Birdcage Clips…

Yesterday I posted about finally being able to find the clips that I use on my personal Vanishing Birdcage. They just showed up and here’s what they look like:

Here’s it in comparison to the one that’s on my personal Take Up Reel that I use for the Vanishing Birdcage:

Before the clip is usable, I have to cut off the swivel. I could leave it on, but that’s just extra bulk that’s not needed. The cord allow any rotation needed for the effect.

A side by side comparison of the two is that my old one is a bit wider than the new ones and the new ones are a bit shorter than old one.

Now that I have these, I’m going to start including them with all future take up reels that I make. I’m not sure that I’ll be selling these separately, as I may not be able to get them again in the future.


I just scored a big win yesterday! The clip that I use on the end of my personal take up reel that I use for the vanishing birdcage is something that was on a pull that was given to me more than 25 years ago! I’ve been trying to find another one for about 15 years and really haven’t had any luck.

The first challenge was figuring out what the clip was called. Trying to call manufacturers or distributers to ask for it is really hard if you don’t know what to ask for. And usually the guy that answers the phone doesn’t know their parts well enough for my description.

Once I managed to figure out what it was call, then next step was finding them. I found one on ebay, and after getting it, it was too big. This was an achievement, and I’ve confirmed someone is still making them, just not in the size I need. More hunting and phone calls followed and I learned the manufacturer still listed them their catalog in the smaller size I needed, but no distributor or retailer would special order them for me…not even when I offered to fill the minimum wholesale order and they could just tack a fee on top of that.

I continued to push forward trying to work directly with the manufacturer in Europe, but they only deal with people in certain industries, and magic isn’t one of them. This was a dead end, but I was still occasionally email the manufacturer, distributors, and retailers and get the same response.

That leads me to a few months ago when I noticed that the manufacturer had recently opened a warehouse in the USA! Unfortunately there was no phone number on their website, just a contact form. I sent a bunch over the last months and finally got a call back from them! It was a new salesman that was hired on and he happened to see my email and was intrigued by me using it for a magic trick.

After some chatting, he found a workaround to sell them to me as I’m not in an industry that they supply stuff to. Oh, then there was the problem that while the clip in the size I needed was listed in the catalog, they don’t make them any more. He talked to some people in the warehouse and they found a box of them. it was far less than their minimum order, but if I took them all he’d sell them to me…and of course I said YES!

So I’m now owner of a box of clip I use for the vanishing birdcage.

The moral of the story is to keep pushing ahead. When you are working on a trick, or trying to build a prop and you hit a wall, keep pushing forward*. Sure, you can put the project on the back burner for a bit, but you will usually eventually come up with the solution.

*Sometimes there are projects that after some point need to be abandoned.

Interactive Coin Magic

Yesterday’s post I wrote about someone looking for interactive coin magic. Seeing their post, I created an original trick that would fit their requirements. It’s a coin trick, it’s interactive, in that everyone could follow along from home and it has a magical payout. It’s a “touch the screen” type effect, but the magic ending takes it beyond a math puzzle.

here’s how the effect plays, you have three pieces of paper, one has coins written on it, one credit and the final bills:

Someone touches one of the pieces of paper. They spell the word on it, jumping one space per letter.

You tell the you know they aren’t on the word “Bills” so you eliminate that one and throw that piece of paper away.

Now they spell money (starting on the word they ended on), jumping one space per letter.

You tell them you know they aren’t on the Credit, that means they picked the Coins! You then pick up the paper with coins written on it, light it on fire and produce coins!

In my head this coin production would look like this Tommy Wonder picture:

There you go and original, interactive magic trick that had a magical payoff!

While I personally don’t like the the “touch the screen” type effects, I do think that knowing them and understanding how they work make you a more well rounded magician. It’s just another tool in your toolbox that will help you solve a problem.

Interactive Virtual Magic…

A few days ago this post came through my social media feed:

The huge thing is the original poster didn’t define what they meant by “interactive”, it leaves a lot up to interpretation. Do them mean that they interact with people verbally, or is it a Touch The Screen type effect?

The next poster tries to get clarification:

My assertion that any trick can be interactive with a bit of thought, seem a bit outlandish, so they gave me a challenge of a trick that based on how the instructions are written, you really shouldn’t be able to do it virtually.

However I immediately knew how to make it interactive:

I stand by my assertion that any trick can be “interactive” in a virtual show if you put some brain power on the problem, instead of blindly doing what everyone else is doing.

Straight Outta Tarbell…

Way back in 2014 or 2015 the was a trend of shirts that were a play on the NWA graphic which said Straight Outta Compton, but instead of Compton they had different cities, like Straight Outta Miami. I wanted one that said “Straight Outta Tarbell” and one that said, “Straight Outta Erdnase“. I went out and had one of each for me made.

I happened to wear the shirt after a show in Canada while having a drink with the local magicians and my buddy Mike Norden took the picture below:

He posted it and it got shared around a bunch on social media, which eventually led to people asking me if I would sell them one of the shirts. I had a batch made and sold them all very quickly. However I didn’t and still don’t want to be in the T shirt business, so I haven’t had them in a long time. A magic convention asked me if they could use it on their T Shirt and of course I said yes, so that put more of them out there.

