| By Simon Lovell and Ned the Lemming|
When I first started learning magic (many, many years ago) I read that one wonderful aspect of magic was just how spectators remembered the effects they had been shown at a later date. In many cases they would remember something so totally different to what they’d been shown that the effect was an impossibility of mythical proportions. At first I didn’t believe this to be the case – I mean just how hard could it be for someone to remember a trick? We all remember names, words (meaning and spelling) and places pretty well so what was so different about a magic trick?
Of course I was wrong not to believe. Show an effect where a ball appears under a cup and, several Chinese Whispers later, you’ll have produced twenty five. Show an effect where a card appears in your wallet and a while later they’ll believe you made their wife appear in the wallet! Actually, that last one may be a tad extreme, but you get the idea! I even have the same problem myself. I can watch an act and my perception can be completely different to what happened. Actually I often forget just what I did myself around twenty minutes after a show is over!!
Now it is pretty cool to garner this kind of reputation as a wonder kid (except for occasional back fires when somebody asks you dem an effect their friend told them about but that’s another column all together!) but rather than letting their imaginations run riot wouldn’t it be even cooler if you could somehow force their minds along a track of your choice? In other words, control how their perceptions allow the effect to grow in their mind?
Within limits I believe through careful structure this is entirely possible. Of course it would be crazy to expect a 100% success rate but even a 50-60% success rate is pretty good for you.
A very good example of this ‘tracking’ (as Ned calls it) is the end of David Williamson’s Cups and Balls routine. The last time I saw him do it he produced three lemons at the end THEN picked up his bag and poured lemons all over the table! A funny bit, sure BUT he’s also started the process of, later, them forgetting the prop bag and just remembering the table full of lemons. From there it is a flea’s leap to them remembering that he actually produced a table full of lemons! Rather than let them expand the effect themselves, he planted a seed to grow along the lines he wanted them to remember.
Another example is my routine Another Departed Point (a kinda meld of Alex Elmsley’s Between Your Palms and Point of Departure routines). Although three cards are at one point under the helper’s hand, two are swiftly shown and removed then placed in my pocket. I then distance myself from the third and final card and do a huge sell on how this couldn’t be the signed card, “You’ve had you hand on the card the whole time, before any were taken or signed!” They turn the card and, “It is indeed, the signed card!” The key words are when I point out and stress the impossibility (hand on the card the WHOLE time, BEFORE any were taken or signed). That’s what they remember even though, we all know, it’s impossible and, ergo, did not happen that way. Because the last card is so strong they’ll often forget the other two altogether. I’ve asked to perform the effect , “You let me hold a card. Then I’ll get Fred to sign another one. Then Fred’s card will vanish and I’ll be holding it!” I wish I had a few other effects as clean as that would be were it possible!
There are standard lines that can help. Even though a card is chosen you can later say, “What was the card you THOUGHT of?” Bingo! They’ll remember, in many cases, just thinking of a card! During the age old Ash Trick you have to touch them to load the ash but later, when time and presentation have passed you can say, “You’ve had your hands clenched into fists all the way through, haven’t you?” They’ll nod their head but it’s not quite what happened. Later they’ll swear you didn’t go within ten feet of them!
But you see the point. By carefully stressing certain factors and playing others down, by planned structure of the effect and a splash of all important time – misdirection (and direction – nod to Tommy Wonder) the thought process of their thinking can be affected to be as you wish!
I wrote that, “It’s not what they see that matters, it’s not what you do that matters, it’s what they perceive you as having done that matters!” I still think that the statement is correct; it’s just that I like to help them out on the ‘perceived as having done’ bit to make the magic they remember as a fulfilling and fun experience.
Hope you enjoyed our railings this time!
All the best,
Simon and Ned
PS Exposure wasn’t mentioned once in the column!
PPS Except in the PS!