste ·ons felt by the spectators. Let's look at that in mor~ detail.
emoti :
something unexpected, surprising, almost incredible happened: The effect
of the trick changed. take as our second example the extremely cleve.r trick Six-Card
· Let's see how. When you do Coins Across slower and, each time, you, eat, which I have used to open my stage shows, with improved ver-
make a magical gesture before opening your right hand and then your s (I hope), for over fifty years. (My gratitude to its' creator, Tommy
left, the effect becomes one of a coin disappearing from the right hand ker, is eternal.) In this trick, I usually vary my speed in counting the
and reappearing in the left. The disappearance is felt. Its impossibility is cards for each performance. Some days I count them and throw them
appreciated. It is savored. Then the appearance or reappearance is felt. the air with a very lively and rapid rhythm. Other days, I do it with a
When the coin disappears we feel, as spectators, a certain suspension ain calmness. On still other occasions, I increase the speed gradually,
of mood, even a certain anxiety: disappearance, symbol of the void and ·ng each count faster than the previous one. And sometimes I make
death. 193 When it reappears, we fill that void, we sense a feeling of resur- h count slower. Occasionally, I decide to put pauses between counts.
rection and we relax. That periodic and rhythmic alternation of emotions
etimes I don't, etc.
accompanies the temporary development of the trick, giving it a kind of This is how I prevent the presentation of the trick from becoming
emotional and artistic respiration, and the trick lives. ed or automatic, also adding variations in patter, which I attempt to
On the other hand, if you set the metronome to a much higher speed ., at least slightly, in each performance. This way, the trick, despite my
and both hands are opened at the same time whenever a coin is shown to performed it thousands of times, remains fresh and alive in each
have gone across, the coins are perceived to travel instantly and miracu- ormance, because I also feel what the spectators feel. I'm in reso-
lously: nothing disappears and nothing appears. Nor does the alternation ance with them. Therefore, some emotions change from performance to
of emotions occur: suspended mood, anxiety, relaxation. Instead, there is rformance, despite the effect being the same, and the method, and the
a rhythmical rosary of visuals surprises, of magical flashes that lead us, ist. So, on some occasions the spectators applaud with equal fervor at
through the speed of the repetitions, to a state of growing excitement. ch repetition of the effect of the inexhaustible six cards. At other times
In the first case we have: Did it disappear?!... It appeared. Dis- e applause increases in intensity after each repetition, even reaching a
appeared?... Appeared .... The equivalent of inhale-exhale-inhale-exhale ... , rt of final fever pitch. And sometimes applause is cut off by the irrime-
or tensiop-relaxation-tension-relaxation ....
acy of the repetition and is held back until it is unleashed in the final
In the seconq case we have: It passed! ... it passed! ... and it passed!
·max: "There are six, seven, eight, nine-ten cards!" which are thrown
This is equivalent to holding your breath and, only at the end, after the cli-
to the air!
max, releasing it and taking a rest. In other words: tension-tension-tension
A difference in effect also happens when the rhythm of the presen-
and a great, final relaxation. Try it yourself.
tion of Six-Card Repeat changes. If it's presented to a brisk tempo,
193. See "Magic and Symbolism" in Chapter 3, p. 71. 'thout pauses between its phases, it will seem to be an inexhaustible

