Great Tricks Suck on Low Stages…

A couple of weeks ago I was at a booking conference and one of the acts did Bowl-A-Rama by Kevin James. If you aren’t familiar with the trick, it’s a bowling ball production from a sketch pad. Here’s what it looks like:

This is a great trick…usually. Here’s a picture of the guy I saw doing it:

Do you see the problem with doing it in this venue?

If you can’t spot the problem, here’s what it is: The stage is very low
The production of the bowling ball happened below the guy’s waist, which means most of the audience couldn’t see it. This was his opening effect and totally wasted on the audience.

I don’t fault the performer. He was flying in to do a showcase set and probably only packed his showcase set. Replacing the bit probably wasn’t an option for this specific bit.

One thing I try to do is watch shows from the back of the audience. Another way to do this is put a video camera in the back, but at eye level as if you were sitting in a chair. If you pay attention you will see what’s visible and what isn’t. For me, I try to avoid anything where the action happens below my waist.


Measure for Measure…

measure for measure by iain bailey

A few months ago I picked up the trick Measure for Measure by Iain Bailey on the used magic market. This is a tape measure prediction, where you pull the tape out and someone says stop and wherever they say stop, there’s a giant arrow on the back pointing to that spot.

What I like about the trick is there’s really no explanatory phase to it. You don’t need to set it up, you pull out the tape, they say stop, and the arrow is there. It’s really quick and direct.

Now what I don’t like is that the tape is really hard to manage once you get past a few feet. I think Iain in the video mentions he came up with the trick during the COVID shutdown, so I’m guessing he hasn’t really tried it outside of a virtual context before he released it. The big problem with the trick is that once you get past pulling out a few feet of the tape ruler, it gets very hard to manage. The tape gets floppy and makes the trick hard to present…especially from a technical angle, but also from a visual standpoint. It doesn’t look good with you struggling to hold a tape measure straight.

One solution is to have someone from the audience hold one end of the tape. That’s a decent solution, but it’s not always practical from a stage craft and technical end. My solution was to go to my trusty 3D printer and make a thing that will got onto the mic stand that I can put the tongue of the tape measure into. Here’s what it looks like on the computer:

And here’s what the initial print looks like:

Measure for Measure by Iain bailey

I made it a little bit bigger than it needed to be, so to tighten the gaps, I put the furry side of velcro inside of the holes. I also noticed that the flat end where the tape measure will sit shouldn’t be flat on the top, but concave. I didn’t want print another one, so I hit it with a heat gun, then pressed the tape measure down on it to make it concave. Here’s what the final thing looks like:

Measure for Measure by Iain bailey

That just slips onto a mic stand and I’m good to go.

Measure for Measure by Iain bailey

It holds the end of the tape measure very securely and low, so the audience hopefully can’t really see the backside of it. As a bonus the action of putting it into the holder hides the secret move that needs to take place at the beginning of the trick.

I’ve always said that most of magic is problem solving. Making this little holder took me about 10 mins to design another 10 minutes to alter and solves the big problem with actually doing the trick!



Yesterday I finished making a video for the version of Interactive that I want to do. Interactive is a “touch the screen” type of effect, that doesn’t use counting. You can read my previous blog post about it here.

The version I’m working on uses bigfoot images over the background of the Pacific Northwest. In the end the audience will end up on the same bigfoot image and all of the other ones will fade away.

With touch the screen type tricks, something that I’ve learned in virtual shows, you need something physical to end the trick. Something that adds another layer more that you just pushing play on a graphic, or reading some instructions. For me, the physical thing I’m using is a cast of a bigfoot foot print. On the back of it will be the location of where it was taken, which will match the location of the bigfoot that everyone ended up on.

The reveal of the location at the end is a bonus effect. You aren’t doing anything extra to get the final reveal. If anyone thought about it, and you knew everyone was going to end up on the same bigfoot image, then of course you would have known what that location would be. However, in the moment people don’t think like that.

Is this the bonus effect the strongest effect?

Probably not, but in the moment it does strengthen the touch the screen effect.



The other day I picked up Interactive by Danny Orleans and Mike O’Donnell as it’s on Sale for 25% off right now. Interactive is a “touch the screen” type trick, however it gets it right. There’s no counting or spelling, which ups the odds of you getting everyone to end up on the right place at the end of the trick.

I got the pro version as it comes with the some tutorials and templates to make you own custom versions. I think the pro version is the way to go, it saved me a ton of time making a custom version. Sure, I could have figured out how to make my own custom version from the basic version, but in time saved, it saved me money.

I’m doing a few library shows in 2022 that are cryptid themed, so I made a custom version of the trick using bigfoot. I’m hoping with the talk up, the trick and the extro that I can get about 3 minutes out of it. I see this as something that I can fairly easily customize for themed virtual events and live ones if they have projection. If you know me, you know I dislike doing tricks that are themed to events…however this is relatively painless and I’m not compromising (much) what I’m willing to do.


Masters of Illusion Holiday Special…

I looks like tonight on The CW the 2021 Masters of Illusion Holiday Special will be airing at 8pm. Back in March I did a trick for this special, but don’t know if I’m in it or not.

