What Goes Into Inventing a New Magic Trick?

What goes into inventing a magic trick?

That’s a question we are trying to answer as we develop, possibly for sale, an effect that could be popular with close-up magicians.  Because that’s what we do, close-up magic, it seemed natural to make commercial offerings of the tricks we do for audiences in the amateur rooms at The Magic Castle.

So we have this trick that audiences seem to enjoy and it really just depends on sleight of hand invented by our forbears.  We don’t know who invented the classic force – perhaps Johann Hofzinser back in the 1800s or someone more recent.  We want to credit the right person and so we search.  We can tell you one thing for sure, do not look up “Classic Force” on Google from your work computer.  Wow.  There is something not right with this world.

The second part of the trick involves a false pass of an object.  Who invented that?  Maybe one of Hofzinser’s friends or students or maybe it was T. Nelson Downs (“The King of Koins”).  We want to credit this move to its rightful owner as well.

But inventing a trick means more than giving credit to the right person.  We found we needed to write instructions for magicians wishing to practice the effect and performing it to maximum effect.  We are not big on giving a link to the magician and letting him or her find the instruction video on-line.  It seems impersonal and an easy way out.  We’re more of a UF Grant kind of organization with illustrated instructions covering each move and describing how to perform said move.

Let’s assume we get past the crediting and the instruction writing, the next step will be to come up with a name that grabs users’ attention.  We never had a name for this trick.  It was always just the effect we working on.  We’ll have to work on that as well.

Finally, we have to write ad copy that doesn’t mislead potential buyers.  We want to be honest about the effect to be presented from the audience’s point of view, the skills necessary to perform the effect, any angle issues, and whether the performer will need to practice to perform.

Let’s assume we get the ad copy correct and have no blatant lies in our listing, we will have to get friends and associates to write one sentence, objective recommendations for the effect.  We know some influential people and maybe they would be kind enough to write such praise.  We’d like some of the praise to follow the current trend of “fooled me badly,” “the kind of trick you will carry always” “I was floored” “Not since biblical times has such a miracle been seen,” “I rank the inventions as Sliced Bread, [the yet to be named trick] and the cotton gin,” “if I could buy only one trick that I would use constantly it would be …” “the finest trick of its kind anywhere” or the ever popular “I wish this wasn’t being sold so I could be the only one who had it.”

Then comes the pricing.  We don’t know how to price an ordinary deck of cards (with which one can perform second deals) and the special gimmicks that make the trick possible.  We’re thinking the cards could be supplied by the performer so we would only need to send the gimmicks.  They don’t weight too much – maybe a couple of ounces but they are specially made and cost us about $14 each.  So we’re looking at a total cost of $30 or so.  By checking mark-up of similar effects, we figure that means we should charge anywhere from $45 to $75.

Of course the second we launch the effect, we’ll learn from the various forums that the trick was actually invented by someone either a year ago or back in the 1920s.  We’ll feel terrible, apologize and take it off the market.

That’s just how we work.  We believe in not stealing effects, even if it is done without actual knowledge.  We don’t steal jokes either.  In fact, we have a non-stealing philosophy about most things – we’ll steal a kiss from our sweetie or steal fake fruit from a movie set if the script calls for it – but otherwise we’re this side of taking things we don’t own outright.

We wonder how so many magicians can invent new tricks, take the criticism of theft that comes from the magic public; or worse, failure to properly credit the innovators who invented parts of the trick.  They must have iron constitutions.  It would send us into a shame spiral – and not a good kind where you’re ashamed that you won a beauty contest over someone who came in second only because she couldn’t remember a good answer to one of those questions asked by celebrity judges.  A bad kind of shame spiral where you doubt everything you have ever done and assume no one like you.

We thought about copyrighting, patenting or trademarking the trick to prevent theft – assuming we are the inventor of the trick but our research shows that none of these intellectual property laws would help.  Copyright goes to the expression of an idea on paper or in action.  We could copyright our instructions but someone could come along with a new set of instructions and avoid a copyright claim.  A trademark only protects indications of origin of the effect.  As long as the thief differentiated the source with a new trademark or name for the trick – which right now would be easy because it doesn’t have a name – he or she would be scott-free.  A patent would not help because we would have to expose the secret to the patent office and to the world.  There would be nothing to sell, the secret would be out.  There are plenty of examples of patented magic tricks.  We would normally link such things but do not want to give away secrets — even very old ones.

Maybe we’ll keep the trick in our act, teach magicians we know if they ask, and watch as they improve upon it in their performances.  No shame spiral is likely and pride is almost certain to come.

