Spotlight 1/00-6/00


Spotlight 1/00-6/00

This page is devoted to general studies and information that may not fit neatly into other study areas or is knowledge fit for both beginner and advanced students. It also acts as the I.C.O.M main theory page. Theory is where the true magic lies, study it well. It is the inner workings of the magical art far beyond the secrets of any tricks, effects or routines.

June 2000

“The Wisch-List”
June 2000
Bill Wisch

Stars Of Magic

Back in 1954, eleven of the top, sleight-of-hand magicians in the world were featured in individual lessons entitled “Stars Of Magic”.

The effects and routines were the “top of the line” and included the very best ever created by these performers. This was the first time anything like this was ever done and it was truly a labor of love by George Starke, the Editor, and George Karger, the photographer. Magic owes these two men, as well as the contributors, a great deal of thanks because there simply was never and has never been, since, a collection of sleight-of-hand effects, routines and sleights that even comes close to this collection. I consider this THE true “magic book” for sleight-of-hand devotees, not only because of the distant lands of imagination one will fly to as they are studying it, but because of the legendary contributors that are literally giving you a private lecture in the highest order of the art.

You feel as if you know these gentlemen after reading their sections. It’s like reading about Mickey Mantle when you’re a kid and having him explain the finer points of hitting, fielding, throwing and catching! And then when you go out on the field and try the tips and ideas you find you’re actually hitting home runs and making circus catches!

I guess you are aware of the fact, by now, that I absolutely love this book. I remember purchasing it in 1971 and bringing it home wondering if I would enjoy it. I had bought and explored other books, some quite good, that were “sort-of” what the doctor ordered (you know how insatiable your magical appetite is when you first really want to get into magic), but after I started flipping through the 165 pages and reading the mini-bios of these legends and then seeing how great the photos were and THEN seeing how it was possible for a rank beginner like me to have the ability to actually acquire a masterpiece and add it to my hungry repertoire (whew!), then I knew I had found THE magic book!

The individual lessons were sold originally as separate lessons. >From what I’ve been told, after the first were sold, the needed capital was then available for the next lessons and so on. They were a huge success in the mid-fifties ( later on it probably wouldn’t have worked because of photocopy machines). Then in 1961 Louis Tannen published them together in the Stars Of Magic book and it is still available from dealers today. How can perfection go out of date?

I strongly believe that if someone spent a lifetime studying and performing exclusively what is contained in this one book, he or she would be one of the top magicians in the world. I know there is Greater Magic, the Tarbell Course, Rice’s Encyclopedia, Slydini’s books and various other works and collections that are superb, but none, in my opinion, have the power and charisma of Stars Of Magic.

I am not going to list the performers and I’m not going to list the tricks. I realized if I did that ( and I had planned to) I would have to go on and on and on about each thing. Bobby would be mad at me because our band-width would be astronomical and no one would want to read the thousands of pages necessary to give these works of art, and master wonder-workers their just recognition and reward.

Just go out and buy it!

And be a Star Of Magic.

May 2000

The Wisch-List
Bill Wisch

Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic

The Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic by Martin Gardner is a literal treasure chest of magic!

Whether you are a rank beginner or seasoned professional, I challenge you to read this book for more than fifteen minutes and not find an item that you get excited about doing or working on.

This monumental, hardcover work (reprinted in 1978 by Magic, Inc.) is a reprint of the serialized material found in the original Hugards Magic Monthly, from March 1951 through April 1958. However, many extra ideas and tips are included in this hardcover edition (listed a,b,c, and so on) with a neat column of space on each page for your personal notes and thoughts.

Many effects you’ve seen or heard about (but never knew how they worked) are here and the instructions are comprehensive and effective. Also, the illustrations by Francis J. Rigney are outstanding and efficient in their simplicity.

