Is this a good trick?

Jan 4, 2021
16
7
Disney's Captain EO when it first came out (late 80s) was one of the coolest things I have ever seen!
Saw it again with my wife and kids 2013 maybe, and it was just kind of sad.
The show didn't change. I imagine this was pretty cool in the 80s too.

So... yeah.
 

Ely

Jun 13, 2016
22
18
Doug Henning's whole style was a bit hokey, but I personally love it. Also, it's important to note that back in the day, the idea of a magician was Harry Blackstone Jr., who was real proper and clean; Doug's magic was a far cry of that status quo, and it attracted a brand new audience. Doug was much less about the tricks and much more about presenting some emotions and stories. I think that this trick is a good example of that. To just focus on the effect and not let yourself enjoy the story, however hokey, would be to ignore what made Doug Henning so appealing. No, it hasn't particularly aged well with today's magic culture, but I think it's a good skill to be able to appreciate this trick as it was before.
 
  • Like
Reactions: CWhite

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,739
2,854
Perhaps a more useful question would be, "Did the audience enjoy the performance?"

I think we, as magicians, often get bogged down in the idea of a trick being 'good' in and of itself. A trick is just a set of actions performed in succession. Those actions, in themselves, aren't really good or bad. It's meaningless unless there is someone to observe the actions and react to them.

I will fully admit I have zero interest in stage magic and the dominance of stage magic when I was young is exactly the reason I didn't get into magic until more than halfway through my twenties. But that just means I'm not the audience for it. It's not 'bad' - clearly tons of people do enjoy watching it.

Also, I'm sure every one of us has seen various magicians all do basically the same trick. But different performances will resonate with different people. Henning's magic resonated with a lot of people. So in that sense, with that audience, yes - it's a good trick. (I didn't actually watch the video, though, I'm speaking in general terms)
 

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,961
1,096
Utah
Maybe a better question would be to ask if the trick was deceptive. I read about the method (a version was used in Thurston's show) and cannot unsee that. To me it appears to be transparent.

Doug Henning's whole style was a bit hokey, but I personally love it.

Yeah, I like Doug Henning too.

Also, it's important to note that back in the day, the idea of a magician was Harry Blackstone Jr., who was real proper and clean; Doug's magic was a far cry of that status quo, and it attracted a brand new audience. Doug was much less about the tricks and much more about presenting some emotions and stories. I think that this trick is a good example of that. To just focus on the effect and not let yourself enjoy the story, however hokey, would be to ignore what made Doug Henning so appealing. No, it hasn't particularly aged well with today's magic culture, but I think it's a good skill to be able to appreciate this trick as it was before.

I like the hokey nature of the presentation, I'm not talking about the presentation. I like Doug Henning.

I asked about the trick. More specifically the effect. Is the effect any good? Is this deceptive?

Or, is this kind of a case of watching a Peter Pan stage play? The wires aren't fooling anyone, but nobody cares. They are there to see a play:


There are some in the magic community that would claim that magic methods in the past were not as good as the methods we currently use. This is not what I am getting at. I think the cups and balls, needle swallowing, and the linking rings are still good tricks today. I think that this "Jarrett Box" as Doug refers to it, could be a good trick, I'm just not convinced.

Perhaps a more useful question would be, "Did the audience enjoy the performance?"

That's not what I'm asking. I already know the answer. I ENJOYED IT. And, I'm sure the audience did as well.

I think we, as magicians, often get bogged down in the idea of a trick being 'good' in and of itself. A trick is just a set of actions performed in succession. Those actions, in themselves, aren't really good or bad. It's meaningless unless there is someone to observe the actions and react to them.

Some effects are deceptive and some are not.

Derek Delgaudio spends the first 25 minutes of In and of Itself NOT performing magic. These 25 minutes are entertaining, but it's not magic. Then there's an effect like this. This is one of the most beautiful pieces of magic I have ever seen, really it's one of my favorite pieces. It's not a deceptive effect though. I think I'd still call it magic, it makes an attempt at deception but compared to other effects, it just isn't super deceptive:


You can absolutley have a deceptive trick and a bad performance, or a great performance and a less than stellar trick.

Also, I'm sure every one of us has seen various magicians all do basically the same trick.

