Dr. Om’s magicschool program of study #3





Because MISDIRECT1ON is essential to performing any magical illusion, Dr.OM is devoting the present installment to this important subject, at a juncture in the magic course at which the topic of misdirection is loomingly important The student should gain both concepts and techniques of misdirection from this, chapter and comprehend the component parts of the art of misdirection.

MISDIRCTION is the art of distracting audience attention away from the “dirty work” (hidden method) and focusing audience attention upon the magical illusion being overtly displayed. MISDIRECTION CONSISTS OF: 1) STEALING; 2) HOLDING; 3) WAITING; 4) PRODUCING; 5) VANISHING: AND DITCHING.


Stealing, simply put, means obtaining an object from a body load, utility holder, pocket, table servante (hidden secret shelf), or chair servante. An assistant, dancer, or show band member are used to “slip” objects to a magician, for his later production, as well. Looking away from the source of the steal and fixing the eys on an object in the other hand, an on or offstage noise, the magician being upstaged by the motion of another actor or object onstage within the audience’s view, and/or distracting patter (talk) are misdirective, i.e. misdirecting the audience’s attention from what they should not see to what the magician wants them to see. If the magician looks at the audience, the audience will look at the magician. If the magician looks at a person or object, the audience will look.


A stolen object should not be immediately produced, but should be secretly concealed and held until the magician has moved his hand (when stealing small objects from the pocket, for example) or has moved his whole body (when stealing larger objects from a table, for example) away from the source of the steal, after the magician has had the concealing hand grasp another misdirective object such as a wand or after the magician has moved his whole body onto an open space away from furniture or other actors on the stage and has waited long enough before producing the concealed object.


Vanishing is the effect experienced by the audience. Ditching is the method whereby the effect is achieved. A hand secretly holding an object may ditch (put) the object into a pocket in the apparent act of taking another object out of the same pocket, usually for use in a subsequent effect. The object to be ditched should be held in finger palm position, leaving the thumb and first and second fingers free to pick up from the pocket the object to be openly revealed, as motivation for going into the pocket, in the first place. An object concealed in finger palm position allows the hand to pick up the further misdirecting object, such as a wand or pencil, leading the audience to believe that nothing else but the wand or pencil is being held by the concealing hand.

(From I.C.O.M Sleight-of-Hand Gallery)


(From I.C.O.M Sleight-of-Hand Gallery)

(From I.C.O.M Sleight-of-Hand Gallery)



The Bobo drop is a method for switching one object for another. For instance, A penny is held in RIGHT finger palm position as a nickel is displayed held by the thumb and the first and second finger tips.


The nickel is seemingly placed into the magician’s own LEFT hand, but is allowed to drop by gravity into RIGHT finger palm position as the penny is actually simultaneously dropped into the LEFT hand. The LEFT hand fingers simultaneously close to mask the falling penny and continues to close into a fist. The RIGHT band picks up a pencil from the RIGHT side pants or suit pocket, simultaneously ditching the nickel into the pocket and then with the pencil taps the LEFT hand, as the Left hand fingers squeeze the supposed nickel which is the actual penny against the palm, seeming to grind and compress the coin. The LEFT hand, then opens to reveal that the nickel has been transformed into a penny. Then, the RIGHT hand replaces the penny and pencil into the RIGHT pocket, thereby resetting the effect for the next performance.


The magician moving from left to right stage holding a bouquet of white roses, passes behind a stage scenery tree with a shelf (servante) invisible to the audience holding a bouquet of red roses. The magician switches bouquet by dropping the white bouquet onto the shelf a picking up the red bouquet. The actions are executed quickly, such that when the magician emerges from behind the tree, the bouquet seems to have instantly and miraculously changed color. This effect is a piece of choreography which must be practiced until perfect.


Plays by Luigi Pirandello
August Strindberg’s “The Dream Play”
Kopit’s Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma Hung You in the Closet and I’M Feeling so Sad




Robert Frost defined poetic metaphor as “.. .talking about something while seeming to be talking about something else.” In the poetry of the magical arts, Frost’s definition rings true. David Copperfield’s beautiful presentation of the classic “Snowfall In China” is marvelous, not only in the magical effect of the falling snow filling the entire stage but also, and perhaps primarily, in the metaphor of his storied recollection of the first snowfall he witnessed as a child. The story and the effect appeal because each of us has witnessed a first snowfall. The metaphoric meaning addresses the newness of all first time experiences to a child. That child and that thirst for newness are still within us. Show me a puzzle and I shall be bewildered. Show me a magic effect and I shall be amazed. Tell me a story and I shall remember it forever.

The metaphor of another classic, “The Miser’s Dream,” appeals to audiences because they experience a metaphoric expression of the universal need and desire for money. In “The Miser’s Dream,” coins are snatched from the air-would that it could be so.

