Creativity by Ron Dayton

“Creativity”

By
Ronald J. Dayton
(c) 1998 International Conservatory of Magic ™

It is my intent to offer suggestions and working methods which will direct the reader toward greater creativity. I make no promises for success. You will have to work a little to achieve that on your own. What I will promise to do is to share every means to that end I am aware of. You will be given lists, tips/suggestions, ideas and examples…but no short cuts. If you are serious about this subject, be prepared to burn the midnight oil.

Creativity is something each and every individual is capable of cultivating. It can be developed to whatever degree you feel most comfortable with. Creativity includes being inventive, but not exclusively so. It is also reflected in the music, patter, costuming, set designs, stage presence and timing for example. These are all aspects of your creativity…all part of the “total” performance to which creativity may be applied. It may be the magical “illusive essence” which makes an act outstanding rather than mediocre.

Every one of us, I believe, would like to contribute something to this world of magic. Something that will leave a mark long after we are gone. It is important to realize, lest we become overwhelmed by the task of becoming creative, that the contribution need not be earth shattering. It may well be something as simple as a particular stance, a gesture or a look. It may be a phrase that captures the imagination of your audience. Like grains of sand comprising a coastal beach, the size of the grain does not diminish its importance to the whole.

One of the keys to creativity seems to be discovering yourself! Knowing who you are, and what you want to achieve in this craft. It isn’t easy. A person must take an honest appraisal of himself and his limitations. You must understand just how much you are willing to sacrifice to attain your desired goal. Creativity, at whatever level, will take real work. Once you come to grips with yourself, you’ll be ready to begin…and to be the very best YOU that you can be!

Another factor which is essential to creativity is a well rounded background. An extensive knowledge of magic itself. The best part is…this is something you can develop. This is part of the work and sacrifice mentioned earlier. Time and effort will be needed, but thankfully, there are many marvelous sources at your disposal. Public libraries, book stores, magic shops, magic catalogs, magic dealers, video and audio tapes, and most notably, The International Conservatory of Magic. Truly the list goes on and on. Magazines such as “The New Tops”, “The Magic Manuscript”, “Magic”, “Magicgram” and “Genii” are all wonderful. Members of the S.A.M. and I.B.M. also enjoy tips and information found within the pages of their respective publications. Various “Magic Camps and Jubilees” are also organized annually both on the east and west coast. Last but not least, one of the most important sources of information of all …your fellow magicians. Young and old alike. Listen to what they have to say. You might be surprised at what you’re able to learn. The older magician may have much broader experience than you have. Perhaps he has seen some of the legends of the past in actual performance. They may be well read, or highly skilled in certain facets of the art. All of which is to your benefit. Absorb the information and lessons they have learned over the years. Take the best, and leave the rest.

The same applies to younger magicians. Do not be so foolish as to pass them by simply because they are young. Youth is fresh and vital. They dare to try the unknown, to take that step beyond, unaware of the supposed limitations which have been drummed into older minds. Youth has not yet been programmed to disbelief. Too often, we hinder ourselves and our accomplishments by listening to inner thoughts, or those of others, as to what IS or IS NOT possible. I’ve heard it said that, the impossible is that which is yet untried! And I firmly believe that is true.

A person might think…how can I possibly learn all about magic, so I can build a strong foundation of knowledge. There is so much to know…and the subject is so vast.

Do not be put off by the scope of magic. There is no possible way you could learn everything, although there are people out there who claim they know it. They are only fooling themselves. The reality of the situation is…the field is extremely vast, and, constantly changing. At very best, much like a medical student, you will do your best to remain ‘current’. Simply do your best to learn as much as you possibly can. You will retain much more information than you realize.

Once you have begun this foundation of magical knowledge and background, we can begin taking the next logical step. You will want to take the information you have learned and put it to practical use.

You’ll recall that earlier, we touched on the fact that negative thoughts are harmful. They are counter-productive. They place limits and restrictions on the thought and creativity process. It would be most beneficial than for us to take an approach which eliminated or forbids negative thinking. One such method is a process called.

 

Brainstorming

Choose on day out of the week and set aside a certain amount of time for yourself. If you are not in the mood when the say arrives, simply reschedule the activity for another time. Do not put if off indefinitely.

Find a room or area where you will not be disturbed. Have paper, pencils…possibly even a tape recorder of cam-corder available to record data, then begin. List all titles, concepts and effects that come to mind. List them all. Do not interrupt the flow of thought with negative dismissal. Consider all ideas to be valid. List as many as you can. Really push yourself! Use one thought to fuel another. Then, when no more ideas or spin-offs come, stop and take a break. Walk away. Have a soda or a cup of coffee, whatever it takes to relax just a bit, then return concentrating all you efforts and knowledge into finding workable methods for the effects you have listed. Again, accept no negative thoughts,. Every solution, no matter how bizarre, should be noted. You’ll be amazed at the incredible amount of material you mind has unearthed. Finally, when you are done, the sorting and sifting process begins. This is best left for another time or day. If you have put a sincere effort into your brainstorming session, you should be pretty well spent. Cleanse your mind for several day, then go back to the material and approach it fresh. Attack it as though it were someone else’s thoughts. Study it. Revise it. Pick it apart! And as always, keep the best and leave the rest.

After several such solo brainstorming sessions it is good to bring at least one other party into the picture. Choose a friend in magic whose opinion you trust and whose magical background is solid. He will be an impartial, objective aid. Things easily overlooked by you will often be obvious to them. Two or more heads are always better than one. You will likely be very pleased with the abundance of ideas and methods you arrive at.

It is interesting, too, to arrange a day during which two or more individuals schedule solo brainstorming at the same time. Later, all parties involved get together to work on their findings. It’s fun to compare similarities in thought, to discover the sharp contrasts as well. It is a form of creative comradery which stimulates the thought processes as well as anything I know.

So! We have looked at what I call solo brainstorming and delayed review of concepts. What is left? Brainstorming in its purest and most enjoyable form! Follow all the guidelines. Select a time, place and format, then get together with several friends. Remember, no criticism of ideas is permitted, Push you mind and will to the fullest extent. Get as many ideas for effects as possible, Use your ideas and those of others to create new variations. List all desired effects, and possible titles for those effects. Yes, titles alone can be a very positive springboard. If there is any doubt in your mind, it may be heartening to know that Jerry Andrus often begins with a name for an effect, then creates the effect and method from that starting point. This is his first step. Phase two consists of brainstorming to list every conceivable method for accomplishing the effect. Finally, he reviews the selections and chooses the handling/combination of methods which will create the desired illusion. Brainstorming works because it is a ‘no holds barred’ situation. At the start, nothing is deemed to be wrong. This gives your mind free reign.

Another force which may compell us to be creative is GENUINE NEED. This is more difficult in many respects, but at least you have a general idea in which direction you are heading. The ‘need’ may be further specialized by falling into a particular theme or performing character. An extremely fine book to study for developing ” need motivated creativity “ is “The Trick Brain” by Dariel Fitzkee. It contains lists, and a systimatic method for actually leading the mind to create desired effects. Everything is spelled out in a clear and exact manner. I strongly urge you to investigate this book more closely.

The third, and possibly most illusive method for being creative or inventive might well be called ‘ dumb luck.’ It is that wonderfully strange way in which we accidentally stumble on, or invent something new. Truthfully, it is often ‘luck’, but, seldom ‘dumb’. This type of creativity makes use of all of the knowledge we have mentioned before. Somewhere in the recesses of our minds, we are aware of every piece of information we have ever been exposed to. The knowledge we have gained while building the strong background or foundation in magic is the spark or insight which allows us to connect ideas and make them interact. This will allow you to be looking through a magazine, or walking down the aisle of a toy or hardware store for example.. see a certain item, and immediately see an application in magic for it. It is the knowledge you have gained which will allow you to be casually playing or manipulating a card, coin, rope or what have you in your hands, and stumble upon a move or handling which is original to you. DUMB LUCK is like being in the right place, at the right time, in your mind. Opportunities will present themselves… and knowledge will give you the tools to take advantage of them.

 

Invention

Simply inventing for the sake of invention is not enough. Clever is nice, but useful is better. If you are determined to be creative from the standpoint of developing new effects.. do your best to give the magic community something they can work with. Something with which to entertain. Put forth your best effort to create something of genuine value to you, your compeers, and the people they perform for. They call it, desire!