If you have an example I would like to see it. I'm asking specifically about Guy Jarrett's 21 person cabinet. Is this method deceptive? Perhaps seeing it in another context would clarify things.
 

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,739
2,854
Maybe a better question would be to ask if the trick was deceptive. I read about the method (a version was used in Thurston's show) and cannot unsee that. To me it appears to be transparent.

Personally I find that any time I know a method to a trick, particularly when it comes to stage illusions, the method seems absurdly transparent. This is true for most of magic, though. The secrets of magic are often absurdly simple - as Teller is fond of pointing out. I avoid learning methods that I have no intention of using myself for this reason. It helps me enjoy magic shows more.

Since stage illusions are the genre of magic I probably know the least about, I honestly do not know how this is done. Other than the obvious point of it being a tricksy box. So, to that end, yes I'd say it's deceptive if you don't already know the secret (or, at least, if you're as ignorant in general to the methods of stage illusions as I am).

That is why I phrased my response that way - magicians have knowledge that very few other people have. So, when it comes to various genres of magic, they will be more difficult to 'fool'. But who cares? Most likely magicians aren't the ones paying you.

Ironically, I find it generally quite easy to 'fool' magicians by simply doing what I say I'm doing. They're too busy looking for a method, they forget to consider that I might just do it for real.

If you have an example I would like to see it.

To be blunt, most of the magic industry. Grand illusionists in particular.

There may be different paint themes on the crate, but a sub trunk is a sub trunk. The performance is largely dictated by the props in these cases and it's just very difficult to make them seem any different from one another. In the case of a sub trunk - There's two people performing, one goes in the box, one stands up on the box. The one on the box lifts a curtain and drops it, and then it's the one who was in the box. The one who was standing on the box, is now in the box. The lines they say may be different, and the level of entertainment can vary wildly from one act to the next, but as soon as someone wheels out that trunk anyone who knows anything about magic knows what's about to happen.

Moving away from stage illusions - how many people do French Kiss? Invisible Deck? Twisting the Aces? 3 Fly? Crazy Man's Handcuffs? Sam the Bellhop? ACR? The salt-shaker-vanish thing? Silk TT vanish? Linking Rings? Cups and Balls?

How many genuinely unique versions of those tricks exist - where a lay audience would actually think it's different to another presentation of the same plot/method? One could argue that Yann Frisch, Paul Gertner, and Ricky Jay all have distinctly unique cups and balls routines - but how many people essentially copy Gazzo?

It's not just magic. I'm a hypnotist, and I can't stand 'comedy hypnosis' shows. They are even more cookie cutter than magic shows.

Derek Delgaudio spends the first 25 minutes of In and of Itself NOT performing magic. These 25 minutes are entertaining, but it's not magic.

I'm not sure I agree with you there, but that's going to come down to a matter of opinion. I think Delgaudio's entire show demonstrates very well that 'magic' has very little to do with sneaky moves and routines. I'm not going to go into detail about what happens in that show, because I think everyone should watch it and experience it themselves - but, the way he opens the show puts everyone into the right frame of mind for the rest of the show and it sets everything up for the following material.

When I created my first show, I opened with a recitation of a poem. It's a piece I still use to this day. There are no tricks at all: I recite the poem, using Tarot cards as visuals for the words, then at the end I simply put the cards into a jacket pocket and move into my introduction. This piece sets the mood for the rest of what I do. It immediately grabs the audience's attention and tells them multiple things, on a subconscious level, about what they are about to see.

Like I said - this is subjective opinion and I don't expect you to change your mind. I can respect that difference of opinion.

Some effects are deceptive and some are not.

This is a magician's perspective.

Outside of conventions, I doubt the vast majority of audiences are ever thinking about whether something is deceptive or not.

They're thinking about how it made them feel, and what it made them think about. If a layman goes to a magic show, and leaves thinking about how deceptive the act was, I would argue that performer did not do a very good job. If a layman is thinking about methods, that means they weren't engaged, they weren't all that entertained - they were just puzzled. Personally, if an audience leaves my show thinking I was super deceptive, then I have failed as an artist and performer.

And to call back to what I said earlier in this post - lay audiences are who pay me.

So the 'deceptive' factor isn't really important to whether a trick is 'good' or not. A good trick entertain and engages the audience. If that happens, they don't care about methods because they won't even be thinking about that.
 

