How is this magic trick done?
November 4, 2005 2:45 PM   Subscribe

How is this magic trick done?

I saw the Chris Angel (or some annoying variant spelling) show on TV the other day.

He did a trick on a moving bus where a girl signed one card from a pack, then he threw the pack at the windshield of the bus. One card stuck, the others fell. Obviously it was her card. But not only that, it was stuck to the OUTSIDE of the glass (they stopped the bus).

Most of his other tricks are Houdini-like things, escaping from a pair of handcuffs inside a barrel and the like, and I either know, or don't care, how they're done. But this one bugs me. Any ideas?
posted by AmbroseChapel to Grab Bag (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I know that you can buy this trick online, but I forget what it's called. Perhaps some Googling would turn it up.
posted by Jairus at 2:52 PM on November 4, 2005

It's all about diversionary tactics. The card was already there, but nobody noticed it.
posted by DannyUKNYC at 3:13 PM on November 4, 2005

Well the card was obviously already stuck to the outside of the bus window... It didn't miraculously get there.

Therefore the magician would be forcing a duplicate of that card on to the girl. I haven't seen the version you describe but when David Blaine did it he fairly obviously only fanned half the deck to the victim - then when he turned the deck over he offered the other half for them to choose a card.

Whilst they're memorising their cards it's easy enough to hide the big wad of identical cards, leaving just the different ones to throw at the window.

Interestingly, the last time I went on the London Eye there was a two of hearts stuck near where the camera takes the photo of the pod (just before you get off). The magician was obviously going to say some thing like "everyone look this way for your picture. Oh! Is THAT your card?"
posted by Glum at 3:14 PM on November 4, 2005

David Blaine does the same trick. And now you can too.
posted by meerkatty at 3:26 PM on November 4, 2005 you can too.
posted by meerkatty at 3:28 PM on November 4, 2005

What I love about this trick is how an obvious problem has been turned into additional "magic." The fact that the card is on the OUTSIDE of the window should detract from the trick, not add to it. It would be MORE magical if the card was inside the window. Outside makes it easy to imagine assistants slapping cards on the window while the magician distracts the audience. It would be much harder for the assistants to do this from the inside.

People have trouble figuring out how magic tricks are done, because they are clinging to the idea of it actually being magic. If you want to really figure out a trick, the first thing you need to do is totally give that up. You start by saying to yourself, "Well, obviously a card can't pass through a window, so what are the other possibilities?"

Another obstacle to figuring out tricks is the people tend to refuse to believe that magicians will go to great trouble. An ex girlfriend of mine once went to a "psychic" who "knew" all sorts of things about her without being told. I suggested the psychic was a con-artist, but my gf assured me that there was no way he could have known all that stuff about her. So I asked her if she made an appointment (giving her name to the psychic in advance) or just walked in. She admitted that she made an appointment. This was back before the internet and googling, but I was still able to show her how I could find out all that same information about her, just by knowing her name, using public resources, and making some educated guesses. She admitted that it was possible to get all that information about her but refused to believe that the "psychic" would have gone to all that trouble.

Don't think, "what's the easy way it could be done?" Think, "what's the WAY it could be done?" If it could only be done with three weeks of setup and thousands of dollars worth of equipment, then that's how it was done. Either that -- or MAGIC!!!!
posted by grumblebee at 3:41 PM on November 4, 2005

I don't know how he did his trick on the bus, but here are possible ways to do variations (like in a home)

1. force a card choice of a predetermined card, have duplicate of card already stuck outside window. if the card is marked, you'd have to follow the card in the deck and pocket it; then use misdirection to switch the duplicate card for the card w/the signature (or torn corner or whatever) when you go to pull it down from the window from outside.

2. allow any card choice, get signature, follow card in deck, misdirect audience & get card to accomplice. while you banter, he goes out and sticks behind window.

3. the accomplice is in the audience. he sees what card was chosen when the mark shows it to the crowd. he leaves and puts the same card from a duplicate deck on the window.

4. if the card is hidden beforehand, if it's dark outside it prolly won't be noticed. or certain pull-down blinds will snap/roll up when they're hit with the force, so when you throw the deck, the blinds shoot up, the card was behind them; you can attempt to take the card down and feign surprise that it "went through" to the other side of the window.
posted by neda at 4:06 PM on November 4, 2005

The Blaine one is different though in that the card isn't signed in that case. The only way I can think that they did this was maybe to get the participants to sign a release form or something before they started filming the show, and then copy the signature from that form onto the card to make it look like her signature.
posted by chill at 4:08 PM on November 4, 2005

Yes, in addition to what grumblebee said, there seems to be an unfounded trust that a signature on a card cannot be forged. Yet, I've read about at least one big trick which relies on an assistant copying the signature during the performance. We dont like to think the explanation can be so simple and unelegant, as if that would be cheating.
posted by springload at 6:21 PM on November 4, 2005

I think you folks are missing the obvious... they edited the tape to put the on the windshield.