multiplication of cards, a continuous surprise. If it's presented witfrbre count of four cards with gradually longer phrases that are said
and pauses between the phases, it feels like a phenomenon of going b ssively faster to make them fit four-card counts of the same time
in time, of returning to the initial situation (six cards), an eternal cy 'on, a sensation of gradually incr~asing speed in the counting is ere-
This acceleration, added to the continuing magical smack of the
Third example
ance of more and more and more new faces and: backs-there
Another aspect to consider is how to accelerate the subjective rhyth
urteen changes, fourteen magical effects in only a Il}inute's time-
the one perceived by the spectators, when the hands' actions at a giv
s you to achieve a state of explosive excitement in bo~h the magician
point in the trick can no longer allow acceleration of what we could c
he spectators, and a sensation of almost endless changes, which is to
the physical rhythm. That's what happens in the marvelous "My D ·
of true hallucination.
Trick" by Oliver MacKenzie, which I use as a closer in many sessio
1'hat's how spectators later express it when, still not recovered, still
of close-up magic. (It has also been one of the best-remembered tric
d by the effect experienced, astonished but happy, they comment,
from my many performances on television in several countries.) In brie
make us see what you want us to see! You make us see visions! We
four blue-backed cards are shown. The cards turn face up one by one
cinate." Those phrases, when addressed to a magical artist, are, as I
They then transform into four different cards; for example, from Aces t
rstand it, a partial but beautiful definition of our art.
Kings. Finally, their backs change color again and again, and each car
ut let's go back to analyzing the extremely important issue of strong
changes more than once. Although six different backs are seen, the
and weak beats.
look like a thousand! 194
In doing this trick, I came to understand that the rhythm was essenti ong Beats and Weak Beats in Magic
for its full success. I wanted to do it faster and faster, leading to an accel-"
· g agreed that there are strong beats and weak beats, let's examine
erated ending, in the style of the "Valse a mille temps" as performed by the
· characteristics. It should be pointed out that they are not totally
wonderful and fascinating Jacques Brel. What I did was to use the words
' ·valent to downbeats and upbeats in music.
the patter, to change the subjective rhythm of the trick, which is to say the
rhythm perceived by the spectators. 195
The speed of the count seems to be faster each time. I say "seems" ese are equivalent to some extent to the accents in words and to
because the same technique, the Buckle Count, is repeated every time, ments of tension and great dramatic interest in film and theater, and,
and there is a limit to how quickly I can count four cards. It is phrsically refore, to moments that put us into a condition of maximum attention
impossible to go faster in each successive count. But by accompanying d concentration, a state of alertness.
There are strong beats that are specifically magical; for example, the
194. The f4'st time I experienced this trick as an absolutely amazed spectator still rnent of the climax, when the magical effect is produced. And there
lives in my mempry. It was in 1960, on a special occasion the first time I attended
I )
dramatic strong beats, such as a mistake, an accident, a moment that
a banquet hosted by a magic society (the SEI), and I was very excited. The fan-
0duces laughter (before the laughter), any kind of sudden surprise,
tastic magician, later a dear friend, Carlos Sayalero, presented MacKenzie's
abrupt increase in the level of sound (a scream, a stomp) or light (a
trick as a true work of art and made me feel excitement, magic and great joy.
195. Later in this chapter, under the heading "Patter", we will discuss this applica- h of fire), or a sudden gesture (the magician suddenly jumps or briskly
tion of patter to increase the apparent rhythm of this trick 'ses his arms and hands or gestures suddenly in sharp pain), the sudden
298 299

appearance of a threat (for the magician, for the spectators, for an imp .s relaxation of attention is encouraged by the attitude and the restful
ant or delicate object lent by a spectator, for a costly or fragile prop t es of the magician who is telling us, "It's over." It is also during these
belongs to the magician or forms part of the stage scenery... ), etc. ts (weak moments as far as the_ intensity of attention is concerned)
Some of these dramatic strong beats, but not all of them, are perfec is appropriate to perform the secret actions we desire to render invis-
suited to accompanying the magical effect, which would otherwise cat because those weak· moments are equivalent to hi"tFing the "pause"