Part of this desire motivated creativity must surely lurk within our subconscious thoughts. That could be why, from time~to time, a new idea is conveyed to us in the form of a dream. And, just as it is possible to learn things while we sleep via suggestion or audio tapes, perhaps it is possible to condition ourselves to be inventively creative while we sleep as well. This will not happen easily at first, nor is it a sure fire approach.. but it is fun to experiment with, and can be fairly productive too!

To condition or program your mind for subconscious creativity, you must simply saturate your mind with general thoughts and specific solutions to a chosen problem. It is, in a way, a form of pre-sleep brainstorming. When you retire for the evening ( for me, it helps if I stay up late and go to bed in an over-tired condition. The restless state seems to promote dreams.) your conscious mind will rest, and the subconscious remains active. Sometimes you will be able to very vividly see the working solution to your chosen effect. At other times, random thoughts, methods and effects will be visualized.

If you are lucky enough to awake shortly after the dream, record all information immediately. Try to be as exact as possible. Keep a pen and paper/ tape recorder on the night stand within easy reach.

Please do not confuse what I am saying with ‘pipe dreams’. Dream related invention is simply a way of tapping into your sub-conscious creativity. This may be a source you are presently totally oblivious to. But the bottom line is, it works! All through your day you are adding stimuli to the subconscious mind. It could easily be that all of our senses play a part in this process Visual and audio stimuli to be sure affect the subconscious, but couldn’t taste, smell or touch also act as some sort of mental catalyst?

Something which may be of interest to some of you might be the April 1987 issue of Omni magazine. The cover title reads; HOW TO CONTPOL YOUR DREAMS. The center section of the magazine is called The Omni Experience and has four full pages dedicated to the dream experience, how to enhance it, and how to control where it leads. The information brought to light within the pages of Omni was only a small part of a decade long study conducted by psychologists Stephen LaBerge and Jayne Gackenbach through a series of four exercises, the prospective Lucid Dreamer. ( One who is aware he is dreaming and controls and recalls what he is dreaming actually learns how to attain a Lucid Dream)

In yet another exercise outlined within the pages of Omni, you learn how to condition yourself to attain a state of Dream Flying. Why learn to fly? For several reasons. First of all, it is considered to be one of the basic forms of travel while in a dream state. Secondly, it creates a feeling of freedom. Thirdly, once mastered, the rather frightening travel form will dispell your inner most fears. You will become a free spirit so~to-speak and be capable of anything you care to imagine.

This may all seem a bit far fetched, bizarre or unreal. Please do not dismiss it completely The goal you wish to reach is attained only by keeping an open mind to all possibilities.

BE OBSERVANT

One of the methods I use when developing an effect is to familiarize myself as completely with the object or objects I intend to use in the effect as possible. A cardworker for instance will want to know the following about the brand of card he intends to use. Is the back design conducive to secret marking? Will the pattern allow for secret openings, slits to be concealed by the design itself? Is the card case designed in a useful way? Does the card split easily? Is its degree of flexibility of value? What is the relationship of the card in regard to the size of other cards? Can the border, front or back be used to conceal a secret ingress or flap? Is it a plastic coated or linen card? Does it hold up after repeated creasing or folding? Can the ink be easily erased, removed or otherwise altered? Will the card scale well? Is this a brand the audience is familiar with or will be comfortable with? Is its shape (round, crooked deck, tarot, miniature, bridge, poker or jumbo) useful for a specific effect? Is it a specialized card? Can the fact that it is a Giant Face Deck of value to me?

Perhaps I have taken too much time to make my point, but the implications are clear, and the answers often make your task of inventing an easier one. The questions alone may inspire a thought, or the investigation of the card itself may open new doors.

What is true for cards may, in many ways, be applied to other items. If, for instance, we are considering ropes.. what questions might you ask? How strong is it? Does it cut easily? Do the ends fray? Is it available in colors? Does it cause rope burns? Is it soft and flexible? How much length does it take to form a single overhand knot? Is it easily untied? Does it have an inner core, and if so, can it be removed easily? Can objects pass through the weave? What is the design of the weave itself? What is the rope made of (cotton, nylon, hemp, other)? Can the ends be mended and joined such as with nylon rope? With the core removed, can objects be inserted into the hollow rope? Does the rope soil easily? Can the rope be seen at a distance? Is the rope heavy, light, bulky or compressible? All of these things and more are factors a person should be aware of when considering possibilities with rope. The same may be said for a whole host of objects and materials.

One of my very best coin effects was based on the fact that I observed that the diameter of a U.S. Nickel, when machined properly, was the same as a size eight ladies finger ring. Who’d have thought? All of this too becomes part of the growing knowledge in your firm background in magic.

A LITTLE HELP FROM MY FRIENDS

Other than our own ability to maintain a curious nature, to be as observant and aware of all manner of things going on in the world around us, there is yet another aid to creativity we may make use of. I will call this source, Challenge Creativity. I have used it often, and intend to use it even more in the future. It takes part of the pressure off you due to the fact that someone else is giving you the premise for the effect. They tell you, I want to see this, this and this. You then create a method for producing the desired effect. They have, in other words, issued a challenge to you.

I have accepted challenges, and issued a few myself over the years. Here is one I issued to a friend of mine. An empty glass tumbler is seen resting mouth tp on your close-up mat. A spectator drops a coin into the glass. The coin sinks to the bottom, then suddenly, is seen to rise slowly to the surface of the top. It then sinks slowly back into the glass. when the spectator is asked to tip the coin out of the glass, it is found to be impossible. The coin is discovered to be imbedded or sealed within the solid bottom of the tumbler.

I often got challenges from magic letter pals I corresponded with. It was an enjoyable exchange. The internet offers a whole new world of possibilities. You may also choose to approach various individuals you know at ring meetings, conventions or other social activities you may be attending. You may write or call an outside source for challenges. You may venture so far as to take out a small ad in a magic publication for that specific reason. The investment could be repaid many fold.They will be out to stump you. It will take your finest effort to meet the task. You may, of course, never discover a working method for many of the challenges issued, but that’s really unimportant in the overall scheme of things. What IS important is that the whole process stimulates your thinking.

I have yet to meet the magician who has ‘never’ had the desire to create an effect of his very own. It is conceivable that every individual ‘already has an idea for this effect, but they remain locked within their mind. People have themselves convinced that this idea will be scoffed at by their peers, or fear it will not work, or perhaps be purloined before it takes flight. The fact of the matter is that it will go ‘no where’ if it is not shared and developed. Someone may stumble upon the method for themselves, develop and promote it while you debate if you should take a chance or not. If THEY take the initiative and YOU don’t, the effect will be THEIRS, and your best intentions will be lost forever.

Being creative has a lot to do with finding a balance within yourself. Brainstorming for instance, seems to be finding a balance between the hemispheres of the brain itself. Each side, as you may or may not know, controls a certain set of mental functions. The left side controls language, logic, counting and classification. This is the side we condition in school. It is analytical, objective and orderly. It makes decisions, judgements. It is capable of editing and revising material.

The right side of our brain is the spontaneous side. It is intuitive and illogical. The right side is the ‘idea waker’. It will generate creative thought and allow things to be seen in a new light. Symbolism and association can run rampant here, but there is a catch. One side is usually the dominant side. This is also usually the most developed side… the left hemisphere. That is where the snag in creative thinking arises. The left side is in conflict with the right. In correct brainstorming procedure, the right hemisphere is allowed to work first.

It takes effort at first to get one side to relax while the other becomes stimulated. This is why you must shut out all negative thoughts, otherwise the analytical left hemisphere would have material to work with. Free your mind. Go with the flow, and the R.H. side will soon emerge. Like a toddler learning to walk, the use of the right hemisphere is developed in stages. Extend your time and your goals at each session. Push yourself. And just as a weight lifter gradually increases the weight on the bar, so goes the training of the more underdeveloped right hemisphere. By degrees you will be able to ‘turn off’ the left side of the brain while the right side works. After the creative process has been exhausted, the left side of the brain is allowed to engage and analyze the material.

