Inception….. Wait, no I mean Deception.

So this post isn’t about Leonardo DiCaprio’s amazing performance, it’s actually another trick that involves deception. This one takes surprisingly little slight of hand, but still requires a master to perfect, one that I learned from Teller (the silent one of the amazing duo, Penn and Teller). I’m going to first run through everything that happens during this trick, then explain its secrets.

We begin with a deck of cards.

I shuffle the deck a couple times, letting you see that its a full deck of cards every now and then by showing you the deck while shuffling. I think split the deck three times and put the piles down in front of you, inviting you to pick any one of the three piles. Picking up a card, you memorize it, and put in back into the deck, where I shuffle the cards and make it clear I don’t have a thumb on the corner or know what the card is. Now I’m going to ask you want your card was, and let’s say it was the two of clubs.

This is where it gets a little strange, but I bite down on the deck and give it a couple shakes in my mouth, almost as if some card is moving down my mouth and through my body. I then take the deck out my mouth, lift up my right shoe, and lo and behold, the two of clubs is underneath my foot! Then I’m going to give you the deck of cards and encourage you to go through it and attempt to find two to clubs, which will be the only card missing from the deck.

Now for the trick’s dirty secrets.

There is a lot of preparation for this magical illusion, long before you’re watching me perform. So from the beginning, I’m “shuffling” a deck of a card in front of you, but I’m very actually setting it up so I know the position of three cards: the queen of hearts, the two of clubs, and the ace of spades. Other than that, it’s a completely normal deck, and this could be done with any three cards, but I’m sticking to the one’s I learned from Teller.

When I put three piles in front of you, I place each one of those cards on top, and I’m very aware of where each card is, so that way as soon as you pick, I already know what you’ve chosen. Then all the cards go back to the deck and I genuinely shuffle them. When I place it in my mouth, I swallow the correct card and wait three to four days for it to follow my digestive track.

Just kidding, the whole cards-in-the-mouth thing is just an act. I pretend as if the card is traveling through my body and out my right foot, where the two of spades is hiding. What you don’t know, and never would, is that I have the queen of hearts under my left foot and the ace of spades in my wallet in my back pocket. I would’ve modified the trick slightly to have you find whatever card you had originally chosen.

As you are amazed and picking up my card, I switch the deck in my hand with another one in my pocket, which is a full deck of cards, except for the two of spades. Also in my pocket I have full decks of cards with everything but the ace of spades and the queens of hearts. So you then check through the deck I give you, not finding the two of diamonds, and your audience is thoroughly amazed.

And it only cost you four decks of cards.


Impress your friends

So last week I posted this picture


To which I remarked magic can get you girls. Barney Stinson may be a little bit of an exaggeration in this regard, but magic can definitely allow you to impress your friends and family. So this week I’m going to teach you guys two party tricks, and next time you are at a family reunion, give them a shot if you want.

The first one I’ll mention is one of my personal favorites. Ask your friend to make a bet with you, but don’t tell him what it is. Both of you put some money on the countertop, then ask him to place both of his palms face down on the table. Take two full drinks and place one on each of his hands, then take his money and walk away. Think about it…. If you have two full cups of water on your hands, how are you going to lift one to remove the water. The victim is going to stare at his hands for a moment until what just happened finally sinks in, then he is going to probably going to shout in protest as you walk away like


So you get the idea. Another great party trick is one I like to call the “Accidental Disappearance” because… well, you’ll see. This trick requires a quarter (or really any small object you can fit in your hand) and a pencil. First, place the small object in your hand and orient yourself so the person is standing to the left of you. Then use the pencil as your magic wand (in your right hand), waving it around the quarter, and tell your friend to focus really hard on the quarter and that you’ll make it disappear. Count down from three, and on each mark start with the pencil up at head level and bring it down to your hand, almost like a wind up. “Three… two… one….” but then stop after one and make sure sure he is focusing on the quarter. Of course he still is, this is just for dramatic effect, but you want him to be watching that quarter like a hawk because he thinks he can see the slight of hand your about to do and then he will feel superior for knowing how you did the trick.

So once you know he is watching it very intensely, start counting down again. “Three…” bring the pencil down to your hand then back up to your head. “Two…” the pencil goes up and down. “One….” this is where the trick comes in.

After you say one and bring the pencil back up to your head, put the pencil behind your right ear. Your friend will be so intensely focused on the quarter its unlikely he will notice the quick change, and he is on the left side of you, so he can’t see it hidden there. Then bring your hand down and go “BAM” and hit the top of your hand. So then both of you are going to be staring at your hand, which still has the quarter, but the pencil magically disappeared! You need to look really confused and go “Darn!! I made the wrong thing disappear again!”

