June 2009 :: How deep should the rabbit hole go?

Oct 2, 2008
Like said, a lot of thoughtful answers. Most of what i wanted to say had been said by people like Faust, DannyT, LucasCG.

When i perform, i try to use my props only as a frame of reference to the bigger picture, and not the focus. I dont like the terms "Card Guy", "Magic dude", "Magic man" used on me. I don't give what i am doing a name. Nor do i tell them the source of my abilities. For me as a performer, one of the things i love to see is the joy of confusion, people just trying to understand the performer and the (we shall call it) "magic" then they just saw. Like said before, people give it a lot of names. If they believe before hand you are just doing tricks, then they will only see within the barrier they set themselves, and nothing else beyond that. If they believe its all sleight of hand, they'll take it more seriously than a trick, they'll give it more respect as the art of sleight of hand, and not just a person being a clown. If a person believes you're doing real magic, then they'll see real magic. I've come across so much spectators with different believes within the years, and its fun watching them trying to regather their thoughts.

But during my performance, i most undoubtfully will move away from the supernatural character. I won't try to act like a mysterious, shady rogue. Nor will i act any other way. I am just being me, when i perform magic, i am showing another aspect of me which exploits it better. I am a person on the same realm as you are, but very different ends. I know things you dont know. You know things i dont know. As simple as that. We unite to share. We're all wanderers.

A more defined example is, if a person is a magician but also plays music, when he plays music, a different character (which actually is still himself, just another aspect you dont see often) rolls out. If you see the same person tapping into gaming mode on his favoured console, you'll see a different character of him. I've seen my sister's boyfriend turn into a total National Geographical type narrater person when he plays Silent Hill 3, different from the normal tired, just want to relax sort of character.

Theres always a sense of guilt within me that if i come to a situation where i am heckled not because they want to figure out how i do what i do, but because they believe in too much of what i do, which gets them paranoid or something; then what would i do? I know i would stop them right there, asking them politely to not carry the weight. But i have yet to come to this situation.

"Gotta Knock A Little Harder" - Seatbelts.
Sep 1, 2007
Magic is theater. If you're not treating it as such, then why are you wasting everyone's time?
I always act myself because it is the 21st century and most people actually knows magic is not real so why present something in the real world on a one on one level with people that is not real. Since magic is in the performance and in the laymen let their minds decide what to make of it. I just present it and when the spectator laughs in amazement I laugh with them, and when they ask how I did it I just say "I don't know it just happens like that" and walk away. A lot of people have speculated that I have sold my soul to the devil, but I never say anything I just make up what ever they mind feels.

I think it's probably best to let the audience decide for themselves. But think about it, you can entertain someone for a few minutes with a trick, but if they think that you really are different, and have a gift of some kind, that's when something sticks with them forever.
Oct 24, 2008
Savannah, GA
I always act myself because it is the 21st century and most people actually knows magic is not real so why present something in the real world on a one on one level with people that is not real.

For the same reason that Elijah Wood put on a tunic and some prosthetic feet, learned elvish, and went on a mystical journey to destroy an enchanted ring crafted by an evil warlord.

None of that's real, and we know that. But boy is it entertaining! And to some people, it's even an example of timeless themes that speak to our base natures and feelings.

Also, for sake of argument: everyone saying that they don't make a choice and let the audience decide - if you DID have to make an actual decision, what would it be? Not every character is suited for such nebulous discourse. Some performances actually benefit from a concrete answer.
I never try to proclaim myself as something more than I actually am. I'm just a card magician who likes to entertain. Therefore if asked if anything I do is "real" or "fake" I just try to leave it up to their imagination. Technically, everything they saw is real. What they saw is what the saw. They're not meant to see the workings behind the effects so effectively what they saw is real. But is it real in the sense that they mean it? No. And why proclaim it as such?

