Archive for the 'Methods' Category

How Derren Brown Predicted the Lottery Results Live

Thursday, September 10th, 2009

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.

Criss Angel elephant vanish

Friday, November 28th, 2008

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.

Derren Brown and the Gorilla

Thursday, July 24th, 2008

How nice! I’m starting to receive more mail that is neither insulting nor unprintable. I am pleased to answer selected questions on this blog, and will do so as they arrive.

A reader writes:

I went to see Derren Brown recently and in his act he went from behind a writing screen at one side of the stage into a gorilla suit at the other side of the stage with 3-4 seconds. How is this done?

There are many ways to accomplish the classic “Instant Gorilla Suit” effect. The most common method is for the magician to simply wear the gorilla suit beneath special “tear away” clothing. Behind the screen, the normal-looking clothing is ripped away in seconds by a team of well-practiced assistants, revealing the gorilla suit. The gorilla mask is hidden beneath a mask of the magician’s own face and revealed when the magician mask is pulled away.

But this is not the way that Derren Brown performs this effect. Because he has access to funds in excess of those available to most magicians, he is able to purchase advanced instant-gorilla-suit technology that allows him to perform without the use of assistants. Before the performance, Brown coats himself and his clothing in a thin coating of a special Instant Gorilla Paste (patent pending). This paste is invisible to the naked eye, but when activated by water (which Brown pours over himself while behind the screen) it instantly sprouts into a thick coat of black fur, making Brown look to the unpracticed eye as if he is wearing a gorilla suit!

The magicians’ code

Monday, April 14th, 2008

I keep hearing about the magicians’ code. What is it?

The magicians’ code prevents magicians from giving away their — or other magicians’ — secrets. This is done because revealing the secrets of magic would ruin magic as we know it, sending magicians out of their fabulous mansions and into the streets to earn their daily bread.

The code works like this: When writing, the letter “A” is replaced with “B”, “B” is replaced with “C”, and “C” is replaced with “D”. Other letters are replaced as well, but I will not give the entire code (or the arcane pattern used to generate it) here because it is proprietary to magicians. By using this code whenever discussing magic, the magician ensures that the uninitiated can never uncover magic’s deepest secrets.

You might be interested to know that some of the greatest magicians can not only write in magician’s code, they can speak in it. It’s quite impressive!

How to disappear

Monday, March 31st, 2008

I have been interested in magical/illusionist acts for a long time now, and i have tried it myself for a while.Even though I have seen famous illutionist on TV from time to time, I still can not understand one illusion.If it is possible and you can of course (without breaking any code) explain how a human being ‘vanishes’ right before the spectators eyes.

This illusion has been done in various places, with my limited knowledge I just can not comprehend what exactly happens, even though I do not believe that the person has ‘vanished’.

As with most illusions, there are various methods of performing this feat. Sometimes the magician disappears in a puff of smoke, sometimes the magician simply ceases to be there, and occasionally only part of the magician vanishes, leaving behind severed body parts and vomiting spectators. A few popular methods of public vanishing:

  1. Pellets containing acidic smoke powerful enough to instantly dissolve a human body (can be used only one; generally presented as the final effect in a performance at the end of a tour).
  2. A large mirror, held so the audience just sees another audience and not the magician.
  3. Psychological tools are used until everyone considers the magician so boring that they stop paying attention to him or her.
  4. The magician just waits until nobody is looking and jumps out a window.

Quick change artistry

Monday, March 24th, 2008

Do you know how the quick clothing change magic works?

There are a number of methods by which a magician or a magician’s assistant can appear to change from one outfit to another in the blink of an eye while passing behind a screen, hiding in a trunk, falling from an airplane, etc.

The most common method, and the one that has been used since the early days of quick change magic, is to employ identical twins or triplets. Instead of switching outfits, the magician (or the magician’s assistant) simply trades places with his or her differently dressed identical twin. While the replacement struts around in new duds, the original has plenty of time to switch clothing in preparation for the next switch.

If identicals are not available, quick changes can be made with the help of gimmicked clothing. For example:

  1. Hydrosensitive cloth changes color and texture when exposed to moisture. One out fit can apparently be changed to another by simply surreptitiously dumping a bucket of water over the magician’s head.
  2. A particularly talented magician can appear to change outfits by merely changing posture in certain subtle ways.
  3. A outfit made of flash paper can be worn atop a full-body flame-retardant suit that has been tailored to look like a normal outfit. The magician touches a match to the outer clothing and it bursts into flames and vanishes completely. The flame-retardant suit limits severe burns to the magician’s hands and face, which are protected by the magician’s health insurance.
  4. Clothing can be designed to be easily repurposed. For example, a head scarf can be quickly turned into a lovely sash, a diaphanous shawl, or a scandalous blouse.
  5. Other gimmicks are often used. Shoes can be equipped with electric self-tying laces or turned from pumps to spikes with hydraulic heels. A high-speed unraveler can turn a sweater into a ball of yarn in less than a second.

Vanishing an animal

Monday, March 3rd, 2008

How can I make an animal like a dog disappear and make people think it really disappeared?

The easiest way to make people think that an animal has disappeared is to make it actually disappear. Many household animals (particularly cats) will run away if you just open the front door a little. Other animals can be hidden in basements, tied up in bags, sold to disreputable pet stores, or surreptitiously given to a small child on the street.

The problem with these methods is that they a) can get you in trouble with animal protection agencies, and b) may make life difficult if you want the animal to reappear on cue at a later date. But if you just want an animal to disappear, they work fine.

Alternative coin bending

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Is there another solution for coin bending, because I think it would be a little difficult to back over it with a car and no one noticing?

The coin bending method I discuss — which does indeed involve the use of an automobile — is considered the classic method. You might think that it is difficult to run over a coin with a car without anyone noticing, but this is where the art of misdirection comes in! You would be amazed at what a good magician can get away with by using a little misdirection. For example, David Copperfield once so thoroughly distracted an entire audience with snappy patter and hand gestures that not one of them noticed the Great Wall of China being hastily dismantled in the background.

But what if you are not particularly confident in your ability to distract your audience? Don’t worry — coin bending is still within your grasp! Magicians usually have more than one way of performing a particular effect, and the coin bend is no exception. If a car is not to your liking, then you can bend a coin with a truck, a large motorcycle, or even a freight train! If you’d like to avoid motor vehicles entirely (for environmental reasons of what have you), you can take the easy way out and just bend the coin with your fingers — it’s actually much easier than you’d imagine, and people just assume it’s hard to bend a coin because they’ve never tried!


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