Magicians of the historical past were able to create the illusion of severing the heads from animals and humans and then restoring them. Destroyed and restored effects appeal metaphorically to the audience desire to make whole again not only the physically but also the spiritually and emotionally destroyed in their lives. The “Guillotine Illusion” is one later version of head severing and restoration. “The Sawing a Lady in Half Illusion” was especially metaphorically meaningful during the nineteen thirties when so many were economically and emotionally trying to get their lives back together. The question might be asked: from what was Houdini escaping in the subconscious minds of his audience? Recently, David Blaine performed a variation of the old flagpole-sitting publicity stunt, which was popular during the great depression.

Was Blaine’s two-thousand-and-two audience subconsciously and metaphorically sitting it out and waiting with the performer for an ailing stock market to turn around?

After the tragic events of September 11, 2001, the “Immolation Stage Illusion” would have great psychological impact. Seeing a beautiful young lady cremated in a coffin shaped oven and then seeing her restored to her whole self again would provide a metaphoric sub-text suggesting the restoration of the twin towers and all the lives so sadly lost when they fell in flames. There would be no need to back project images of the towers on a scrim. That would be funky over kill, and the metaphor of the effect would be powerful enough.

On a lesser scale, torn and restored effects would produce a similar catharsis in a close-up audience. Close- up magic or small prop stage magic employ simple props in miniature, which are no less metaphorically potent, by subconsciously suggesting the restoration of that which has been destroyed in metaphor by the actual props in use. The effect selected for this lesson may be performed almost impromptu anywhere with found objects.



Do not underestimate the audience impact of this seemingly simple “trick” when well handled and presented with a story line patter tailor made to suit the persona of the performer.


For the larger magician’s hands, whole paper napkins may be used. For smaller hands the napkin may be carefully cut into halves or even into quarters, preferably with scissors. Importantly, the two napkins or portions of a napkin must be identical.


The first napkin or portion is rolled into a tight ball and concealed in the left hand finger palm position.

The second napkin is held hanging by a corner between the first finger and thumb of the right hand and stroked downward by the left hand without flashing or dropping the concealed rolled napkin.

1) With the first, to be restored, napkin in finger palm position of the left hand, the second, to be torn, napkin is displayed downstage to the audience in hanging position by the right hand.

2) The right hand gently waves the napkin three times in the air and then performs a series of three passes of the right hand napkin through the left upward held palm.

3) On the first pass, the right second and third fingers and pinky, clip the first napkin ball, carrying it away hidden behind the second displayed napkin, as the left hand is gracefully and casually turned to the audience to reveal the palm empty.

4) On the second pass the rolled ball is re-deposited into the left hand, in the finger palm position, as the extended second and third fingers and the pinky of the right hand are held as if the right first finger and thumb are holding a tea cup, and gracefully and casually turn to the audience to be revealed empty.

5) The third pass is a misdirecting feint during which nothing happens. The second napkin is merely pulled through the left palm.

6) The free fingers of both hands now tear the second napkin into pieces and roll it into a tight ball, which is held between the first an second fingers and thumb of the right hand and displayed before the audience. (Never move too quickly. The audience must see everything of what you want them to see and see nothing of what you do not want them to see).

7) As the audience is so misdirected to look at the right hand display, the left hand forming a fist is turned thumb side upward.

8) The torn and balled napkin is stuffed gradually and by degrees into the well at the top of the left fist and pushed downward into the fist.

9) Before completely out of sight, the right fingers begin to alternately stuff at the top and pull at the bottom of the fistgradually and by degrees revealing the restored napkin. The stuffed torn napkin must be entirely concealed in the fist, before the restored napkin is entirely exposed to view.

10)When totally revealed. The restored napkin is conducted through a series of three passes, similar to that at the beginning.

1 l) On the first pass, the torn ball is carried away and the left hand revealed empty.

12) On the second pass, the torn ball is re-deposited in the left hand and the right hand is revealed empty.

13) On the third pass, the torn ball is again clipped, removed, and concealed by wrapping it secretly in the whole napkin and rolling both into a tight ball between the palms of both hands held with the back of the left hand facing the floor.

14) The Slydini vanish move (See Dr. OM’S lesson I) is performed.

15) The ball concealed in the right hand is sleeved.

16) Both hands are shown empty.

17) The magician bows and de-sleeves the rolled double napkin ball and ditches the ball, as reaching into the side coat pocket for a prop, perhaps a coin or a deck of cards, to be used in the next effect.


Practice before a mirror to avoid flashing (exposing that which is concealed to the audience) and to move the hands gracefully and slowly for maximum display. Do not perform publicly, until your image in the mirror fools even you. DR. OM’s version of THE TORN AND RESTORED NAPKIN combines handling techniques of the napkin effect with dye tube color changing silk technique. Let your patter TELL A STORY compatible with your magician’s character. Only you should compose your patter. Do not use anyone else’s. PRACTICE and GOOD FORTUNE.

  1. OM

Author: Bobby J. Gallo


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