My copy contains 574 pages and how can I even begin to mention all my favorite items? There are over 160 topics covered, including: Apples, Bottle Caps, Paper Cups, Dominoes, Hands, Marbles, Neckties, Poker Chips, Scissors, Thimbles, Watches and Zippers!

Your lifelong, magical experience will probably be made up of mostly impromptu situations. I strongly urge you to absorb this material and not miss out on this spectrum. Not reading this book would be like being a movie buff and only watching movies that are made in color.

This book definitely belongs on your shelf. I don’t know any magician that would argue with me, even if that shelf contained only a few, choice books.

April 2000

The “Wisch List”
Bill Wisch

“Modern Coin Magic”

This book is one of the true classics of magic. It contains the basics for almost all of coin magic. In other words you wouldn’t have to read any other book and you could still be a top-notch coin magician.

MCM contains everything you need to know concerning concealment, production and alteration of coins. It has outstanding plots and routines and patter suggestions. It gives detailed accounts of some of the most cherished and “pet” tricks and routines of some of the finest “coin-men” in history. It is laid out very well with a fine index. It also has a history of coin magic.

I know that Dover has come out with a softcover version available in any and all major book stores, or online. The price is, believe it or not, under $10, and in my opinion, there is no other book available anywhere with as much value for so little cost. Check it out on Amazon. Read the reviews and see what others say about it.

There is so much here that no matter where you start reading, you’ll find yourself saying, “Hey, I would really like to learn this!”. Even though it is a fascinating read and fun to just glance through and dream over, I contend that if you decide to pick an effect, sleight or routine out of MCM and are determined to make it yours NO MATTER WHAT, you will be rewarded with the true wonder of magical study…RESULTS! Many magic books contain great items but lack good explanation which leads to frustration and lack of fulfillment. MCM has a unique quality about it. I think that is what I like most. It really provides the necessary explanation and instruction to actually teach you…if you let it and stay at it. But you have to want to read and study this book if you want the results. Self-working coin tricks are very rare.

I chose this as my first pick for the “Wisch List” for two reasons. First, it’s my single, most favorite book in magic. My original copy is literally falling apart. Second, it is an excellent book to use with the study-system I gave you last month. Try it!

While lecturing over the years I had the pleasure to meet many of the contributors of MCM. This was like magic in itself for me. One quick story. I was running the booth for Sasco Magic about 10 years ago at the St. Louis, IBM convention. Needless to say, I was demonstrating coin effects, day after day…all day. A number of the true legends of coin magic were at the convention, many of which had effects in the “Bobo Book” (the generic name for MCM). It was a real treat to actually meet them and have them show me the same effects I had read about for years. But the biggest surprise was when Jim Buffaloe, after showing me his phenomenal items, told me that Bobo himself was there and that if I’d like, he’d bring him over to meet me. I could go on and on about the lengthy session that I, along with many other lucky magicians, witnessed that day, but let me say that J.B. Bobo was absolutely no fluke! He could do EVERYTHING in his book to perfection! That was the highlight of the whole convention as far as I was concerned. It was like one of those rare, surreal times we all experience once in a great while. What a trip!

So, you can see why I picked this book to start out the “List”. I guess I could go on and on but let me just mention a few of the items I enjoy the most ( it’s tough because I could say the whole book!).

  • Guess which Hand p134
  • Coin through Ring p171
  • The Bent Penny p186
  • Silver Extraction p187
  • Rattle Box Routine page 207
  • Presto Chango p245
  • Stack of Halves p255
  • Routine #4 p342

You haven’t lived until you’ve curled up with Modern Coin Magic (The “Bobo Book”).

March 2000

“Magic by the Book”
Bill Wisch

Magic CAN be found!

Like my partners Bobby, Ron and Oscar, I have an affinity for any and all magic books…large, small, great and sometimes not so great. I believe there is something to learn from each book ever written, even if it is the knowledge that the book is lousy. It’s a little like Edison. He had to go through over 800 failures before he developed the automobile battery. But he said, “I found out 800 things that I NEEDED to know to have that one thing I HAD to know.” The same holds true for the printed magical page.

