Wide Open Magic

Tricks and ideas for fresh magic.

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What The Beep?!

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Hope peeps had a good Easter. Since Stranger Things has helped usher in a resurgence in all things ’80s over the past few years, here’s an ’80s-inspired presentation for a multiple selection routine. The inspiration I saw a post online (I can’t find it now, sadly) with someone reminiscing about being at school in the ’80s and having to do the dreaded Beep test (wiki...

Talking Creativity With Craig Petty

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Craig Petty recently interviewed me for his Magic TV YouTube channel, and it’s just been released. I’ve known of Craig ever since he was kind enough to give my book Plot Twists a nice review on the Wizard Product Review – he even constructed his own version of the Changing Expressions trick with his passport photos – so it was great to finally ‘meet’ him for a...

Half Torn And Not Restored Card

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This week, a quick idea for a pick-a-card trick, ending with a pleasingly strange visual. The Inspiration As with many of my tricks, this was sparked by a combination of two things: Old-school hand-crank single-cut paper shredders, that make long strips of paper. I’ve seen some magicians use them for fire-free versions of Terry-Seabrooke’s ‘destroyed’ bill-to-wallet...

Captcha Their Imagination

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Following on from last week’s Zoom-inspired post, here’s another idea for a way to use the online world as magic hook. The inspiration Unless you’re still using a Commodore 64, you’ll have seen the ReCAPTCHA photo grids that sometimes pop up when you’re trying to access a website, so you can prove you’re not a robot. They’re usually a street scene with a...

Symboji: reframing a mentalism classic

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My kids are currently obsessed with clicking the reaction emojis during video calls. So naturally, my thoughts turned to magic, and how to integrate them into a trick. Here’s a way to adapt a classic mentalism routine to Zoom shows: The Idea Adapt the method of Symbologic, the ESP symbol-matching trick by Hen Fetsch, to the reaction emojis on Zoom/Skype. If you know Symbologic, you’ll...

OMG&T: One Bottle, Multiple Reveals

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As the old saying goes, if you have fifty different tricks with the same ending, you have one trick. If you have the same trick with fifty different endings, you have fifty tricks. So here’s an idea for a different ending to a prediction trick. Specifically, it’s a way to reveal six different pieces of information, without the usual turning around playing cards or notepads. The...

I’m Not A Cat, I’m a Magician

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Here’s a quick idea to add to your Zoom magic show, inspired by two recent things: The hilarious video doing the rounds online of the lawyer on a Zoom call who couldn’t turn off a cat filter on his face. If you haven’t seen it, take 39 seconds to watch it now – the cat’s expressions, the understated judge, it’s all just perfect.My ‘Pull Back and...

The Kinks, Part 3: Twisting Card To Box

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To finish up our short series about adding kinks to magic (Just joining? Read part 1 and part 2 first), here’s a kink to add to a card to box routine. Usual Plot A card is chosen and then appears in the box. The Kink The card doesn’t appear inside the box, but within the layers of the box itself. Inspirations Back in 2015, Cards Against Humanity announced that they’d hidden a...

The Kinks, Part 2: 5 Adaptable Examples

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In last week’s post (here), I introduced the idea of adding more ‘kinks’ to tricks to make them less predictable, while retaining their original endings. This week, I’ll share four examples of existing tricks that feature kinks. For each, I’ll identify the plot and the kink. Then, I’ll mention the principle being employed, so you can re-apply it to create new...

The Kinks: A Powerful Technique For Less Predictable Tricks

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“I’ve seen this one!” We’ve all heard this frustrating phrase when we pull out a deck of cards. And in part, it’s because many tricks are quite predictable. When they pick a card, you’ll usually find it. When one coin magically travels across, the rest will usually follow. Traditionally, magicians have responded to this challenge in two ways: 1. Ignore the...

Never Been Seen: a Tool For Curiosity And Creativity

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About a decade ago, on my previous blog, I wrote a post called ‘Wikreativity’. The gist: using Wikipedia’s ‘random article’ option to give your brain a random topic to stimulate your creativity (based on Random Word Stimulation). The other day, researcher/performer/all-round-good-egg Naomi Paxton posted a link to a wondrous web-page that digs into the Science...

Snowstorm In Chingford: Using Weather To Enhance Zoom Shows

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As I’m writing this, it’s snowing outside my window. In fact, that’s the inspiration for this post. It’s an opportunistic idea to keep in your back pocket, which can add an element of, well, the elements, to your Zoom shows. You won’t be able to do it often, but when you can, it’ll be a memorable moment. The Inspiration As often happens, this idea came from...