the spectators a little off guard. n in the spectators' attention, if it is recording what is/ happening.
We should distinguish two types of these dram<;1tic strong beats. Some his non-recording mode not only makes the secret /technique invis-
produced by a gag, an accident, etc., that attract excessive attention, me · by helping to cover it, but also makes it indetectab'le by preventing
that they capture all of the spectators' attention and therefore hardly all ,spectators from noticing any tension in the hands or in the eyes of the
the magical effect produced at that moment to be perceived with clarity an ·cian, or any gesture or attitude that arouses suspicion that he is doing
to be fixed in memory, or its impossibility or its poetic power of fascination thing covert, even if that thing is not seen. We have all experienced
be felt. They are in a certain way antagonistic to the magical effect. as spectators when, watching the performance of another magician,
Others, in turn, like those produced by an increase in the volume 0 perceive, without seeing it, that he must be performing some secret or
music or voice, or the intensity of the lighting, or a dramatic gesture b cult move. We don't see it, but we sense it.
the magician, etc., enhance the effect and give it greater value. They are} Therefore, placing techniques in moments of relaxation not only
then, positive and can benefit, in my judgment, the magic effect. I say rds cover for the technique (sometimes impossible to conceal, such
this with a certain wariness and reserve, since the abuse of such momen the Top Change) but also hinders the perception that something secret
can make us fall into the practice of an easy sensationalism, so foreign t going on.
the true and subtle art of magic. Still another positive effect is produced. Since the mind is not "recording",
Weak Beats · g in "pause" mode, not everything that happens enters mid- or long-
These occur when emotional tension and interest are reduced to a mini., memory. So when the spectators try to visualize what was recorded,
mum and there is a relaxation and a rest in attention. remember the circumstances of the development of the trick, during the
Sometimes weak beats appear automatically after a strong beat. For cond phase of the pause for assimilation (the remembrance phase), they
example, a brisk and almost involuntary drop in tension, to relax, after ot remember what was not recorded. Therefore, the magical effect will
a strong beat, often produces laughter. So laughter is physiologically a much purer, because they will not even remember the external actions
relaxation of tension. esponding to that period and will tend to believe that that time didn't
Another example: We know that after a magical effect, during the t. In the analogy of a video recording, what happened during the time
pause fo;r assimilation, especially in its third phase, the spectators' atten- e recording was in "pause" mode will not exist when we play what was
tion drops becarn~e after the astonishment (strong beat) and remembrance corded; neither will its existence be suspected.
(in a tense search and recap of the incredible circumstances of the devel-
7. But making sure, in case we use those upbeats at the end of the trick, that we
opment of the trick) come joyful and pleasant rest and relaxation. 196 don't. miss the marvelous, unique and extremely special pleasure that we, as
196. A few pages ahead (twelve, if you're counting) I will describe my views on magicians, can feel in resonance with the spectators: the fascination of the
pauses: dramatic pauses, pauses for assimilation, etc. magical effect experienced.
the secret action is not seen, not sensed, it's not remembere " that prevents us from it in the imagination.
emb er'
it is not even believed to have existed in that time. Is there a better offer?I nee is essential here, as in life.
Also keep in mind that weak beats may sometimes be followed by n
Almost Ethical Consideration
new strong beat created by the magician, as when he raises his voice, an
indication of "But look!" If the weak beat is taken advantage of for execut.; garding the strong beats, I firmly believe it is im~ort3rt tha~ the di-
ing a secret maneuver (Diagram 1 below), the actual procedure of the trick of an effect arrives a~ a strong moment of attention. :Sometimes the
is perceived by the· spectators as the procedure ab.sent the moment when at preceding the climax should be turned into such 1moment. This
the secret maneuver was made (Diagram 2), and will later be remembered aythe spectators will be alert when the climax occurs.;With maximum
in yet a third version (Diagram 3). This, as we saw in "Magic and Memory" ention, the sensation of experiencing the impossible ,as possible will
(p. 113), is due to the fact that, without being aware of it, we need to use more strongly felt. In other words, the magical power will be boosted
our imaginations to fill in the gaps in our memories (gaps not consciously considerably. If an impossible effect catches us when we're not paying
perceived as such). For this to happen, it is obviously better if the weak enough attention (at the limit, in a state of drowsiness), it will be very
moment is brief (Diagram 1) and not long (Diagram 4), since a long gap '.t[if:ficult for us to notice that what we witnessed is impossible: It is,
would be easily perceptible in a conscious form as "something we can't ftlthough it can't be. 199
The power of the strong beat in which the magical effect is placed
should clearly be, in my judgment, determined mainly by the development
of the plot of the trick, by the impact and magical quality of the effect
produced and, if it seems necessary, by support from external elements:
music, sound, lights, patter, gestures.... I've believed for a long time,
though, in artistic magic and am aware of its impact and beauty. I believe
that the effects of great magical quality can stand by themselves. They
don't need additions or presentational patches, which is to say non-mag-
Time Time
ical, external aids. The magic itself, totally impossible and wonderfully
fascinating, in its total naked purity, will make spectators' most beautiful
and sensitive strings vibrate. Those vibrations will be the m<;1,gical mean-
+,I +,I
C C ing of the effect (its symbolism), its nature as secular miracle (as a lived
and,,granted dream), and will impregnate the deep experience of the spec-
tator (and of the magician) with artistic harmony and beauty.
This doesn't mean that some magical effects-or under certain circum-
stances, all magical effects-could not benefit from some type of external
199. In this regard, I recall the famous phrase of the great and witty bullfighter, Rafael
198. However, its use is so appealing, it lends itself to excess and abuse. Your "El Gallo": "What can't be, can't be, and it's also impossible!" which I would para-
artistic judgment will show you the limits. phrase as: "In magic, what can't be, can be-even though it's impossible!"
enhanc_ement (music, patter, gestures ... ), as long as they are treated With
Time of the Performance
t~e dehca~y and care such magical effects deserve, and with the discre-
t10n and ngor artistic purity demands. The opposite, the exaggeration or But let's get into something more ev~sive due to its subtlety: the time of
abus_e of external, non-magical elements, could make us fall, with no hope the performance, meaning "the beat", what we refer to as "keeping time".
of return, into perhaps successful but deplorable and easy sensational• Something between rhythm and speed, cadence and c~ordination, the
. . ism
an d mto an anti-artistic emphasis. (Borges would cry.) ' tempo and the air.
To better explain my idea of time, and to give a break to the reader of
this dense text, I will allow myself the pleasure of inserting a short and
very personal record, published in 1983 in the legendary Circular of the
Escuela Magica de Madrid. 200 I hope it clearly explains what I think about
an aspect of the subject of rhythm and time in magic.