This trick isn’t going to fool a crowd for the rest of their lives because after a couple seconds they are going to realize what you did, or you are going to have to move your head and they will see the pencil. But, it’s still a really cool trick to confuse your friends, even if only for a couple moments.

Its an awesome trick! Feel free to ask me to do this in class or any time really, it requires very little props so it is great to do on the fly. I’m actually well over the word count now, but I hope you enjoyed this!


It’s ok, no need to run out the building or panic after seeing the title. I want to talk about fire in magic, because fire is a crucial element (pun intended) to many magicians’ performances. I’ve talked about things like this before, magic is many enhancing simple tricks and illusions to make an audience go ouhhhhh and ahhhhh, and not many things do the trick as much as fire!

First thing I want to mention is flash paper, because in my opinion, it is basically magical technology. I wish I could tell you a little bit more on how it works, but the premise is it’s paper that lights on fire, but leaves no ash behind. My basic understanding is the chemical reaction it undergoes converts all of the solid paper into inert gases like nitrogen and carbon, so no physical residue is left behind. But to an unknowing audience member, it’s really cool! Often flash paper is used in tricks with dollar bills, and if you google flash paper, one of the first things to come up is amazon sales for dollar bill flash paper. For example, if I have you sign a dollar bill, I can make it “disappear” with some slight of hand and replace it with flash paper. Then, you watch in horror as you believe your vending machine money goes up in flames, but the magician magically makes it reappear and you have your dollar bill again!

Beyond just tricks, magic was used a lot in religious ceremonies over the millennium. Think about the stereotype of an old wizard. He has a long white beard and lives in a tower, but he also uses fire in both epic combat and making his phenoix be reborn again. So there is some history to it.

The other fire used in magic is actually nothing more than a dot on your hand. A magician snaps his fingers, and instantly a ball of fire appears, but it goes away as fast as it came. You’ve actually probably seen this trick on “How I Met Your Mother” thanks to the master of illusion Barney Stinson


(Hey, magic gets you girls, and don’t let anyone ever tell you differently).

This trick involves a piece of chemicals formed into a little dot placed on your thumb, then when the friction of snapping your fingers ignites it, fire appears so fast and disperse it’s harmless to the magic. Pretty cool, I know.

But this is just a little bit about some of the tricks that use fire, so thanks for reading!

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

The Mastermind known as Harry Houdini is best described as…. Well, a mastermind.

He changed the history of magic and entertainment, being the first mass entertainer to use magic, and no longer was the art of illusion limited to cheap circuses or sketchy theaters. Just think about the how famous he still is even today! You obviously know Harry Houdini was, but how much can you tell me about the president when he was performing, Warren G. Hardening? Yeah, that’s right, not very much.

For this blog post, I’m going to discuss one of Houdini’s greatest acts. The majority of his tricks included almost what can be considered dirty magic, like using fake handcuffs that are meant to pass inspection by an unknowing audience member but will quickly fall off by pressing the right button. He would use handcuffs, locks, and straitjackets all within a trick, or even as the trick itself.


(it’s harder than you think to find a not-extremely-creepy picture of a straitjacket)

Watch one of the few videos we actually have of Houdini performing as he escapes from a straitjacket upside down, suspended from a crane.

Houdini originally thought of this idea after touring a mental hospital in Canada. He watched a mentally insane man role around a padded room futilely attempted to escape. Immediately he began experimenting with them, and eventually it became one of his most famous tricks. His act would often be done in the busiest streets of New York City, bringing traffic to a halt and drawing crowds in the tens of thousands. He also would do this trick on newspaper buildings to ensure press coverage (clever…).

The straitjacket performance is actually one of his few escape acts that requires no trickery. Instead, Houdini uses a combination of brute force and special movements to free himself. Watching the video, you see him almost painfully struggling against constraints. What he is doing is first bringing his one arm above his head by locking the opposite elbow and using brute force to bring the arm over top of him. By doing so, he frees both his arms because of their connection to the back. Once he has done this, he uses his teeth to undo the straps on his hands, then with free hands he can individually undo the straps behind his back, thereby freeing himself of the canvas restraint.

Interestingly enough, being upside down actually helps him escape. The force of gravity is assisting in pulling his arm above his head, or lower to the ground (if that makes it clearer). The only downside to this is it makes the straps harder to undo because he has to fight gravity to reach them.

All of Houdini’s tricks have been revealed by now, but that doesn’t matter to me in choosing him as my favorite magician. To put things in today’s terms, he changed the game. Magic is only what it is today because of the interest and curiosity Harry Houdini inspired in the world over 100 years ago, and for this, we thank him.