THE CATALOG
I have mentioned several sources for creative inspiration. One of my favorites is the magic catalog. If you can get your hands on older catalogs as well as more current ones, you may be able to discover not only useful information, but trends and cycles as well. It seems that effects in magic go in stages. One year, ring and lace effects may be all the rage, the next, diminishing card cases and the following year, movable holes are the latest thing. You see the same thing happen in the motion picture industry. They go from sci-fi to war films, to comedy to prison flicks. The movie goers tire of certain movies and demand something new. It’s the same in magic. So, the catalogs may well not only point you toward a new effect, they may well indicate which type of effect will be coming into vogue.

When paging through your magic catalog, allow your mind to roam. Go from close-up to stage effects, silks to coins, paper to rope. An unrestricted mind will soon begin to form mental links. random unions will be made. An overlapping of thoughts will help you to break away from more stringent lines of thinking. This will work in a similar way to the lists suggested earlier. It will assist your mind in rejecting certain patterns of thought. Seemingly unrelated effects will suddenly begin to merge. It’s a useful method to exercise your mind.

TAKE A HIKE

Another nifty way to think in an inventive manner is not to think about it at all! That’s right. Walk away from it for a while. When you are relaxed, and not under the direct pressure of ‘having’ to invent something, ideas seem to pop up at the most unexpected times. I should be embarrassed to say this, but I’m not really, that many of my best ideas have come to me while I was at my place of employment. Here again, when ever an idea came to me, it was quickly jotted down. Too many good ideas have been lost simply because they were not acted upon promptly.

You may also choose to stimulate your thinking by thinking in a new location, or change of atmosphere. Like a creative writer, you may need to get away from the norm. Select new surroundings in which to work and concentrate. Music may be used to set the mood as well as lighting. Make the experience as pleasant and comfortable as possible.

STICK WITH IT

Experience has proven time and time again that ideas are exactly that, just IDEAS. All the brainstorming in the world will not prove conclusively that something WILL work. Many things look great on paper but won’t get off the ground in the real world. When the time comes, in many instances, you will need a proto-type.

A number of years ago I developed an idea for a new version of cigarette through half dollar. I contacted a manufacturer of magic coins, and after some study, it was determined that the project would be far too costly. Special compound dies would be required, special tooling. The costs were too high to justify the variation. Three years later, an alternate design became evident to me. But once again, no ‘proof’ of its credibility was available. The design was much easier and cost effective to produce. To make a long story short, The Dayton Ultimate Cigarette Thru Half was eventually born. It is the only mechanical coin ever made which could be shown both sides, before, DURING and after the penetration. An idea, with perserverance, went from the mind, to paper to reality.

When you stick with a project, and it comes to fruition, there is no better feeling of satisfaction. The feeling is awesome.

RECOMMENDED READING

There is one last phase I would like to touch on in regards to your own personal preparation for creativity, and that is the subject of reading material. I suggest the following:

The Tarbell Course in Magic, Vol. 1-7……………………………………… Tannens

The Phoenix & New Phoenix………………………………………………….. Tannens

Thayer Quality Magic; Vol. 1-4…………………………………………………Magic Limited

The Jinx.. ………………………………………………………………………………Tannens

Harbincadabra………………………………………………………………………. Goodliffe

Rices Encyclopedia of Silk Magic, Vol 1-3…………………………………. Rice

The Encyclopedia of Rope Tricks1 Vol 1-3………………………………… Abbotts

JackHughesWorld of MagicVol. 1………………………………………………Hughes

Encyclopedia of Dove Magic, Vol 1-4…………………………………………Supreme

The Lewis Trilogy
A Choice of Miracles
A Continuation of Miracles……………………………………………………Magical Publications
The Crowning Miracles

The New Modern Coin Magic…………………………………………………..Magic Inc.

Coinmagic………………………………………………………………………………Kaufman/Greenberg

The Magic of Pavel………………………………………………………………….Supreme

Darwin’s Thumb Tip Miracles…………………………………………………… Rare Publishing

The Illustrated History of Magic………………………………………………….Crowell

Suspensions and Levitations……………………………………………………… Hades

The Fitzkee Trilogy
Showmanship For Magicians………………………………………………… Magic Limited
The Trick Brain
Magic By Misdirection

All publications by Karl Fulves……………………………………………………Karl Fulves/Dover Press

Success and Magic…………………………………………………………………..Secret Service/Michael Ammar

IN CONCLUSION

It is important to make ourselves as aware as possible to new advances in technology, science and electronics, as well as new product releases. Reading publications such as Popular Science and Popular Mechanics may serve you well. Look at items carefully while browsing through your local variety store. Toy stores are also fabulous places to wander. Keep your eyes peeled when those catalogs come in the mail from such places as Spencers Gifts or the Electronic Goldmine. They often contain novel items which the wide awake magician can put to use. Look beyond the original use and try to visualize another form and function. It will often be worth your while if you do.

In the concluding words to one of my books I said: ” Think of an effect my friend. It CAN be done!” Well, needless to say, that raised more than a few eyebrows. Some reviewers felt it was far too broad a statement to make. But think about it. Go back to the concept that THE IMPOSSIBLE IS THAT WHICH IS YET UNTRIED. If you defeat yourself before you begin, naturally you will fail. Make a dedicated attempt at creativity. If the first attempt dosen’t work out, try again! Hang on to all your notes concerning ideas and methods. Perhaps in a year, or five.. .or more, the correct solution will come to light. Above all, maintain your dreams. They too may become reality.

Even the person who is NOT directly involved in the performance or production of magic can assist in its growth and well being. If you choose only to be a magic enthusiast, or a collector, you will be doing your part. You act as a catalyst. Your support and zeal motivate others. Like any part of the whole, your importance is immeasurable.

” Think of an effect my friend. It CAN be done!”

 

The ICOMedy Club by Peter Marucci

The ICOMedy Club

With your MC and Host
Mr. Peter Marucci

Comedy In Magic
By Peter Marucci

“That was no lady; that was my wife!” That was the punchline to a joke. So how come you aren’t laughing. Well, the answer is simple (beside the fact that the joke isn’t very good): You weren’t set up, or conditioned, to be ready to laugh. The same applies to comedy in magic. You have to condition the audience to be ready for what you are about to do. There are a couple of things that I do that accomplish this. They are strictly for laughs and have no magic content but they set up the audience for the magic and comedy that I do later in the show.

These “bits” work the same purpose that a warm-up comedian works for big-name comics on television: The job of the warm-up comedian, who is never seen on air, is to warm up the studio audience so that they will laugh more readily at the big-name comic’s jokes. (By the way, this applies to just about every show that is done before a live audience – quiz shows, talk shows, situation comedies, variety shows – and not just for stand-up comics.)

The two bits that follow are both done as openers but I would never do them on the same show. That would be a bit of overkill; you want to win the audience over, not beat them into submission! So let’s get on with it!

The Opener I:

You walk on stage, smile at the audience, and make eye contact with different part of the house. Okay, how many don’t do that now; or only THINK you do it? And how many performers have you seen who come out and give the impression that they would sooner be anywhere else: They don’t smile, and they don’t make eye contact with different parts of the house. But I digress. As I was saying, you are on stage and you speak to the audience: “One of the important things about doing a show like this is to have a big opener,” you say. And, with that, you reach into your jacket pocket and pull out a bottle opener about a foot and a half long. “Fortunately, I brought one with me.” You then put the opener aside and continue with your show.

The Opener II:

You walk on stage, smile at the audience, and make eye contact with different part of the house. (Hey, didn’t I just say that? Yes, but it can’t be said too often!)

Your table is to your side and you are holding a sheet of newspaper. (The next bit is optional but it, too, helps warm up the audience.) “Interesting things in the paper today,” you say as you apparently read the page. “Here’s an item about a fatal accident at the tool and die works; it seems a worker was hit with a tool – and died. “And here’s another story about a fatality. Seems there was a freak accident at the circus. A performing elephant was being led through the sideshow when it stepped on a – well, you get the idea.” “The classified pages are full of good stuff. Here’s an ad in the Personals column: Sailor with wooden leg wants to meet woman with cedar chest. Object – long-term storage.” You now go silent, hold up the paper, and tear it into two pieces. Discard one piece. Tear the piece you are holding into two pieces and discard one piece. Appear to be very deliberate and careful about what you are doing. Continue this until you have a piece about six inches square. Fold it in half, then fold it in half again. Now go over to your table (or use the microphone stand) and slide the folded paper under one leg, as if levelling the table. “There, that’s better. It was starting to bug me,” you say, and then go into your first routine.

