June 09, 2024

The (Harry) Houdini Museum

This BBC Article (and the same news in Metro) was something I read when I couldn't post to this blog last month. What really got me was this quote from the Curator.

BBC: By telling people how this trick works, we're giving people a deeper meaning of Houdini.

Metro: People appreciate magic more when they know how it's done.

I disagree strongly with both of those, and especially the last one. The hardest part of magic isn't knowing the mechanices of the trick, it's the ability to (a) make sure tha nobody sees you doing the twiddly bit and (b) convince people that you really have an uncanny magical ability and aren't just showing them a little puzzle.

Both of them take many many performances to master. (a) is also known as misdirection and is probably the true 'hiddne' skill og Magicinas. The dak art of controlling people to see, hear and say what you want them to (cf Derren Brown, Max Mave, etc).

Take an example from last weekend at the 4rthur Meeting. After doing a few smaller pieces of magic, I built up to the final piece of magic. "Name a card and take it out the deck. Now put it back and shuffle. See that window over there?" At this point I throw the pack at the window, the cards hit, go everywhere, and left stuck to the window is the chosen card.

After a moment of stunned silence, they move to the window to take their card down. At this point the final piece of magic is discovered. The card is stuck to the window, but on the outside!

It's now four days later, and the Alfie is still stunned, cannot figure it out, and is almost convinced that magic exists. Tell me how knowing the two line secret to that trick will make him appreciate magic more?

Even then, how, in those two lines, can you explain just how to get ten people to look and see exactly what you want them to see? How do you fool their brains? How do you make sure they don't see the twiddly bit? How do you perform this so it is more "that's bloody impossible! That's magic" than "hmm, so how did he put the card there?"

One is magic. One is a puzzle. It takes a lot of practice to be able to do all the things that you need to do for 'magic' to happen. And it's very hard to explain that. Knowing two lines of the twiddly bit is not the same as being able to make people suspend their disbelief.

And that's when real magic happens.

Posted by Ewan at June 9, 2024 10:29 AM | TrackBack
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