RealityOne

Moderator
Nov 1, 2009
3,577
3,848
New Jersey
I read about the method (a version was used in Thurston's show) and cannot unsee that. To me it appears to be transparent.

In his book, Jarret seems to imply that Thurston's method was different, indicating that it had to be too close to the stage curtains. That would have confirmed my first guess for the method. But I was wrong. For Jarret's illusion, you could do it on an empty stage without curtains or backdrops. In fact. you could have the first six cheerleaders hold hands and stand behind the illusion.

@Josh Burch, I'm guessing that you may be making the same mistake about the method that I made (if my guess is wrong, I apologize). I did some research and found the method from Steinmeyer's The Complete Jarrett. That method is standard illusion technique with some add ons to take it three steps above and beyond.

If you do know the actual method Jarret used (which you may, being a fellow Steinmeyer fanboy), my mistaken guess as to the method goes a long way toward proving that the actual method is not transparent. Arguably, the method may be "too perfect" or too deceptive because it led me to believe that it was accomplished in a very different way. If you eliminate my guess as to the method, then I would come up with the general method, but decide that it just isn't possible.

I like the hokey nature of the presentation, I'm not talking about the presentation. I like Doug Henning.

I asked about the trick. More specifically the effect. Is the effect any good? Is this deceptive?

Jarrett argues that the presentation is what makes this effect. Jarrett's presentation (paraphrased) starts with the magician wanting to make a cast member dressed as an audience member disappear. The guy (pun intended) from the audience looks in the cabinet and gets scared. He then suggests that the making someone disappear is too common but it would be neat for the magician to make someone appear. The magician makes five people appear. Looking at the size of the cabinet and again looking inside, the guy jokes, "I won't ask you to do that again," implying that the method is squishing five people in the cabinet. The magician rotates the cabinet and produces five more people. The guy says something to indicate his disbelief and to indicate that it was a good trick, "I don't know how you fit all those people in there." But the trick is not over. The magician then rotates the cabinet and produces five more people. Notice the interaction between the "guy" and the magician and how it mimics the typical audience member's thoughts. Then the magician offers to show how it is done and takes the top and sides off the cabinet to show six people barely able to stand shoulder to shoulder on the platform. They step down and everyone takes a bow.

Doug Henning changed the presentation to have a different ending to accommodate the appearance of Jenner. I think that weakened the effect because Jenner's appearance seems to be the finale and the taking apart the box seems to be an afterthought. Actually, I didn't even remember that Henning took the box apart and just remembered Jenner's appearance as the finale until after I read Jarret's presentation and watched the video again. Also, the last group of cheerleaders kneeling, squatting and standing in rows doesn't convey how crowded the platform actually is. It became what Jarret disparaged as a "clown car" effect (where multiple clowns come out of a single car). Henning's performance provides a fun visual without building the impossibility. It fails to disprove what would appear to be Thurston's method (which is the equivalent of Peter Pan's flying on wires). Jarrett's presentation builds the impossibility by essentially hiding the method in plain sight.

ronically, I find it generally quite easy to 'fool' magicians by simply doing what I say I'm doing. They're too busy looking for a method, they forget to consider that I might just do it for real.

From a theory perspective, Jarrett's presentation is Tamariz's Magic Way with the added benefit that the path that is disproven is the method.

Also, I'm sure every one of us has seen various magicians all do basically the same trick.

To be blunt, most of the magic industry.

Jarrett goes off at length in his book on how awful what he calls "drugstore magicians" are. Oh, by the way, he characterizes almost all magicians in that way.

Outside of conventions, I doubt the vast majority of audiences are ever thinking about whether something is deceptive or not.

They're thinking about how it made them feel, and what it made them think about. If a layman goes to a magic show, and leaves thinking about how deceptive the act was, I would argue that performer did not do a very good job. If a layman is thinking about methods, that means they weren't engaged, they weren't all that entertained - they were just puzzled. Personally, if an audience leaves my show thinking I was super deceptive, then I have failed as an artist and performer.

I've sat through many magic shows where the people next to me or people upon leaving the show postulated various theories of how things are done (most of which are wrong). That is a failure to engage the audience on a higher level. That said, impossibility is a necessary component of magic and if the audience thinks the method is apparent, then it no longer becomes magic. There needs to be a balance.