Fingerlings For Finger-Flingers

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Gaffing ordinary objects to work in tricks is part and parcel of being a magician. But occasionally, a kind coincidence crops up and you find an object which happens to be ideally suited for magic, with no alteration needed. Here’s one example I discovered recently (or rather, my kids discovered the toy, and I thought ‘Maybe I could use it in a trick’ – like I do with...

OOTW: Out Of This Willpower

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Following on from my recent post about using everyday conversations as hooks for tricks, here’s another: The Inspiration New Year’s Resolutions. It’s something that’s on many people’s minds around now. Many make them, few keep them. Which feels like a good, relatable emotional hook for a trick. The Trick Out Of This World is a great trick, yet as is often the case in...

Will The Cracker Jokes Match?

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A quick Christmas idea this week that I may have shared before, but is worth mentioning again at this time of year. As the title suggests it’s simply this: Twist Larry Becker’s classic Will The Cards Match? trick to use Christmas cracker jokes (spelling ‘Will The Jokes Match’ instead). Just hold five cracker joke slips as a packet, carefully tear them in half to separate...

The Wrong Trousers, The Right Trick

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Since the big shift to working from home, sales of casual clothing have apparently jumped, while sales of formal shoes have dropped. Which makes sense, since people can often only see your upper half on video calls. This got me thinking about the Anchorman image of Will Ferrell wearing a suit jacket but no pants (US ‘pants’, as in UK ‘trousers’; not UK ‘pants’...

Have Yourself A Very ‘Die Hard’ Christmas

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You know when you’re chatting with friends and the subject of ESP naturally comes up? Nope, me neither. I’ve always been amused by the idea of trying to casually steer an everyday conversation round to the esoteric subject of a magic trick. I think one way we can make magic feel more current and relevant is to use more current, relevant conversations as starting points for tricks. So...

Coin To Impossibler Location

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‘Object to impossible location’ routines are fab. So here’s a way to make the ‘impossible location’ even more impossible by shifting the reappearance location much further away. It’s the kind of trick you’d normally need an assistant for, but you can use this pleasingly ridiculous method instead. The Inspiration As is often the case, combining two...

Pretty Darn Fun (PDF): The No-Padlock Padlock Trick

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I’ve always liked tricks where you guess the combination of a padlock. But I wanted a more virtual version. So I taught myself coding, infiltrated Adobe’s HQ posing as an intern called Garamond Futura, and through months of subtle persuasion, got them to include a guess-the-code feature into pdfs. Okay, enough entirely believable backstory, what am I talking about? This… The...

CTPAAN: Card To Pocket At Any Number

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Don’t worry – this isn’t one of those Franken-tricks, where two simple tricks are combined into one messy monstrosity. Instead, it’s an idea for a hidden feature of David Williamson’s modern classic 51 Cards To Pocket that can be used by anyone who performs it. The Inspiration I’ve been thinking about how the reveal of the 51 cards is usually presented, i.e...

Why Being A Rounded Magician Is Overrated

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As regular readers know, I love getting inspiration from outside magic. So this week I want to share one of my favourite books. It has great ideas, great writing…just a terrible title. It’s called Rules For Aging by Roger Rosenblatt and it’s a “wry and witty guide to life”. It’s full of unconventional nuggets of wisdom, in the form of numbered rules. I’ll...

What The Fridge?! Your Home Is Now your Gig Bag

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A short post about a quick realisation I had the other day (which others may also have had, but it helped me think differently, so I’m sharing it in case it’s useful). From the few clips and ebooks I’ve seen about Zoom magic shows, most seem to feature close-up or parlour tricks, with small- to medium-sized props. This makes sense, since that’s what we’re used to...

Do It Your Ways: Finding Multiple ways To Do Magical Actions

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Picking. Signing. Shuffling. There are many standard actions in magic. In fact, they’re so standard that we do them without thinking. But the standard way of doing them is only one way. So how many different ways are there? It’s easy to feel like there’s a limited number. But this post was inspired by a strangely captivating video that cropped up on my feed, by Jan Hakon...

Fast And Curious: Twisting The Racing Prediction

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*Update* After posting this, a magician friend let me know that Kimmo Magic Shop have already had the idea of doing a superhero angle for the race prediction. Well done them! One of the downsides to inventing a lot of magic is that sometimes you’ll find you’ve reinvented the wheel. Such is life. Anyway, since they got there first with the superhero race idea, you should definitely...