I mean there's a line, we're meant to entertain. Trying to put yourself on a pedestal by calling yourself one with the supernatural is petty in my books. I mean we're already creating some wonderful magic, no need to be a douche about it.

Oct 24, 2008
Savannah, GA
I mean there's a line, we're meant to entertain. Trying to put yourself on a pedestal by calling yourself one with the supernatural is petty in my books. I mean we're already creating some wonderful magic, no need to be a douche about it.

Sure, but what about calling yourself supernatural not to put yourself on a pedestal, but to create a sense of immersion and wonder? Doing it responsibly, ethically, and with theater in mind?
What I think...

I think that you should string people around on the edge of believing and disbelieving. This is where the greatest amazement comes from, because their minds do not know which to believe. You can see the look in their eyes of when they are trying to decide if you are some "magician" or just a magician. That look/feeling leaves the spectator vulnerable in a way that people need, and a way that magicians have been allowing people to experience for a long time. The venerability brings a person back to their childhood, because you have allowed them to experience something that is out of the ordinary, and that breaks all the rules that have been set consciously, and subconsciously. I feel that you need to have effects that tip-toe on this invisible line, that could be interpreted as "magic" or just sleight of hand, all while leaving an air of mystery.

This is a very interesting topic, and I have enjoyed thinking about it.
Oct 11, 2007
For me it really depends on the effect. I usually try to stay in between science and real magic presentation styles so that people don't quite know what to the think of it which just adds to the effect i think!
Mar 6, 2008
A Land Down Under
I have been holding off on answering the question for quite awhile, and for no real reason.

I play everything I do as a skill as opposed to a gift. Being a mentalist my character is someone who has an amazing understanding of psychology both on reading people and influencing them. This seems to be a more 'moral' way to present mentalism as opposed to claiming some form of psychic powers. But you need to be careful with that as it is just as much a lie as the previous explanation. I do however use effects where the whole method is based on psychology so at least I am not completely full of it when I give people that false explanation. However I (and all of us, you just may not be aware of it) use a lot of psychology to aid in hiding the method of the effect.

For example if we take a very simple ACR and the most common sleights used to achieve that. The Marlo Tilt and double lift combination is an amazing method as it looks 100% fair mainly because in the eyes of the spectators these actions are. The reason being that the moved happens before and after the spectators think that they are going to. If we use a classic pass however the moment happens exactly when the spectator believes it does. However if your character is someone who has the quickest hands in the world a standard ACR structure would actually fail. As the spectators would be looking for the moment closer and closer as the routine goes on. In this case I would place the pass as the first phase so they may catch something. Then a TCC pass so the spectator can see you did something but not actually see the move itself. Then finally finish with a DL double turnover to completely destroy any idea that they can catch your hands. If you are presenting it as a pure 'magic' type of method than the pass should not really be in an ACR unless you have a crazy one what you can do face up. In my opinion showing the card fairly in the middle is completely overkill unless you are prepared to do the same thing face up.

Anyway back to the original question in the first half of my act, I give these false explanations as to using an understanding of human nature. Then I usually will do something that does rely heavily on psychology. And towards the end I use something that I cannot explain rationally like a drawing duplication or blindfold routine. Bob Cassidy said it best when he said if your early demonstrations are plausible than everything else will be easer to accept. I have found by using this approach my audiences will believe that I am really doing what I am claiming to, and not using the most rational answer (ie in a blindfold routine using a peek).
Well, due to my religion I don't beleive in deceit, thus I say.... (when they ask ) .... that it is illusion. :D

Same here, i stay away of the supernatural explanations because i dont belive in the supernatural, i like to play the skillfull gambler...
I never guive an explanation, i love to use a hell lot of body leguage and no words.
So the spectator fill in the blancks...
Aug 31, 2007
Whenever I perform, I always remind my audience that I have no fancy magic props (I perform mostly impromptu effects with cards) and that all I have is a regular pack of cards. But I tell them that even though the cards are nothing special by themselves, you can accomplish very special feats with them if you know the right things to do. And that is all I want to convey to my spectators - whether they see my performance as a magical display or a skillful display of sleights doesn't really matter to me.