Incredible Chronicle of Some Magical

And I am not kidding. I am writing this on the plane returning from
Patagonia. It is February 15, and we are in the middle of the summer here.
We have just flown over Rio de Janeiro after departing from Santiago de
Chile, with a layover in Buenos Aires. To those not well versed in geog-
raphy, I'll say that Patagonia is to the south of Argentina and that it is the
most beautiful region of high-mountain lakes my eyes have ever seen. A
kind of Switzerland but on a large scale. A unique and impressive sight.
We are coming from there (Mary Pura and I). We spent a month com-
bining shows with vacationing (which in the end is the same thing) in
Chile and Argentina. A beautiful trip, enormously interesting and vital.
Magically speaking, I'll tell you:
My,. Work
Those of you who usually read my little travel chronicles know that for a
long time I've had three principles or guidelines for writing them: (1) I try

200. We founded the Escuela Magica de Madrid in 1971. It published a monthly

circular for the members, edited by my "magical father" Jose Puchol, except
for two years when Ramon Mayrata took the reins, and the last four when
Jesus Etcheverry filled the position. It was an inexhaustible and inspirational
source of quality material and deep intellectual thinking about magic.

to make it a P·'-'--•<MJ•""-LL.., read and to tell you about experiences, atmosphere I found myself becoming more "comfortable". I tended to do the most
and information; (2) I write only about what I like: sights, magicians or ommercial tricks and, although the audiences were usually good, only
magic acts, but only those that I like; and (3) I don't write about my own h~n one was really good did I do_ the most technically difficult stuff
shows, or mention them only in passing, without evaluating them, to avoid sing palming, controls) and dramatize it. I was performing to an audi-
falling into boring self-praise or, sometimes, into false and excessive mod- (ence that had come to see a variety show: comedians and: cute girls. I was
esty. You guys know that in general I like what I do. I have fun with what i,commercializing" myself.
I do because I love what I do. But the reason for .this whole preamble is The worst thing is that I wasn't enjoying the perfo:rrriances as much.
that today I am going to break the third rule and enjoy doing it, because like to perform, yes, but I wasn't feeling that special, .:almost orgasmic
it's nice to break the rules and the principles that are "unalterable in their pleasure that gives full meaning to being a magician and performing in
essence" (dictator dixit). I will talk at length about my work because it public. Why?
has been an exceptional learning experience, a fundamental lesson for me All the above doesn't mean that I was feeling bad. On the contrary, the
that some of you can maybe put to use. human, marvelous, warm atmosphere among all the actors, singers (the
My work, aside from television tapings, consisted of performing great Facundo Cabral!), female dancers ( cute, young, intelligent, charm-
fifty-two times (one for each card in the deck) in a theater with five hun- ing) and managers (two) made the hours in the theater and dressing-room
dred seats (three hundred spectators on average). Time was flexible from area more than pleasant. I stress that the audience responses were usually
twelve to twenty minutes. I was closing the variety show (that's what it was good and at times very good. (My ego should have been feeling chubby.)
about), following three very amusing performances by comedians that left Vifia del Mar (where we were performing) is a beautiful city. Summer
the spectators exhausted from laughter. (Chilean comedians range from was very good, magicians competed to entertain us, the tours to different
good to excellent, and the four in the show were among the very best from places were beautiful, the experiences of a sea storm, various mini-earth-
Chile, truly exceptional.) The South American rhythm of the acts in that quakes and the gigantic waves of the ocean paradoxically called Pacific
variety show (very fast and with high energy) made me adapt to working made us feel we were on a live planet (a beautiful sensation). The shows
more lively, faster. The response was good. The management, the audi- I managed to see were excellent (Gasalla, Les Luthiers, Tihany's circus ... )