That’s the crazy thing about doing TV, you don’t know what will make it or not. Of the stuff that I submitted for the next season of Masters of Illusion, I probably put the most work into the holiday trick as it was something that was totally new to me. Where the other stuff for the normal episodes were things that I had done before.

We’ll see if my trick makes it…


MishMash Wallet…

For a while I’ve had an idea for a trick wallet…well for a wallet trick. The wallet w0uld be a Tyvek Wallet and you can have them custom printed with what ever you want on them. My idea is to have a bunch of card pieces put on it, and this is essentially Harry Anderson’s Mishmash Card, but printed on your wallet. The basic effect is someone thinks of a card they see and you reveal it.

In the sample above, there’s more force cards than in Harry’s trick. There’s 8 force cards above. I can now use a similar procedure as in John Kennedy’s Mind Power Deck to figure out the thought of card. I can verbally reveal it, or use a multiple out like in David Harkey’s Minds Eye Deck.

I think combining Kennedy and Harkey’s ideas may make it a stronger trick. I uses figure out what the card is without asking what it is and use that information to set up the reveal. I also like the idea of having your wallet be the trick, so you are good to go whenever!

I just ordered a wallet…I’m betting the design will need some tweaking and I’ll have to redesign it and order another one.


Snappy Flappy Card Transposition!

In my virtual shows I started doing a card change with a flap card. I was isolating the card in a glass, then shaking the glass and the card changes to another card. I really like this, as it makes the change really impossible. The method is simple, it uses a flap card and the card it sitting at an angle. The weight of the card keeps the flap from flipping. Then simply shaking the glass allows the flap to flip for the change.

The other night I was watching a hockey game and playing around with using the flap card in the glass as a card transposition. Here’s what I came up with:

Here’s what the trick needs: It needs some scripting to call attention to just one of the cards. Mention that that jack of diamonds is in the glass, so that when it’s appears in your hand, they know something has happened. I think if you mention both cards, it gets confusing.


Read Nick’s Blog…

If you’re not reading Nick Lewin’s Blog, you are missing out. He just put out a post called “new rules for magicians 2021“, which are 8 rules for magicians. Each of them is solid advice. I want to comment on his first one, which is:

New Rule #1  Realize that not everyone is fascinated by Houdini.

This is 100% true. It’s just a name, not someone that YOU are personally acquainted with. Using Houdini in most instances is a lazy way to find a hook. Usually it’s used in an escape and someone says that they will escape faster than Houdini did. Let’s make an analogy, if I went to see an show and the signer said they were going to sing 9 to 5 better than Dolly Parton, that doesn’t draw me in at all. Just sing the song.

One rule I’ve had in my show for a long time is that I don’t mention any other magician in my show. There’s a reason for that, most people don’t have a connection to that. Not too long ago a local magician had a huge bit where he described a trick that Criss Angel did, but then he related that to a just ok coin trick. Watching this, my impression was that he told me about a TV show he watched where a magician did a way better trick than what the local magician is about to show me. Mentioning the magician took away from the trick.

I think the one exception to mentioning another magician is if you have a relevant personal reason to do it. If you were on Fool Us, then mentioning you did the trick for Penn and Teller makes sense. If you invented a trick for David Copperfield, then mention it. Name dropping those has meaning, just mentioning another magician because you were too lazy to write something better is just that, lazy.


Double Action Pull – Take Two

I redesigned the pulley for the double action birdcage pull that I made yesterday. The main difference is that it’s slightly larger and the hole on the non pulley side has been moved 90 degrees.

Here’s a side by side comparison with the one that I made yesterday. The old one is on the left and the new design is on the right with the strings on it.

double action birdcage pull

I foreseeing possibly making it wider with the ends flaring out, so that it doesn’t roll inside the jacket and twist the line. We’ll see if that actually ends up being a problem, or if tension alone will straighten out or keep the lines straight. I’ll play with it a bit and see what happens.

If you’re curious about this style of pull, I think I first read about it in Jim Steinmeyer‘s book The Magic of Alan Wakeling. In that book it’s used to vanish a fan, however I think using a pulley on a wrist to wrist pull is much older than Wakeling using it.


Double Action Pull…

For some reason I’ve been thinking of the “double action” birdcage pull lately. I’ve used one a long time ago, and never really felt it contributed much to the vanish. Essentially what a double action pull does is give you more pulling power with less motion. It converts your motion 2 to 1, so you move one inch and the line moves two inches! It’s a great way to reduce arm motion for the vanishing birdcage, but adds complexity to the setup. Every bit of complexity you add, it’s another thing that can potentially go wrong. This may be the issue I have with it, the gain of having reduced motion isn’t worth the risk.

I haven’t used one in 15+years. Tonight I decided to make one, so I designed this one to be 3d printed:

double action birdcage pull

Here’s what the insides look like:

double action birdcage pull

There’s not really too much to it, it was a simple design and a quick print. Here’s the printed version:

There are a couple of things I want to change after printing the first one. The big change is that I want it just a little bit larger, so that I can fit a bearing inside for the pulley.

I’ll do a new design later today and hopefully I’ll nail it the second time!