Jarrett's 21 Person Box was used in several shows as the last effect to produce the cast of the show. I could see this working nicely to provide a context and demonstrate impossibility.

Two workmen wheel out the box. The box is designed as if it is for transporting the show to the next venue. The first workman says, "Hey Boss, we're all packed up and ready to go." The magician looks surprised, "But Arnold, the show isn't done yet." Arnold looks at the audience and says, "Sorry boss, I didn't see all them people still in their seats." The magician, thinking how to make the best of the situation says, "well, at the very least, we should have my assistants come out and take a bow." The five assistants come out and take a bow. Arnold looks at the box and then in the box acting as if it is empty and says, "Do you want me to get this box off stage?" As Arnold and his coworker start to wheel the box off stage, the magician calls them back, "Arnold, I think the audience would want to give a round of applause to the dancers." Arnold and his coworker turn the box around to bring it back on stage, showing all sides. Five dancers appear. Arnold counts them, looks inside the box acting as if it is empty and says, "Hey Boss, we've got 10 dancers in the show, what did you do with the others?" The magician smiles, "They are in there Arnold, just look again." Arnold looks in and slides the curtain allowing five more dancers to come out. The other workman says, "Hey Boss, what about the crew? We never get any recognition." The magician responds, "You know Howard, you are right," as he gestures to the box, "tell them to come out." Howard pokes his head in the box and then comes out saying, "they say they're not coming out because the crew isn't supposed to be seen Boss." The magician asks Howard, "How many are in there?" Howard looks in again and responds, "six." The magician looks to the audience and says, "Well, there you go, we've got our five assistants ten dancers and six crew members." Arnold speaks up, "Hey boss, I don't think they believe that the crew is in the box, can we show them?" The magician takes a couple of seconds to think and says, "That's a great idea, take the sides off the box!" The top and sides are removed and the box rotated to show six crew members crowded on the platform. Jarrett was said to use large 200+ pound guys for the final reveal for good measure.
 
Last edited:

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,961
1,096
Utah
I'm guessing that you may be making the same mistake about the method that I made (if my guess is wrong, I apologize). I did some research and found the method from Steinmeyer's The Complete Jarrett. That method is standard illusion technique with some add ons to take it three steps above and beyond.

Yeah, I first read about the effect in Jarrett Magic. I read the method before I saw it. I found the Henning performance and I can't seem to put my laymen eyes on again and see past the method.

Jarrett is pretty cocky about how puzzling the effect is. I just don't quite see it.

Jarrett argues that the presentation is what makes this effect. Jarrett's presentation (paraphrased) starts with the magician wanting to make a cast member dressed as an audience member disappear. The guy (pun intended) from the audience looks in the cabinet and gets scared. He then suggests that the making someone disappear is too common but it would be neat for the magician to make someone appear. The magician makes five people appear. Looking at the size of the cabinet and again looking inside, the guy jokes, "I won't ask you to do that again," implying that the method is squishing five people in the cabinet. The magician rotates the cabinet and produces five more people. The guy says something to indicate his disbelief and to indicate that it was a good trick, "I don't know how you fit all those people in there." But the trick is not over. The magician then rotates the cabinet and produces five more people. Notice the interaction between the "guy" and the magician and how it mimics the typical audience member's thoughts. Then the magician offers to show how it is done and takes the top and sides off the cabinet to show six people barely able to stand shoulder to shoulder on the platform. They step down and everyone takes a bow.

Doug Henning changed the presentation to have a different ending to accommodate the appearance of Jenner. I think that weakened the effect because Jenner's appearance seems to be the finale and the taking apart the box seems to be an afterthought. Actually, I didn't even remember that Henning took the box apart and just remembered Jenner's appearance as the finale until after I read Jarret's presentation and watched the video again. Also, the last group of cheerleaders kneeling, squatting and standing in rows doesn't convey how crowded the platform actually is. It became what Jarret disparaged as a "clown car" effect (where multiple clowns come out of a single car). Henning's performance provides a fun visual without building the impossibility. It fails to disprove what would appear to be Thurston's method (which is the equivalent of Peter Pan's flying on wires). Jarrett's presentation builds the impossibility by essentially hiding the method in plain sight.