If you see us and want to know the trick (assuming you are a bona fide magician) we’ll share it with you if it isn’t already obvious from our performance.  Sharing is caring and we care deeply about our wonderful art and the friends we have met.  The same friends we would have imposed upon to write glowing reviews such as “I literally lost control of my bodily functions upon seeing the effect,” or “this is the kind of trick with which you can start a cult.”

Houdini Magic Shop Owner Aids JFK Investigation

Inside Magic's First LogoGeno Munari, magician and owner of Houdini’s Magic Shop in Las Vegas and, most importantly for us here in Southern California, Disneyland, had a key role in finding historical documents related to the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

Harry Connick, father of performer Harry Connick, Jr. served as district attorney in New Orleans and in that role ordered the destruction of files related to JFK’s assassination.  Apparently the order wasn’t followed and some of the files, 67 boxes in total, remained.  The police officer charged with destroying the documents thought they may have some historical relevance and copied them for safekeeping.

Years or decades later, the files showed up on eBay and Mr. Munari bought them.

Investigation enthusiasts and scholars are delighted the files still exist and are combing the boxes for insight into the assassination, according to the website American Free Press.

As a side note, Inside Magic once uncovered files relating to the attempted theft of a magic trick invented by a rather famous magician who travelled through the United States.

Paw Paw Lawton was a part of the Inside Magic staff back in the day when we distributed this blog through cutting and pasting together a newsletter sent to over 20 subscribers on our list (six were members of our own family or claimed to be related by marriage.  The image above was our first logo.  In the latter case, it turned out that Tony Spain was not properly married to our sister-in-law because he had been married three previous times, to the same woman, and none of those marriages were properly ended by divorce.

Tony has held a grudge against Inside Magic since and once had a website called, Down with Inside Magic and its Terrible Blogging (downwithinsidemagicanditsterribleblogging.io).  That site became inactive after one or two (actually one and a half) blog posts and our recent check of the very tough to remember or type URL shows the site is long gone.

Our sister-in-law was devastated and turned over to Paw a letter in which Tony was about to publish Paw’s Glass and a Half where liquid was poured into a glass from a pitcher and yet was able to hold all of the liquid poured.  Sort of a Multum in Parvo but with the added benefit of no set-up.  The trick was never published by Paw or Tony.  Tony is lazy and never got around to publishing the secret or claiming the trick was his.  Paw thought the secret was too good to share because he kept it in his act until his unfortunate passing in the early 2000s.)

But from that one experience we realized how important pieces of paper could be.  We used to think paper with writing on it was a novelty that would fall out of fashion.  After extensive research, spurred by our sister-in-law’s jilting, we learned that many things were written on paper; such as the Magna Carta, the Constitution of our very country, and shopping lists.  That discovery in the early 1990’s essentially changed our way of thinking.  So imagine how excited we are to learn that a magician, Geno Munari purchased 67 boxes of pieces of paper and audio tapes for any reason, much less the New Orleans’ investigation of the Kennedy assassination.

We are old enough to remember the assassination although our memory is only of the funeral and the assassination of Lee Harvey Oswald on live television.

We credit our outstanding memory to taking some extract from jellyfish that we learned about on a late-night/early morning infomercial.  We didn’t even know jellyfish had brains much less great memories.  We wonder often what the typical jellyfish remembers.  Perhaps good times as a young jellyfish with its jellyfish mom and dad and its ambitions to be a great jellyfish that other jellyfish will remember in their great memory banks right before they are used to make supplements that we purchase online.  But that’s us.

We wonder about a lot of things, constantly.

We wonder why jellyfish, with their great memories, would put themselves into a position where they could be used for the scientists who derive the extracts.  We wonder if by taking the extracts to help our own memory, we are actually capturing some of the jellyfish memories.  Perhaps that is why we like the ocean so much.  Maybe we are living the hopes and dreams of so many jellyfish.  Or maybe we just like getting wet and having sand in our shoes and walking uncomfortably back to our car to deposit the sand throughout.

We just bought a new/used Nissan Eczema and love it  but it is filled with beach sand and the interior smells of dead fish.  We don’t know why they stopped making it in 1989 but it is a great car with very few seatbelts but it does have a cigar lighter that works so we have that.

Back to our story.  We are delighted to see Mr. Munari’s name associated with this historical event and subsequent investigation that has lasted since the assassination of JFK – more than 15 years have passed since November 22, 1963, maybe more than 15, but at least 15 years.  We’re not good at math.

Check out the full story here.

Visit Mr. Munari’s Houdini Magic Shop here.

Science Channel Greenlights Houdini Series

Flop SweatThe Science Channel is set to carry a docuseries titled Houdini’s Last Secrets.  The series purports to be an expose of Houdini’s effects by looking at the scientific and engineering allegedly utilized in the effects performed by the great magician.