History of Magic

Hello again.

After requests from my most recent blog post to go deeper into the history of a trick more, I thought it would be fitting to talk about the history of magic itself. I also promise to go into the history of individual tricks more next week.

It is hard to give an exact date or even time period as to when the art of illusion became popular. Going back to the ancient world, magic was directly correlated to religion, which meant the priests were the magicians! Egyptians were the first known culture to correlate magic and clergy, and you can even see proof of this in the bible. Moses has to compete with Egyptian magicians who can “replicate” the plagues Moses brings, like turning a staff into a snake.

So magic is nothing new to the human race.

The first known magician was an Egyptian named Dedi who performed for the pharaoh by cutting off the heads of geese, bulls, or chickens, have them run around headless, and then restore their heads, returning the animals to their original state. And of course, this illusion was attributed to the power of the gods.

I’m sorry to say I can’t tell you how this trick was done. There isn’t enough information or even credibility with this illusion that his secret died with him. The most important piece of information about Dedi though is his legacy as the first ever magician.

Moving forward a couple thousand years, ancient Greece left us (among many, many things) the world’s oldest magic trick still known today. You might even see street performers doing this as it is still a popular trick. The illusion is called ball and cup, and it is actually about as simple as tricks come. Take a look at my favorite modern day magicians, Penn and Teller, perform a variation of this trick. I will warn you, this is a video of them both performing it and explaining it, so only watch the first 1 minute and 30 seconds, and then once you tried to make sense of my explanation, feel free to watch the rest of it.

So, the key in this trick is there are four balls to begin with. Three are placed on top of the cups, visible to the audience, but another has its starting place under the first cup. The magician picks up the first ball and using sleight of hand, he makes it “disappear”, when in reality he is still holding on to it. Then the first cup is lifted up, where the fourth ball was sitting, and it looks like the first ball magically appeared there. The first ball is actually placed under the second cup, and then the trick is repeated through all the cups.

Now, because Penn and Teller are awesome, they added some fancy parts with bigger balls they had hidden in their pockets. But the fundamentals of the trick are the same, and you are now welcome to go watch their explanation now of the trick.

So that was the oldest known trick in the world, and in my opinion, it’s pretty cool to watch the same trick ancient Greeks were watching 3,000 years ago.

Hope you liked some of the history!

Sawing A Lovely Assistant In Half


We’ve all seen it before. A magician comes out on stage with a box in front of him. He has his lovely (why are they always lovely?) assistant step into the long horizontal box, lying flat on her back. To the horror of the audience, the magician uses a massive saw to cut her body in half, then pulling the halves of her apart as proof this woman is now in two! Once put back together, the woman steps out, without a single scar or anything (magicians would make great plastic surgeons).

This has become such a well-known trick, performers rarely use it. Some magician broke the code many years ago and now the secret is almost common knowledge. But if you don’t know it, you’re in for treat. If you do, I promise to go into the history of the trick and still make this post at least a little interesting.

I actually find the history very funny. It is rumored (though it’s probably not true; I like to believe) the trick was first performed by a magician named Torrini in front of Pope Pius VII in 1809. I like to picture His Holy Excellency staring wide mouth at this magician who’s face probably looks like


and then the Pope promptly has him executed for witch craft.


The trick uses flexibility as its main source of amazement. The other key is the number of people involved in the trick. It appears there are only two people, the magician and his lovely helper, but there is a third person involved, one you never even see. There is a second female inside of the box who has been there since the beginning of the trick. Take a look at this lovely diagram which illustrates how the other person plays a role.

magic revealed

As you can imagine, person number two gets a little cramped after a while.

When the lovely assistant steps into the box, the other lady sticks her legs out the other end, creating the clever illusion that only one person is in the box.

As you may be getting this impression from my blog, the most crucial part of a great magic trick is a believable illusion. Any person can play off an illusion, but what makes a true magician is the presentation of an act! When was the last time you saw a magician with a monotone voice and an unenthusiastic attitude? Never! There is always dramatic music, loud noises, and unnecessary sound effects.

You should try this in your own life, it really makes for an exciting afternoon.

Back to the trick, there are actually many variations of this trick. Sometimes people use a buzz saw or really tiny boxes, but often the fundamental of the trick remains the same.

Hope you found this trick interesting!


“Sawing A Woman In Half.” American Heritage. Published March 23, 2007.

Magician’s Choice

Magicians can be very sneaky.

