Beginner’s Study 1/98-3/98

Official I.C.O.M Past Lesson Archive

Beginner’s Study 1/98-3/98

January 1998

The Oldest Dog Of Them All!
Bobby J. Gallo
The following routine is literally as old as the “magical” hills. The decision and inspiration for including it here is credited to Ron Dayton who wrote this months piece “Old Dog, New Trick” in the ICOM Kid Show Konservatory”. This is my contribution to the quest for the revitalization of ancient magic effects. And I’m sure any seasoned magic pro will agree, there is no older effect than the one I am about to share with you now.

What makes this the subject of this months lesson is also the fact that I am currently featuring this in both my close-up and kid shows! So, if you think this is all “smoke and mirrors” Think again!

The old dog I am referring to is the classic magnetized wand. It has been featured in countless beginners books on magic as well as cereal boxes since what seems to be the beginning of time. In truth, it is the kind of trick that probably “was” done with one prop or another since the modus operandi is so simple.

The basic effect is the demonstration of anti-gravity. Any object from a magician’s wand to a pencil can be made to suspend from the palm of the magician’s hand with no gimmicks what-so-ever. The basic moves of the feat are as follows.

Display the wand remarking to the audience that it is totally ordinary and un-gimmicked. (is a magician’s wand ever really ordinary? Hmmmm….) Now, explain that if you hold the wand in your hand, then grab your wrist, upon opening the hand the wand remains miraculously suspended.

Fig#2 shows the behind the scenes maneuver that makes it all possible. The right hand index finger hold the wand against the palm of the left hand keeping it from falling. This is done secretly at the point when the right hand grasps the left wrist.

Fig #2
For all intensive purposes, the trick can end right here as it has been time since time immemorial. However, that will result in one or all of the following scenarios.

  • You have performed what is truthfully a mediocre trick. But hey, the kids like it!
  • 50% of the spectators will know what you are doing, no matter how smooth you do it.
  • “You” will be pretty disappointed that this is the end of this months lesson! “We can’t have that!”

Fortunately, The Routine can be expanded to make it a real mind-blower! This is how. Instead of trying to persuade the audience with the fact that the wand is actually clinging to your hand, make a pseudo magic lesson out of it like I do. (I was told be several leading magicians not to release this routine, but I’m going to anyway. I.C.O.Mer’s are worth it!)

Start by saying that you will teach the audience how to do a magic trick themselves. Go through the above motions right up to the point where the wand is suspended. Now, ask the audience if they know how it is done. If they say no, you may end the trick right here without exposing the method if you prefer. But if they “do” know what you are doing, I feel that in this rare case, it is proper to expose the method for the greater impact of the pending climax.

Proceed to remove your finger from the wand, leaving it genuinely suspended in mid-air! See Fig #3

How is this done you ask? Answer next month………No, just kidding! It is done with a ploy that is not new. Much like the trick itself. It was performed and featured by the great Max Malini in his full evening show. He used to do this during his stage show with a couple of cigars. In Vernon’s book, Malini And His Magic (Supreme, Out of Print) Malini had a moist eperdermis (skin), with which he could press his hands to almost any light object which then would allow them to cling to his hands with no gimmicks what-so-ever!

Upon learning this I realized that most magicians after about fifteen minutes of performing sleight-of-hand find their skin in this condition. Slightly moist and damp due to natural perspiration.
You will also need a very light magic wand. Actually, I have found that the wands available in the I.C.O.M Online Catalog work perfectly! (I know this sounds like a commercial plug but it also happens to be true!) Merely grasp the wand in a tight fist, then slowly open the fingers. The wand will cling to your hand! The spectators will freak at this point. Close your hand, and hand out the wand for examination. Do not repeat the effect!

Bill Wisch pointed out that there is some interesting psychology happening here at this point. The suspension of the wand at the climax point is actually strengthened by the fact that the previous exposure of the old method seems to dispel any notion that the wand is capable of any type of self-suspension at all. Hence, when the climax point is reached, it seems all that more impossible.