If you watch the trick in slow, you see the jerky camera move quickly, then the card is outside. The trick shot on the hallway looks like the same gaffe.

Remember, this was filmed in his tour bus... everybody there is in on the trick.
posted by Marky at 7:08 PM on November 4, 2005 [1 favorite]

Remember, this was filmed in his tour bus... everybody there is in on the trick.

Right on. Saw one of those Magic Tricks Revealed type TV shows and a goodly whack of magic tricks were performed with literally dozens of "volunteers" who were in on it.

posted by uncanny hengeman at 8:31 PM on November 4, 2005

I have a little experience in magic, and the "card through window" is an effect I'm at least somewhat familiar with. Based on my admittedly limited knowlege, I am at least confident enough to make these statements:

A lot of you are ignoring a few basic elements of this illusion. "It was already there," you say, and post the explanation of how Blaine did it. Well, Blaine did two things differently.

First, he didn't have his spectator sign their card. If the card isn't signed, it's easy to plant one outside the window ahead of time, or have an accomplice with another deck on the other side of the window. But Angel had his spectator sign the card, which means that one particular card has to get outside. (While I don't doubt chill's anecdote about copying a signature, it doesn't hold up for this trick. First, there's not enough time. And second, in that limited time, nobody is going to be able to make a convincing enough signature to fool the person who signed the card into believing it's the same one they signed.)

Also, Angel did his in a moving bus. (It was not on his tour bus as Marky claims -- do you really think his tour bus is filled with seats? His tour bus has things like a bed and TV, and storage space for props.) This makes it very hard to have someone outside the bus plant a card on the windshield.

Marky also claims video editing. If you need video editing to accomplish an effect, you are a terrible magician. Criss Angel has some of the best minds in magic consulting him and offering advice. I assure you he does not use camera tricks. More likely -- and this is actually very likely -- the jerky camera motion was to prevent you from seeing someone's arm or some device putting the card there.

Magicians never use camera tricks in the sense of editing or removing things from the scene. They will definitely exploit camera angles -- putting the camera in just the right spot so you can't see something that would give the trick away. But you shouldn't feel sleighted. because they do the same thing to their real-life spectators. A lot of sleight of hand only works if you're standing in just the right spot relative to the magician. Ever notice how Blaine, when he levitates, tells the spectators to all stand together, and in a certain spot? It's because if they stood anywhere else, it wouldn't work.

So how did Angel do it? I don't know for sure. I'm pretty much positive that the person was not an accomplice (nor were the others on the bus), the card was actually signed by her, and after placing it in the deck, Criss controlled it back out. After that, it must have been given to someone else who -- out of camera view and while everyone else was distracted -- somehow got it outside the windshield. I'm just not sure of exactly how that part was accomplished.
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:11 PM on November 4, 2005

(Sorry, I should have done a little more proofreading. I came off sounding very uncertain in my first paragraph. In actuality, I'm quite confident of all the claims I made. I'm not 100%, because I do not know Angel, or anyone who has worked with him, well enough to find out for certain how it was done. But I know the idea well enough that I'm very confident about everything except how the card was physically moved to the outside of the bus' windshield.)
posted by CrayDrygu at 11:14 PM on November 4, 2005

I'm not a fan of Criss Angel's, but, as CrayDrygu wrote, he has some of the finest minds in magic -- Johnny Thompson and Steve Shaw (Banachek) among them -- consulting on his show, so editing is out of the question as a method.

My beef with Criss Angel is that he's not a good enough performer to make one say, "Wow -- that was amazing!" rather than "Wow -- how the fuck did he do that?" Great magicians astonish their audiences rather than leave them with a puzzle to be solved.
posted by adgnyc at 8:03 AM on November 5, 2005

I don't buy the 'no editing' thing for this guy. When he did the levitation in the hallway the editing and camera motion was so obvious it was laughable.
posted by jeffmik at 2:24 PM on November 5, 2005

I do think that some people have been very patronising in answering this question.

I haven't been "clinging to the idea of it actually being magic" nor am I ignorant of the immense lengths magicians go to. I've singled out this trick, which I know is a trick, simply because I can't figure out how it was done.

And people haven't even read the question properly.

Signed card. Moving Bus. Everyone facing toward the window in question, because that's the way seats face in a bus.