According to The Hollywood Reporter, the series will feature not only engineers and scientists but illusionists to “unravel the mystery around the man who caught a speeding bullet, survived live burial and imprisoned himself inside a water tank, spurring celebrity and conspiracy theories. The show will also look into the late magician’s personal life, through authentic scrapbooks, letters and pictures, to piece together his legacy.”

Each of the episodes will seek to discover the secret behind one of Houdini’s effects.

Said Science Channel General Manager “Harry Houdini is the definition of mind-blowing. He was clearly ahead of his time when it came to using engineering to accomplish his stunts, so much so that his methods continue to be debated by today’s master magicians. It’s no wonder that just the name Houdini still stirs the imagination of people, nearly a century after his death.”

Variety reports that the first effect to be explored / exposed will be the Water Torture Cell escape and the other shows will include stunts that we don’t believe Houdini actually performed such as “burning alive” and “catching a bullet.”  In fact, we are rather sure Houdini did not perform the bullet catch after receiving advice from Kellar.  We defer to John Cox, the Houdini expert, for his recollection.

The best scenario would be that the scientists, illusionists and engineers on the show fail to solve the mysteries and keep the secrets safe but unfortunately, we fear that won’t happen.

The show is set to premiere on the Science Channel on January 6 at 10 p.m. ET/PT.

Read The Hollywood Reporter’s exclusive on the show here.

Check out John Cox’ Wild About Harry website here.

Russian Magician, Magu Takes on India

Alex Magu the MagicianSharing a sentiment of many magicians, Alexander Magu, tells the Indian newspaper The Pioneer that if it weren’t for  magic, he would be working on Russian Railroads.

He saw a trick at the age of 17 and became hooked.  Now he is performing around the globe and will be in India for a series of shows.  It is his second tour in India.

“It isn’t a profession very highly preferred or chosen. It’s all about ideas, imagination and a story-telling capacity to hold the audience,” he told The Pioneer. The initial years were a struggle for Magu whose parents were reluctant about his career choice. Had it not been for magic, he would “have been working in the Russian Railways.”

He credits Derren Brown, David Blaine and “of course, David Copperfield” as inspiration.  He loves his work in our beloved art.  He gets to travel and “explore the human mind and its numerous possibilities. The beauty of the human mind is that no matter how fearless it might condition itself to be, it is as fearful, unbelievable yet believable. It’s amazing how certain things can amaze the mind.”

His show includes mind-reading, telekinesis, levitation and gravitational illusions and the article is clear that he is performing “illusions” and not “magic.” “An illusionist might leave your eyes wide open and make your jaw drop but a magician can make miracles happen. That’s magic.”

He will be performing in the beautifully appointed Upstage, Roseate House, Aerocity every night at 9 pm from today through November 25th.

Check out the full article in The Pioneer here.

Visit his expertly constructed website here.

List of the Richest Magicians in the World

Inside Magic Image of Ed Mishell DrawingWho is the richest magician in the world?

We won’t give away the secret but the compilation at The Silver List surprised us.  And we are not easily surprised.  We figured for sure we could correctly identify all persons on the list but we were wrong.  We beat ourselves up when we make a mistake so this was crushing for us.

You can check out the list here.

We thought for sure there would be some mention of Inside Magic editor-in-chief and magician person Tim Quinlan but nary a comment.  We don’t like to brag but between the ad revenue for Inside Magic and our professional appearances, we’re rolling in the dough – plus we’re making a lot of money.  But we spend it on dough to roll in and we like a high-quality dough, not some Pillsbury fake dough that doesn’t give the comfort one expects when one is rolling.  We were going to put up a YouTube video  of us rolling but a woman beat us and she does a much better rolling that we could ever hope to accomplish.

You can see just one of her many dough rolling episodes here. The video shows her rolling in baked dough but she does real, unbaked dough as well.  We cannot compete.

Similarly, we are unable to keep up with the magicians who make millions of dollars every year for performing their magic.  We admire them but don’t envy them.  Envy is or should be one of the deadly sins and does not leave the person feeling the sense of envy in a good place.  It is like when you have a fight with your Uber driver about whether we should worry about fluoride or chem trails and he/she dumps you in a bad neighborhood.  That’s a physical bad place to be but as a metaphor it works.  Envy leaves you wondering what happened to the last few hours and why you can’t remember why you even worried about the success of others.

Check out  the list and see if you agree with the rankings.  But do it with an open mind and heart.  Embrace the success of others and the willingness of others to work very hard at what we all do.

We do find some pleasure (guilty, no doubt) that Inside Magic arch-nemesis Tony Spain is not listed.  He claims millions  per year from his itinerant magic travels around the world, but apparently he didn’t make the list.