Sure, that’s an old gag, used by burlesque comics and circus clowns and it’s been around for years.

But did you ever think WHY it’s been around so long? If it weren’t good, it wouldn’t last! Second thoughts: The whole object of the comedy opener is to put the audience at ease; to get them to relax, to focus their attention on you. Most successful stage plays open to one person on stage or a vacant stage and one person enters. The audience is not slammed right into the plot of the play; they are given a brief period to adjust to the events. So be it with your show!


The I.C.O.Medy Club
With your MC and Host
Mr. Peter Marucci
This is a simple, yet effective, routine that I’ve been doing for years. I like it, not so much for being simple, but because it has some really, really BAD gags in it!
Blue-tonium
By Peter Marucci

Effect:
The magician tucks a blue silk handkerchief into his hand and it “magically” turns into a length of chain.

Preparation: You’ll need a small (nine-inch) silk hanky, a length of chain (short enough and with small enough links to conceal in the hand easily), and a thumb tip.

Presentation:
(Begin with the thumb tip and chain concealed in your left hand; the blue hanky is held at the fingertips of the left hand.) This is a short experiment in the latest scientific breakthrough: the production of nuclear blue-tonium. No, not plutonium; blue-tonium. This is the blue-tonium (wave the silk hanky in your left hand). Ordinarily, the production of nuclear material requires a great deal of work; but the scientific breakthrough that I referred to uses computer chips to create fission. And, so, they are called “fission chips”. The ordinary blue-tonium is stuffed into one hand (push the silk into the left fist – into the tip, actually – and steal the tip out). In the normal course of events, it would take a long time to convert the blue-tonium to a radioactive substance. But, thanks to the fission chips, this happens much more quickly, setting up an immediate chain reaction. (Open the left hand, letting the chain fall to the table and the hand seen as empty.) This is the chain (point to the chain on the table) And this is the reaction (point to the audience). When I first saw this, I was just like you: Too amazed to applaud.

Second thoughts:
Okay, this is a quickie and might be easily dismissed as a throwaway piece. Don’t do that! Over the years, I have been amazed at the reaction that this piece has got; even people who may know about the principle of the thumb tip are caught off guard because something totally different happens that what they were expecting.

The routine can be adapted to many contemporary events: brush-fire wars, nuclear-arms treaties, the military in general, etc. And the possibilities of other equally BAD puns and gags are endless.

Have fun with this.


The I.C.O.Medy Club
With your MC and Host
Mr. Peter Marucci
There are card tricks and there are tricks with cards. The first is what Uncle Yodar does at Christmas after too many trips to the punch bowl; they usually involved counting endlessly — and getting the card wrong the first two or three times! The second is entertainment, and they are the types of things that seasoned professionals do.
(I hope you will think the following falls into the second category.) 

While I am not “big” on magic with cards, this is a routine that I have carried with me in my head for years; not because it is so “magical” but because it is funny — or, at least, I think so. It is based on a simple card sandwich but it is built around a story
line, includes some reasonably good gags, and finishes with an absolutely terrible pun!

Gee, what more could you ask for? And so, here is

” Elementary, My Dear Watson ”
Peter Marucci

Effect:
Two cards, representing Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson, find a card selected by the spectator and representing a master criminal.

Preparation:
None

Presentation:
“And now we take you to Victorian England, a time of high living and low crime, a time of Jack the Ripper, and a time of Sherlock Holmes, (as you say this, go through the face-up deck and deal the Ace of Spades to the table) ace detective, and his trusted companion Dr. John (here deal the Jack of Spades to the table) – – Jack to his friends – -Watson.” ” As our story opens, London is an uproar (riffle the deck), Scotland Yard is baffled. (riffle the deck again) – – Sounds a lot like London being in an uproar, doesn’t it? – – and all because of a master criminal who has escaped capture.” Fan the cards and let a spectator select one. “Would you choose a card to play the part of the master criminal, please?” Have the card shown round, returned to the deck, and then control it to the top. ” Finally, the police seek help of the ace detective Sherlock Holmes and his trusted companion, Dr. John – – Jack to his friends – – Watson. ” (Point to the ace and jack on the table at this point.)’ Well, Watson, the game’s afoot, ‘ says Holmes. ‘ So we’ve been asked to track down a master criminal who’s loose in London, breaking intoschools. ”What kind of schools?’ says Watson. ‘Elementary, my dear Watson.’ says Holmes. Wait for the groans over that pun to settle and continue. “So Holmes and Watson set off into the London fog to track down their master criminal.”

As you say this, get a pinky break under the top chosen card. “Holmes started out on one side of the city. (Place the Ace of Spades face up on top of the deck and double undercut bringing the Ace of Spades and the chosen card to the bottom of the deck) and Watson started off on the other side. (As you say this, put the Jack of Spades face up on top and cut the deck. The set up is now: Ace of Spades and Jack of Spades face up in the middle of the deck with the chosen card face down between them.) ” As they worked their way through the grog shops and back alleys, they had planned to meet later and review the results of their invested investigation. They hoped that, between them, they would be able to capture this fiend that was terrorizing London.” As you say that, ribbon-spread the deck, showing the two face up cards with the face-down card between them.”Well, they seem to have caught something between them. What was the name of the card you chose to play the master criminal?” (When the spectator announces the name of the card, turn it over and reveal it as the one captured.) “Watson was overjoyed with their success. ‘Holmes’, he said, ‘you’re brilliant; you’re a genius; you’re the greatest detective of all time’. ‘No, no’, said Holmes, ‘It was nothing, really nothing at all.’ “Which goes to prove that, be he ever so humble, there’s no police like Holmes.”

Second thoughts:
Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you! The point here is to show that even a basic card trick like this can be dressed up to be a feature of a close-up or table act. The magic isn’t spectacular but the entertainment value is very high.And that’s what we’re supposed to be doing, right?


The I.C.O.Medy Club
With your MC and Host
Mr. Peter Marucci
 
Fans of old-time movies will remember a series, made in the late ’30s and’40s, featuring a group of supposed teenagers in New York, called – variously — the Bowery Boys, the Dead End Kids, or the East End Kids.

The movies starred the late Leo Gorcey as Slip Mahoney, who was a past master at mangling the English language. For example, when he said he was going to think about something, he would say: “Lemme regurgitate on that.” Sixty years later, this stuff is still funny, attesting to the staying power of some gags. And mangling the language certainly falls into that category.

I do a routine in which a word card is selected. As I show the deck, I give the definitions of the various words – one per card.
This is loosely – very loosely – based on an old Sid Lorraine idea; however, many of the words Sid used are now sadly out of date (who knows about “lumbago” today?) So I came up with a whole new set of words and their “wacky” definitions. I have been doing the effect that the words are a part of for years now and, believe me, audiences break up over it.

However, the effect isn’t what we’re about right now; it’s the words. And here are a list of some of the words and their alleged definitions:

Absentee: A missing golf accessory.
Adamant: The first insect.
Aspire: Where dead donkeys are cremated.
Avoidable: What a matador tries to do.
Biology: The study of shopping habits.
Carnation: A country where everyone has a vehicle.
Cistern: Opposite of brethren.
Climate: The only thing you can do with a ladder.
Dare: Not here.
Debut: De part of de body dat you sit on.
Eclipse: What an English barber does for a living.
Forum: In favor of drinking Bacardi.
Heroes: What a guy in a boat does.
Inkling: A baby fountain pen.
Intense: Where campers sleep.
Modem: What the gardener did to the lawns.
Munchkin: What cannibals do to relatives.
Paradox: Two physicians.
Polarize: What penguins see with.
Relief: What trees do in the spring.
Treason: What the acorn is to the oak.
Zebra: The biggest size Playtex makes.
Okay, there’s no routine here and there’s no magic. You’ll have to fit these in somewhere yourself. But, remember, these DO fly with the audience.

And entertaining is what it’s all about.


