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PhotobucketMany magicians in the Philippines sometimes over-think their magic and forget how it feels to be laypersons.

This trait is prevalent not only among Filipino magicians but also among magicians all over the world.

As a result, the philosophers of our art have come up with warnings like “Don’t run when you are not chased.”

Yet many magicians still run to escape from non-existent ghosts.  They shuffle cards to the nth time when there’s no need to do so.  They say, “Look, my hands are empty,” when no one is challenging the “emptiness” of their hands.  They also invite suspicion by calling a Fantasio Appearing Candle “an ordinary candle.”

PhotobucketBy “running when not chased,”  they plant seeds of suspicion in the minds of unsuspecting spectators. As a result,  their magic losses conviction. It lacks impact and oomph.

Most people know that sponge balls can be compressed. But that knowledge doesn’t prevent skillful magicians from eliciting bug-eyed reactions from his audience when the sponge ball multiplies inside the closed hand of a spectator.

PhotobucketMost people know that the magician’s lady assistant can assume a near fetal position inside the box when it is sawn in half. That knowledge has not prevented the Sawing a Lady in Half from becoming one of the most enduring classics of magic.

Most people know that the lady assistant can contort her body inside the Zig-zag. But that knowledge hasn’t stopped this chestnut from becoming an all-time favorite of both audiences and magicians all over the world.

Why? I’m not a philosopher, but let me put forth a little theory.

In performing those above tricks, the magician employs psychological ruses and subtleties. In the case of the Sawing a Lady in Half, the box is constructed in such a way that it appears thin. After the box is sawn in half, the audience sees a pair of feet sticking out of the other half of the box. One leg has no stockings, because prior to the assistant’s entering the box, the magician removed the stockings from one of her legs. These ploys are psychological masterpieces that neutralize the suspicion brought about by the audiences knowledge of the lady’s ability to curl up inside the box while it is sawn in half.

Likewise, the Zig-zag is constructed to create an optical illusion that makes it seemingly impossible for the lady to obtain a magical effect by contortion. Again, that visual false impression cancels out, quiets down and nullifies suspicion created by the knowledge that girls can contort inside the box.

PhotobucketAs for the sponge balls, the magician carries out a visual misrepresentation by showing two or more balls as one through the expedient of a lowly sleight/move called squash. He does exactly what the audience thinks he’ll do with balls that can be compressed. Yet, when three and up to a dozen sponge balls materialize inside the spectator’s hand, the sheer number of balls bewilder the spectator. That may explain why sponge ball is an all-time hit among magicians and audiences.

What does all this mean? I think it means that people watching a magic performance can start with a basic assumption of the principles employed to produce a magical effect. Whether accurate or not, that assumption does not necessarily weaken the impact of the trick, provided the trick is clothed in psychological subterfuges that counteract the suspicion stemming from the basic assumption.

Sometimes, magicians bring to such great extent this requirement to provide a trick with subterfuges that they draw suspicion rather than dispel it.

Next time, forget being a magician.  Look at a trick from the perspective of a layperson, one who does not know about Elmsley Counts and Muscles Passes.  Doing so will make it easier to follow the hoary advice of not running when not chased.

Stay magical,