September 10, 2009

How Derren Brown Predicted the Lottery Results Live

I have received a number of e-mails from people who saw Derren Brown on television revealing that he knew the results of the British lottery before the balls were drawn. Even though Brown promised to reveal the secret behind the effect on Friday, people are (understandably) impatient, and since Brown will be revealing the secret anyway, I thought I’d go ahead and spill it to prevent those with a low tolerance for waiting from going into some kind of shock.

For those of you who did not see the effect, here it is in a nutshell: Brown prepared six white balls by writing numbers on them. The balls were placed in a tray with their backs to the audience. As the lottery numbers were picked on live television, Brown wrote them down on a big piece of paper so that he would not forget what they were (which is, by the way, a dead giveaway that this is a trick — if he already had balls with the numbers on them, he wouldn’t forget). When all the balls had been drawn, Brown turned around the rack with his numbers on them, revealing that his prediction was completely correct and that the lottery commission owed him millions of dollars.

But before I reveal the secret, let me dispel a number of rumors. Brown did not:

  • Have an off-screen slide projector project numbers — which were set at the last possible moment — onto the plain white balls.
  • Use slight of hand to replace the original balls with balls that had the right numbers on the (necessitating a pocket full of numbered balls and a set of original balls made of fast-melting sugar for quick disposal in the magician’s mouth).
  • Pay a massive bribe to have the national lottery “fixed.”
  • Pick the wrong numbers and convincingly pretended they were the right ones.
  • “Accidentally” watch a rerun of an old lottery show, the ending of which he had already seen.

Instead the secret (and you’re going to slap yourself in the head when you hear this) is that Brown filmed multiple endings to his routine — each featuring a different prediction — and then used computer technology to beam a different ending into each viewer’s home. Most of those endings showed Brown choosing the wrong numbers, but in one home, he was seen to choose the right numbers. And in that home, the viewers were so amazed that they told all their friends, called the papers, uploaded a video of the event onto YouTube, etc. Because such a fuss was made by that one lucky family, it’s their story that we all remember, giving the impression that Brown got it right.

And what about all the families that complained that they didn’t see a correct prediction? Well, people just naturally assume that these complainers are sore losers, hate magicians, are Nazi-sympathizing cat beaters, or are otherwise not worth listening to.

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July 12, 2009

Magic at The Ringling Brothers Circus

I attended The Ringling Brothers Circus this weekend with a number of my young fans, and was pleased to find that this year they were featuring a magic theme. In accordance with this theme, the ringmaster was an actual magician (possibly David Copperfield, but I had left my glasses in the car), and quite a few excellent large-scale illusions were performed.

Illusions included such circus staples as “the professor’s nightmare about walking on a tightrope,” “turn an elephant into its identical twin brother,” “human cannonball catch,” and the Criss-Angel-fan-pleasing “load a bunch of clowns into a small car and blow it up.” All were competently performed with a minimum of mishaps resulting in injury.

One disappointment I had was that every child who purchased a circus program was given a free magic trick. Normally I would think this was a fine idea, but the gimmick required to perform a Balducci levitation is such an important and commonly used piece of magic apparatus, that I cannot approve of giving it out to children en masse.

February 2, 2009

Annual Super Bowl Prediction Failure

Yes, I was off by a point in my prediciton of today’s Super Bowl score. As a mentalist, I never claimed to be 100% accurate. Rather, I aim for 90% accuracy, and have consistently met that goal, both in my psychic predictions and in my famous “sawing a woman in half with a dull blade while she holds a live cobra in her mouth” routine.

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February 1, 2009

Annual Super Bowl Prediction

Although I no longer perform much in public, I am still a mentalist at heart. As such, I would like to take a moment to prove that mentalists are far more accurate than any so-called psychic that you might encounter on a daytime talk show or supermarket-checkout periodical.

In that spirit, I offer the following prediction: In tomorrow’s Super Bowl, during the half time show, Bruce Springsteen will perform. I also predict that, during the television broadcast, John Madden will make one or more pasty white appearances. Finally, for those of you who are interested in more mundane aspects of the game, I predict that the Steelers will beat the Cardinals 27 to 22.

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November 28, 2008

Four new reviews

I am a bit behind on my schedule, but have posted new reviews of Gecko, Frozen, Sleeping Queen, and CastleMaynia.

After purchasing and practicing these effects, I discovered that I could get some very nice audience reaction by putting an entire deck of cards to sleep, instantly building a house out of it, magically turning it into an ice palace, and then making the whole thing disappear in the blink of an eye. Give it a try!

Criss Angel elephant vanish

A commentor on one of my posts asked how Criss Angel made an elephant vanish. I haven’t seen that particular episode of Mindfreak, but it is well known that Angel uses the old “inflatable elephant” gimmick. With a slightly over-inflated elephant, the prick of a pin is all it takes to explosively decompress the “animal,” which can then be quickly removed from sight or hidden beneath a nearby curtain or assistant.

