Zwei magische Aufmerksamkeitstests / Two Magic Tests of Attention

Bist du aufmerksamer als ein Hund? Schau genau hin, wie der junge Mentalist Timon Krause versucht, seinen Hund mit Fingerfertigkeit zu täuschen und zähle mit, wie oft du richtig liegst! Du wirst sicher staunen…

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Young mentalist Timon Krause will try to fool his dog with sleight of hand with dog biscuits. Are you smarter than the dog? Then watch closely and count your hits and misses! You may be in for a surprise… (You don’t have to understand German to enjoy this test. Just keep watching, it’s short and it’s sweet!)

And here is an older experiment by Radalou. Try to remember the cards as quickly as you can and see some change! (Again, you don’t have to understand German to enjoy this test. Just keep watching.)

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Und hier ein älteres Experiment von Radalou. Versuche dir die Karten möglichst schnell zu merken und staune über die Veränderungen!

A Free Ebook on Science Magic

I have mentioned fellow magician, science educator and “Curator of Wonder” Dr. Matt Pritchard here before. Featuring more than 130 interviews (as of this writing) with fascinating professionals from different fields, his Words on Wonder website remains a constant source of inspiration. But now he is also generously sharing a free ebook, Sparking Wonder, which is full of clever DIY science tricks for teachers and magicians alike, plus some notes on presenting them. It has 94 pages, and I enjoyed it a lot! Incidentally, the book contains a selfmade version of the optical arrow illusion I recently described here. The wonders of wonder…

The ebook and other free resources are available here.

Thank you for sharing these, Matt!

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The Many Deceptions of Master Bosch

YOMM_Bosch

I feel happy and honored because my analysis of the relationship between the juggler and the thief in Bosch’s famous painting “The Juggler” has just been published in Marco Pusterla‘s fine journal, Ye Olde Magic Mag! If you are not a subscriber yet, but interested in the field of magic history and collecting, you should check it out; also, if you are just curious to find out why I believe that the juggler and the thief are actually brothers in deceit! The magazine is published quarterly, both in print and digital, and Marco does a great job in researching and compiling scholarly articles, reviews of books and magic auctions, and other interesting bits.

To warm you up for the many layers of trickery in Bosch’s masterpiece, here’s a little game of seek and find:
Can you spot at least 15 mistakes in my manipulated mock version of the original?

Original:

JI_18_Gewinnspiel_1_Originalbild


Forgery:

JI_18_Gewinnspiel_2_Fälschung

Look closely – and don’t take anything for granted! (Just like in real life.) I will post the solution here in a couple of days, so please call again. Have fun!

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Click here and scroll down to the end of that page to see the solution! How did you do???


Mirror Magic

I’m a sucker for optical illusions and visual fodder. Recently, I came across the intriguing objects created by Prof. Kokichi Sugihara of Japan. He seems to be a leading expert, specializing on impossible 3-D objects. Miraculously, their reflections in a mirror create quite a different image.

1 Pfeil Sugihara (2)

As you can see, the mirror image of the arrow points in the opposite direction. In addition, once you turn the arrow 180 degrees on its pole, the tip of the arrow seems to jump back right into its original direction of pointing. Absolutely stunning!

1 Kartensymbole Sugahira (2)

This second illusion even lends itself to a little card trick. Show the object with the four card symbols as a “secret prediction.” Then force the Four of Hearts on your spectator and offer “a backstage view” on the illusion. In the mirror, your helper will discover the correct prediction of his chosen card!

Unpaid and unsolicited advertising: I bought these objects at Magic Center Harri, one of Germany’s big, respected, and trustworthy magic dealers. These are simple plastic props, others are made of cardboard. Prices are low, starting around 10 Dollars, and one of them may be a perfect addition to your online magic show!


Blake Vogt’s Abracadabra by Design

Blake Vogt_Abracadabra_VanInc
Screenshot from Vanishing Inc. Newsletter

As you can see in this special section of my blog, I’m a sucker for magic art and art in magic. So I do get excited when a magician puts his artistry into art. Creative mastermind Blake Vogt has just designed a cool graphic poster which displays the word ABRACADABRA in a stunning, not-so-obvious way. You can order this piece from Vanishing Inc. while supply lasts.


 

Debunking the Maskelyne Myth

Maskelyne_BBC
Screenshot from BBC video

Somewhat related to my recent review of H. Wayne Capps’s disappointing book, Magicians at War, a fews days ago I was pointed towards this nifty BBC video animation by Dan John and Michael Bialozej. In less than seven minutes, they give you a crash course about the myth how Jasper Maskelyne supposedly contributed eminently to the British War effort by employing means of magic and ingenious engineering in the North African theatre. (No, he didn’t.) Some experts on magic and deception are also quoted. (Richard Stokes, the main debunker, is sadly not among them.) Recommended!