Performers who still have trouble performing the effect, fear not. The famous Eddie Joseph, one of India’s legendary magi’s had a solution. He would levitate small objects using a small loop of cellophane tape. This can be stolen from just about anywhere during your performance since the sticky nature of tape allows it to be its own servante!

Other magicians have talked about the use of moist hands to levitate objects such as the late Al Koran and others. Try it! it works, But remember. When displaying the wand in its suspended state, do it for a short period only. Remember, Less is more! Then immediately hand it out for examination. You may have your hands immediately examined as well provided you are not using the tape method (if you are, you may develop a way to ditch the tape before having your hands examined).

Also, if you do not want to use a magic wand, try a no.#2 pencil, a plastic drinking straw, or any other ordinary object that is long, light and slender. To close, look at Fig#3. There is no tape or gimmicks at all causing this wand suspension. In a way, it is as close to real magic as you can get. Think about it………….

Fig #3

February 1998

Peter Explained
Bobby J. Gallo
If a person were to ask me what the most challenging aspect of being an I.C.O.M instructor is, it would most likely be the decision of what to showcase in the Beginner’s Study each month. What do I show people that are just starting their relationship with magic? What can be beneficial to beginner as well as seasoned magicians who pop into the forum? What is interesting? What is entertaining? what is practical? What is fun?

I believe that this month I have satisfied all of the above criteria with a lesson that is long overdue in the world of magic. A complete handling for the multiplying bunnies! This single effect has been a staple of the close-up artist’s repertoire for years, and has been called the greatest close-up effect ever devised by more than one top professional. Even I must confess, it is one of, if not “the” favorite effect of my audiences. Rarely, does an effect make someone scream with surprise and delight the way the multiplying bunnies do. So strong is this effect if performed properly, that if I could only have ten close-up effects, the rabbits would be one of them.

The unfortunate thing is, when most magicians get them, beginner and professional alike, they end up the the rear of the magic drawer. Why?, because they never come with adequate instructions. So here now, are the moves and information that have made the multiplying rabbits a hit for me at roving engagements and trade shows form coast to coast!

What Type Of Rabbits To Use?

There are basically three types of rabbits on the market and dozens of objects that can be used in place of the rabbits. Bill Wisch in his own unique routine uses little sponge blocks. I have seen gremlins, dragons, frogs, even mini gargoyles! But for me, the bunnies are the standard.The basic Adams set works fine for most purposes, but the professional may want to consider either the Goshman “Rabbits, Rabbits, Rabbits”, or “Norm Neilsons 3D Multiplying Rabbits”. I formally used the Neilson Rabbits, but they are expensive, don’t last forever, and there is a slight risk involved when they are in the spectators hand which I will explain later. But they look really good and are by far the most attractive set available. The Goshman set are what I currently use. They hold up well, give you more rabbits than you need for the routine and are reasonably priced. The drawback is that they don’t look too much like rabbits unless you point it out, a fact that needs to be cleared up in your presentation. The set also comes with a controversial item which I would prefer they left out. Nuff said on that point.

All is all, get a set of the Adams “Peter Rabbit Goes to Town” It truly is as good as the rest for most performers, and will cost under $5.00. How can you go wrong?


For illustration purposes, I am using my set of Neilson Rabbits, you may learn the same moves with any set you may have. See Fig #1.

Start with the entire set of rabbits in your right jacket pocket. Unless your are left handed, then switch pockets accordingly. You may also use your right trouser pocket, but I have found that in many cases, the trouser pocket does not afford you the room that you need to effectively gain the other baby rabbits during a very critical move. The jacket pocket is therefore recommended.

