Captcha Their Imagination


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 request to ‘Click all the squares containing a lamppost’, or similar.

So, turning that into a hook, you can present your own magic version in a virtual show.

Psychic Captcha

Explain that before you can properly start, you just need to check that an audience member isn’t a robot. Mention the ReCaptcha images they’ve come across online, and say you have a magic version, that checks their human intuition.

You show a 3 x 3 grid of cards, back outwards. Explain that some are odd, others are even. Have them guess which cards are even, then turn all the cards around to show that they’ve intuited correctly, proving that they’re human.

The method

Good question! A two-way out (or rather, nine of them), seems to make most sense. But which is best, I’m not sure. Maybe double-ended odd/even cards, or double-facers in envelopes, perhaps.


For a closer link to the inspiration, it would be nicer to do this with photos. Maybe you could do it on a large scale, using nine of Richard Osterlind’s special picture frames? Or some kind of flap cards? Or double cards, picked up together or singly, on a black-art background? Or the two-way folded cards taught on Jamie Daw’s Magic Factory? Or something else entirely?

If you come up with something cunning, let me know.