 

On the Fascination of Gambling for Majishuns

Blackjack2

In a discussion on the Genii Forum a while back, Mark Lewis wrote:

I am quite astonished at the interest of magicians in anything to do with poker, card sharking and gambling generally. I strongly suspect that any book with a gambling theme sells very well to magicians. (…)
As a result I strongly suspect that if a writer was to write any kind of book concerning gambling whether it had card tricks and sleights or not would sell very well if marketed to magicians. That is probably why the Steve Forte book has done so well.

Well, my personal guess is that there are (at least) two reasons for that:

First, we majishuns simply love magic lore, stories, and riddles, the more fantastic the better. Real-world deceivers like cheats and hustlers attract our attention, earn our respect and trigger our imagination.

Second, I think we love to fancy ourselves as suave card mechanics with nerves of steel at the poker table, but because of our embarrassing shortcomings in the real world we resort to the second best thing: we pretend to be experts at the card table by doing risk-free gambling tricks and demonstrations!


 

Magicians at War…with Truth

Capps

A Review of Magicians at War by H. Wayne Capps (2020)

“Great liars are also great magicians,” Adolf Hitler supposedly once said or wrote. I have yet to find a German source for this alleged quote (any help?), but hey, it’s all over the internet, so it must be true, right?! And it’s printed in this book, like many other tales, semi-truths and lies. But if you turn the quote around, you will get an undisputed truth: Great magicians are also great liars. Just like, among others, many politicians or trumping spin doctors. So I wouldn’t dream of buying juicy or heroic stories from any of them easily. You have to take them with a grain of salt, if not with a big handful of woofledust.

Yet magic lore is full of these stories, and we all love them, don’t we? Because it sounds so exciting, so great and reassuring for our magic passion or profession: “How Espionage and Deceit Changed History” (subtitle of the book); “The Card Trick That Stopped WWII” (title of chapter 5); “Magicians in history have literally changed the world” (final chapter). Yeah, right! Sadly, the backstage view of magic is less glorious, less interesting and often shabby.

The author, H. Wayne Capps, is both a professional magician (under the name of Howard Blackwell) and a U.S. Air Force Reserve Lieutenant Colonel. With this slim booklet, which has grown out of a magic club mini lecture, he has tried to fuse his two occupations and passions. As the author states, this book was mainly written in the back of a C-17 cargo aircraft that took him around the world on military missions. That may explain why his offer is somewhat drafty and shaky. Why exactly?

Despite a fascinating and broad topic, the author has chosen the path of least resistence and has limited his work to mainly retelling the best, and already best-known, rehashed stories. Now, if you are a bit proficient in magic history, which names would you list with regard to magicians in and around the battlefields of war and espionage? Right, Robert-Houdin, Jasper Maskelyne, John Mulholland, Kalanag, maybe Houdini, “the spy” (?). And yes, all of them are covered in this book, plus a few other obvious ones (see www.magiciansatwar.com for the table of contents). Surprisingly, neither the Trojan Horse nor The Man Who Never Was nor The Death Camp Magicians are covered, not to mention Dudley Clarke, the real British master deceiver in World War II.

Capps is aware of the lore and its questionable lure, as he points out several times. At the same time, he exploits these myths carelessly, in order to tell and sell, and shows little interest in unlinking the rings of fiction and facts. I find this annoying, as uninitiated readers have no chance of making up their own mind because of the poor crediting. With a few notable exceptions, only the most basic sources are given.

The two main sources on Jasper Maskelyne, for example, are his own, largely fictitious “autobiography” and David Fisher’s subsequent super-fiction novel, The War Magician. Richard Stokes, who has done so much research to investigate and debunk the Maskelyne myths, is not even mentioned. At times, the crediting is also sloppy. Robert-Houdin’s seminal autobiography is not even listed as a primary source; and as I looked up a supposed author named Clarke Sternberg, “he” turned out be the U.K.-based Sternberg Clarke entertainment agency which once ran a blog post on Robert-Houdin on their website. Duh!

Yet the author emphasizes more than once that he has “thoroughly researched” the field, despite quoting sources like ABC News or writing sentences like this: “John Mulholland was a New York based magician and according to his widow, performed several times at Radio City Music Hall and wrote a number of books on magic.” He also claims that Robert-Houdin had toured the United States. And we learn that his in-depth research of the obscure (?) artist Paul Potassy made the author discover two important sources, Potassy’s biography & trick book by Uwe Schenk and Michael Sondermeyer and his 3-DVD set from L&L Publishing. Wow!

Sadly, and although announced in the introduction, there is no noticeable attempt of the reserve author to cast the actions and magic principles described into a bigger theoretical context on the role of deception in warfare or the parallels between the theaters of war and theater illusions. With a bit more care and effort, he could have dug into Sun Tzu or the eminent works of Barton Whaley and many other scholars.

Capps’ original contributions are limited to interviews with two fellow magicians, one an Army veteran, the other a former CIA director. While the brief chapter on military veterans “who used magic as a healing tool to fight the war within” taps into uncharted territory that I feel would have deserved a much bigger expedition, the CIA chapter falls short of its promise of top secrets revealed. As we learn, the CIA magician was merely fond of showing tricks to foreign diplomats and helped train his team on hostile deception tactics “to benefit a nation.” Abraca-poof!