Obtain the two adult rabbits displaying them to the audience while you patter about the fact that the magician never does a show without his rabbits. I have a very involved patter line here that I have developed. It is up to you to be creative and start off by making you audience interested in the routine by using the inherent appearance of the sponge bunnies to an entertaining advantage. An edge that sponge balls do not have! Think about it…

This is your opportunity to have the audience examine the rabbits and discover that there is nothing fishy about them other than the fact that they are holding fake rabbits! At this time you should also be casually showing them that your hands are otherwise, completely empty. This is a very important point that is overlooked with some other rabbits routines. Some instructions tell you to have the baby rabbits finger palmed from the start of the routine. Big mistake! The miracle happens in the minds of the spectators when they have convinced themselves that you never had anything but two rabbits at all times!

Fig #1:
This is a set of top-of-the-line Neilson 3D Rabbits. But any set will suffice.


Now you must execute what I call a “ROLL VANISH”. Start with one rabbit held at the right hand finger-tips. As the right hand comes over to the left, and the tip of the rabbit begins to touch the left palm, the rabbit is then rolled into the left palm. Then the rabbit is immediately finger palmed back out into the right hand. See Fig #2:

Fig #2:
Rabbit being rolled into the left palm.
During this action, the left hand simultaneously turns palm down and is formed into a fist. The right hand contains the finger-palmed rabbit. Again to reiterate. The rabbit is rolled into the left palm with the right hand which immediately finger-palms the rabbit back out. The left hand during this action turns palm down and the rabbit remains in right hand finger palm. The whole move takes less than a second. At this point I usually use the right hand that contains the finger palmed rabbit to point to the left hand which supposedly contains the bunny.


Now, pick up the remaining bunny with the right hand that now contains the finger-palmed bunny in preparation for what I call the the “CONDITIONED HOLD”. This is the most critical move in the entire routine.

The problem with most sponge routines has always been the question of how to keep the spectators hand closed until the climax, or in the case of this routine, climaxes. Another classic problem has also been having the spectator close their hand fast enough so that they do not see that you are loading multiple objects into their hand. This innovative move eliminates all these problems and more! It is a powerful technique that can be applied to any routine where a spectator must hold a magical object that must be hidden until the end of the routine.

To perform this very psychological move, you must first ask the spectator to hold the other bunny. However, as you go to place the bunny into their hand, immediately snatch it back out! They will look surprised. Do it again, this time you will notice that they will try to grab the rabbit by closing their hand. What you are doing, is conditioning them to grab the rabbit and hold it tightly once they get it. This may seem like you are teasing them a bit, (and you are!) but it is a sure fire way for them to hold onto the rabbits. You will also notice that they will do it so fast, that you will now be able to load in the finger palmed bunny with the visible bunny and the spectator will ensure that the move is well hidden! Do this several times before the load. Finally letting them get the rabbit along with the finger palmed second bunny. Immediately have them turn their fist over and keep it closed. See Fig: #3:

Fig: #3:
In this shot, the finger-palmed rabbit along with the visible rabbit are loaded into the spectators hand using the “CONDITIONED HOLD”. Notice that he right hand pretends to hold the second bunny that is now loaded in the spectators hand.


Now you are all set for the first mind-blowing miracle! Reach into the pocket containing the baby bunnies under the guise of getting “woofle-dust”, and finger palm “all” of them! You now come out of the pocket with the imaginary dust and sprinkle it over the your right hand that is supposedly containing the second rabbit. With a great amount of showmanship, dramatically open the hand revealing that your rabbit has vanished. Have the spectator open their hand and find that the rabbit has travelled over to them! In many cases, this effect alone is enough and you could theoretically stop right here, but the main event yet to come.

Step #4

This time take both” of the rabbits, one in each hand and remark that this time you would like them to hold both rabbits so hold them even tighter than before. (another psychological ploy designed to entice them to keep their hand closed tightly).

Place “all” rabbits into the spectators hand using the hand that “does not”contain any rabbits to gently facilitate closure of the spectators hand. Then have them place their hand palm down onto the table-top.

Right hand gently facilitates closure of the spectators hand to cover the giant load of rabbits. As you can see, it creates perfect cover and prevents any flashes of the rabbits from being seen.