The I.C.O.Medy Club
With your MC and Host
Mr. Peter Marucci
Here’s another piece that I think is funny — well, at least, that makes one of us! <G>
Anyone who performs for children on a regular basis knows that youngsters go wild over really gross stuff. How else to account for wiggly-worm candy, ghoulish video-game plots, and other such childhood delights? The following falls in that area — without being overly disgusting. The reaction that I have had is that adults will find it somewhat amusing — but kids will go downright nuts over it!… It’s not suitable for stage work or even a club-type act but plays well as a (supposedly) impromptu close-up piece for youngsters — an area in which there is very little material.EAR FROM COIN
Peter Marucci

Effect:
The magician is asked to show a young spectator “some magic.” He obliges by saying that a lot of magicians might do something like pulling a coin out of a spectator’s ear. As he says this, the magician pulls a coin out of the youngster’s ear. “But,” he adds, “I like to do it a little differently.” He shows the coin in his otherwise empty hand. “I like to pull an ear out of a coin,” says the magi and, with his free hand, reaches into the hand with the coin and pulls out a life-size ear. Adults go “Yuk!” while the kids fall all over themselves, laughing.

Working and presentation:
As usual, nothing particularly difficult here. In fact, the hardest part of this whole thing will be finding the plastic ear.

I came across mine in a party shop that had boxes of small items to be used as giveaways at birthday parties. These included the usual things like tops, whistles, rings — and a bunch of soft plastic body parts — fingers, noses, ears. I don’t want to think about what these were supposed to be used for — and I really don’t want to think about the mind that decided to produce them in the first place. However, they did intrigue me and — after coming back to the shop a dozen times and looking at these things — an idea started to germinate. So I bought a couple. (You can never have too many plastic ears or rubber chickens.)

Have the ear and a coin in your right pocket. Before you work your wonders, reach into the pocket and take both out, concealing them in your right hand — the ear in sort of a classic palm, the coin in a finger palm. There’s no real work here in hiding the pieces, since no one knows what you’re going to do yet.

Reach over to the youngster’s ear with the right hand and push the coin to the fingertips, apparently taking it from her ear. Toss the coin in to the open and empty left hand, as you say, “A lot of magicians will pull a coin out of year ear.” Then reach over with the right hand, as if you are taking something from under the coin. “But I prefer to pull an ear out of a coin.” As you say this, the right hand turns palm down over the left hand and the ear falls to the fingertips. From there, simply pretend to pull the ear out rom under the coin.

As I said, there is no heavy magic here but your audience will certainly remember you. And, no doubt, those who try this will come up with their own handling. With sleeving, for example, you could make the coin vanish and be left with just the ear. Or you might want to start by showing both hands empty. (You work out the handling!)

The main thing is that you — and your audience — will have fun with this.

LOOK FOR OTHER EXCELLENT MARUCCI ROUTINES IN OUR ADVANCED LAB!!!

Common Threads by Ron Dayton

Common Threads

“Historical Information”
By
Ronald J. Dayton

It’s interesting to consider how many things in our lives are inter-connected in one way or another. I thought about this when thinking of my own birth date. I wondered who in the world of magic might share that common bond. Below is a list of months, and a sampling of well known people in magic who were born under your sign. This sampling is comprised of dates and names researched by Mr. Don Lamb of Waukesha, WI.


JANUARY: 3rd – BOSCO, 5th – WALTER JEANS, 12th – KRESKIN, 15th – JACK CHANIN, 23rd – KALANAG & JOHN CARNEY.

FEBRUARY: 2nd – STEWART JUDAH, 3rd – JOHN HENRY ANDERSON, 10th – RICHARD ROSS, 16th – EDGAR BERGAN & CHESTER MORRIS, 19th – FU MANCHU, ’22nd – TED ANNEMAN & DON ALAN, 23rd – DR. HARLAN TARBELL.

MARCH: 1st – FREDERICK EUGENE POWELL, 5th DON LAWTON, 10th -RON DAYTON, 20th – DAVID SEEBACH1 23rd – MILBOURNE CHRISTOPHER, 24th -HARRY HOUDINI, 26th – T. NELSON DOWNS, 29th-BOBBY J. GALLO.

APRIL: 2nd – CHUNG LING SOO, 7th – PAUL DANIELS, 11th -MARK WILSON, 18th JOSEPH DUNNINGER, 24th – SID LORRAINE. 30th – BILL WISCH.

MAY: 3rd – DOUGH HENNING & PERCY ABBOTT, 7th – FRANK DUCROT, 8th – BILL LARSEN JR., 21st – GENE ANDERSON, 29th – CHARLIE MILLER, 30th – BRUCE ELLIOTT, 31st -NATE LEIPZIG.

JUNE: 2nd – GERRIE LARSEN JAFFE, 9th JOHN MULHOLLAND, 10th -DAI VERNON, 20th – BRUCE CERVON, 25th – MICHAEL AMMAR;

JULY: 10th – HEN FETSCH, 11th – KELLAR, 14th – CARTER, 19th -HOFZINSER, 20th – HOWARD THURSTON, 24th – JANE THURSTON.

AUGUST: 5th – JOHN CALVERT, 18th – JOHN NORTHERN HILLIARD, 19th – PAUL CURRY, 31st – SAM S. SHARPE.

SEPTEMBER: 1st – BILL NEFF, 5th – KEN GRIFFIN, 10th – IRA DAVENPORT, 12th – WALTER GIBSON, 23rd – GUY JARRETT, 27th – HARRY BLACKSTONE SR.

OCTOBER: 3rd – DANTE, 6th – MICHAEL WEBER, 11th – R. C. BUFF, 13th – DUKE STERN& CARYL FLEMING, 14th -HARRY ANDERSON, 15th – GENE GORDON, 19th – AL LEECH, 20th – DELL O’DELL, 21st – MARTIN GARDNER, 30th – TOPPER MARTYN.

NOVEMBER: 16th – ROBERT NELSON, 18th – DE KOLTA, 19th – FAUCET ROSS, 24th – RICHARDI JR. & CARDINI.

DECEMBER: 2nd – CHANG, 7th JEAN EUGENE ROBERT-HOUDIN, 8th -LA FOLETTE, 12th – HARRY WILLARD & FRANCES WILLARD, 22nd – JOHN NEVIL MASKELYNE, 30th – JEAN HUGARD.


We at I.C.O.M realize that this is only the tip of the iceberg, there are many, many more names and dates which may apply.

If you know of others which have been verified and would care to share them with other members, please feel free to do so.

The more history and knowledge you can accumulate, the easier your goals will be to achieve.

Ten things every magician should know

TEN THINGS EVERY MAGICIAN SHOULD KNOW!

(And then some!)

This page is devoted to miscellaneous knowledge that I have gleaned over the years and could not seem to place anywhere else in I.C.O.M. Check out what is here regularly, I will be adding material as it becomes available. You never know what you will find!


Thing #1
Every Magician Should Know This “Out”

Audience Challenge Explanation Example For Multiple Step Routines
By
Bobby J. Gallo

Many times audiences will become suspicious when a trick (especially mathematical ones) contain too many steps to make them seem magical. Here is an explanation why as a magician, you have to do these things!

Many of you may be wondering why this experiment has so many steps. You may be thinking, if can read minds, why doesn’t he just do it? The reason is this, lets take car for an example. You cannot run a car on gas alone. You also need oil, transmission fluid, a battery, sparks plugs, anti-freeze, etc. So is it with magic, in order for me to get the proper psychic vibrations, these steps are necessary. So provide me with your cooperation and you will be rewarded with a feat of magic that you will remember for a long time. It works!


Thing #2
Every Magician Should Know The Timeless Truths!

An International Conservatory of Magic Online
“Timeless Truth

The audience may “think” they know how a trick is done, but that doesn’t mean they do!

An International Conservatory of Magic Online
“Timeless Truth

The audience may know how a trick is done, but that doesn’t mean they know how to do the trick…

An International Conservatory of Magic Online
“Timeless Truth

When is comes to actual effect “Less is more”


Thing #3
Every Magician Should Know This Bit Of Magical History

The “Little Known” History of the Magic Wand

Even more so than “pulling a rabbit out of a hat”, the magic wand is the universal symbol of magic. The classic elongated black object with white tips has been seen whenever and wherever the word “magic” is used. But what are the origins of this most ancient symbol of our beloved art? Here in the ICOM library, you may find some answers to this question that very few magicians know.