This is the beginning of a new series for the Spotlight called “The Wisch List”. I am going to try to list books that have inspired me…intrigued me…become part of me…led me through wonderland.

This list will involve magic books and non-magic books that have a lot of magic, if that makes sense.

I am going to try to add a new addition to the “Wisch List” every month but if I miss a month now and then, please forgive me.
I am confident you will enjoy this feature of I.C.O.M.


Many say that it’s hard to learn from books. This can be true. But why? Why is it so hard? Is it the book’s fault? Maybe. Maybe it’s not written very efficiently of completely enough to instruct properly. But how come many of the effects I’ve learned from books are among the least explained or developed? Go figure.

I did develop a system many years ago when it came to learning from technical books. Maybe it came from having to learn the art of percussion from the printed page since I couldn’t find (or afford) a teacher when I started. This opening introduction to the Wisch List will contain that system. In coming segments I will not only name and discuss magical and non-magical works but go into further detail how I believe effects can be extracted from them like nuggets of gold in a mine perceived to be barren or empty.

Let’s stay basic to start.

First step…choose your book or periodical. Obviously, for whatever reason, the item is already interesting to you or you wouldn’t have it, right? Don’t prejudge it in any way. Consider that effect or routine an entity. Literally make your mind blank.

Second, get comfortable…in silence or with soft music if you like. Pick a chair or position of maximum comfort. Don’t have anything to distract you, at least for the next few minutes or you may miss that incredibly important “spark”.

Third step…read the entire piece from start to finish. Do Not Stop! Read the whole piece, even if you think it’s not for you. You may be surprised. Only after you finish (even if it takes a while) do you close your eyes and make the decision whether this would work for you or not. Try to picture yourself performing what the author just explained. Do you see it? Would it work with minor or even major changes? Do you think it’s “you”?

Fourth…the investigation stage. If the effect excites you then you re-read for investigation. Find out exactly what you will need to use. Then investigate what you will have to do. Can you accomplish what must be done or do you have an alternative method? Do you have all the props needed? Go get them or make them up. Have everything! Don’t assume or imagine.

Fifth step…read the run-through. Become familiar with the handlings and props. Is there anything you can’t figure out? Try again and again. Try different handlings that may fit the description. Be creative.

Are you happy with the effect or routine at this stage?

If so, you start the rehearsal stages.

Read through a least five times. Each time rehearse the effect with the patter and movements necessary. This may sound like over-kill but I have seen far too many performers with “under-kill”. Rehearse a lot of times. Do not show the trick to anyone until you’ve done a whole bunch of rehearsal, and only show the item to one or two close people, preferably non-magicians (bear in mind that it has been proven that wives are only good for watching 458 tricks before burn-out so be careful).

Now read the entire effect or routine for REVIEW.

You’ll know when it’s ready to try it and by all means, go for it.

If it fails, decide if it can be salvaged or if even if you WANT it to be salvaged. You’ll know.

If the item passes all thiese tests….then Voila! Instant magic!!! You now have a new “magical buddy” to spend the rest of your life with.

Who said it’s tough to learn magic from a book?

February 2000

DR. OM’s Treatise on Showmanship and Stagecraft for the Performing Artist Part XVII


Directors Bobby J. Gallo and Bill Wisch have been raising interesting questions for Dr. OM to Contemplate. This installment’s question is concerned with the nature of CHARISMA, that attractive and irresistible personal quality which on the stage is an. electrically charged presence commanding audience interest and attention.

Dr. OM has previously touched upon the subject of charisma in an earlier article in the series which discussed this quality in actors, singers, and magicians. GOOD NEWS–charisma is an innate capacity in everyone, although not always developed in everyone. Understanding the source of charisma is the first step toward releasing the gift and letting the light shine through.