ence and the critics were almost unanimous in their praise. But ... and I had the good luck of becoming friends with some of the performers
On the third day (two shows a day), my voice started to give out. My and sharing experiences and knowledge (Facundo Cabral, a vital anar-
vocal chords weren't up to my screams. Dangerous. chist201; Les Luthiers: a wealth of imagination, passion for their work,
I tend to give my all in each session and surrender completely, but by absolute masters of the trade).
sixth day I found myself physically and psychologically tired. I wasn't used She almost daily close-up sessions for magicians (who came to visit
to that schedule, since I had always performed two or three times a week at us from Santiago, sixty miles away) and for laymen, fellow artists, friends
most-but fifteen times a week (three on Saturday)! ... What do I do? and others, were authentically enjoyable, thanks to their receptivity and
The patter of some tricks began to become automatic; particularly love of magic. The sessions were often quite long. With magicians, they
those that were more or less humorous. I suddenly began hearing myself
201. Tragically killed years later, an innocent victim of a mafia settling of scores in
saying words that left my lips without me really feeling them. How do I
Guatemala, on his way to the airport just a few days after I had traveled the
avoid that?
same road.
lasted the night. Mary was sensational, and everything, eve this made me enjoy much more the preparation, design and
thing, contributed to make those weeks unforgettable. ing of our act for each day, but I still wasn't feeling totally at ease
In addition, the Muses happened to be most generous and active. Eve g ~he performances. The special joy wasn't there. n
day they whispered something new to me. I was creating tricks, routine "Of course!" I explained to Mary Pura. "In the end, this isn't totally my
even complete acts all the time; and I wrote a lot. I did not watch Tv, n :rrnance. They are coming to see a variety show, not ti° see magic.
even a little, despite having one in the apartment, because life demande like it, yes, but they didn't come for it." Also, I am used t1b performing
every minute. It was an idyllic time. r-at least half an hour, sometimes even forty to fifty minutes-and
Everything was in favor of letting yourself be carried away, but ... r on consecutive days. This is preventing me from surrendering myself
don't know... something inside me was itching, bothering me slightly, only letely from feeling the necessary tension before the show (not
p ' "
slightly... or maybe not so slightly? es, which, luckily, I haven't felt for many years). I don't "load and
I could solve some of the problems mentioned soon after I detected ad". There is no climax ( as in the sexual act-I used the adjective
them. It wasn't hard. To fight against my weakness of voice, I hung the asmic" earlier for a reason).
microphone around my neck and trained slowly but surely in learning to There must have been some truth in these attempts I made, to explain
breathe from the diaphragm to project my voice better. I didn't finish this yr was not achieving that pleasurable climax. And, of course, if I was not
training, but I'm on my way to achieving it. To cure physical fatigue, more ·oying it completely, the audiences there-the other half of the couple in
sleep and more relaxation time. To cure psychological fatigue, concentra- "magical act"-perceived it. Their feeling was not the same as that I am
tion on what I was doing, how I was doing it and why. I also started to vary d to appreciating in audiences when I perform. Yes, some friends and
my repertoire, seldom repeating the same act. ectators I met in the street (over 10,000 people saw me in Vifi.a del Mar,
To fight monotony in my patter, I experimented with new tones and ity of 30,000) made the usual compliments: "I liked you very much,".or
nuances. I changed the wording and stayed away from rote phrases haaaaan!" or "Very good!" or "How did you do the thi