September 30, 2008

Most dangerous effects in magic

The folks a the Ellusionist blog invited discussion of what a list of the ten most dangerous effects in magic might include. I am pleased to add my vast knowledge of magic to this area of inquiry. My list of ten most dangerous magic effects (in no particular order) would include:

  1. Straight Jacket Plummet. The magician is fastened into a straight jacket and dropped from an airplane at 30,000 feet, aimed straight at a platform covered in steel spikes. The magician must escape from the straight jacket and capture a parachute (that was dropped from the airplane at the same time the magician was) to have any hope of surviving.
  2. Hitchcock Bird Production: The magician, dressed in evening clothes, produces copious ravenous, homicidal doves from thin air.
  3. Sawing a Gang Leader’s Woman in Half. One mistake, and the magician is 187!
  4. Plunger. Three Styrofoam cups are arranged on a table upside down by an audience member while the magician looks away. After turning around, the magician instantly smashes two of the cups. What makes this exciting is that two of the cups are empty, while the third hides a plunger connected to explosives which will destroy the entire building if activated.
  5. Matrix. The magician places four coins on a close-up pad and covers them with four playing cards. The magician must try to secretly assemble all of the coins beneath one of the cards, even though his physical body has been enslaved by a race of robots and his mind is living in a computer simulation.
  6. Cement Endurance. More of a stunt than a real magic effect, the magician is lowered into a dumpster which is then filled with concrete. Once the concrete dries, the magician must carefully manage what air exists while escaping with only the use of a few dental tools.
  7. Great White. The magician attempts to locate a spectator’s selected card while being eaten by a shark.
  8. Heavy Water Torture Cell. Like Houdini’s Chinese Water Torture Cell, but radioactive (great for nighttime performances).
  9. Pullet Catch. A chicken cannon — used to test the ability of an airplane window to survive bird impacts — is loaded with a chicken that has been previously marked by a spectator. The hapless bird is fired at supersonic speed at the magician, who catches it. The effect is sometimes made even more deadly by using a frozen chicken.
  10. Performing Card Tricks for Teenage Boys. Don’t even attempt this one; you will be driven insane.

September 29, 2008

Clarification on Criss Angel’s lake walk

A reader writes:

Ok of course I’m gonna be skeptical on how he walked on the lake. But you guys said he had batteries on him and electricity was going, to the bottom of his shoes that had strips of metal. Don’t you see what’s wrong with that,as I recall there was water below his feet where you say there was also electricity below his feet. Water conducts electricity those women would’ve gotten shocked when they touched below his shoes. They would’ve gotten shocked for even being close to him. Those cameramen inside the lake would’ve gotten shocked. What next thing you’re gonna say is the care bears are real. Hey those people in the lake would’ve gotten shocked.

I understand your confusion, but magicians take extreme precautions to make sure that nobody will be injured during the performance of their effects. In the case of the water walk, Angel had the lake’s normal water replaced with ionized water. Because the water had an electrical charge, it was pushed away from the magnets and therefore there was no way for water and electricity to mix! (There was actually a thin bit of space between Angel’s feet and the super-surface-tension water beneath him — he was technically hovering, not walking, across the water.)

Some people have asked whether those in the water beside Angel might be wearing rubber shoes to help ward off electric shock. This would not be effective since they are standing in water; however, I’ve heard a rumor that the women may have had their legs encased in a thick coating of skin-colored rubber, which would indeed do the trick.

August 11, 2008

New Effects Exposed

I had time this weekend to do a little research and have posted the results in the main part of the Web site. This time around I have a clear, detailed explanation of how magician Criss Angel walked across Lake Mead on his Midfreak show, and the secrets behind Ellusionist’s newest effect Flow (which won’t be their newest after tomorrow, so I had to get this in as quickly as possible).

To this day I still get a lot of hate mail from people complaining about my original (and exacting) description of how Criss Angel walked across a swimming pool. Some people have even gone so far as to send me detailed mathematical proofs that my explanation is “impossible”. But doing the impossible is pretty much the essence of magic, isn’t it? Sigh — when will people learn.

Please keep sending me your questions. I’ll answer some more later this week.

August 5, 2008

Angel Ages a Child

Finally I’ve received another question! My dear new friend Jordan writes:

how does criss angel turns a little 8 year old to a 20 year old?

I have not personally seen Angel perform this effect, but the secret is well known to television magicians. The secret is simple: an eight-year-old child is selected and filmed. Then the camera is turned off and not turned on again for twelve years. After that period of time, the child is filmed again.

When the resulting film is played, the child seems to instantly age. You see, viewers assume that no time has passed when the camera is not recording, in the same way that a child will assume that you cannot see him when he has his eyes covered and cannot see you. It’s a simple psychological fact.

Don’t believe me? Watch Angel perform the effect again when you have a chance. Notice how his skin tone deteriorates slightly just as the girl ages “instantly”? It’s because a dozen years have passed.


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