When a performer like Criss Angel, David Copperfield or David Blaine wows us with “magic”, most of us know that there’s a logical explanation. When the magician pulls an endless scarf out of his closed fist or a bird flies out of an apparently empty hat, it’s easy to accept that it’s a simple trick, a sleight of hand. But when that magician appears to make the Statue of Liberty disappear, turns a Bentley into a Lamborghini, or rises into the air before our eyes, it’s a bit more difficult. We know it couldn’t really have happened… don’t we?
Still, the debate rages. After each new trick — and they are tricks — some people speculate about how it was done, while others poke holes in their theories and try to hold on to the illusion. Eventually, the truth comes out, and it’s almost always disappointing. When the “Masked Magician” came on the scene more than a decade ago, the hype said that he’d destroy magic forever. Then, the proliferation of Internet forums made it even easier to learn magicians’ secrets. But “magic” is still with us. Perhaps the greatest remaining mystery surrounding the magician’s trade is why it continues to fascinate when so much has been revealed.
Here are some of the great tricks that have dazzled us, caught us off guard, perhaps even made us wonder for a momentâ€”and then turned out to have a simple, usually mechanical explanation.
#10. “The Floating Woman” Trick.
A magician asks his assistant to lay on a platform. Before the audience’s eyes, she raises into the air. He passes a hoop across her body to show that there are no supports.
Of course, there are supports, usually invisible wires. He works with the audience’s perception to make it appear as if the hoop passes over the woman’s entire body, but it’s an optical illusion.
#9. The “Levitating Man” Trick.
These guys are on city streets everywhere. It looks like they’re holding themselves up on a tiny pole. How are they doing that?
Well, the secret isn’t push-ups. They’ve actually got a little chair built into the “walking stick,” and shaggy clothes hide the secret.
#8. The Zig-Zag Lady Illusion.
In this illusion, a woman steps into a box with multiple sections. The magician pushes the sections of the box apart, but the woman continues to smile and wave.
The box has two sections; when the woman enters, she presses herself against the back. Of course, the box can be configured so that she can still present an arm or leg to “disprove” the illusion.
#7. The “Card Through The Window” Illusion.
This was made famous by David Blaine. A person picks out a card from a deck. He shuffles it into the deck and throws the entire deck at a nearby shop window. The volunteer’s card is left on the other side.
Here’s the trick: there’s someone on the other side of the window with an identical deck. As soon as the volunteer chooses a card, the person in the shop grabs the appropriate card and puts it in the window while the magician does some misdirection.
#6. Cutting A Woman In Two.
It’s the oldest trick in the book. A woman gets into a box, the magician cuts it in half. If you perform this trick, you really need a gimmick to make it work.
The woman wiggles her feet in leggings, which stay in place. She quickly puts her knees against her chest. This video from Penn and Teller gives a (very bloody) explanation of some of the other specifics.
#5. “I Know The Number.”
This one’s floating around Facebook, and there are dozens of variations. The audience member is told to pick a number, then some basic math occurs; at the end, the magician reveals the number they chose, or their new number. It’s all just basic math that seems magical when the equations are processed quickly.
#4. The Linking Rings.
A set of rings seems completely solid; an audience member is encouraged to look at one. Then, the magician does a dazzling set of tricks, linking and unlinking the rings at will.
As you might have guessed, there’s a little latch that allows the rings to connect. This one depends on sleight of hand to work well.
#3. David Blaine’s Levitation.
Blaine’s most famous trick was arguably his levitation, which he performed time and time again while out in public.
It’s an age-old trick called the Balducci levitation, performed with a special set of shoes. By controlling the audience’s point of view, Blaine was able to lift himself up on one foot, using the shadow of the other shoe to hide the trick’s secret.
#2. The “Girl Crushed In The Box” Illusion.
In this illusion, a girl gets into a box with a large pole on one side. She’s covered, and the magician pushes the pole in, pushing in the side of the box…and effectively crushing her.
The box actually has a trap door. It’s cramped, but she still has enough room to breath comfortably while the rest of the box passes over her.
#1. David Copperfield’s “Disappearing Statue of Liberty” Trick…
Copperfield famously made the Statue of Liberty disappear on TV. The trick looks amazing, but it’s actually pretty simple; the audience was on a platform that rotated very slowly.
The audience’s view was obstructed with a large drape. They didn’t notice the rotation, and it was fairly dark out. When Copperfield did the big reveal, the audience was astounded. In actuality, he hadn’t made the Statue of Liberty move…he’d made the audience move.