The existentialist philosophers speak of the SELF; the Hindu mystics speak of ATMA, which is the God within the self; western mystics speak in the more familiar term of the SOUL, which is the inner or spirit self. Each of these concepts differs from one another, but, generally speaking, getting in touch with the inner self, by any name, is moving toward the possession of charisma.

CHARISMA might well be thought of as a visible manifestation of the inner self. Examples of well known charismatic performers who have, as a matter of public record, sought after the inner self, and their several and diverse sources of insight, may be of value to encourage the personal pursuit by Dr. OM’s readers. Those who come to mind are The Beatles (study under a guru); Jeff McBride (drumming and meditation); Ronald and Nancy Reagan (astrology); Eugene Burger (eastern mysticism and world mythology); and Shirley McLaine (past life experiences). Dr. OM’s own sources are: The Hindu Bhagavadgita, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, The Book of Job, Ecclesiastes, The Sermon on the Mount, world mythology, and transcendental mystical poetry of any place and time, to list a few. Reading widely about the quest for selfhood provides helpful insights toward the realization of charisma.

Tapping the resources of the inner self is achievable through MEDITATION. The most simple form of meditation is to concentrate on one’s own breathing while either silently or audibly repeating a MANTRA. Dr. OM’s mantra is the classical OM (~) of the Hindus. Lying prone with the tips of the right-hand thumb and fingers touching those of the left hand in a curled fashion and mentally counting backward from one hundred to zero while concentrating on one’s breathing and beginning the utterance of the mantra upon reaching zero is a helpful technique. The technique may be applied to recalling anything forgotten: a person’s name, a telephone number, or more complex thoughts, by requesting the wider memory of your inner self to remind you of the forgotten item, upon reaching zero in the backward counting; then letting go, not trying to remember consciously. Inevitably your inner self will bring what you have forgotten to the forefront of your conscious mind. When it does, you must thank your inner self; that acknowledgment encourages better and better communication between what the psychologists call the subconscious and the conscious mind, which is important to sense memory in a performer for the purpose of body awareness and placement and to tactile memory in the handling of props and the retention of routines which when on automatic, so to speak, emerges as charisma. Charisma will not emerge in the magician who is concentrating on the mechanics of his art; the mechanics must be subsumed. Concentrate on the inner self through frequent meditation and the inner self will emerge charismatically during the performance, because to touch the inner self is to visibly become the inner self and to be in the aura of the inner self.

Recently the buzz words: “He is comfortable in his own skin,” have become popular in Washington D.C., often referred to by the buzz words: “this town.” Apparently, even the Washingtonians can recognize the real thing of the emergent inner self when they see it. Unfortunately, the words have been applied too liberally to politicians who fake a veneer of a pretended inner self–a pseudo self. When a real self emerges he will be recognized as the charismatic leader so much sought after.

History provides many and varied examples of charismatic presidents. Among many who have faded into dim reca1l, the charismatic are those whom everyone remembers: Washington, Jefferson, and Lincoln, to name a few of the earlier; more recently: Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Reagan stand out from the crowd. Granted, not everyone liked or agreed with any of the above, but each of the presidents named appealed to a significant number of Americans who regarded them as charismatic. Notice that the attraction often transcended even partisan divisions.

The prescription is simple enough: know thyself; be thyself; act thyself, and your stage persona will not be a mere mask but a believable character who grows out of thyself and will be accepted as the real you by your audience. Look to thyself for the emotions you wish to convey; do it naturally; do not pretend. Acting is not pretending but being.


What a fantasic lesson, and Ron has included one of my all time favorite effects. The Ball & Cone!…BJG

January 2000

“An Idle Mind”
Ronald J. Dayton

An idle mind is like a computer in ‘sleep mode’…it’s saving itself…but I’m not quite sure for what. I find that looking for ways to stimulate the thought process is like weight training for the brain. It keeps you fit and toned. It gives you the stamina to endure times when fatigue might well dull the senses. It fortifies your ability to think clearly during times of stress. It is the saving grace when deadlines are to be met.