I think they are trying to make the part of the girl be the foil in the same way as the Jarrett presentation did. She hits all of the same beats. I think that having an adult foil may have helped the illusion a little. I also think that having the box so high off the ground might do a disservice. It looks larger because Doug is looking up to it.

I've sat through many magic shows where the people next to me or people upon leaving the show postulated various theories of how things are done (most of which are wrong). That is a failure to engage the audience on a higher level. That said, impossibility is a necessary component of magic and if the audience thinks the method is apparent, then it no longer becomes magic. There needs to be a balance.

It's almost like this plays to those people specifically. It attempts to engage them, and I can imagine the obvious layperson solutions (mirrors, trapdoors in the stage, smoke etc.) are taken care of well. The Tamariz comment makes sense.
 

Josh Burch

Elite Member
Aug 11, 2011
2,961
1,096
Utah
Christopher, I don't think that what I'm talking about here is subjective. If you cut Delgaudio's show at 20 minutes and asked a thousand people what they just watched, none of them would say a magic show. It's a monologue, it's a speech, it's a story, it's a talk etc. but it's not magic.

Is it a necessary and powerful part of his performance? Sure. Is it magical? Sure. But it's not magic in any kind of a conventional sense.

If you want to create theater, like in Peter Pan, that's great. No deception needed. And I'm not disrespecting theater. I LOVE theater, often more often than magic but there is a difference between theater and magic. One requires deception and the other doesn't.

If your audience leaves and they were not deceived in some way, I don't know if you can call yourself a magician. You did something else.
 
  • Like
Reactions: WorkerBee

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,739
2,854
If you showed people "Booze and Blowins Cop The Lot" out of Ricky Jay and his 52 Assistants and asked what people had just seen ... would they say a magic show? No - it was a poetry recital. But that show is clearly a magic show.

If you look at the things people are saying about In and Of Itself the vast consensus is that it's amazing, emotional, engaging, moving, etc. I've seen several people say that it's the finest magic show they've ever seen and I'm inclined to agree. I haven't noticed many people specifying how deceptive it is - particularly laymen, now that it's available to a wide audience. They talk about the emotions, not the mechanics. And again - laymen are who I care about, not magicians.

I have no statistics or evidence for this other than anecdotes from observing audiences at shows, but I strongly suspect that the only time an audience cares about how deceptive a show is, is when there's not much else to engage with. Obviously, a certain level of deceptiveness must be achieved for a magic show - otherwise it's not magical. As RealityOne said, there must be some degree of impossibility in a magic show. But once that level is reached, I really don't think the majority of audiences think about the fact that they're being deceived. Unless the show is lame, of course.

To put it another way - It doesn't matter how deceptive a trick is, if the audience doesn't care about it. Therefore, the pure scale of 'deceptiveness' is nearly useless in determine how 'good' a trick is. That's only a small portion of what makes it 'good'. Overall, the only thing that really matters, is the experience the people have when seeing it performed.

So, for the video you posted with Doug - To me that is deceptive, because I don't know how it's done. But I also find it very boring, as I have no interest in grand illusion. So is it a good trick to me? Not really. Is it a good trick to the people who watched Doug Henning and found him fun and engaging? Probably was.
 
  • Like
Reactions: WorkerBee

WitchDocIsIn

Elite Member
Sep 13, 2008
5,739
2,854
but how that deception is done, is that a factor? because otherwise a lot of things which aren't really magic, could be deceiving, even used to entertain.

I am not sure I understand what you are asking.

I can't think of anything that couldn't be "really magic". Magicians have always worked with whatever methods, techniques, and technologies they could to create their performances. Many 'magic' shows from antiquity would be considered science demonstrations today.

That being said, I believe ultimately only the audience's experience really matters. Any way of accomplishing that experience is fair game. I would work with 50 actors in an audience to create an insanely magical experience for one person, if I had the opportunity to do that. A lot of Derren Brown's later TV work shows how powerful this sort of tactic can be, if it can be properly organized and executed.

Even CGI/editing effects - if they are done correctly can be incredible. The problem with these methods is the long term effects of being caught. Look at Criss Angel - once people started exposing the amount of editing tricks he seemed to be using, he lost a ton of popularity. If people start to catch on that a performer is using CGI/editing, then any video they see after that is immediately suspect. It would be very difficult to overcome that.
 
Searching...
{[{ searchResultsCount }]} Results