I suppose it could have been either video editing or everyone in on the trick, but, that's just so incredibly lame I can't believe a magician would do it.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 2:48 PM on November 5, 2005

Jeffmik, whether you buy it or not, the hallway trick is easy to do without a single bit of video editing.

I'm not going to give it away, because -- honestly -- the explanation is too easy. You know that whole thing about magicians never telling their secrets? A large reason for that is because the explanations are so absurdly obvious (once you know what they are, anyway) that knowing how a trick is done completely ruins any "magical" effect it might have.

But I guess you'll have to take my word for it when I say that, if you were actually there with Criss for any of these performances, you would have seen exactly what the camera showed you.
posted by CrayDrygu at 3:03 PM on November 5, 2005

"Everyone facing toward the window in question..."

Actually, everyone was turned around watching Criss do the trick. It's called misdirection :)
posted by CrayDrygu at 3:04 PM on November 5, 2005

CrayDrygu, to me it looked like stop motion photography and even if the trick was actually done in person and the live people saw what we did, the slowed down camera effects made it look extra fake. I'd be interested in knowing how it was done but I don't think it would make it any more interesting to me - many of the Criss Angel tricks that I've seen are ruined by the use of crappy angles and effects.
posted by jeffmik at 3:32 PM on November 5, 2005

AmbroseChapel, I can understand why you thought I was being patronizing. And I apologize. I hate being condescended to and I would never want to make anyone else feel like I was doing it to them.

When I said "People have trouble figuring out how magic tricks are done, because they are clinging to the idea of it actually being magic," I didn't mean you (necessarily -- I don't know anything about you, so I don't know why, or even if, you have trouble figuring out magic). But you were the one who asked the question, so you made a reasonable assumption when you assumed I meant you specifically. Again, I'm sorry, and I hope you accept my apology.

Clearly, many people ARE fooled by magic (and many people want to be) and I DO think that this is one of the reasons (I've outlined some other reasons in this thread). I'll patronize myself by saying that I'm one of those people. I'm an atheist and a skeptic. I don't believe in ESP, telekinesis, UFOs, Bigfoot, The Loch Ness Monster, the soul, auras or spells. I don't believe in magic. Intellectually. But in the heat of the moment, when I'm dazzled by a trick, I sometimes forget I don't believe (which must mean, at least on an emotional level, I DO believe), and so I am unable to figure out how the trick was done. But if I sit myself down and say, "Look, Bucko, there's no such thing as magic." I am usually able to figure it out.

So I shouldn't have said "people," I should have said "me." I SUSPECT many other people share my mental block, but of course I can never know what goes on in anyone's head except mine. I should have owned the remark. It wasn't purposeful dishonesty -- it was just sloppiness. I will try to do better in the future.
posted by grumblebee at 5:46 PM on November 5, 2005

"Everyone facing toward the window in question..."

Actually, everyone was turned around watching Criss do the trick. It's called misdirection :)

Oh. My. God, would you please stop being so patronising.

Did you see the item?

People were facing forward, in the normal seating position for a bus. The magician was standing in front of the front-most row of seats, between that row of seats and the driver.

Unless by "turned around" you mean "not facing 100% directly at the window, turned as much as 20 or 30 degrees away from it", then you're wrong. "Turned around" gives the impression that they were facing away from it, as in, roughly 180 degrees. They were not.

They weren't looking directly at it, no. But, I don't know what it is about this question which has brought out the condescention and pat-on-the-head brigade.

I notice, by the way, that nobody has even attempted to explain the trick. If you're so smart, then tell me how it was done.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:27 PM on November 7, 2005

Thanks for your post, grumblebee. It was nice of you to do that.

There's obviously something about the discussion of magic and illusions that makes some people feel very superior. Without even reading the post properly, people start in on a well-rehearsed speech about human stupidity, which doesn't apply to them.

The same thing happens when you ask a question about the lottery with math geeks around. You have to wade through 500 posts about the lottery being a 'stupidity tax', oh, very amusing, before you can get an answer, and you have to keep repeating "I know the odds of winning the Lotto are very very small, can we please get past your need to assume I'm a moron?" all the time.

For the record: I know magic is not real. I have no deep-seated emotional need to believe it is. I know how nearly all magic tricks are done. I don't even regularly watch magic shows, I just happened to catch this one when flipping channels.

But, starting from the above position I asked the question because I couldn't figure out how this trick was done.

Here's a thought -- Angel had a guy riding on the outside of the bus like a stunt-man, who got out of the way before the passengers got off and hid. How about that?

Nobody even got that far, they were too busy implying that I was a dunce.

[...and I hadn't even mistyped 'condescension' at that point...]
posted by AmbroseChapel at 3:38 PM on November 7, 2005

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