theory11 artist + consultant, Criss Angel MindFrea
Sep 18, 2007
Las Vegas
There have been some really interesting posts about this topic. I personally think that it's good to have this kind of discussion because it helps keep the art of magic moving in different directions. We should all have our own take on things and do what feels right to us as long as we aren't using our 'powers' for evil.

l u k e
The amount I push supernatural powers varies from performance to performance, and I never take the supernatural act to a harmful status. Although in the past many people were able to trick their fellow man into believing they were wizards, we as man are a lot smarter and know much more then our ancestors. That isn’t to say that people aren’t easily tricked into believing in supernatural phenomenon. Charlatans, con artists, etc… are still around deceiving people with false hopes and beliefs.

Supernatural powers that I push on a daily basis aren’t the stock line like “its magic.”
I sometimes just shrug it off and play it, as “I have no idea how that happened.”
My character changes from person to person but is based off one thing, if you want to know more about my character ask in a private message. But I know for a fact that if someone was to go and buy a couple of books about mentalism and maybe some acting courses they would be able to start there own religion. I mean look at Peter Popoff, he was able to start a massive religion based show, and I call it a show because it is not real; with only a radio listening device.

The power of belief is overwhelming; if you attempt to make people believe in what you are doing then you will have a memorable experience. I present myself as a werewolf, and I explain to them that a werewolf is merely a witch in disguise. Now I know what you are thinking how can anyone believe that? Well apparently they do, or I wouldn’t still be using the character. Now even though I take it to the extreme, I do not take it into religious or a faith healing BS.

It is good to be a great entertainer, but when the entertainer takes on the role of a real psychic, mystic, etc… that is where I draw the line. People using social engineering and make others believe they can talk to your dead love ones, heal you by throwing an egg at you, etc… then taking money for their “services” is wrong.
I don't tell them at all what I think it is.
It's magic...uhhhh...no duh.
Of course they know that SOMETHING is going on, they just don't know WHAT it is exactly.
I will sparsely tell them that it is a psychic, supernatural, thing that's happening.
I just let them decide on what they want to think. If they think you're a beast, and are extremely entertained, right on.
If not, then they won't believe. You can't change peoples minds, they make their own deciscions on what they want to believe. However, if you do your job well, and they still don't
want to believe, then you win, and they have to go on without magic in their lives. Their loss.

Michael Kras

{dg} poet laureate / theory11
Sep 12, 2007
I'm opening a one-man show next year, and the show's entire theme is "magic to deceive the EYES, not necessarily the mind"... hence the title, Ocular Deception.

My entire opening monologue for the show is essentially a disclaimer... that what might look or seem real is not real, I'm creating the illusion of the impossible and what I'm doing on stage cannot actually happen. Basically, the entire introduction states that there's no such thing as magic. But, by the end of the show, I'm hoping to have my audiences questioning that statement.
Jan 10, 2008
In the world of Mentalism this topic is very prevalent. There are light-hearted and fun/funny mental effects. Then there are effects that are like "How could he know that?". A few mental effects can even touch the spectator on such a level that it can bring them to tears. Sometimes in mentalism, no matter how hard you try to portray the fact that even though it seems like real mind-reading you are just giving the illusion of a sixth sense; if you are performing very strong material well enough; then the spectators usually think that you're just being modest and that you do have a "gift". Sometimes you just can't escape it.

Sep 1, 2007
Looking through this thread it seems most of the people responding either really want to be Banachek or are really, really wishing that they can have it both ways.
Dec 5, 2008
I go with the flow but not to far as to makign them believe i actually have supernatural powers. like someone said before it varies from performance to performance. I mainly do liek geek magic, and animation/levitation stuff so im really pushing the boundries in their minds
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