Like almost any self-published book, this one could have used an editor and a spell checker to good results. Without, the “proverbial” cat becomes “preverbal”, the “ruse” a “rouse”, and Eugene Burger is misspelled as Berger. Ouch! If the chapters are in any meaningful order, I must have missed it. I also find it both amusing and irritating that the book’s cover image of my Kindle edition is still speckled with the watermark logo from fiverr, a web platform for freelance services…

I realize this review is already much longer than some of the book’s chapters, which is not a good thing. So to conclude, if you have never heard of any of the magicians mentioned above and are mildly interested in their claimed endeavors and achievements in the wars of the world, this slim book of 72 pages might serve as a quick and unambitious introduction. I would advise you, however, to consider getting the Kindle version via Amazon for less than €5 and not bother with the paperback edition for a hefty $24,95.

But if you have some background in magic history and more than a passing interest in this topic, you likely won’t find much of value here. For an in-depth, no-nonsense approach on the bigger context of military deception, let me recommend some major sources instead (out of about 30+ books on this subject in my library): Jon Latimer’s Deception in War, Thaddeus Holt’s The Deceivers, and any book by Barton Whaley, like Stratagem.

To end on a positive note, I fully agree with the author’s final assessment: “All of these stories, no matter how far-fetched, are certainly fun to tell and will no doubt outlive us all.” Amen to that, and cheers to all you great liars and master deceivers out there!


Full disclosure: I consider myself rather well-read in this particular area of magic and military deception, and I have delivered a detailed lecture about “Magicians at War” (sic!) at the recent 8th European Magic History Conference in Vienna in 2019. That’s why I’m both a bit saddened and annoyed that this book underdelivers on a truly fascinating facet of our beloved art.

MaW_EMHC


A slightly shorter version of this review has just appeared in Marco Pusterla‘s fine Ye Olde Magic Mag (Vol. 6, Issue 3).


 

Scamming the Magic Lemmings?

TEATCT_Fig101_ST

Phew… Michael Close posted this very interesting link in his Jan/Feb newsletter. The headline sounded rather compelling:

“How a Magician Made $200,000 in Sales on a $100 Budget”

I certainly cannot validate the claims raised by marketeer Geraint Clarke in this article. However, it does sound fully possible to me. The product under discussion here is Ellusionist’s 2017 bestseller, “Erdnase x Madison” by Daniel Madison, which caused some stir in the magic community – and especially among Erdnase worshippers – back then. As we learn, the rage was well planned and planted.

From the introduction of Clarke’s article:

In 2017, I was asked to work on a campaign and product launch for a new training set for magicians. The product was called Erdnase x Madison.

Taught by Daniel Madison, a famous magician turned YouTuber, it was his re-telling of the methods Erdnase once shared. Bringing those methods and magic tricks into the current day.The product took the magic industry by storm, but not for the right reasons. To many, it was the butt of a joke they assumed we weren’t in on.

However, the sinister truth behind that negativity is… I manufactured it. With one bold quote [“I’m better than Erdnase, and I can prove it”–Daniel Madison] and less than $100 worth of marketing spend, the product sold out and grossed well over $200,000 within its first month of release.

But why did it work?

Shock and awe are online media’s bullet train. The fast route to awareness.

(…)

Click here to read the full article.

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Done? OK.

Quite a sobering read, isn’t it?

Now, leaving aside the specific product, why don’t we take this as a free lesson and a well-meant warning to all of us magic lemmings? It’s just plain wrong and stupid how we tend to jump, in best stimulus-response fashion, time and again on every latest overhyped gimmick or trick or the most outrageous claim out there in our fierce and tireless quest for the next holy grail of magic, searching and spending, spending and hoping, praying and spending…

Remember the First Law of the magic trade: Tricks can be bought. Magic can’t.
(And don’t forget the Second Law either: Never preorder! Never ever.)


 

 

The 60% Force

Having a spectator freely select one out of four objects gives you a chance of 1:4 or 25% that each single object is picked. By knowing which face-down card in a row of four is selected more often than others, you can increase the chances of having your “favorite” card picked to 60%. (You could call this a force, even though it’s not surefire.) This is the essence of a new piece of academic research by Gustav Kuhn et. al., which has just been published. You can read the abstract online here.

According to the paper, out of four cards, 60% of the participants in an experiment freely chose the third card from their left (or the second from the right–but I’m sure that you’ve already calculated that). Please enjoy my masterful visualization of this key finding:

Graph60%

Yet these participants felt that their choice was extremely free. They also underestimated the actual proportion of people who selected the target card.

(My guess would be that this result is partly due to the overwhelming majority of right-handed people in the world.)

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By the way, Matt Tompkins from the SOMA Committee keeps a constantly updated “Science of Magic Bibliography” with academic papers published in English since 1887 (which means that some important early German and French research on the psychology of magic is missing there.) And here’s a special on the topic from “Frontiers in Psychology” in free PDF format.

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Read more about the upcoming SOMA conference in London here.