They know how to get you to do exactly what they want, without you ever noticing. Something I learned long ago is called “Magician’s Choice” which is a way to get you to pick what the magician needs you to pick. Imagine you have three cards



I (the magician) have put your card in the middle, and I ask you to pick a card. There are three scenarios as to what can happen

  1. You pick the middle card. That certainly makes my job easy because you just picked up your own card and it appeared as if I knew you would pick that card. I look fantastic, you are amazed, and that’s the end of the trick!
  2. The next scenario can happen one of two ways. You will pick either the right or left card, but regardless, it is not the card I want you to pick. Is that the end of the trick? No! Of course not! So if you pick the card on the right, I will pull that card away and put it in the discard pile, as if no matter what card you chose, I was going to pull it away. No you have two cards left! The card on the left, and the new card on the right (which I know is your card). I’m going to ask you again to pick a card from the remaining two. If you pick the one on the left, I will pull it away just as I did to the original card you chose. Now you have one card remaining and it’s yours! And the trick is done.

Everything I described to you has had no special illusion or trick to it, I’m merely keeping or pulling cards away, depending on which one you picked. But there is one scenario where I’m in big trouble.

          3. Let’s say you chose the card on the right, and I’ll pull it away. What happens                   when I ask you to pick another card, and you chose the one on the right (which               is your card!)? I can’t pull it away like I did originally, then the only one left is                   the wrong card. This is where the illusion come in, and I count on the fact that                 you aren’t paying to much attention. Of the two remaining, when you choose                   your card that was originally in middle, I’m going to pull away the card on left. It               is now like you chose the one in the middle, so I’m going to keep the card you                 chose, even though I originally pulled away a card! It combining the two                           strategies of pulling away cards I don’t want and leaving cards I do want.

It’s a little mind boggling, but this technique is very common among magicians to give the audience the illusion of choice. If the crowd believes they chose their own card, it makes the magician seem, well, more magical! I hope this made some sense, and please ask me to show you this trick, because I will happily oblige!

What Happened to Lady Liberty?

You know what I love about magic? Its power to amaze. How do you keep the attention of crowd with nothing but a pencil? Magic. How do you saw a man in half? Magic. How do you turn yourself into the coolest person in the room? Magic. Or a leather jacket. But magic takes the ordinary and does something incredible with it, and that’s why I’ve been addicted to it since a little kid. I’ve gone to magic camps and spent hours on the internet looking for party tricks or illusions, and I look up to Harry Houdini the same way a typical kid looks up to Tom Brady. Is that a little strange? Maybe, but everyone has their own unique interests and passions. In this blog I’m going to talk about some of the greatest magic tricks ever performed and reveal their secret, assuming the world ever figured out how the magician did it. I would like my first trick to be one of my favorites done by my second favorite magician (take a guess at who is #1).

David Copperfield made the Statue of Liberty disappear.

How could he make something over 450 feet tall, weighing thousands of tons, disappear before a live audience? It truly was an incredible trick, and you can watch it on YouTube in a short three minute video.

So good old David made the icon of freedom evaporate, even running spotlights through the area where the statue had been only minutes before. While the video showed the circumstances to be fairly free, the illusion was done under very strict conditions. The audience had to be exactly where they were sitting, otherwise the whole thing would have fallen apart.

The key to success in this trick is the stage and the two pillars holding up the curtain. As soon as that curtain hid the statue, the lights illuminating Lady Liberty were turned off, and the entire stage, pillars, and audience begin to shift to the right. Once they were enough degrees away, another set of lights were turned on in the same pattern and the curtain was dropped. Wowzah! The Statue of Liberty is gone! Then Copperfield ran search lights through the area that had nothing there. Once the crowd was thoroughly amazed, the curtain went back up and the stage shifted back to the original position, making the statue “reappear”.

Some other tricks he used to make this trick successful

  1. He was playing loud music, which would have hid any noise or vibration the machines were making to shift the stage.
  2. The trick was done at night, meaning there was no reference point for the audience to notice the shifting of the stage. It’s the same idea of being in a boat with no windows; there is no way to tell what direction you are going or if the boat changes directions (in calm waters).
  3. The stage was moving very slowing, and though you cannot tell in the video, a couple minutes passed between the curtain being raised and the statue disappearing.
  4. The “radar detector” used were merely an added illusion that could be controlled, and just a button was used to make it vanish on the screen.

The idea behind it is fairly simple, but brilliant in engineering and design. David Copperfield took an old illusion and modernized it on a very large scale, and this brilliance he part of the reason he is as famous as he is. And if you liked what he did in that trick, I promise this will not be the last time you hear from him on Matt Roda’s Passion Blog.



“David Copperfield’s Statue of Liberty Trick Revealed.” 14 October 2008.