What do you say…let’s go to the cerebral gym and work out for a while ! <G>

Many authorities in magic suggest that we look to the past to find guides to the future. I believe this is very sage advice. Like it or not…modern performers are confronted with the fact that many brilliant and ground breaking methods were devised and in use long before our times. It has even been suggested that there is nothing new under the sun. A cliche perhaps…but more truthfully, a statement based in fact.

Much of what we are doing today are adaptations of principles and methods of the past. We have found new ways and materials to give them a fresh look…but in essence, they are ghosts of the past.

That is not to say that I find particular fault with this. History of any kind provides the back- ground and understanding to build on the present. I would like to throw out a few ideas to you this month, and see where you might think they could lead.

Let’s take for example an effect from the twenties and thirties…applications for which appear in the bound volumes of original Thayer Magic. The effect is the Cone and Ball. You might say that it was a spin-off of a cups and balls routine…using only one cup or cover…blended with a non gimmicked concept of the Chop Cup…a piece of apparatus not to be created until several decades later. I hope I am not confusing the issue. But basically, a solid ball is displayed …covered with a cone shaped cover…and using only natural principles…the ball is caused to vanish and reappear at will.

How? The answer is so simple, you may not believe it. The shape of the cone itself causes the ball to wedge fit inside when the ball is dropped into the cone. Lifting the cone, the ball appears to
have vanished. Setting the cone back down on your table with a small amount of force dislodges the ball, and allows it to reappear. That is all there was to it. But the question I am posing to you at this moment is, how do we apply this principle to objects more easily related to by audiences fast approaching a new millennium ?

Time to exercise your mind. Think of what ever objects might make sense as a replacement for the time honored leather cone. Ready? Go! I’ll wait.

Conical shaped? What modern objects are acceptible cone shaped covers for a ball? How modern are we talking in the first place? That is an excellent question. See…the thought process is beginning to pay off already. Just how modern am I talking about.

The answer to this, as with so many things, is ellusive… but for the sake of arguement, let’s assume that the presentation you want to give has a setting in the days of flint locks and blunder-busts guns. The barrel of these early guns were shaped like a funnel…and this in essence is a cone shape. The guns also used ‘shot’…which was molten lead formed into the shape of balls. So imagine that. We have a cone, and a ball, blended into a historically themed routine. A performer who is really on his toes can see all sorts of possibilities for this…not the least of which is a cannon ball production finale’ from beneath your stylized hat.

What other things are cone shaped?? Well, factories of the past which dealt in thread and string would wind the finished product on sturdy cone shaped cardboard forms. I wish I knew the proper term for these spools…but I do not. For all I know, spools may actually be correct. No matter though, because the object we have been searching for has been found once again. We
have our cone. Now, a second consideration. What type of ball would be logical to use with same?

I have a suggestion. We have a spool of thread…but why not say it held yarn instead. The knitting needle becomes our magic wand…and the ball of yarn becomes our spherical shape. Another solution found.

Now…as a last little test for the mind, let’s upgrade the effect to present day. What in the world would we use? What is a cone? I’m thinking….Baskin Robbins. That’s right, an ice cream cone. And the ball is of course, the stylized scoop of ice cream! That was too easy. <G>

For the younger performers out there…you might need a bit of help to put a few of these ideas together…after all, much of this was far before your time. Don’t be afraid to ask older people for suggestions. They might just have an idea or two of their own to share. What I have given you are simply suggestions, examples of how to go about striving to be creative. And before I bid you adieu…I have two more cone/ball combinations to share with you.

Circus theme…a pointed clown’s hat…and a ball decorated to resemble the clown’s head and face*. Second idea…a sports theme. Small basketball, and a megaphone.

Good luck in your search my friends. It may not be easy at first…but the struggle is half the fun, and the power of the mind can move mountains.



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