It’s been years since you could get one, then someone told me that Square Circle Printing has started making them. They said they were using my idea. First of all, while I think I’m the first person to do it, it’s a play on the NWA graphic and it’s not a huge creative leap to get to Tarbell. I think it’s a case of someone coming up with an idea that I already had independently. If I was still making these or had a garage full of them, I might be a bit upset. However that’s not the situation, so if you want one, hit up Square Circle Printing!

This brings me to how pretty much all of magic tricks have hit the market. I never has sold a magic trick with the intention of selling the trick. I’ve always made things that I wanted, the people start asking me if I’d sell them. So I end up making a batch of whatever it is.

Magical Mixology – Mint Julep

Last week I was hired to do a magical mixology video for a Kentucky Derby themed event. They wanted to have me make Mint Julep, here’s what I ended up sending them:

The hardest thing was making the mint jump at the end. By the time I finally nailed that, it was later in the day and the mint was super wilty. Sometimes good enough has to be good enough!

Hybrid Events…

Lately I’m getting more and more requests for hybrid events. These are live, in person shows, that also have a virtual component. I think we’re going to have more and more of these. Last week I did four school assemblies that were hybrid, with some of the kids in the room with me and some at home. I just hosted a charity auction that was a hybrid event:

Here’s what I’m noticing about these, you can’t easily stage it for both audiences. Most event planners think you can just plunk up a camera, and that’s not the case.

For example the event in the picture above, they had me set up for the camera, but didn’t think about the in person audience. First of all I’m sitting at a table on the opposite side of the room, so I’m losing connection with a huge chunk of the in person audience. The didn’t have a monitor, so I couldn’t see the gallery view of the virtual audience, so I didn’t have any connection with them.

The gig went well, it was a hosting gig, so it wasn’t a show and we ended up raising more money than the charity’s goal for the evening, so it was a success…but it could have been soo much better for both audiences!!!

Working With a Mask

As we move forward and out of the COVID pandemic and venues start to reopen and live, in person entertainment begins to come back, we’re going to have to follow some rules. There are tons of magicians that are saying, “I’ll never do a show with a mask on” or whatever, and that’s fine…it’s their personal choice. The venue’s don’t get a choice, they are given guidelines to follow by the state/county/city and must follow those. So your personal choice will affect your ability to perform.

I think that the fear of performing with a mask, or a no contact show comes from a place of laziness. Why wouldn’t you want to figure out how to do your show no contact? The answer you hear is, “My comedy comes from interacting with people”. Great! you can still do that without someone physically onstage…or onstage 6 feet from you. It just takes some work.

I’ve had to recently reblock my show so that couple things I still do with someone onstage can have the person six feet from me…and we both can be masked. I’ve had to reexamine my show and figure out how to make it work…but that’s something you should be doing every now and then anyway.

Max and Salli Hapner…

Last week I bought a vanishing birdcage on ebay (apparently I collect cages now?) from a seller that wasn’t a magician. I’ll talk a bit more about the cage in another post when I get a chance to do some research on it, but it’s a less common one. The seller included this Doug Henning autographed Playbill in the box that came with the cage:

I’m assuming the Max and Salli it’s signed to are Max and Salli Hapner. I’m not very familiar with their work, but remember seeing them on the cover of a couple of magic magazines, or mentioned in them. From my research this week, Max had a collection of Vanishing Birdcages, so it would make sense that the autograph coming with the cage would reinforce the idea that the autograph was to the Hapners.

It appears Max passed about 10 years ago, and I only found one video of him online, which is him doing The Multiplying Bottles for Stevens Magic Emporium:

One of the fun things about knowing some magic history is that I was immediately able to connect the name on the program to the magic act. One the cover of the Genii Magazine above they are doing their bubble appearance, which according some of the people I’ve talked to the last week was a really amazing trick!

Twice the Reaction!!

Rubiks cube magic

A trick that I love and that has been in my roving magic show forever is ProMystic’s MD Mini. I don’t use the trick how it comes when you order it from them, I use it inside a different shell, and recently moved it up into a Rubik’s Cube. You can read about in this blog post from a few weeks ago.

Last week I was performing in person shows at a school doing one show a day for four days for a middle school age audience. These were my first shows doing this trick in the Rubik’s Cube shell and it played great! In these shows I’m going the trick in a platform show, not close up. There was a huge surprise that happened, it got twice the response that I thought it was going to get!

I got two reactions out of the revelation. The first is when I tell the person the color they picked, they react and the audience reacts to that. THEN the person takes the lid off the box and shows the color they picked and that confirmation of the color got a response. That second response really shouldn’t have surprised me because the whole point of the box was to have that moment of showing the audience the selected color clearly.

I’m glad the Rubik’s Cube shell and box is working out, it’s really they way to do the trick for a larger audience. In the past I sold the trick (and it played well) based on the spectator from the audience’s reaction. The nice thing about doing it with the larger cube is I can do this on stage with no contact and socially distant from the person from the audience who could stand on the opposite side of the stage!