There have been speculations as to the exact beginnings of the usages of the wand. It would be safe to assume that the wand has been around since ancient shaman used their walking staffs as tools in which to summon spirits. We know however that such usages are at least 6000 years old since we read the famous biblical account of Moses and the court magician turning the rods into serpents in front of the Egyptian King. This account shows us that the magic wand was not only in use at that time, but would logically indicate that its use was ancient even at that time.

Another probable conclusion is that the wand was used as a stirring device by the ancient Alchemists. These ancient practitioners of the magical arts were an unlikely combination of scientist, magic practiser (the real thing, not illusions) and mathematicians. Throw in a few other titles in some cases as well. Many of these old time magicians wore black robes to hide their identities to keep form being labeled as heretics. This is where it is said that the wands color combination originated. The black was supposed to symbolize all in the world that was unknown, belonging to another plane of existence or was mysterious. The white tips of the wand are the deposit of knowledge proven by science and human achievement. It is interesting to note how much smaller mankinds knowledge is when compared to the vast expanse the the black section! The white tips are placed on the ends of the wand in an effort to lock in the unknown by sealing the ends of the wand which are the only exits to this plane of existence. This may have been an effort to control these forces even though they remain a mystery.

Throughout the ages, the magic wand has also been associated with walking sticks or staffs used by those who depend upon them as a means of physical support. It is evident that an old “wise” man’s staff after death would be thought to have possessed some of his/her magical prowess since this object was so closely tied to that person for so long a period of time. Thus, they became a much sought after talisman.

In modern day magic, wands have exceptional uses to the magician beyond that of being mere symbols of the magical arts. Palming techniques, misdirection and even magical effects themselves can be developed using the wand. In “Sachs Sleight of Hand”, the author deals with the uses of the magic wand. It is suggested reading.

Look for complete lessons for the use of the magic wand in the ICOM Beginners Study in the near future. Till then, impress your local club members with your new found knowledge, spice up your presentations and tell everyone you found it here in the ICOM Library!


Thing #4
Every Magician Should Know The Best Books To Read

Suggested Reading List
The ICOM “Yard Long” Bookshelf

Here they are. What we here at ICOM feel to be the finest magical texts ever written. It must be observed that in the world of magic there is a great deal of repetition when it comes to magic books. So many moves as well as entire routines are written, re-written again and again in book after book. Those with large libraries will attest that a good 50% of their shelves are lined with tomes that are in many ways identical to others by entirely different authors! All clamoring to be the industry standard.

The books in following list are important for the reasons stated beneath each. If this collection is amassed. The reader will have nearly every resource necessary to become a successful magician a their fingertips! While we will add to this list in the future, we will take care not to make it too large. That is why we call it out yard long bookshelf! They are all you need, for in truth, you could never master all of the magic contained in the following list should you live to be as old as Merlin himself!

1.The Amateur Magician’s Handbook-Henry Hay
This small book has become the standard beginners textbook by which all others are judged. It is comprehensive in scope and covers most all basic sleights, tricks, moves, and concepts.

2.The Magical World of Slydini-Karl Fulves
Most likely the greatest book on close-up magic ever written. The material, while being of an advanced nature, relies heavily on technique and misdirection. This makes it a must for every serious student.

3.The Best of Slydini-Karl Fulves
This book completes the set started with the one above. Material developed by the greatest close-up magician who has ever lived.

4.Sleight of Hand-Sachs
At one time this book was proclaimed by the era’s most famous magicians as the standard textbook for becoming a magician. Most of the theory is as sound today as it was almost a hundred years ago when it was originally written. Most of the magical effects are the same ones used today with little or no differences!

5.Our Magic-Maskelyne & Devant
This book on theory has never been equalled. The REAL secrets for becoming a magician are contained here. A must for every magic bookshelf.

6.Bobo’s Modern Coin Magic-Bobo
The Bible of coin magic. The basis for nearly every bit of coin magic over the past century is contained in this book.

7.The Encyclopedia of Impromptu Magic-Martin Gardner
This collection of magic that can be done at a moments notice is staggering. Thousands of tricks and stunts are contained here. Some that can not be found anywhere else. A literal gold mine of material.

8.Magic Without Apparatus-Gaultier
This ancient text is the forerunner of all texts on pure sleight of hand. It is very technical and has few illustrations. However, we have found that learning from this book gives the student a better overall picture of what the magic intends to accomplish. Huge is scope, it has all the basics dealing with cards, coins, balls and thimbles.

9.Handkerchief Magic-Hugard
For a small booklet, this publication give the student nearly all the basic moves, sleights, and advise on handling silks. A much less costly alternative to Rice’s Encyclopedia of Silk Magic (3 volumes).

10.Thirteen Steps To Mentalism-Corinda
THE book on mental magic. An outstanding, thorough, and massive compilation of mentalism that includes everything from impromptu stunts to full blown stage presentations. Everything you will ever need when it comes to psychic type magic.


Thing #5
Every Magician Should know these handy dandy tips by Ron Dayton
You can cut white sponge foam into cubes and paint dots on them with dimensional craft paint to form your own production dice for pennies.

You can use three sets of the Block and Penny trick for a shell and pea type presentation.  To show the penny, block is slid to one side rather than lifted.

You can shuffle a Sevengali Deck in the usual manner and still force a card as outlined in the instructions.

Secretly load a box full of crayons ( all the same color )  into a youngsters cap. Do a crayon catch, ala cigarette catcher,  and pretend to toss them into the cap. For the finale’, produce full box of crayons as the hat is returned.

10. Suggestions & Info.:  You can hand spring a Brain Wave deck, and nothing will show.

ICOM Grand Illusion Suite

The I.C.O.M Grand Illusion Suite

Welcome to a forum that has been a long time in coming…..The I.C.O.M Grand Illusion Suite! Here you will find the BIG STUFF! Everything you always wanted to know about furniture moving but were afraid to ask!…Just kidding!

Seriously though, This is the forum that will discuss the workings and performance to original and novel Illusions suitable for the stage. Special thanks to Gene Poinc for initiating this forum by his generous and brilliant Illusion contributions.


We are proud to include this masterwork from Gene Poinc. It appears here rather than the Secret Passageway for two reasons. 1. It is suitable for the stage. 2. We are trying to keep all of Gene’s material that he submitted for an exclusive forum in one place. We think you will like it…. BJG

The Final Houdini Seance Revisited

By Gene Poinc

A framed portrait of Houdini is on the seance table. There is a stand to the side of the table, on it a travel-worn valise emblazoned with once colorful labels from many countries; but dominating all is the name HOUDINI.

The performer stares thoughtfully a moment at the portrait, then turns to the audience, “Contrary to what has become popular mythology, Houdini was not a great magician, certainly competent, but not great. However, he was a magnificent escape artist, the greatest showman of his times, and in the opinion of some who knew him, the greatest ego of all time. Astonishing ego. Keep that in mind, it’s pertinent,”

Looking at the portrait again, the performer says somewhat wistfully, “And, perhaps, evidence of a glorious truth, Harry Houdini died October 31,1926, so ordinary a death for so spectacular a personality. No tragic demise in an escape attempt from a straight jacket suspended high above a crowd-packed street, with subsequent fall; or in a crate beneath an ice-encrusted lake; or a failed attempt to free himself from the Water Torture Charnber gone dreadfully awry. No. Ordinary. Not the way he would have preferred his final exit to be. So ordinary. Peritonitis from an unexpected blow to his abdomen by a university student to test Houdini’s boast of being able to sustain any hit a man could inflict. It’s said he was engrossed in reading a letter, unprepared for the impact. He died a few days later, not before the eyes of a horrified yet paradoxically fascinated crowd, but in a hospital. Ordinary. No audience, only his beloved wife Beatrice, Bess to friends.

“At some point during their lives, most likely after Houdini’s cherished mother died and his grieving attempts to contact her spirit through various mediums (all exposed as frauds), he and Bess vowed that the one who died first would make every effort to contact the other if a spirit dimension and interaction with mortals were possible. They decided on a code that would be known only to them as evidence of survival. After ten years all attempts were to cease.