Step #5

Now you are all in position for the grand finale of all close-up magic! Talk to the spectator and ask any questions pertaining to what happens when you put a mama and a papa rabbit into the same hand? or something similar. The point is to “distance” the climax production of the rabbits with the actual loading procedure. This is one of the most important points in magic. It is megaimportant to follow this guideline in any routine so as to expel any notion in the spectators mind that the time when they closed their hand hand anything to do with the fact that there is now a handful of rabbits jumping out all over the table! So let at least thirty seconds elapse from the time the rabbit were loaded to the time the spectator opens their hand. Thirty seconds can be a long time during a close-up routine so be creative with you presentation.

Now after you have entertained your audience with your witty banter, it is time for the big finish. Play this up with all the fervor you can muster. As you ask them the question of what may be happening in their hand, look them in the eye and wait for he answer. Regardless of what their answer is, have them slowly turn their hand palm up and open it as you exclaim, (and it is very important to exclaim this in a loud voice to strengthen the climax) BABIES!

You will be stunned yourself at the reaction! This routine is a perfect closer to a close-up routine. As you will see by experimentation, nothing is really strong enough to follow it.

In closing, please heed this warning. Never repeat this trick! The psychological ploys involved in the various steps only works once. You have been warned!

March 1998

“Knotty Coin”

This month I would like to give our members a nice transposition effect that will familiarize them with act of mixing two effects together to get on solid routine. In this case, as I have stated already, we are going to perform a transposition. Meaning, we are going to make an object (a marked coin) vanish from one place, only to end up in another location.

The performer borrows a coin from a spectator, and the coin is marked for future identification. It is always best to use a “Sharpie ™” brand marker or wax crayon for this. The coin is then placed inside an envelope. A handkerchief or bandanna is then shown to the audience. The performer proceeds to twist it up and tie a knot in the center. After the knotted hank is placed in a location within view of the entire audience, the envelope is taken, then torn up to show that the coin has vanished. An audience member then unties the knot in the hank only to find the missing marked coin inside it. Sound good? It is!


This routine uses an old method for vanishing small objects called the “slit envelope”. It is made by merely cutting a small slit just large enough for the coin to pass through in one end of the bottom fold of a regulation size envelope.

Start by having a duplicate coin finger-palmed (See I.C.O.M Sleight-Of-Hand Gallery Fig: #17). Then borrow a coin of similar size and have it marked for identification or easier yet, just have the date noted. Now you are about to execute a false placement. Show the marked coin in the right hand, (the hand finger-palming the duplicate) and pretend to place it in the left hand, actually releasing the palmed duplicate coin and retaining the marked coin in the hand.

Place the duplicate on the table.(Make sure it is well out of reach of the spectators. You may get a trouble maker who would like to again examine the coin after the switch is made) Now, get your handkerchief and as you obtain it, grasp it by two diagonally opposite corners, concealing the coin behind one corner with the right thumb. Give the hank a revolving motion forming it into a tube. Bring the left hand side over to the right, and at the same time release the coin into the tube so it slides down into the center of the hank.

Tie a knot in the center of the hank, and place it somewhere in full view of the audience. Pick up the coin and slit envelope from the table and drop the duplicate coin into it. Seal it up and turn the envelope so the coin slides down the bottom, out of the slit and into your palm. Go to your pocket for some magic dust, a wand, etc. Taking the opportunity to dispose of the palmed coin there.

To enhance the climax, you may cut out a thick piece of opaque paper and drop it into the envelope prior to the performance. After the coin in pocketed, hold the envelope up to the light so they “think” they see the coin! Then proceed to destroy their envelope and re-produce the marked coin from the knot in the hank.

Notice: This material “IS NOT PUBLIC DOMAIN” and is intended for the personal and performance use of International Conservatory Of Magic members only.

This entire page is under copywrite 1998 by the International Conservatory of Magic and its respective contributors. No part of this page or its contents may be re-produced without the expressed written permission of I.C.O.M. All marketing and publication rights are reserved. Violation of this is considered intellectual property and information theft and carries penalties under federal law.

Author: Bobby J. Gallo


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