The DCMCU: Creating A Blockbuster Superhero Crossover Trick

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New superhero blockbusters aren’t coming out any time soon, but that doesn’t mean you can’t give your audience their superhero fix though magical means. The Inspiration At its simplest, creativity is sometimes described as combining two existing ideas to create a new one. So in this case, we’re combining a trick from the magic world with a hook from the movie world. The...

Adding Bite To Book Tests With ‘The Raw Shark Texts’

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While book tests can be great (I do one myself), they’re often a bit dry. So let’s dive in to discover a way to make them more interesting. There’s an old saying in creative advertising (my other job, when I’m not magic-ing) that if you’re really stuck for an idea for an ad, just stick a dog in it. So, twisting that to magic, here’s my version – when it...

Miser’s Nightmare

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Lots dollar bills

Whenever I see a trick that lots of different magicians perform, but with a very similar presentation, my ears prick up. Maybe it’s because, like Lady Gaga, I’m “obsessively opposed to the typical” (sadly, that’s where the likeness ends). But also because there’s good potential to come up with something interesting, since it’s a proven audience favourite...

Three Little Words: How Netflix Can Help Pinpoint Your Performing Persona

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Bowl of popcorn

Like many people, I’ve succumbed to a Netflix subscription during lockdown. But even when I’m taking a break from thinking about magic, I often end up thinking about magic! Recently, I’ve been working on finding a pithy way to describe my onstage persona. One evening, I went onto Netflix and… The Inspiration I noticed that almost every show is accompanied by a few...

Pull Back And Reveal

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Street from above

There’s a classic comedy technique known as the ‘pull back and reveal’ (a.k.a. ‘pull back reveal’ or, in TV, the ‘reveal shot’). TV Tropes has a good summary of it here. Basically, as the name suggests, you start close in on a scene, then pull back and reveal more information, often with humorous results. And since every Zoom show is a TV show, of sorts...

Hold Up

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Tree being held up

Displaying playing cards in wine glasses is so classy, it makes Ron Burgundy jealous. But what if you want to show more cards, or display more of the faces with fewer distracting reflections? I was wondering this recently, while playing with A New World by Dean Dill and Michael Weber. I wanted to perform it at chest height, as I generally prefer that for Zoom shows. It got me thinking about other...

Social Distancing Show Tips From Griffin And Jones

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Griffin and Jones performing magic

Since y’all (hey, I’m half American, just go with it) seemed to enjoy Oliver Tabor’s account of doing a stage show online, here’s another guest post about performing in these strange times. If you don’t know them, Steve Griffin and Nathan Jones are a beautifully bantering, endlessly entertaining, multiple-Edinburgh-Fringe-shows-a-day performing magic duo. I’ve...

Reveal Your Sins

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Apple

Relax, I haven’t become a fire and brimstone preacher. This is a quick presentation idea for any trick themed around the Seven Deadly Sins. I came up with it a while back, for a trick using blank-faced cards with sins on, but I was reminded of it recently when reading Mark Elsdon’s timely ZOOMentalism, which includes a pleasingly prop-less Seven Sins routine. Whatever method you use...

Ideas From The Impossibility Scale

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Ruler scale with lighbulb icon

Last week, I wrote about a fascinating psychology study that found that people have an intuitive scale for how hard different feats of magic are.  If you missed it, check out the post (especially the diagram) as today’s post will be cover some ideas that it sparked for me when thinking about how to apply it to magic tricks. 7 Things To (Re)Consider Cups & Balls beginning: Many...

The Impossibility Scale

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Scale by Markus Spiske

What’s more impossible?  As soon as we start deciding on the order of phases in a trick, or tricks in a show, this question raises its meddlesome head (like a Scooby Doo baddie, but without the “It was you all along” unmasking).  If only there was a way to skip the guesswork and get some concrete answers. Well, thankfully there is. Please give it up...

Update 0002

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Circle of blue pencils

Bringing Up Baby Following my recent post about ten ways to twist the baby gag, Joe McKay kindly sent me a link to Bill Abbott’s interview with David Acer. In it, David talks about creating fresh takes on existing bits that are “familiar in form but new in concept”. Plus lots more hard-won, perfectly-put advice about what we can learn from stand-up comedy. It’s great...

Theatre In The Time Of Coronavirus

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Oliver Tabor and Vicky Butterfly

While we’ve seen many Zoom shows during the pandemic, I only know of one stage magic show livestreamed from a theatre – the recent Magic at the Barn performances put on by my friend Oliver Tabor. Oliver and I go way back (we met as teenagers in Davenport Magic’s Demon Club) and I’ve always been impressed with his optimism and give-it-a-go attitude. I thought other...