“Now visualize; the roof of the glamorous Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel rented by Dr. Edward Saint, Mrs. Houdini’s business manager and, in his own way a showman; the roof was to be the much publicized site of the final Houdini seance. It was a perfect night for such an effort. Oh, not the cliche dark and stormy one of shallow horror tales with banshee howls riding eerie winds, and earthbound haunts lurking in every shadow. None such. No. It was a lovers’ night of sky ablaze with radiant stars engendering awe of all creation, instilling the wonder of life and hope of love transcending the seeming finality of the grave. A cold but perfect night.”

After a slight pause, the performer opens the valise, removes a framed photograph of Bess (smaller than the Houdini one), and places it beside Houdini’s.

“This photo traveled with him when Bess could not. A perfect night for love’s reunion. Comprising the seance inner circle with Bess and Dr. Saint were two newsmen, the past president of the California State Spiritualist Society, a judge of a California high court, and two magicians: one the president of a West Coast magicians’ organization; the other a publisher, William Larsen, Sr., founder and editor of a magazine devoted to the interests of amateur and professional conjurers. Beyond the inner circle there were bleachers to accommodate three hundred spectators, an extremely large group for so intimate an occasion. But then it was Dr. Edward Saint who made the arrangements, and, as stated, he was a showman in his own right. He wanted an audience.. .even for so final and solemn an effort to reunite two lovers, one living, the other dead.”

The performer removes a number of items from the valise, placing them on the seance table. “On a table in the inner circle was a tambourine, a spirit trumpet through which Houdini might whisper the secret code to Bess, a blank pistol, a slate and chalk, a bell and locked handcuffs. Nearby, the light that had burned steadily, bulb changes excepted, for ten years. If Houdini could break through the veil of death, perhaps he would give a sign: shoot the pistol, unlock the cuffs.. .something.. .anything. One of the magicians present had suggested Houdini’s wraith be given a bit of assistance, some sly trickery. But, surprisingly for Dr. Saint, he would allow no subterfuge. “At eight o’clock the grandeur of ‘Pomp and Circumstance,’ the introductory music Houdini used in his stage performances, filled the cold night air as if reaching to the heavens and what spirit world might lie beyond. After a prayer, Dr. Saint gave his invocation. He cried out to high heaven…”

(If you have a copy of the seance recording, sold about ten years ago, play a brief excerpt of Ed Saint evoking after you say, “Listen now to the voice of Dr. Saint recorded on that.. .strange .. .night”)

“He pleaded, begged, commanded Houdini to give a sign, to come forth with the evidence. His cajoling was long and loud enough to awaken the dead, and possibly do in the living. Shortly before her death in 1943, Mrs. Houdini commented, ‘He invoked and he invoked — good Lord how that man invoked!’ But Houdini did not come through; his spirit did not appear to reassure his beloved Bess of life’s continuity. All was disappointed silence. Silence. Silence. And yet, did such have to be; was something done incorrectly? Unwittingly? Consider — Houdini’s monumental ego. Would The Great Houdini, as he often referred to himself, would the Great Houdini return to, good heavens, shake a tambourine, indulge in the nonsense of a spirit trumpet? He certainly was not a horn tooter. But what of his love for Bess? Perhaps along with the love, something more was needed to make contact feasible, something that was imbued with the psychic, mystical…call it what you will…ENERGY of his heart and mind and soul.”

The performer removes a straight jacket from the valise, displays it, “Impregnated with the intense energy of his dynamic strengths and fears and struggles, his triumphs in at times a tormented life. A near integral part of himself, like a second skin his straight jacket, the foundation for his international reputation for death-defying escapes. DEATH DEFYING…along with love — might not that have been his ultimate challenge to break through, to defy, conquer, and escape, symbolized by the straight jacket — death itself? Curious premise. Or is it?”

The performer leans somewhat over the end of the seance table to give spectators a closer look at the straight jacket. The extended jacket inadvertently blocks the stance items from view.

“Imagine if this straight jacket could speak, what escape thrills I…” He is suddenly interrupted by the pistol being fired behind the jacket; the tambourine shaking as part of it shows over the top edge of the jacket; the bell ringing; the spirit trumpet contemptuously flung up and away failing to the floor. All this happens very quickly. The performer moves the straight jacket aside folding it. “Apparently Houdini did not return that seance night of lost hopes.” He places jacket back into the valise, “As for just now…” smiles ever so slightly… “who knows? Dr. Saint turned to Mrs. Houdini saying…”

(If you have the recording, say, “Listen to voices from the past…” and play Saint’s question to Bess and her response.)

“Mrs. Houdini, have you had the sign?” Quietly she replied, ‘No. And I think that after ten years of trying every type of seance, I am convinced that the dead cannot return, that spirits do not exist. It is over. Finished.’ She turned out the light that had burned all those years, I now reverently…turn off…the light; goodnight, Harry.’ That’s what she said then .. .what might she say now?” He picks up the previously blank slate; a message is written on it reading: BESS, BELIEVE.

“Back then some manifestation would have been so reassuring; but…perhaps, just perhaps…something was. Remember…it was a cold, brilliantly clear night, stress clear, and yet the instant Mrs. Houdini and Dr. Saint left the roof, it suddenly rained just long enough to drench everyone remaining. Just somewhat wickedly long enough to soak the group. Sudden rains simply don’t happen in California, especially out of clear skies — yet that one did. Might a man of enormous ego have chosen to return as something dynamic, as inexplicable as that bewildering storm? Something to ponder. Goodnight, ladies and gentlemen.” Looks up and beyond the heads of the spectators, almost inaudible, “Goodnight, Bess… Harry …goodnight.”

There you have it. Now as for the method. Remove the cloth and fake hand from your Full Light Seance contraption. Cross the sleeves on a straight jacket and buckle at the back. Insert the supporting rod into the jacket, bottom to neck, and secure. Attach the hand. If a regular straight jacket seems too heavy to handle comfortably with one hand, even for sobrief a time, have one made of lighter fabric such as artist’s unprimed canvas, or even denim; use leatherette rather than leather for the straps and collar. Stain it to look old and often used.

As for the objects on the seance table: only ONE slate is used, the BESS, BELIEVE message written on the reverse side which simply is not shown. Since no mention is made that a message is to appear, none will be expected; the other items like the Spirit Trumpet are interesting looking and provide distraction. The handcuffs are unlocked to begin with; handling covers the slight gap as does the tambourine which is placed leaning a bit on the cuffs. So don’t slow the pace by fooling around with two slates, showing all four sides, wiping them clean, all that needless nonsense, But some will.. – I just know some will. Sigh.

The manifestations must be extremely brief, a total surprise to the audience, soooooo, in getting the suspended straight jacket into position, make sure blocking the view of the objects DOES NOT SEEM DELIBERATE. All focus is on the jacket as you lean forward to give spectators a better look at it; then as you begin to pull back, fire the pistol, which will startle everyone. Now quickly the tambourine is shaken, part of which must show above the top edge of the jacket; forcefully as possible fling the Spirit Trumpet up and over the jacket so it falls to floor or table; ring the bell; toss the now fully open handcuffs out. Casually fold the jacket with rod and return it to the valise.

DO NOT show the message on the slate until the moment indicated in the narration.

In practice and performance, concentrate on restricting shoulder movement when animating the objects.

And  finally  a  should -I- or-shouldn’t -I situation, that being inclusion or exclusion of an idea. I like the simplicity of everything so far. . . and yet it occurred to me, if part of your performance is done seated, as you lean away from the table to put the straight jacket back into the valise, in full view the tambourine gives a shake or two. A plate lifter, the bulb pressed by your knee against the side of the table. Heh, The tube covered by a shawl said to have been worn by Mrs. Houdini at the seance, on the table from the beginning. The disciplined part of self says it’s too much, gilding the proverbial lily…… but I just couldn’t resist mentioning it. See, I’m human too, tempted to overdo such a struggle. Did I tell you the life of a magician is not a merry one? The life of a magician is not a merry one. Sigh.

Enjoy.

Happy Halloween.



” THE GEB – GRANT LEVITATION ”
By
You Know Who!
Something NEW, and long awaited by the students of I.C.O.M, a levitation; comprised of tried and proven methods of two gentlemen. This is not a pipe dream! It IS an easy and affordable illusion done indoor or out. No heavy equipment or set up time, no assistants. Everything you’ll need is either worn or carried by you openly as you walk out to perform. Your out of pocket cost will be about twenty dollars. Interested? Read on:

EFFECT:

You walk on to stage, carrying one of those cloth stand up style book bags. Reaching into its open top, you remove a 4 X 4 foot square of cloth. This foulard is held in front of you, one corner in each hand. The tips of your shoes are visible below the cloths lower edge. Suddenly your feet are seen to rise up off the floor. Your head and upper torso shift to the right as your legs lift to the left and appear together at the left side of the cloth. The lower edge of the cloth is well up off the floor. Only the cloth book bag is visible below it. Your entire body seems to be floating parallel to the stage without visible support. Slowly your feet descend as you stand erect on terra firma. The cloth is gathered up and placed back in the bag. You take your well deserved bow, grab the bag and carry it off stage.

Impossible? It would certainly seem to be. But by combining methods of a friend, Milwaukee magician Jim Geb; and a mentor, U.F. Grant, it can be done. By conditioning the audience to the possibility of self levitation, do the Balucci for them first, then follow with the Geb-Grant version. Sadly, Jim passed away last year of Lukemia. His method here-to- for was shared with only a small circle of friends. With permission from his widow Donna, in his memory, I offer it to you.

METHOD:

Both Geb and Grant realized the strength of simplicity for greatest impact. Jim’s portion of the levitation required two two inch self adhesive squares of velcro. One square was stuck to each shoe just where the heel began. When he stood with his legs together, the shoes became attached. He used his jacket as a covering cloth held in front of him. He slipped his right foot from within its shoe. Supported bt his right leg, he began to bend to the right, side ways at his waist. Simultaneously, his straight left leg and joined pair of shoes was lifted to the left. The illusion created was that of him floating un assisted parallel to the ground and several feet above it. Reversing the procedure allowed him to replace his jacket and walk casually away.

Grant on the other hand, took a different approach. One other item, a small step stool was in the bag with the square of cloth on top. His shoes were not attached to one another. At first his feet were covered by the cloth. He simply stepped into the bag, and stood upon the stool. As he stepped up the cloth rose with him. Only the bag was visible, creating the impressiom that he must be floating in the air. Grant used a paper grocery bag. When you combine the two mens method, a different illusion is created. The stool and foulard are in the cloth book bag. I used a cloth bag to eliminate the possibility of a paper bag ‘talking’ as your right foot steps in.

Will this effect take practice? YES, of course it will! It will take time to gain the strength and balance required. Is it worth the effort? You tell me.

Ron Dayton


“A NEW TWIST TO THE GEB- GRANT LEVITATION”

Inspired by a Steve Fearson method, If the BAG in which you carry the stool had a mirror positioned diagonally in it were made of MESH … and the cloth was inside as well, a new dimension to what we have been discussing would emerge. I may be crazy, but this seems like progress.

Ron Again


A Sack of Santa
By
Gene Poinc
The Performer sighs, shakes his head negatively, “This being the season for jolly antics I suppose you won’t be satisfied unless you see a Santa. I could entertain you with all the wonders of my astonishing skills – but you want Santa. Dismal.”

He glances at a low platform at center stage. There is a plastic bag crumpled on top of it, but enough hangs over the edge to establish it’s in the shape of Santa Claus, one of those life-size ones you stuff with newspapers. Leaning against the platform is a large transparent red bag filled with crumpled news- papers.

Walking over to the platform the Performer indicates the Santa, “That crumpled plastic bag of vague shape. Santa. Do you realize what stupendous magic could be thrilling you if you didn’t insist on this nonsense?” He indicates the second bag filled with newspapers, “A sack full of …uh… the thou- sands upon thousands of fan letters I receive. Why thousands? Because I’m loaded with talent, but… of course… you want Santa.”

The Performer gestures toward the wings. Two assistants walk out to the platform. Shrugging, the performer says to the assistants, “They want Santa. Give them Santa. My life is not a merry one.”

The assistants rapidly stuff the Santa with newspapers. Once filled, they seat it on the low platform. The Santa is awk- ward looking, and seems as if it might topple over.

The Performer stares at the audience, “Happy? Now if I may, can we get on to important matters?” He moves quite a distance away from the platform, his back to the Santa, and begins performing skillful manipulations with cards or billiard balls while extolling his many talents. “I have performed for Presidents, for Kings and Queens and dignitaries of the world… and your only interest seems to be silly Santas.”

The Santa begins to quiver as if gradually coming to life. The performer is, of course, oblivious. “Do you understand? I am far too famous for nonsense.”

The Santa stirs and awkwardly stands up. In response to audience reaction the Performer looks quizzical and glances back over his shoulder. But the Santa has stopped his movement an instant before the Performer turns; he does not see the movement. Shrugging, the Performer continues his manipulations, babbling, “Indeed, indeed, in all modesty I would say I am by far… farther than cosmic far …the greatest magician who ever trod this tawdry earth. And you wanted to waste time on Santa.”

During this the Santa is slowly, menacingly lumbering toward the Performer. His movement is always ungainly, like a sack of newspapers trying to walk.

Again the Performer hears some audience reaction and turns, looking back. The Santa stops just as the performer turns, and stands motionless. The Performer looks perplexed. He gestures toward the wings. An assistant steps out. Annoyed, the Performer commands, “Do. ..not. ..move. ..that. ..thing. .. again!”

The assistant tries to protest that he didn’t move it, but he’s waved off by the performer.

The Performer returns to doing spectacular manipulations as the Santa once again moves ominously toward the magician, ” Are your hearts not overflowing with gratitude that I am honoring all you little, little, little people with this exquisite display of incomparable talent?” The Santa is almost upon him. “. ..with this genius rather than that Santa silliness?” The Santa roars, “Merry Christmas !” The Performer is so startled that the cards or billiard balls in his hands go flying wildly into the air, and many, many more fall from various places qf concealment in his clothes. He whirls and shrieks when he sees the Santa. In terror he dashes off into the wings with the Santa lumbering after him.

QUICK CURTAIN…

METHOD:

With careful timing this can be very funny. The image of this pompous – to the extreme -magician perfonning manipulations while a bag of crumpled newspapers vaguely in the guise of Santa staggers toward him is grandly ludicrous.

Ideally, make the Santa bag of a size to accommodate the assistant, who is scrunched up in the lower section (figure 1). The illustration depicts the Santa extended fully upward to show the relative size of the Santa and also to provide the reader with a design guide. When the assistant is scrunched up the upper part of the Santa bag will be collapsed around the assistant. You can make the Santa out of plastic available from a garden supply store. Draw the Santa onto the plastic twice, cut out the two Santas, and tape the edges together – with plastic tape. You can then have an artist airbrush the features and costume onto the bag. It might be possible to purchase a ready-made Santa during the holiday season. If so you may need to enlarge the Santa at the back so that the assistant can fits inside still leaving plenty of room for the stuffing of newspapers. Place Velcro strips on the inside of the Santa boots and on the soles of the assistant’s shoes. This will secure them, and facilitate walking without the shoes sliding about inside the Santa bag.

Figure 2 shows the platfonn, which is about two feet high. The Santa bag lies on top, all crumpled up, but enough of the sleeve and cap hang over the front edge to establish what it is. It appears as though it could not possiibly conceal anything.

The assistant inside the Santa bag is concealed in a well at the back of the platform. This well is represented by the shaded areas in Figures 2 and 3. The depth of the well depends on the size of your assistant, but nine or ten inches should suffice.
As the other assistants begin stuffing the Santa bag with newspapers they partially block the audience’s view of the Santa bag. During this stuffing process the assistant inside Santa is moved from the well to the front section of the platfonn. Finally, when the assistants seat the Santa on the platform, it must look awkward, almost ready to topple over like a paper-stuffed figure. All subsequent movements MUST be ungainly. It would be effective if the platform were used for other things prior to the Santa illusion so the audience becomes accustomed to it as a utility piece on which various things are put, rather than being an integral part of the presentation.

Some of you will want to produce a live Santa from the Santa bag. Do as you wish. The staggering about, awkward-walking Santa sack is a visual delight. Enjoy it and allow the audience to do the same.

Happy Holidays to you all.