Ten Twists: The Baby Gag

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I have a secret life (sort of). For 15 years, I’ve juggled two careers. When not being a magician, I’m a ‘Conceptual Copywriter’, an un-enlightening term that basically means I create ideas and write words. And in this other career, I often brainstorm – producing shed-loads of ideas, which are then whittled down to the best few. the benefits of Brainstorming...

Update 0001

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Circle of blue pencils

To break up the wall-to-wall ideas, every now and then I’ll be posting updates about things I’ve been sent or projects I’m working on. But don’t worry, I’ll still be posting an idea at the same time. Oh, and yes, by adding those zeros to the title, I’m adding a hint of peril – what will happen to my system after I’ve written 9,999 updates...

The Tumble Shuffle

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Playing cards being tumbled

How can you hand out cards for shuffling without handing them out? Jay Sankey shared his solution to this Zoom-show conundrum on a recent YouTube video (up for a limited time and since taken down, I believe). It’s good, but I wanted something that felt even more chaotic. The solution came to me while moving a box in the loft. In fact, the box was the solution. Let’s get ready to...

Exact Exaggeration

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Steak

This small scripting tweak can make your tricks a million times better. Well, maybe not a million, but maybe 1.5 times. It was inspired by an episode of Parks & Recreation, one of my favourite sitcoms, for several reasons (ask me sometime). With a little thought, it contains oodles of techniques and ideas that can be applied to magic. The Inspiration In this case, it’s a line from Ron...

Hop Swap

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Small frog on finger by Sergiu Nista

Online shows can present problems. But, as Jonah Babins has noted, they can also create opportunities. So, as an example, here’s a nice organic switch that they allow. There are a few tricks that use a hopping origami frog made from a playing card. Michael Close has one in Workers 2 (The Frog Prince), as does Scotty York in For Your Eyes Only (Froggy Goes A’Courtin). If you do any of...

Flying Without Wings

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Plane in a forest by David Kovalenko

Everyone could do with a holiday right now. So why not give your audience a virtual vacation, with an interactive trick you can perform over Zoom (or Skype, or Teams, or fax (ok, maybe not fax)). The Idea Use Google Earth to reveal a chosen location, so people can ‘fly’ there. The Details In case you haven’t used it recently (or ever), Google Earth isn’t magic, but it...

Reservoir Jacks: The Movie

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Blood with play button

The constantly creative Nikola Arkane took my Reservoir Jacks idea (described here) and ran with it.

This is the result – it made me smile from ear to unsevered ear:

Oh, and if you don’t already read her blog, you should:

arkaneshop.com/news

The quantity and quality of magic she’s developing as part of her ‘Isolation Creation Station’ is really inspiring.

Sub Trunk? Might As Well Jump

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Person jumping

How to present the sub trunk illusion in a fresh way? Do it on a trampoline, with a mid-air change. Picture this… One person (who we’ll call Hayden) is tied up under a big trampoline – but safely, so they don’t get squished by the jumper above. A second person (who we’ll call Christensen) is atop the trampoline jumping around, like House of Pain. Two helpers others...

Building Castles In The Sky

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You don’t have to be Dwayne Johnson to grapple with a skyscraper. Here’s how to use a one to adapt a classic magic prop. Appearing card castles have never looked very convincing to me – too square and un-triangle-y. They look more like, well, skyscrapers. So let’s lean into that. The Prep Redecorate a card castle as a skyscraper, with some grey and black card. You’ll...

Clocks, Blocks & Clay

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Lego brick building blocks

One of the things you notice when talking to other magicians is just how differently people can view the same trick. And the lens through which we see magic tricks affects what we do with them. So here’s a way that I often look at tricks when considering what to buy, develop or perform. Essentially, whenever I come across a trick, whether it’s a new release or an older routine, I ask...

2 Simple Words For Crystal Clear Plots

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Block lettering

“Confusion is not magic” said Ed Marlo (Kidding! Vernon, obvs). But when it comes to trick plots, how do you avoid ending up with a muddled multi-climax monstrosity? Here’s a elegantly simple way from Matt Stone and Trey Parker, of South Park fame (or intentional infamy). Watch the video (it’s under 3 minutes) then we’ll look at how to apply it to magic. Okay, so...

Reservoir Jacks

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Blood red swirl

A classic card plot given a Tarantino-esque twist. One of the first card tricks I ever learnt was the one where the four Jacks attempt to rob a hotel (the deck). Each Jack goes to a different floor (different part of the deck), then the cops arrive and they all assemble on the roof (the top of the deck) to escape. It’s a reasonable presentation hook, but to use a phrase from Save The Cat...

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